Arts industry key for development

Rev Dr Christopher B. Mukidi

For the last five years or so, the government has been promising that by the end of 2020, we would be a middle-income country with each person earning not less than Shs4 million ($1,039) per capita income. Although some people believe that we are closer to the target than ever before, others continue to doubt whether the dream will come to pass.

But why did the government promise something it would not deliver in the given time?  The government’s promise was premised on a number of factors.  

One of these was the extraction of oil by 2018.  With oil money coming in, it was expected that the government would be in a position to meet its annual budgetary allocations, comfortably service its debt payments; as well as pay for infrastructural developments such as roads and railways.  Unfortunately, this did not happen as promised.  

The government may have also banked on industries and factories in the manufacturing sector, with the hope of resultant returns in taxes and services to the population.  While it is true that Uganda’s revenues have considerably grown over the years due to various investments, this growth has not been substantive enough to affect our economic ranking status.  The returns from such investments, though they affect the country positively in terms of its GDP, have not reflected in people’s pockets.     

Interestingly, while the rich, are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.  And this is not to say the government has not done much to get people out of poverty.  In fact, some of the government’s efforts through the Start-up Capital (Entandikwa), Wealth for All (Bonna Bagagawale), National Agriculture Advisory Services (Naads), and Emyooga were all meant to uplift people out of poverty.  Unfortunately, even with this kind of support, the poor have remained poor; perhaps due to peoples’ anti-development attitudes, government’s bureaucracy in giving the necessary assistance and corruption. 

While the government’s consistent efforts to improve the livelihoods of the population are commendable, it needs to revisit its strategy of alleviating people’s poverty and particularly that of the youth.  While it is true that the youth can benefit significantly from the manufacturing jobs and other forms of assistance, how many are involved in such programmes and projects?    

Many of them are interested in sports and the arts such as the film and music industries.  It is these areas that the government must pay special attention to for a number of reasons.  One, for boosting, energising and stimulating the country’s economy and catapulting it into the middle-income bracket; second, energising the country’s entertainment industry and occupying the youth’s minds whose primary occupation for some is social media; and deliberately creating a well to do class of “Ugawood” such as the actors and actresses of the Hollywood industry in the United States and Nollywood in Nigeria.  

Uganda’s artists mostly have been on their own, without any meaningful support from the government.  If anything, the government’s support has been uncoordinated and without a clear purpose.  The support is also given to individuals as opposed to the industry and without clear strategies to make the industry grow.   

As a way forward, if the government wants a meaningful growth of the entertainment industry and at the same time create a number of avenues where youths can be engaged and be made to make money, the way to go is for the government to deliberately support the entertainment industry.  This will not only occupy the youth and enable them to make money, but it will also enable the government to expand its sources of getting revenue.  If well implemented, the music and film industry revenue alone could prove to be Uganda’s cash cow than oil.

Rev Dr Christopher B Mukidi is the deputy vice chancellor of Uganda Martyrs University