Sunday Monitor of August 30, published an article authored by Mr Gawaya Tegulle, a lawyer and veteran journalist titled ‘A haunted factory and why we need human resources, not beings’. In the article, Mr Tegulle addresses no particular area but like most anti-establishment opinions, meanders from one issue to another without concrete workable alternatives. But I will address myself to a few of the issues that he raises, including industrialisation and human capital development.
One would say that Uganda has attained some relative level of industrialisation and this isn’t merely looking at the number of factories/industries growing from 80 in 1986 to 4,900 today, but also examining what is coming out of them.
Let us look at what is coming from Uganda’s industrial space. In 2018, Uganda exported the following industrial products; electric current ($36.4m), soap ($27,833), gold and gold compounds ($515.5m), hoes and hand tools ($413,000), petroleum products ($122,326), plastic products ($33.9m), iron and steel ($85.3m), cement ($56.2m) among others.
Before you begin to export industrial products, there are enablers that you must fix to facilitate the industrialisation process. These include human resource enablers such as human skills, training etc. and infrastructure enablers such as electricity, roads etc. Take an example of the corridor that Mr Tegulle is talking about, Kampala-Mukono-Lugazi, and may be up to his home in Budaka District.
While he pretends to suffocate on a murram road, government has tarmacked most of the roads in the area such as Mukono-Kayunga-Njeru (94KM), Mukono-Kyetume-Katosi-Nyenga (74KM), Iganga-Tirinyi-Mbale (103KM), Kamonkoli-Pallisa-Kumi (112KM), planned four lane Kampala-Jinja Expressway, among others.
This brings me to another aspect of Tegulle’s article of human resources. Who is doing this work? Isn’t it Ugandans employed on these projects directly and indirectly? Direct jobs are engineers, drivers, technicians, project managers working on the projects. Indirect jobs are the suppliers of food in the industries, on road projects, etc.
Uganda now boosts of a working population of 19 million, according to the 2016/2017 Uganda National Household Survey, of which 14 million were employed. At least 62.9 per cent of the employed population have completed at least secondary level education.
Also, the health care system of Uganda has improved. This is reflected in our increased life expectancy that has grown from 48 years in 1991 to 63.7 years today. Tegulle also should know that our infant mortality rate has gone down to 35/1,000 live births from 43/1,000 live births five years ago. Of course no infant deserves to lose their life but even in the most developed countries like the United States, infant mortality stands at 5.8/1,000 live births, according to the Centre for Disease Control. Uganda’s situation is relative to her neighbours. Kenya stands at 37/1,000, Tanzania at 39.9/1,000, DRC at 68.2/1,000.
Liberalisation of education in mid-1990s has created the needed workforce that Uganda badly needs for her industrialisation agenda. In the last 30 years, literacy rates have grown from 56 per cent in 1991 to 71 per cent today. The universities have grown from one to more than 40, channelling out more than 40,000 graduates every year. Of course, Tegulle would want to argue that these universities are producing non-skilled graduates, which is a lie.
According to the Uganda Gazette of January 20, Mr Tegulle was admitted to the bar as an advocate of the High Court of Uganda having completed his law degree at Uganda Pentecostal University, which is a private university.
The author of this article is a proud product of Universal Primary Education (UPE). The fact that two products of our liberalised education system can debate matters of national importance in a national newspaper attests to the fact that liberalisation of our education has been a success.
Of course, we need more technical education to produce electricians, plumbers, carpenters, builders, technicians, drivers that we badly need to drive the industrial revolution ahead.
Mr Duncan Abigaba is deputy head, Government Citizen Interaction Centre, Ministry of ICT