There is public outcry and unease over the rise of prices of consumables. The problem is not limited to Uganda, including the causes and pressures they occasion.
In Uganda’s case, fuel prices, which shot up as a result of shortages on the global market, have played a damning role in causing commodity price hikes. Fuel problems are more pronounced in Kenya, although it has a coastline where large freighters pour fuel, from which our consignments are procured. The volatility of the fuel economy is, consequently, unpredictable. Every citizen should, as much as possible, understand its dynamics and how they are affected at the micro level.
In the meantime, Government needs to implement all measures to insulate the economy from such shocks, including getting our oil fields running and promoting diversity of energy sources through faster massive electrification and harnessing of solar energy programs to power homes, locomotives, IT systems and industries. Then, as much as possible, let us minimise importation and maximise exports to improve the balance of payments. That is at the macro-level; at the micro level, every household should find a way to minimise having to spend on what they can produce themselves. On top of that, we must make something or produce something which we can put on the market to earn money to spend on what we can’t produce ourselves.
Becoming a producer of any kind takes skill. You should have know-how, using your mind, hands, legs, eyes, ears and other senses to craft something out of materials and readily available tools. If every Ugandan with a skill put it to use, we would have so many producers that we wouldn’t need to import anything, even fuel. Even if we did import, it would be a tiny fraction of our incomes, and that would make our country is a prosperity hub, in very practical terms that manifest in the lives of citizens. Uganda is rich, gifted by nature with every other material or ingredient that can be used to produce highly marketable goods for the world market.
But due to a slow pace in industrialisation, produce and minerals have been exported unprocess for too long, then reimported as finished goods for which we pay expensively. This is a punishment for our failure to harness our minds and hands, preferring the “easy” way of letting foreigners feed us with our own things in a different from where they determine how much we can use due to the pricing aspect.
That is why massive skilling and reskilling of Ugandans is of great significance in driving import substitution as envisaged in the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy. Ugandans want quality goods produced locally which are priced favourably. But when they go to the market, they don’t find these goods available, hence being locked in the foreign market web with its problems.
The Presidential Initiative on Skilling Boys and Girls comes as a most welcome intervention set to drive to transform Ugandan society from a predominant peasant and low-income economy relying on imports to a competitive Middle Income economy that produces more than it requires for home consumption. Starting small, with skills that are readily required at home, if embraced and mainstreamed, it will open the eyes of all Ugandans to the wealth the carry around doing nothing with it.
Uganda still has one of the highest populations of young people in the world. I believe that this demographic setup is like that for a purpose. President Museveni, when he came Government, determined to establish an environment where children would be born and live, not dying as infants from preventable diseases. He also instilling stability and security, enough for people to feel comfortable to procreate. Some went to the point of believing that everything would just fall in place. They forgot to teach their children old skills like pottery, carpentry, masonry which they always had even in pre-colonial times.
When they got some money, they sent the children to schools that only taught them theory while ignoring practical skills that could earn them something even before getting “professional” jobs. The problem with employment is that one is at the mercy of the employer, the same way a consumer-based economy is at the mercy of producer-based economies. President Museveni is now employing his guerilla “skills” to fill that skill gap in the country.
He is recruiting boys and girls, the most vulnerable ones, who would be left behind completely if not tapped. They include orphans, school dropouts, destitutes and those without prior education of any kind. With this, he is revolutionalising production through cottage industry which produces basic needs that every citizen needs and which are highly marketable.
With centres located in Kampala in Luzira, Kigoowa, Kikoni, Namuwongo, Blue Room-Crested Towers, Mutundwe, among other zones, the centres are training these “abandoned” youngsters in baking, tailoring, knitting, weaving, shoe-making, hair-dressing, welding, masonry, carpentry, bricklaying, electronics repair, plumbing and so on. Zonal Industrial Hubs, set up countrywide and managed by the State House Comptroller, Madam Barekye, will mainstream this Initiative and make it a crux of the larger economy.
The courses take six months but in a matter of weeks, they boys and girls are already putting their skills to use and earning. Their story is both short and long. I will coordinate the media to shine a spotlight on this scheme. They will tell their stories which will show everyone how we are the ones subjecting ourselves to the ravages of the global economy for nothing when we have our heads and hands.
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
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