Allow me to provide an alternative view to your argument on industrialisation. Industrialisation is not the key to alleviating poverty in Africa but integrated development plans including upgrading our transport systems, hospitals, provision of decent housing, and security.
An opposite view on taking Africa forward is needed to counter wholesome acceptance that poverty is due to lack of industrialisation. The proponents of industrialisation are forgetting the basic tenets in international economics of comparative advantage and economies of scale. This is not an era to work hard but to work smart thanks to globalisation, information technology and free ease of credit in the western world.
Primark in UK are the cheapest clothing store thanks to exploiting close to 2.2 million Bangladeshi factory workers who on record earn about £10 a month. It is therefore cheaper to build factories in third world countries to provide opportunities for the western world to develop their environment and turn former industrial sites into housing.
Do we have comparative advantage against China and India in manufacturing from textile to processing? What are our labour unit costs and the necessary infrastructure to support this discovered belief in industries as the key to Africa's poverty alleviation and employment growth?
The answer is no. Find below with examples of alternative ideas to counter the government reasoning of giving away our land without an integrated development programme including building new hospitals, schools, roads and railway extensions.
Uganda is in an enviable position in Africa having lakes Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and the second longest river in the world, including being closer to the Congo Basin. Water is life and we have failed to manage these resources for our generation and the future.
The swamps and forests which used to filter our wells are being lost to investors and haphazard property developments. The recent floods were predicted and should have been planned for given other tragedies in New Orleans, USA and Mozambique.
By preserving our water bodies and promoting small scale water-based industries to distill and package water in bottles for export to other less endowed African countries, Australia and the western world, would earn Uganda approximately $2 billion annually, with start-up costs of less than $50 million. This is an industry which is environmentally friendly with zero health risks to our people.
Mr Richard Branson recently announced close to $2 billion to invest in reducing carbon emissions and bio gas, ethanol-related industries. It may be a good idea to use our position in Africa close to the desert to fight for a portion of these funds in the global fight to save the world from climate change. Commercial farming is preferable to industries.
There is a lot of money around the world for acquisitions and mergers of firms with $200 billion having changed hands this year alone. This is another area to focus our attention to if we are to stay on the ever moving global train of opportunities. The ingredients to lure this money are to invest in our infrastructure especially the railways, roads, airports including small airfields and water transport along the rivers and lakes.
This requires money which even if borrowed would provide value in terms of employment generated and ease of moving around a small country like Uganda. Ryan Air has announced plans for air travel to USA at just £7 by 2008 and to travel around continental Europe is so cheap by air that it makes life difficult for us in the third world to attract the same quality investors. The result is that we end up with shrewd low income businessmen who need to use our money to make money.
Mr President, how come you have not thought about planning a new capital around Jinja to be built along the River Nile just like London on the Thames? I sometimes marvel every time I pass by the Wandworth Bridge, Putney Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge at the massive investments in penthouses and apartments.
By the way, these oil deposits we purport to have discovered now were known by the geologists in the western capitals long before independence. Purifying the water in these basins would bring us more dollars in the long run and save us from western industrialised countries' diseases like asthma, mesotholiama and dermatitis. The cost-benefit analysis of the oil exploration and our almost total neglect of the hospital infrastructure does not augur well for the future.
Strategic thinking would be to take advantages of woes of climate change to lead Africa on the optimal use of the environment ... including preserving all our forests.
My question to the Ugandans who clammer for giving away vital resources to investors, who fail to have the Auditor General audit their books and some have outstanding tax arrears is simple: where do you think will the rich Arab sheikhs spend their money: London with expensive property prices or Kampala with free land taken from the dispossessed like Shimoni Demonstration School?
Why is London such a hit with new money from the Gulf states and Russian billionaires? Even with interest rates being at 5.75%, the property prices in London are going through the roof with 80% of the properties at the SW3 address being bought by foreigners.
No wonder the Shimoni project has not taken off. How come that Arabs are more shrewd as business people than the Black race? The Emir of the Emirates in 1986 gave Emirates $10 million to start the airline and now they have over 80 Air buses/ Boeings with over 40 orders in the pipeline. This is exactly the same time you came to power and none of your ideals have materialised. Instead you have literally sold off all our assets including the pride of the nation, Uganda Airlines.
Unfortunately, black Africa seems always to fail on simple issues and our leaders' failure to grasp the basic truth of the movement of global capital will leave the future generation with a debt burden and no assets to discount since all of them have been sold off in the misplaced privatisation excitement.