By Dennis Katungi
I tuned into the Broadcast by President Museveni on September 13th 2017 beamed from State House Entebbe. His message and guidance on land and poverty eradication had already been aired in recent media engagements that he’s been on - in the West, South & East of the country. I have no intention in repeating them. However, I was impressed by his response to moderator Simon Kasyate’s question on the so called ‘failed investments’.
Kasyate informed the President that the public had lost trust in government because of instances where land was acquired for investment & had not been used as envisaged - giving the examples of Shimon Demonstration School, and the Naguru satellite city project which was reported in the media as stalled.
In characteristic candour, the President threw it back to Kasyate: “So, what’? Should we stop trying? Trying and failing is better than never to have tried at all. I attacked Kabamba 3 times before succeeding”.
To put this in perspective, the land in question was not grabbed form citizens and given to investors, it was government land simply re-allocated for appropriate use. Remember, as the President keeps pointing out, the private sector is the engine on which successful countries run. Prime city land can’t just be viewed as an antique to preserve old colonial buildings long past their date. Viable investors must be considered and where appropriate, such land should be allocated for better suited use.
Why do we point to a few unsuccessful projects and ignore resounding successes in Luzira & Namanve industrial parks just as the Ppointed out?
It goes back to the media’s insatiable appetite for bad news. They only wait to report when a man bites a dog, but every day that good sharp dogs bite thieves and chase trespassers, it’s never reportable news to them. Unfortunately we have to live with this and at the same time, we have to reclaim the same space and tell the positive stories.
The successful ventures are many. UBC land close to All Saints Nakasero, was allocated to an investor. We now have a functioning five-star hotel, the Pearl of Africa as the President pointed out.
In Luzira Industrial Park, we have CIPLA Quality Chemical Industries Ltd, a hugely successful pharmaceuticals complex manufacturing artemisinin-based combination therapies for HIV/AIDS and Malaria respectively, Hepatitis B medicines & many more.
In Namanve Industrial Park, 16 out of the top 100 high tax payers in Uganda set-up shop there. They include Toyota, Century bottling, Roofings, Britania Allied, Harris International and many more.
So, the question is: Why would Simon Kasyate and others prefer not to mention the successes and the new technologies such as the single HIV pill by CIPLA, or the GIS transformers by Orion Technologies in Namanve, but rather, pick on a few non-starter projects?
Government has a plan to link serviced industrial and business parks to regional science and technology industrial parks to promote research and new industrial technologies. These innovation centres will be offering internship opportunities to bright science & engineering students which will ultimately turn into blue-chip employment.
The Ministry of Information & Communication Technology, working with the UPDF engineering brigade, are in the process of building a technology & innovation hub at the Technology Institute in Nakawa. This forms part of the broader digital strategy engendered by the Ministry of ICT that includes how government shall digitize sectors such as education & health. The strategy includes details on intellectual property and big data. These are all new ways of shaping, accelerating and sustaining Uganda’s on-going digital & technological advancement. I would rather think that the future is brighter, rather than dwell on what did not work-out.
Lastly, it was so revealing that contesting land owners normally hire their own Surveyors who then come up with figures similar, or very close to what the government was offering in the first instance. That alone shows that government plays fair on land transactions with citizens. The pervasive liars who aver that government is out to grab land from citizens have been rumbled.
Tom Fletcher, former British Ambassador to Lebanon poses & answers the question in his thought provoking polemic – The Naked Diplomat: ‘How do Nations States harness their magnetic power in the Digital Age? Having a strong national story; knowing how to tell it; and knowing how & when to mix the tools at your disposal”. Let’s go out and tell Uganda’s positive story if no one else will.
Dennis Katungi – Communicatins & Media Relations Manager, Uganda Media Centre.