By Dennis Katungi
I have reasonable respect for Ugandan self-made entrepreneurs. People who started from scratch and built up business empires such as Mr. Gordon Wavamunno, James Mulwana, Karim Hirji of Mukwano fame, Amos Nzei etc - are extra-ordinary men who survived and prospered despite unstable governments and a weak economy. They certainly did much better in the post 1986 advent of a stable government that deliberately worked to promote the private sector. It is proper and fitting to give them credit.
Having said that, I was taken aback by Mr Wavamunno’s comments aired on BBS Telefania last Sunday on which The Red Pepper of 30th August based its headline ‘WAVA DARES M7 ON SUCCESSION’.
First of all its bad practice to lump politics with economics in one heap, more so, if as a businessman your ventures appear to be faltering. The immediate impression the reader will get - is that when Ugandan business men are doing well, they are friends of Government. When their businesses face hard-ship, not necessarily caused by government e.g. the global credit crunch, or the war in South Sudan, they blame government and become rabid critics.
It is the common African problem of being bad losers. Every election has to be stolen, every opposition leader has to cry foul and not concede defeat, every failed businessman has to blame government for failed ventures etc. If they have been supporters of Govt - all along, it’s only when they fail - that they see problems in governance. This is unprincipled.
Mr Wavamunno was quoted saying that recent murders in the central area are reminiscent of the Amin days. He added, ‘in Amin’s time, life meant nothing to those holding guns’. I beg to differ. Recent murders are an unfortunate spate of lawlessness. The victims have largely been young women of a particular type and they have not been killed by guns. We know that government is doing all it can to address this wave of insecurity.
In the Amin era, murders and insecurity were state inspired. It was government soldiers abducting and killing citizens, mostly high profile people including a Chief Justice, a University Chancellor, an Archbishop, several cabinet Ministers & many high ranking officials. How are these two scenarios to be compared?
“It’s not just Entebbe, you just go to Kabalaggala & Gaba road and see for yourself the instability and uncertainty written all over people’s faces” Wavamunno again is quoted. Really? The two suburbs mentioned by Wava have the busiest, jolliest and happy go lucky people I come across!
If Wava is talking about a group of business people with failing ventures like WBS who are worried and uncertain about the future, then one can understand. But to say that gloom & doom is written on the faces of people of Gaba and Kabalagala is a big lie. They party in their drinking joints till the wee-hours of the morning routinely.
“Look at the way the Chinese and Indian investors are being favoured. When it comes to free land or tax incentives, its them”, Wava is quoted. What level of mis-information is a Chief Executive, Honorary Consul, Dr. Professor is giving to the populace? Are the comments true or is The Red Pepper doing mis-chief?
I know for a fact that URA and Uganda Investment Authority have explained a zillion times about incentives for investments available to both local and foreign investors. These incentives whether access to Land or tax holidays are at par. Can Mr Wavamunno name a local business person who presented a viable venture seeking land or tax holidays but got turned away because he/she was a citizen? This is totally untrue.
I repeat, with authority that Government incentives to investors are open to all, without segregation. In fact, returning Ugandans from Diaspora are given tax exemptions on personal Vehicles and other belongings, perk foreigners do not enjoy.
On Buy Uganda, Build Uganda, Wava was at it again. “BuBu policy won’t help much because it’s coming too late when all Ugandan businessmen have collapsed.” We know that some businesses including his- went under. But some businesses are healthy, up and running. These are scenarios we come across all over the world. Businesses are like human beings. Some live, some die, others survive, & others thrive.
BuBu is intended to revamp local productivity so that when we talk about ‘local content’ we are not simply joking. With the upcoming Oil sector, major infrastructure projects such as the SGR etc, Ugandans need to position themselves to take advantage. Any serious person, even if his businesses were not doing well at the moment should talk such policies up and prepare to do his bit to turn around his enterprises rather than talking Uganda down.
On Politics, Mr.Wavamunno is again quoted: “President Museveni needs to come out clearly for the country to know the successor to avoid the chaos of other countries where Presidents have stayed in power for too long without organizing the succession” Again, this is classic peasant reasoning.
I have to inform him if he is not aware that Uganda is not a monarchy. The position of President of Uganda falls vacant every five years and Ugandans are the true electors of a successor. Apart from being President of Uganda, Museveni is chairman of NRM. There are mechanisms and organs within NRM that can ably handle change of leadership.
Since Mr. Wavamunno is not a known card holding member of NRM or any of the organs of it, his comments are of superficial value. I would advise him, if he is keen on influencing goings on there, to join the party and be able to have a say on who leads it from within, rather than sounding like a disgruntled Pensioner.
The writer is the Media Relations Manager at Uganda Media Centre
Dennis Katungi Tweet - @Dennis_Katungi