You must have been following the controversy surrounding our decision to give some forest land to the manufacturers. Three forest lands have, so far, been given out to the manufacturers: some land in Kalangala for BIDCO, the palm oil project; some forest land in Mabira for Mehta to expand his sugar operations; and, earlier on, we had given the planted forest at Namanve for an industrial park.
I have been involved in these land allocations on account of the urgent need for industrialising our very backward but rich country in terms of natural resources and raw materials. Our backwardness is on account of the absence of industries. In the past, our backwardness was due to interfering with the private sector; low literacy and education levels; government monopolies in marketing (in form of Marketing Boards); a currency that was not convertible; impassable roads and insecurity of persons and property, among others.
We have a very large number of university graduates floating on the streets. What help is the Government and the State institutions giving to parents when their children fail to get jobs after sacrificing so much to educate them? How about millions of others who leave P.7, S.4 or S.6? How can the leaders of the country take this issue in a leisurely way year after year?
Employment creation is one of my main interests for supporting manufacturers in acquiring land. Other interests include: increasing export earnings and import substitution (for example, producing sugar instead of importing it); expanding government tax revenues by either taxing the manufactured goods produced or as a result of people who get jobs paying indirect taxes through consumption of luxuries such as beer, perfumes, and expensive cars; and providing markets for raw materials produced by farmers such as bananas, that just rot because of lack of processing.
The difference between Europe, some Asian countries on one hand and Africa on the other is precisely this. The others use factories to add value to their raw materials in order to get more money or even use the raw materials of those who are too uninformed to know the money lost through exporting while the Africans continue to bleed through this wrong strategy.
The UK, for instance, gets £5b, through all of us using
We, therefore, need to balance the needs of preserving the eco-system with the needs for social transformation - changing the society from peasant to middle class, skilled working class society. The majority of the people should shift from agriculture to industries and services. Having too many people in agriculture as we do now (82%), is one of the characteristics of backwardness. Countries like UK (population 56million) or
Take the example of our own coffee. A kilogram (Kg) of unprocessed coffee will bring US $1, while that same Kg will fetch US $15 when it is processed in the Nestle factories in
Let us, again, take one other example of employment. Madhvani at Kakira employs about 6,500 persons. Suppose we had 2,000 Madhvanis, we would be able to employ 13m people hence decreasing unemployment in
Why, then, use forest lands? This is because there is no free land. Much of the land is occupied by peasants who are engaged in traditional, subsistence farming. Both physically and legally we cannot access this land. However, I have instructed Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to slowly keep buying land in order to create a Land Bank for this purpose; but this is a slow process. We cannot wait for it. Otherwise, we shall lose opportunities which will be taken up by others. The king of business is the consumer. If you disappoint him, especially in export markets where there are many competitors, he will never buy from you again. This is why I have been using Government lands to fill this gap.
I converted Namanve into an industrial park. When it is finished, it will accommodate about 1,000 factories. One hundred seventy six (176) factories and enterprises have already applied for land there. Namanve will be a satellite town of
Then we have got a potential goldmine - BIDCO.
Mehta has been producing sugar for
Our industries must be assisted to be competitive by lowering costs of production so that they can sell at lower prices and, therefore, capture international markets. One way of lowering costs is to increase production so that the producer benefits from the economies of large-scale production. For example, once I have used
First of all, for employment creation, export earnings or import savings, tax revenues for the Government, among others. In addition, however, by-products of sugar can be used to generate electricity and to make fuel that can be mixed in petroleum as they do in
However, some forests should not be touched. Some 50-200 metres of forest belt next to the lake should never be touched because it helps to filter the water flowing into the lake so that it does not carry soil silt into the lake. The so-called “environmentalists” never talk about this. Fifty metres of forest next to river banks should never be touched. That is how soil is washed into the river bed causing silting. Wetlands should never be touched because they are water reservoirs for our country; those that have been encroached on should be bought back at attractive prices. We should plant forests on all the bare hills of Rwampara, Ssingo, Kabale, Karamoja and Akokoro. These hills, with a high gradient, are not good for crops. They can be used for certain species of trees such as eucalyptus, black wattle (burikoote) and carriandra. We shall end up with more forests, more factories and more employment.
It is more difficult for a backward country to guard against environmental degradation “than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” Why? The Government has no money to police and protect the environment; there are too many people, in primitive agriculture who destroy the environment using wrong techniques and implements; and without electricity, the population uses firewood, thereby destroying the bio-mass.
Industrialisation is therefore a sine qua non of protecting the environment. Even after industrialization, some people do not protect the environment. In our case, the environment (especially the forests and the bio-mass) is being destroyed because of lack of industrialisation and the attendant social transformation. While Europeans and Americans are destroying the environment because of greed; we are destroying the environment, involuntarily, because of poverty, lack of employment, lack of electricity.
The Banyankole say kandide ehweyo achumita omukira - the one who wants the whole animal to expose itself for better targeting ends up only injuring the tail of the animal and not killing it. Even the English say: “procrastination is the thief to time.”
Extracted with permission from The New Vision Online, Thursday, 19th April, 2007