By President Yoweri Museveni
The problem with Africa has been that in the last 600years, the African Society has not metamorphosed. On the contrary, in some aspects, the African Society has regressed.
How? The African artisan class was wiped out by the colonial imports. Their artisan products were now monopolized and replaced by colonial products ─ plates, spoons, cooking pots, textiles, leather products, etc.
The feudal class, which was competing for power with the colonialists, was decimated and was replaced with the colonial civil servants -court clerks, interpreters, colonial sergeants etc.
The only class that survived was that of peasants who were put to growing colonial cash- for supplying the colonial industries.
With independence, although alot of time was lost with military governments engaged in primitive fascism, nevertheless, many African governments have correctly identified two crucial stimuli that can catalyze social transformation.
These are: education and health for all (human resource development) and private sector led growth. The two, education and liberalism in the economy, have the potential to cause social transformation. Especially the importance of the private sector was not clear to many African leaders.
In Uganda, both Obote and Amin interfered with the private sector with Nakivubo announcements of 1970 and Amin’s expulsion of the Asians in 1972.
It is the NRM that firmly rejected this mistake by returning the properties of the Asians and liberalizing the economy. These sectors we liberalized by removing the role of the State companies have performed miracles. We sold government buses and hotels, for instance.
That act of removing government from the sector of transport and hospitality has stimulated a total of 1,685 private buses (2015/18), 10,940 taxis, 1,063,922 boda-bodas and 3,000 private hotels. All these are employing a total of 2 million Ugandans. The NRM took a pioneer role in defogging this issue.
Education imparts literacy, numeracy, intellectuality and skills. Such a product is totally different from the pre-capitalist populations that still dominate Africa. The pre-capitalist peasants only produce for homestead consumption.
Education per se is not enough. If it creates people who only want white collar jobs with no skills to enable them produce goods and services, it will only swell the number of the unemployed. They will have abandoned the subsistence farming of their parents without getting a skill in producing a good or service for the market either as employers or as workers.
Apart from education and the liberalization that frees the private sector to be active and innovative, you need other enablers. I have, previously, characterized these as removing the ten strategic bottlenecks. Creating the enablers is removing those strategic bottlenecks.
By addressing the issues of education and health as well as the issue of the freedom of the private sector in its efforts to create wealth and jobs, we would have removed 2 strategic bottlenecks.
The 8 remaining strategic bottlenecks are: ideological disorientation where emphasis is put on identity rather than on interests, leading to sectarianism; that creates a weak State that cannot guarantee security, a sine qua non of private sector growth; lack of infrastructure such as electricity, the railways, etc., which results into high costs of doing business in an economy that undermines the profitability of companies and, therefore, limits their expansion;
a narrow internal market that cannot absorb the products of large scale manufacture of goods and the expansion of services; stopping the export of raw-materials where we get only 10% of the value of the product and lose jobs to the outside; the under development of agriculture where, in the case of Uganda, 68% of the homesteads are still in the non-money economy where people produce only for subsistence; the under development of services such as tourism, insurance or hotels; and, in some cases, absence of democracy.
The primer, the initiator of all these changes is the progress in science and technology.
When man invented fire, society was able to descend from the trees to the caves. The invention of iron, enabled society to more easily produce crops and also to have better weapons (spears, etc).
The invention of gun-powder and its use in Europe, created a disequilibrium in the World Order of that time. Huge chunks of the globe were conquered and colonized by the possessors of gunpowder.
Therefore, for Africa to undergo social-economic transformation, science and technology must lead the way. The scientists should, therefore, be well paid ahead of everybody else because we badly need them to copy or innovate the crucial scientific discoveries.
Awareness of the issues raised above is very crucial for Africa’s transformation. Addressing the above issues will enable us to create prosperity for our people. How? By our producers generating alot of goods and service products that find a ready market. The more we sell, the more we produce. The more we produce, the more jobs we create and the wider the tax base.
The more taxes we collect, the better social services the African governments will provide. Today, the African population is 1.25bn with a purchasing power of US$6.757 trillion.
By 2050 this population will be 2.5bn. Uganda alone will be 102 million people. With much bigger purchasing power, Africa will be the engine of the World economy provided we solve the bottlenecks.
Editor’s note: a slightly edited President`s speech at the Africa Now Summit 2019,at Speke Resort, Munyonyo