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Northern Uganda is strategic to Uganda’s development for three key reasons; strategic location to young and oil rich South Sudan, the rich fertile soils and the abundant precious minerals like Gold in Karamoja. Northern Uganda refers to region covered by Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) and this includes Acholi, Lango, West Nile, Karamoja, Bukedi, Elgon, Teso and part of Bunyoro. Through the (PRDP), government of Uganda has invested heavily to transform the region.

However, according to Uganda Human Development Report 2015, the region continues to lag behind the rest of the country partly because of the long period of armed conflict and castle rustling. It is also due to marginalization process of colonial area.

Report notes that unlocking development potential of Northern Uganda is ‘ ‘ fundamentally about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential, and lead productive and creative lives in lines with their assets, aspirations and capabilities.

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It is then that the success of development actors will be gauged, not just in terms of how much economic growth is attained, but the extent to which the resultant growth has lead to substantial improvements in well being of the people, irrespective of social class, ethnicity, religious affiliation or political ideology.

The authors of the report urge that, this to be achieved calls for a ‘‘fundamental shift from business as-usual to Business-as-unusual’’

Almaz Gebru the United Nation Human Development Programme Resident President for Uganda observes that unlocking developmental potential of region requires a paradigm shift, to enhance human capabilities and enlarge people’s choices.

She adds that Action in Catalytic areas is needed –from investing transformational infrastructure and sustainable food systems, to increasing productivity of smallholder farmers, advancing social justice, empowering and engaging youth and women productively and in decision making, in addition to building resilience to economic and climatic shocks.

Hon Victoria Sekitoleko argues that Northern Uganda is already on development path: ‘‘the 2015 best farmer came from Northern Uganda. This farmer is already earning millions from his trade and many more are coming up. What region needs are not handouts but extension services to move to the next level.’’

Government through Comprehensive Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) has helped in revitalizing the region’s socioeconomic transformation in effort to enable it catch up rest of the country.

The report, notes that there is renewed sense of optimism and drive. The region has made substantial gains in development indicators. Human development index has increased from 0.402 in 2005/06 to 0.431 in 2012/13 compared to country index, which improved from 0.448 in 2005/6 to 0.463 in 2012/13. With index falling below the HDI cut-off value of 0.550, Uganda at 0.463 remains a low human development country.

Speaking at the launch of report at Imperial Royale Hotel recently, Almaz Gebru, noted that UNDP and broader United Nations systems in Uganda, is well positioned to support government’s efforts in unlocking the region’s potential and capabilities.

‘‘Northern Uganda has been, and will continue to remain a priority focus for our development interventions.’’ She said.

In his speech read for him by Third deputy Prime Minster Hon. Kirunda Kivaejinja, the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, noted that government recognizes the challenges ahead, including those of providing opportunities to those affected by conflict, curbing corruption, expanding social services, addressing local government capacity and dealing with youth unemployment.

As government commences the third phase of PRDP, along with the second National Development Plan(NDPII) and Agenda 2030 for sustainable Development, the report highlights key issues which government and other players must address as it seeks to ‘‘ Give hope to each and every person in northern Uganda.’’

Way forward

The reports highlights the need for adoption of a more inclusive, coordinated and transformative approach. There is need for set of innovations to accelerate and shorten the path for ‘‘catch-up’’ such innovations must be built around transforming the region’s greatest social challenge: the too late to go back to school segment of the population, youth unemployment and low employability, into its greatest opportunity, by tapping into regions’ economic potential in agriculture.

The authors of the report argue that there is great potential for region to implement industrial policies premised on supportive backward/forward linkages between agriculture and mineral extraction on one hand, and value-added manufacturing on the matter. An industrial development strategy could prioritize labour-intensive industries with a view of creating job opportunities for the unemployed or underemployed youth.

Most importantly, the report calls for reforms in land to enhance security of tenure while respecting the traditional socio-cultural norms with respect to communal ownership model should be implemented. The reforms will encourage productive investments in and use of land. The authors of report argue that issues relating to land access and land tenure must be handled cautiously, as they arouse sentiments and emotions.

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