The PM Communications team interviewed Dr. Wilberforce Kisamba Mugerwa, Chairperson of the National Planning Authority, and asked him about the activities of the NPA, and its role in promoting Uganda as an investment destination at the Global Africa Investment Summit. Dr. Mugerwa spoke about the origins of the NPA, the activities it undertakes, sectors with investment and the Uganda Vision 2040.Please share with us the Vision 2040 and the reason behind the launch of this master plan.
Uganda launched a series of the Poverty Eradication Action Plans. That is what we had been using until 2009/10 Financial Year. We had even a strong poverty analysis unit to monitor the poverty eradication trend. We reduced poverty from 56% in 1992/93 to 24.5% in 2009/10, and now it is at 19.7%. However, having done that, we realized poverty eradication alone was related to access to education, health, water and sanitation, and food security. Imagine, when we introduced universal primary education in 1997, gross enrolment in primary school increased from 3.1 million in 1996 to 7.6 million in 2003. We got excited because numbers increased. If we were spending 5 dollars on each of them (now we have over 9 million students) now we would need over 45 million dollars. The Government needs more money, in order to invest sustainably in human development. For this, we need to create wealth through growth. We can create growth is by increasing productivity and exports, or manufacture goods for export, and also increase revenue from taxation. For this, we need a process in place to attract investors to different areas, so they create jobs, and also widen the taxation base. The focus on poverty eradication won’t succeed until we blend it with wealth creation. That is why we came out with the Uganda Vision 2040. It is benchmarked on Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea. Those countries 40 years ago were as poor as Uganda, but they managed to get where they are. We are yearning, and aspiring to be like them. Certain things have to be done. Even those Ugandans who are not educated have aspirations to improve on their standards. They see from the TV what happens in Europe and America. They don’t like roads with pot-holes. The people’s aspirations were compiled and put in the Uganda Vision 2040. This was not possible for many years when there was no stable government.
The National Planning Authority was put in place in 2002. When President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni came to power, he started by fighting poverty and revamping the economy which had been ruined. Now, we have a stable government, and we are talking about strategic long term development.What are the biggest challenges you are facing?
People don’t easily invest into transport, per se, because roads don’t easily make money. But there are mechanisms now to collect tolls. The challenge is financial: mobilizing funds. Some companies don’t have funds, and have to take time mobilizing funds. We have not yet explored using private bonds, but projects are there. In some cases, you need projects written or feasibility studies but we have limited capacity. The Uganda Investment Authority has hired some consultants to ensure that we have specific projects beyond project ideas.How do you perceive the government working hand and hand with the private sector?
The little you can see we have achieved has been made possible by working hand in hand with the private sector. It is still weak, and it needs much support. President Obama bailed out private banks with money from public revenue. We are trying to encourage the government to invest in strategic areas where the private sector may not easily invest due to heavy capital or long gestation period of time. We have put in place a legal framework to facilitate Public Private Partnership. We have just put in place a public private partnership legal framework. Uganda recognizes private sector-led economy.This country has to catch up. Africa will represent a highly competitive market and countries need to differentiate. What are the competitive advantages of Uganda?
We have a great location. If you invest in Uganda, and if the infrastructure is in place, you will have a bigger market: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, and South Sudan. Uganda is a land linked country. We have to develop infrastructure to link us with our neighbours, and make markets bigger and lucrative. We work hand in hand with the private sector to set suitable tax regimes. Most important, there is peace and security which is important for investment. That is an advantage. Uganda is almost a food basket in the lake region. We have good climate and fresh water. Another advantage is that it has highly educated people. We only need to give them skills in the emerging opportunities. What we need is to give them skills in different enterprises. Literacy is high, and people have been exposed to secondary education. English is spoken widely. That also could be an advantage. We have also untapped resources, like minerals. We have over 27 viable commercial minerals, which are intact, and of high value. We have fresh water almost everywhere, and can have hydropower. We have no capacity to exploit it immediately. Most important, is the potential of untapped resources: oil and gas, minerals, forestry, and so on.Uganda is blessed by nature, but it has to add value to that nature. It is difficult to add value to agriculture and mining.
Wilberforce Kisamba Mugerwa: We are still selling raw materials like coffee, tea, cocoa. Value addition is very important. In agriculture we can create several jobs through value addition along the value chain in terms of sorting grading and processing for export. In the mineral sector there is great potential for value addition. It may difficult but it is the way forward.This institution has a holistic view that is implemented in different national plans. How are you managing that?
We have to take what we can chew. We have to break and implement projects in phases under the 5 year development plans, which are envisaged in the next 30 years. We are working on the next 5-Year Development Plan. We are going to fill up the gaps. The Second 5-Year Development Plan will be more focused drawing from the lessons learnt when we were implementing the First 5-Year Development Plan.We came here because this institution was one of the main sponsors of the Global Africa Investment Summit. What are you expecting back?
We seem to be on the way as sponsors because we are knowledge-based institution, but the summit is organized by the UIA. As a country we expect to attract investors those who may be interested in Uganda. It is very timely and we hope for the best.Will you be one of the main speakers? What will you tell them?
Uganda has a competitive environment for investment in natural resources, agricultural in terms of raw materials, human capital, security and fast growing financial institutions. Ugandans are very friendly and provide cheap labour and a diversified wide market in the great lakes region.