Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of Ugandans on Tuesday thronged Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in the capital Kampala to mark the country's Golden Jubilee independence anniversary from British colonial rule.
The colorful ceremony that was attended by over 10 African leaders and other foreign dignitaries from China, Britain, and Italy among others was a climax of months of preparations. Looking at the past five decades, this East African country has had its momentous time from military strongman Idi Amin in the 1970's to being declared a tourist destination for the year 2012 by Lonely Planet, a travel publication.
Speaking at the celebrations marked under the theme "A 50-year journey since independence (1962-2012): A good foundation for social economic transformation," Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he was optimistic that Uganda would become a first world country in the next 50 years. He argued that the strategic mistakes the country has been making over the years have been identified and are being addressed. Some of the strategic bottlenecks the country is dealing with include involvement of the private sector in development, an underdeveloped human resource, inadequate infrastructure that causes the costs of doing business high.
The other bottlenecks include a small internal market caused by the political balkanization of Africa, lack of industrialization, an undeveloped services sector, under development of agriculture and lack of democracy. "We are working to transform Uganda by relying on agriculture, hydropower, manufacturing, tourism and our human resource, with oil and other minerals which we found recently, it makes our work much easier," he said. "We have clearly identified the strategic bottlenecks as well as other tactical bottlenecks such as dealing with counterfeit products, corruption, red tape excetra," he added.
Another major bottleneck that has stalled Uganda's economic development over the years is the undeveloped infrastructure especially the transport and energy infrastructure. At the time of independence, Uganda had 844 km of tarmac roads, 150 megawatts of electricity and a few towns with piped water, according to government statistics. The small infrastructure deteriorated during the era of military strongman Amin who came into power through a military coup in 1971. He ruled for nine years, a period that has been described as 'dark years of Uganda' due to the anarchy that prevailed.
In 1986, Uganda was producing 60 megawatts. However over the years Uganda is now generating 810 megawatts after several hydro power dams were constructed and others upgraded to produce more electricity. The Ugandan government sees the adequate electricity supply as a major driver of industrialization. "We are not going to relax on this point. We are aiming at 3, 500 megawatts in the short-run. Uganda, however, needs something in the range of about 20,000 megawatts which is the level of electricity a country like Japan consumes minus what they need for winter or hot summers which Uganda, fortunately, does not have," Museveni said.
Uganda's opposition and other government critics however argue that the high level of corruption among top government officials is a major impediment to the country's development. Despite all this aspects, Museveni argued that Uganda is destined to become a developed economy especially after the discovery of commercially viable oil deposits in the country. "With value addition to our oil, our coffee, our cotton, our fruits, our maize, our leather, our beef, this GDP per capita would rise to 2,700 U.S. dollars even at the present level of raw- material production," he said. Uganda's current GDP is 580 dollars. "This Century is Uganda's Century, it is Africa's Century. It will be the first time, ever since the conquest of ancient Egypt by the Persians in the year 525 B.C., that Uganda and Black Africa will be, in terms of development, at par, or even ahead, of the most prosperous countries in the world," he said. There is continuing debate in the country on where the country ought to be now and in the next half a century. (Xinhua)
UGANDA 1: KAMPALA, Oct. 9, 2012 (Xinhua) -- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni rides in his ceremonial vehicle during celebrations to mark Uganda's 50th independence anniversary in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 9, 2012. Thousands of Ugandans on Tuesday thronged Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in the capital Kampala to mark the country's Golden Jubilee independence anniversary from British colonial rule. (Xinhua/Yuan Qing)
UGANDA 2, 3 and 4: KAMPALA, Oct. 9, 2012 (Xinhua) -- Soldiers march during celebrations to mark Uganda's 50th independence anniversary in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 9, 2012. Thousands of Ugandans on Tuesday thronged Kololo Ceremonial Grounds in the capital Kampala to mark the country's Golden Jubilee independence anniversary from British colonial rule. (Xinhua/Yuan Qing)