By Balongoofu Daniel
To understand Sino-Uganda relations and Sino-Africa relations in general, the role of China to the economic development of Uganda can be best understood by evoking liberalism as a profound theory in understanding mainstream international relations. Today, mutual benefit philosophy and common prosperity are central in when describing the relations between Kampala and Beijing and broadly, Sino-Africa cooperation. It should be noted that the two countries have enjoyed fruitful relations that have fostered economic development in Uganda. Sadly, and arguably due global politics, some Sino-Africa skepticist especially in Global north often view Sino-Uganda and broadly Sino-Africa relations in colonial motifs which definitely is wrong and miss presentation of historical facts since China has never colonized any country!
While it is true, that the end game of international relations is fostering selfish interests, it is now common knowledge that with China’s philosophy of common prosperity, China’s relations with other countries like Uganda is purely not selfish but a win-win cooperation which Beijing firmly believe is key in ensuring and building a community with shared prosperity for mankind.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a vivid example show casing the win-win nature of relations Uganda and Africa in general are enjoying with China. It should be noted that BRI mothers lots of projects aiming at mutual benefit of the two sides. Through infrastructure development, BRI is connecting Asia with Africa, Middle East, Europe and the Americas. This in many ways will and in some countries is already facilitating transportation of goods and services. With expansion of Entebbe international airport near complete, Uganda is one of many countries already enjoying fruits of BRI. Also, a recent report by the Africa Policy Institute noted that since the BRI was initiated proposed in 2013, China has boasted African countries’ infrastructure by funding modern infrastructure projects such as railways, roads, ports, dams, industries, and digital connectivity, injecting vitality in the region. These projects also left thousands of Africans getting employment opportunities, sparking economic growth in the long run.
Giving example of Kenya, Africa Policy Institute report pointed at several multiplier effects of Kenya’s China funded and constructed 670-kilometer modern Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) connecting the port of Mombasa and the inland port of Naivasha. The Ethiopia-Djibouti’s standard gauge railway which connects landlocked Ethiopia to Djibouti port also constructed under BRI also improved transport in the region. The Chinese-built 752.7-km line recorded about 86.13 million U.S. dollars in revenue in 2021, which is up 37.5% compared to 2020 revenue collections.
In production and industry sector, Chinese investments in Uganda have greatly boasted Uganda’s capacity. For example, today Uganda boasts of a number of industrial parks that are contributing to the country’s economic growth and development. Industrial parks such as in Namanve, Kapeeka, and Mbale have liberated Uganda from losing foreign exchange in purchasing commodities that were not produced in Uganda. These parks have also contributed to skill enrichment of Ugandans who are employed there! The goods being products of high tech ensuring good quality, Uganda can also favorably compete at the regional market brining more foreign exchange to the country
Cooperation being at the core of China-Uganda relations, it has been evident in the construction of infra-structures for example the hospitals like the China-Uganda friendship hospital in Naguru.
Liberalism understood as cooperation in this case is evident in the education and cultural exchange program as part of relations. Education and culture being at the core of negotiations at the Beijing summit in 2020 it’s absolutely evident that the matter is centric of China-Uganda relations. Through the Confucius Institute at Makerere university, it should be noted that the institute has a memorandum of understanding between Xiangtan university, an institution in Hunan province in China which offers 30 scholarships annually to Ugandan students.
In terms of Trade, the good cooperation between China and Uganda has seen Uganda gain from trading with China. In his book: Introducing Liberalism in International Relations Theory, Jeffrey W Meiser emphasizes the role of good relations between countries if favorable trading conditions are to be realized. It is not a surprise that China has been working to increase trade quotas to Uganda and entire African continent as a way of ensuring both sides benefit from their cooperation. Also, for over a decade, China has always been one of not only Uganda’s but many of African countries’ foreign direct investments. A report by the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade that analysed trade between the states with statistics in the year 2020 shows that Uganda exports quiet a number of products to the Chinese market that include oilseed, oleagic fruits, grain seed, fruits, plastic, wood products, gums and so many others that totally amounted to US$39.61million. Therefore, with this important aspect in economic growth, Uganda’s economic growth has been greatly fueled by diverse trade the two countries guided by China’s philosophy of win-win cooperation as Beijing works with other countries to build a community with shared prosperity for mankind as well as common development.
By Balongoofu Daniel is a Junior Research Fellow with Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank.
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