When Katharine Hathaway noted that “There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend,” she had indeed observed the results of a good friend. China and Uganda have for long had diplomatic history dating back to the immediate Uganda post-independence era. During the period 1962-1985, bilateral relations between the two countries remained flowing smoothly in spite of the regime changes in Uganda.
China’s economic contributions to Uganda have been so much more that as of now, it would not be wrong to branded them “another economic backbone of Uganda.” In terms of project assistance, since 1960s, the Chinese Government has been providing project aid to Uganda in forms of interest-free loans and grants to construct some of those projects which are at the best need of Uganda.
Kibimba Rice Scheme, the first ever rice farming in Uganda was put in place with the financial contributions from China. Poultry farm and irrigation system are other farming related projects Chinese supported in the pearl of Africa, Uganda.
China’s economic contributions to Uganda cannot be underrated as we furthermore look at the construction of the Uganda Industry Research Institute in Nakawa. The three phases institute was made up of laboratories and factories for trail production from 1992-1994, a ceramic research production line, fruit juice processing line, a bread production line, milk and powder production line, and plastic production. Several more laboratories, boiler room, a refrigeration station and a diesel generating set were also set up from 1998-2000. All these setups can manifest industrial development through the Chinese contributions all which are aimed at fostering economic development.
In energy sector, the Chinese government has also played a great role in in supporting Uganda. From sending experts to support Uganda’s biogas projects to supporting and financing of construction of Uganda’s major power plants like Isimba and Karuma dams, all this underscores China’s role in supporting Uganda’s economic development as well as promoting president Xi Jinping’s vision of a shared prosperity for humanity. Furthermore, the construction of China financed 183MW Isimba Hydropower Plant which saw power generated in the country rising from 953.8 MW to 1,176.6MW is a testimony of China’s footprints in supporting Uganda’s economic development.
The Chinese government has also played a great role in kickstarting Uganda’s economic development through financing the infrastructure development sector. For example, the construction of several roads in Uganda including the famous Entebbe express highway were all completed with financial help from the Chinese government.
Through medical diplomacy, China has been supporting Uganda’s health sector. This is manifested through Beijing’s financial support towards building hospitals like Nagguru hospital which is also known as China-Uganda Friendship Hospital. Also, Chinese Government has been sending medical experts to Uganda since 1983 to support and train their Ugandan counterparts. Up to now, 11 teams and about 128 doctors have been sent to work in Uganda mainly in Jinja hospital at the Chinese Government’s own expenses. These experts have helped and conducted Surgery, internal, orthopedics, urological, otolaryngological, plastic surgery among others.
In containing Covid-19 pandemic, China has supported Uganda’s efforts by offering medical supplies, exchange of knowledge and also the country donated 300,000 doses of covid-19 vaccines.
In the field of education, China’s contribution to Uganda is loud and substantial. For example, the educational exchanges between the two countries which started in 1950s even before the establishment of the diplomatic ties has seen thousands of Ugandans trained in China. It took about three months for those forerunners of Uganda students to go to China in the cold war period. After the diplomatic relations was established, the exchanges became frequent and much easier. Presently, China provides 35 scholarships to Ugandan students every year which is a big step in supporting Uganda’s human capital development which is vital for Social and economic development.
Relatedly, China-Uganda cooperation in education is strategic and mutually beneficial. It is important to recall that Africa’s capacity to supply tertiary education to its young population is constrained. This means that the undersupply of tertiary education undermine Africa’s prospects of achieving one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aimed at providing universal, inclusive and higher quality tertiary education. Therefore, China’s support to Uganda’s education sector and to Africa’s as a whole is a big support.
It is also worth noting that China’s diplomatic relations are not only doing wonders in Uganda but also in the rest of Africa. Possibly, due to a similar fate in the past and a common mission, PRC and Africa have extended sympathy to and helped each other throughout the years. As president Xi Jinping noted during his 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, “together, we have embarked on a distinctive path of win-win cooperation.” Indeed, it was during this summit that China demonstrated its commitment to Africa by pledging $60 billion in assistance, investments and loans. The funding, if wisely used, could play a crucial role in addressing the formidable challenges that Africa has to meet.
As Longfellow once remarked; “the heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight; But they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” Indeed, Uganda and the rest of African countries’ economic development heights reached today, are not as a result of sudden flight. It has rather maintained good foreign policy and diplomatic relations with other countries that have given it an economic push. The most overt example of such countries whose foreign policy and diplomatic relations have boosted Uganda’s economic development through various contributions is the People’s Republic of China.
Ssemanda Aburahim, is a Junior writer at Development Watch Centre, a Uganda based foreign policy think tank.