CPC’s success story has fruits for Uganda and entire Global South.
By Alan Collins Mpewo
Tomorrow, China’s Communist Party (CPS) will be celebrating 100 years of service and success. When it comes to diplomacy, under the leadership of CPC, China has become a global power and genuinely shared her success with other countries especially in the developing world or the global south. The country championed a path of diplomacy which has seen it enjoy good diplomatic relations with almost all countries of the world. These diplomatic ties have left several countries world over gain economically, and all other forms that describe development.
For example, since establishing diplomatic relations between Uganda and China in early 1960s, the Government of China has continued to provide economic assistance to Uganda in form of interest-free loans and grants to a cumulative value of approximately US$80 million by 2003. The economic and trade cooperation between the two countries diversified considerably, resulting in a trade volume of close to $100 million in 2005. China’s economic role in Uganda has been increasing over the years that in many ways, there is no way one can ignore the role played by China when it comes to Uganda’s economic development.
In energy sector, Chinese construction of Uganda’s Karuma Hydro Power Plant by Sinohydro Corporation Limited entered the finishing stage despite what seemed to be insurmountable challenges complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When completed, the power plant will be the largest power-generating installation in Uganda. It’s one of Uganda’s flagship projects financed by the Export Import Bank (EXIM) of China. Inadequate power supply is one of the key bottlenecks to fast tracking Uganda’s economic development. Therefore, it’s critical in addressing the country’s increasing electricity demand in efforts to fast track industrialization.
Additionally, in March 2019, the Chinese-built 183-megawatt Isimba Hydropower Plant was inaugurated. At the time, the Plant had increased the country’s total installed capacity to 1,202 MW. According to China International Water and Electric Corporation, the construction contractor of Isimba, at the peak of the construction of the Plant, there were over 3,000 workers, of whom 85% were Ugandans; several Ugandan engineers sent to China to receive further training, while those who remained behind were also able to have hands-on experience. Once there is adequate and cheap electricity coupled with the government’s enabling policies, Uganda’s massive industrialization will kick off.
China is also helping Uganda achieve its Oil exploration through China National Offshore Oil Corporation International, one of the largest oil and gas companies in Uganda’s energy sector. In 2016, development and production licenses for eight oil fields in the Exploration Areas 1 and 2 blocks were issued by the government. In 2017, the front-end engineering design (FEED) of the blocks was initiated and the intergovernmental agreement for an oil pipeline was signed and the FEED was completed. CNOOC International also completed the FEED for ground construction and drilling on block EA 3A in 2017. With this, many Ugandans have attained jobs and Oil production will be a blessing to Uganda’s economy
In Agriculture, China has been contributive to agriculture which remains Uganda’s major economic activity with the vast majority of the population deriving its livelihood from the sector. In November 2019, Uganda became the first African country to sign an agriculture project worth 2.4 million U.S. dollar worth of under the UN Food and Agriculture Organization-China South-South cooperation framework. The funds would be used in efforts to boost agriculture production and productivity over the next 3 years. The agriculture project was designed to upscale and commercialize agricultural production with a target of increasing exports to Chinese markets. China’s major agricultural imports from Uganda have been in tea, coffee, and spices. China also supplies machinery and equipment and after sales servicing for various farming and industrial products. Through companies such as China North Machine Co. Ltd, large stock of quality machines used in sectors like Agriculture and Irrigation have been supplied in Uganda.
Zhong’s Industries Ltd through the Chinese paddy rice initiative has also helped boost food security and employment in central Uganda.
In areas like Aid and Grants, China has substantially increased its aid commitments to Uganda over the years, which it has provided in the form of technical assistance, with an emphasis on training in Chinese institutions. Grants, interest-free loans, preferential loans that have an interest subsidy and debt relief. 2020 was a fruitful year for China-Uganda ties as the two countries agreed to lift their relations to a comprehensive cooperative partnership and inked a series of cooperation documents in June. The elevation of the relationship was a milestone, and those agreements injected fresh momentum into bilateral economic cooperation. According to figures from the Chinese embassy, about 4,500 Ugandans attended training courses backed by China, covering various subjects including public management, social organization, education, economy and trade, mineral resources, agriculture and health.
In industrial sector, China has created industrial parks in different parts of Uganda like Liaoshen Industrial Park in Nakaseke. Commissioned in 2019, this one-stop-center, accommodated 13 factories and employed about 2,500 Ugandans at the time. It is expected to have 80 industries employing up to 16,000 people by 2025. Other Chinese industrial parks include Mukono Industrial Park, Shandong Industrial Park, Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park in central region, and Sino-Uganda Industrial Park in Mbale district, eastern region. By this, China has shared expertise in production and management as Uganda keeps fast-tracking industrialization.
In the field of human capital development, the Chinese Government provides scholarships for Ugandan students to study in Chinese higher education institutions since 1980s. This has been done within Uganda and China. For example, within Uganda, The People’s Republic of China in 2019, awarded 30 scholarships worth UGX85million to students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to pursue their studies at Makerere University for academic year 2018/2019 and second cohort of 30 scholarships awarded for Academic Year 2020/2021. Internationally, the Ministry of Education of China formulates Chinese Government Scholarship, and entrusts the China Scholarship Council to handle the enrollment of international students to wit, the Scholarship provides full Scholarships for Ugandan students who wish to study in China for bachelor, master or doctoral degrees and scholar programs to candidates who major in the fields of science, engineering, agriculture, and pedagogy.
China National Offshore Oil Corporation also set up scholarship programs for students in elementary and high school. Since the establishment of the scholarships in 2012, 330 Ugandan students have benefited from the program. The CNOOC programs have enhanced academic performance in Bunyoro. The number of Hoima students who achieved first-class standing in the Uganda Certificate of Education increased from 13 in 2012 to 387 in 2017. The attainment of education skills and knowledge has consequently translated into economic development of Uganda.
Infrastructure which is key for any country’s development, China is supporting Uganda’s ongoing upgrading and expansion of Entebbe International Airport, Uganda’s main gateway to the rest of the world, as well as the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Expressway which links the capital Kampala to Entebbe International Airport. Chinese road construction contractors have also been involved in building several roads in the country. All in all, as Chinese gather to celebrate CPC’s 100 years of existence, as a African, I feel I have all reasons to join them in jubilations considering the big impact their success has contributed not just towards my country’s development but entire Global south and the world at large.
Alan Collins Mpewo is a Law student at Islamic University in Uganda and Fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank.