Uganda-China Relations: Partnership of Equals and Win-Win Cooperation

By Ndunaka Godswill Chikamso

Like many other countries, Uganda has been seeking foreign investment and partnerships to drive economic development and the country has made significant strides towards economic development in recent years, thanks to the support of various international partners. One such partnership that has been growing in significance is China-Uganda Relations.

China and Uganda have a longstanding relationship dating back to the early 1960s when Uganda gained independence. The relationship has been characterized by cooperation in various areas, including trade, infrastructure development, and education. Over the years, China has provided significant assistance to Uganda in the form of aid, loans, and investments opportunities. In 2018, China was Uganda’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade worth over $1.2 billion. Since then, Beijing remains one of Uganda’s leading trade partners and major source of foreign direct investments (FDI).

With China introducing zero tariff to Ugandan goods which will see Ninety-eight percent of Ugandan goods accessing Chinese market tariff free, trade between the two countries is expected to grow further. Last year, Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, Zhang Lizhong announced the Special Preferential Tariff Treatment of Ugandan Exports to China, explaining that this was in line with commitments made by China at the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Senegal last year.

Even before the said Special Preferential Tariff Treatment, China has been investing heavily in Uganda, particularly in infrastructure development projects such as roads, bridges, and power plants. The most notable project is the 51 kilometers Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, which was constructed with a loan from China’s Exim Bank and has greatly improved the country’s transportation sector. Additionally, China has financed the construction of the Karuma and Isimba hydroelectric power plants, which will increase Uganda’s energy capacity and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The entry of Chinese construction firms into Ugandan market is always cited as the reason for reducing billing prices for road construction in Uganda. Indeed, at the time when European companies were dominating road construction business, the construction of one kilometer took about 3.1 billion shillings compared to current rate of about 2.1 billion shillings per kilometer.

China has also invested in Uganda’s telecommunications sector, with Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE playing a significant role in the country’s development of 4G networks and fibre optic cables. This has greatly improved internet connectivity in Uganda and provided opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Another sector that China has played a significant role in Uganda’s economic development is supporting the country’s infrastructure especially road and energy sectors which has in turn helped easing transportation of goods and services and also helped in addressing unemployment challenge. In 2014, while closing a two-day Pan African Youth Conference at Serena International Hotel Conference in Kigali Rwanda, President Yoweri Museveni explained that “infrastructure development such as Roads, Electricity and Railway in any country is of importance as it attracts investments and creates jobs for the youths.”

In 2017, while on a visit to Uganda, Christine Lagarde, then Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) credited Uganda for what she described as “Uganda has appropriately embarked on a strategy of scaled-up infrastructure investment in the energy and transport sectors to relieve key growth bottlenecks and enhance regional linkages.” Lagarde argued that “focusing on overcoming implementation challenges, including through strengthening public investment management, should help ensure that these investments yield the desired outcomes in terms of higher growth and job creation.”  If critically analysed, the improvement and development of Uganda’s energy and infrastructure sector became possible largely because of China’s assistance.

Today, Africa’s biggest challenge, especially Sub-Saharan region, is poor and aging infrastructure.  A 2022 study by McKinsey and Company concluded that unless addressed, infrastructure deficits in key sectors such as roads and energy will continue to hinder African countries’ economic growth and development especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study concluded that while the region is faced with high demand of infrastructure development, there are few partners or investors willing to provided huge amounts needed for such projects. Therefore, China’s readiness to back such projects in Uganda and Africa in general cannot be underestimated.

However, while China’s hand in supporting African countries infrastructure is a big boost, Uganda and other African countries must should only borrow and invest in projects that can easily spur economic development as a way of ensuring easy servicing of loan facilities extended while undertaking such infrastructure projects so that issues such as rising debts critics often point at are avoided.

That said, there are multitudes of opportunities that comes with steady and good relations between China and African countries. The other area with huge potential for cooperation is in the field of agriculture. While China is already working with Uganda in this area especially through FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) in which China has since 2015 been supporting agriculture initiatives in Uganda, if projects under SSC especially its phase III are spread throughout the country, more fruits will be realized in a short period. SSC has potential to spark Uganda’s economic development especially if they work together with Uganda government’s introduced Parish Development Model (PDM).  Uganda is an agricultural country, and there is a need to enhance agricultural productivity and value addition. With her rich experience in modern agriculture, China can provide technical support, expertise, and investment towards Uganda’s agricultural sector.

In conclusion, China has played a significant role in Uganda’s economic development, providing funding and investment for critical infrastructure projects. China’s engagement with Uganda has brought many benefits, including employment opportunities, enhanced energy capacity, and improved connectivity. While this has brought several benefits to the country, including job creation and economic diversification, there are also concerns about debt sustainability, environmental impact, and the impact on local industries and businesses. As Uganda continues to seek foreign investment and partnerships, it will be important to carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of these relationships and ensure that they are sustainable and equitable.

Ndunaka Godswill Chikamso is a junior research fellow at Sino-Uganda Research Centre and a Medical student Niger Delta University, Nigeria.

China-Uganda Relations: As it Was During Colonial Rule, China Remains a Reliable Development Partner!

By Musanjufu Benjamin Kavubu

China and many African countries have shared a history regarding the sense of imperialism and colonialism. China was not so long ago under the colonial rule of Japan and some of its territories like Hong Kong under Britain. China’s Communist Party set an example and also went ahead to support African independence struggles. Even with its rich history, China can be credited with the front of economic growth that has a basis on the political will of CPC and its leaders from the days of Chairman Mao to to-date where CPC Secretary General and President of China Xi Jinping advocates for building a community with shared prosperity for mankind.

Like every global player for China Africa is part of its economic playground and places like Uganda are both its geopolitical and geo-economic outposts. One may then wonder if Uganda is just a pony on a grander chessboard. It depends on how you watch events and the perceived results. What makes news is Beijing’s economic strategy and it’s in a few cases in the past decades save for its ambitions unify its claimed territory of Taiwan when China’s military strategy has come under the world’s microscope. Even with the military bases in the South China Sea and some off the African coast, the answer is supply chain interests that facilitate its trade with the world. Put differently, China has never been a coloniser and to date, if critically analysed, Beijing bears no such ambitions but rather win-win cooperation where countries world over benefit from a win-win cooperation under world order where each country’s sovereignty is respected!

Unlike the British Empire that is only visible today through a shadow of Common Wealth nations that kicked off with military expeditions and remained in place with the power of the gun and the United States hegemony that has a thirst for energy resources also backed with senseless wars, China has had this supposed strong foothold on the world and places like Uganda with no boots on the ground in terms of soldiers or even private contractors. China chooses economic diplomacy and it has run lately on projects like the famous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Maltiplarism through BRICS a block made up of Brazil, Russia, India China and South Africa which unlike the G7, BRICS advocates for equality of all countries as well as respect for all irrespective of their size or military might.

Nothing has brought criticism to Beijing like the true intentions of the Belt and Road Initiative a project that has seen China seriously considering and supporting developing countries’ infrastructure development loans to among others construct, sea ports, airports, rail line networks and roads from Africa to Americas, from Asia to Europe all aimed to facilitating trade. This development has arguably revolutionized developing countries’ infrastructure development which organisations like world bank have continuously said they receive very low funding despite being key in social-economic development aspect.

Sadly, some people claim BRI is about China taking out raw materials and bringing back low-quality products through its massive web of the supply chain, with other critics of China especially from the West who often cherry-pick and ignore reality and brand China’s generous infrastructure development assistance as “debt trap.”


For a moment picture this China through EXIM bank provides a loan to Uganda to construct a hydropower dam on the Nile River, in the process technology is imported and at the end of it, all rural electrification is achieved which will facilitate industrialisation leading to employment, in turn creating a population with disposable income that is used to develop microeconomics of households that bring further education and research in the academia field. It’s from such initiatives that a real middle class is a bred that will in the end consume quality Chinese products because of the disposable income. The question is who wins? A real middle class that pays taxes will in the long run offset the loan for the dam, a real middle class will trade and create a functional society. A functional society has no appetite for civil war or trade in arms and that will ensure civility and a level of peacetime. That sounds like true economic development!

In the past two decades, Ugandans that speak Mandarin have increased and it’s not because it’s part of the school syllabus even if they are few language schools in Kampala that offer to teach it. The main reason for Mandarin in Africa is the increased scholarships that Beijing is offering. There is a likelihood that every Uganda knows someone close who has travelled to China for education on a fully Chinese government funded scholarship. When these people return after studying, they have contributed to the local academia and thus bettering the educational sector that is very fundamental in economic development. Whatever China’s foreign agenda policy is behind shipping Ugandans to China educating them and sending them back it’s to our society’s advantage in the long run.

China has a thirst and also a shortage for oil in its massive industrialization scheme and on that note, it’s watched carefully through its activities on the energy market. CNOC is one of the partners of Uganda in the oil sector and the company’s efforts can’t be downplayed in the facilitation of black gold’s take-off in the country. It’s a writing on the wall that if the oil sector is handled well by the state and its full potential is realised, then it will overturn the economic prospects of the nation. Today, many Ugandans in Albertine region have already seen fruits from oil sector especially through CNOC’s cooperate social responsibility where social services for communities are looked at as well as employment opportunities! The other most striking example are modern houses CNOC constructed for people affected by oil project in Kingfisher oil field.

Uganda like most African countries will seem like small pieces in China’s economic strategy but the reality these tiny pieces are useful and all need to work. China at some point will even go beyond its comfort zone to ensure these pieces function as expected beyond United Nations Security Council speeches where it’s a permanent member. It is important that the war in Ukraine and the new world order on the horizon led by players like China Kampala maintain a strong relationship with Beijing to realise further economic development.

While China’s critics and Sino-Africa skepticists especially in the West claim that China’s engagement with African countries is guided by what they claim to be Beijing’s “selfish interests” at times with absurd claims that most African countries have received fewer tangible benefits from China relations the reality is that where greatly or otherwise, tangible or otherwise, China-Africa relations are working and wonders are being created! The fact that China respects African countries sovereignty and that these relations are based on equality not the West’s assumed big brother role, African countries should jealously guard these relations! As African countries demand for equality and permanent representation at the UN security Council, it is clear that China at some point will ensure this dream becomes a reality by supporting Africans as they did while Africans fought against brutal colonial rulers.

Musanjufu Benjamin Kavubu is a Junior Research Fellow at Sino-Uganda Research Centre.


From Mityana to Guangzhou; The incredible story of Mr. Mugerwa

By Shemei Ndawula

Mugerwa Joseph is a natural born story teller, perched on his wooden stool, his hand nestled absentmindedly in his prickly black beard stubble, one would be forgiven if they wouldn’t believe he’s one of the most influential personalities in Uganda’s flower industry, running two successful flower shops and wholesale flower depots as well as an accomplished events planner.

But once you hear him speak, you catch a glimpse of a savvy business man whose vision and ambition led him, with little formal education and financial grounding from the dusty backroads in rural Mityana, Uganda to what he describes as “the world’s largest floristry market” in Guangzhou, China.

His colleagues jokingly refer to him as a Ugandan-Chinese because his TV set in the florist is always tuned into Chinese news station CGTN and he’s always quick to offer insight on the news stories relying heavily on his experiences in China, he often has a rapt audience listening to his stories as he extrapolates, in a deep sagely voice, his Chinese experience.

When I first met him, he was emphatically detailing the meals he used to have while on the Asian continent, he was saying (the following words are translated and paraphrased from Luganda which is his main language of communication) “as a Ugandan in China, the easiest meal to get is chicken, we ate so much chicken we almost got tired of it, I see you people excited by these restaurants like KFC but in China, these are very normal things, in fact, we would have to take a train from our area in Guangzhou to go have Ugandan food like Matooke” he exclaimed to  his enrapt audience.

Mr Mugerwa’s first trip to China was a decade ago. This was after close to eight years working as an apprentice florist in Kampala for one of the earliest commercial flower companies in the country and deciding he wanted more.

During his early days in Guangzhou, Mr Mugerwa was fascinated by the technological and artistic innovations he came across. He marveled at the efficient and fast transportation systems, the modern buildings, and the use of digital technology in almost everything and most importantly the advanced manufacturing capabilities of the Chinese synthetic flower industries which could make high quality artificial flowers with the appearance and texture of natural flowers.

Inspired by this, he would take long walks around Guangzou flower market in the evenings trying to learn and soak in everything he could about the industry, which would later prove to be a game-changer for his florist business in Kampala.

He was mind blown by the abundance of affordable high-quality flower accessories that he’d possibly never have imagined while in Uganda. This sparked a new idea in him. He was quick to establish contacts in Guangzou despite the language barrier (he is still predominantly a Luganda speaker) and because of the amazing business acumen that has come to define the Chinese bilateral trade, he had access to many high-quality goods at heavily discounted prices many of the sellers even offering the enthusiastic fast talking Ugandan businessman credit facilities.

Using his contacts in Guangzhou, he imported his first shipment; a great haul with floral wrappers, ornamental vases, decorative linens and realistic artificial flowers many of which were novel to the country which sparked a revolutionary ripple in the local Ugandan floristry industry.

With his new-found business knowledge and a steady supply of affordable high-quality flower accessories, Mr Mugerwa’s florist business in Kampala has been on the up and up since his first trip to China. Because of the great bilateral friendship between Uganda and China, Mr Mugerwa is able to import high quality goods from factories in China at low costs and resale them at affordable prices in Kampala, a win-win partnership with his Chinese suppliers which has turned the ambitious Mityana youth into an astute businessman expanding his first florist with a second flower shop which deals exclusively in events management and decoration as well as a second wholesale flower depot. Additionally, the floristry ideas and techniques he picked up from China have also made him one of the best creative florists in Kampala and doubtless an unassailable force in the industry.

The story of Mr Mugerwa is no strange outlier. Countless Ugandan lives have been positively impacted by the great Sino-Ugandan partnership over the last six decades. From business men like Mr Ntumwa Birimumaso of Ubuntu Cafe, to scientists like Engineer Rita Nasaazi a petroleum expert, and agricultural and bamboo enthusiast Mr Andrew Ndawula Kalema of Talent orchards.

Often when we discuss diplomacy, bilateral trade and foreign policy, it is easy to get lost in the statistics and figures as well as heavy sounding diplomatic diction that we may at times forget the faces behind the statistics and the voices behind the economic trends. Every unique story like Mr Mugerwa’s is a vote of confidence in the special bilateral friendship that Uganda and China share and a promise of what we can achieve by working together, the promise of the CCP leadership in China and the people of Uganda, a friendship of mutual benefit, cooperation and development that’s echoed in the China’s infrastructure support in Africa especially under the Belt and Road Initiative  and the established preferential trade agreement between China and African countries.

It is said that one of the greatest achievements of the ancient Chinese was to build The Great Wall of China; I believe, in retrospect, the future may perceive the greatest achievement of modern-day China as The Great Bridge of China; the great bilateral friendship that connects so many countries to the People’s Republic of China bridging the gap between dreamers and opportunity, a win-win partnership.

Shemei Ndawula is a senior Research Fellow, Sino-Uganda Research Centre

Fighting Extreme Poverty: Lessons from China’s Poverty Eradication Initiative

By Balongoofu Daniel

The world bank under the poverty and inequality Platform (PIP) as of march 2023 assessed global poverty from a period of 2020 with special focus on the global south that to a larger extent is victimized by this catastrophe. The prevailing data collected from nations with functional grid systems that track levels of poverty indicate that the global head count ratio increased by 0.1 percent to 8.5 percent resulting into a revision in the number of people living in extreme poverty from 648 million to 659 million additionally from south Asia with about 5 million people, The middle east and North Africa contributing 4 million people resulting into an increase of about 11 million people living in extreme poverty hence forth.

Focusing on sub-Saharan Africa, the provisional data indicates that the global head count ratio as of march 2023 stands at about 86.4 percent and the number of poor people estimated to be about 969 million. This speaks volumes of what needs to be done to check these sharp rising poverty trends especially in this part of the world.

This to occur, countries in Global South may have to learn from other countries where the war against poverty has been successful. For example, picking from China, a self-established model in poverty eradication, African countries can learn more on how to successfully contain poverty. Arguably, China is of a great lesson to the global south and Sub-Saharan Africa in this fight that the nation evolved from a history not alien to the prevailing social-political and economic structure of the sub-Saharan region. Right from atrocities being war torn by both civil wars, the fight against colonialism, food insecurity and a big growing population with limited resources at the time. The nation embarked on a long journey of strategic self-transformation and creating of opportunities that have made it the worlds production hub and the second largest economy.

In February of 2021, president Xi announced that extreme poverty had been eradicated in the nation in what he termed as a miracle. He announced that; “Through combined efforts of the whole party and the entire nation, China has secured a complete victory in its fight against poverty in this important year”.

The unification of China by the CPC in 1949 followed major land reforms that the government under took as the first measure. It should be noted that the period during the 30-year long wars characterized with both civil and fights against the Japanese colonialists at the time which followed a complete institutional and national break down by fighting war lords who divided the nation into territories and taxed the people to fund their wars hence contributing to the acute levels of poverty. The land reforms saw the elimination of the first major institutional obstacle since the state retained exclusive rights to the land that later saw investment in improved farmlands irrigation which gave the peasants modern farming trainings and employment. The land reform also saw a redistribution of land to peasants and tenants who then acquired land which encouraged wide scale agricultural production through cooperatives later in 1953.  The government as well heavily invested in rural education, medical services as major roots and basis that the current 27 trillion dollars economy inherits.

Later during 1978, China registered great success over the poverty elimination fight under the central collective leadership of president Deng Xiaoping that declared poverty as not being socialism therefore the party undertook efforts here to liberalize the Chinese market through opening it up for foreign direct investments and commercial production. This attracted investors with huge capitals that drastically promoted value addition on the locally produced agricultural produce of which the huge population provided a ready market necessary for-profit maximization.

It should be noted that the government as well took strategic reforms to accord the high-tech state-owned enterprises that drove the of value addition initially a level of autonomy that they were to compete with other private enterprises, determine production and supply and drive reinvestment of the profits accumulated. This strategically introduced the capitalistic traits of profit maximization hence gradually abandoning the socialistic home-based production. This resulted into a massive average GDP growth of about 8.2 percent per year on average between 1978 and 2020.therefore as a result, on average there were 18.7 fewer poor people in China since 1978 hence the miracle that president Xi highlighted in his victory speech.

China’s fight against corruption is commendable and cannot be ignored while addressing the fight against poverty. It should be noted that this cancer has greatly undermined the gains of economic development especially in sub–Saharan Africa therefore the global south aught to borrow a leaf from China’s defeat of this vice. From the 1970s when China begun to carry out the policy reforms and opening up, The CPC government at the time took very stringent measures against economic crimes such as smuggling, embezzlement and taking bribes. The road to combating this cancer featured addressing of both the symptoms and the root causes of corruption. Comprehensive treatment and gradual intensification of efforts to eliminate the root causes of economic crimes were deployed and till the 21st century, China has constantly expanded the corruption prevention frame work from special prevention of individual corruption to preventive work and administrative examination with approval, financial management and cadre personal system reforms under the national bureau of corruption prevention to co ordinate the work of combating this vice and holding victims accountable by both the law and national publicity. It should be noted that China has been effective in fighting this vice which has made it swift for the implementation of these poverty eradication programs.

Conclusively, the new battle against poverty is now carried on by president Xi’s tenure. After the tremendous successes in fighting poverty which in saw Beijing announcing it had realized its first centenary goal – building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and president Xi declaring that the country was embarking on what he described as “marching in confident strides toward the second centenary goal of building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects,” he called for implementation of newer strategies to lift the remaining poor to prosperity. The new strategies call for identifying the most vulnerable, then analysis is done on the root causes of poverty. These programs have been decentralized to the lowest political composition of society that help in implementation and accountability to the central government and it should be however noted that the present-day mechanisms involve elements of poverty relief dispatched by the government directly to the affected people among special transformational programs such as electrification and connectivity through roads to encourage economic transformation and productivity. As other countries in the global south such as Uganda come up with programs meant to fight poverty such as Parish Development Model, China offers a rich pool of expertise where we can draw lessons on how to successfully end extreme poverty.

Balongoofu Daniel is a Junior Research Fellow at Sino-Uganda Research Centre



The Partnership of Development: Lessons from China-Uganda Relations

The Partnership of Development: Lessons from China-Uganda Relations

By Balongoofu Daniel and Ssemanda Abdurahim

China and Uganda share a rich historical background of diplomacy and economic relations. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1962 which subsequently paved way for trade and economic relations. Bilateral relations between Uganda and China entered a new stage of development in 1986 with bilateral cooperation expanding and mutual high-level exchanges increasing. In both 1996 and 1997, Uganda backed China at the UN Human rights Commission. In 2000, Uganda also supported the bill put forward by China on the maintaining and observing of the anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in the UN. Early this month, the two brotherly countries marked 60 years of diplomatic relations with Chinese to Uganda, Ambassador Zhang Lizhong explaining that the bilateral relationship between the countries are “at their best in history,”

With the expectation of considerable revenue in the future from the exploitation of the oil reserves in Uganda’s Albertine region, there has been a growing demand for the construction of public infrastructure in Uganda which requires substantial financing. To meet her infrastructural needs, Uganda needs to invest an estimate of USD$1.4 billion annually. China has played a significant role in this sector of improving Uganda’s infrastructure sector.

To maximise tourism revenues and facilitate business travels, Uganda embarked on a dual project to expand Entebbe Airport’s capacity and improve connectivity between Kampala and the airport to keep up with the air traffic. Uganda, as a member of the Chinese Belt and road Initiative, has benefited from the Chinese fair and conducive infrastructural financing agreements to low developed countries. China, through EXIM Bank extended a loan of up to USD 670 million which has seen the completion of the Kampala-Entebbe express highway and the completion of the first phase of the Airport expansion. The road was constructed by China Communications construction Corporation, the same firm which carried out the first phase of the airport expansion. The successful completion of these infrastructural projects eases mobility and facilitates cross-border travels of tourists and transportation of commercial goods which in turn grows the country’s revenues and accelerates economic development.

Furthermore, the Sino-Uganda relationship has equally facilitated expansion of Uganda’s electricity supply in an effort to accelerate the country’s industrialisation. China has been involved in the construction and funding of two large dams at Karuma and Isimba. Some analysts contend that Isimba’s 183 megawatts (MW) of capacity brings Uganda’s national total to 1,167 MW. It further estimated that prices would fall from $0.08 per MW to $0.05. Karuma dam adds a tune of 600MW to Uganda’s power sector. The increased power supply fits within Ugandan government targets that by 2040, industrialisation should contribute 31% of the GDP and employing 26% of labour force and contributing 50% of exports as manufactured goods.

Notwithstanding, China’s very low interest and long-term loans extended to Uganda to boost economic growth through infrastructural development, in terms of industrialisation and Foreign Direct Investment, China is a key player in Uganda’s economic development. In the 2018/19 financial year, Uganda Investment Authority performance report ranked China a top Foreign Direct Investor in 2018 with a total investment worth $607million comprising 45.1 percent of the total investment. During the same period in which China overwhelmingly outnumbered other foreign investors, 75.4% of the jobs created were attributed to foreign owned projects. China is also Uganda’s second largest trading partner with the total exports and imports between the two countries totalling to over $940 million annually. These trade and economic relations have significantly raised domestic revenues for Uganda. Uganda’s domestic revenues now contribute a whopping 76.4% to the national budget.

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.

The cooperation and bilateral relationship between Uganda and China have so far yielded amazing results. In 2021, bilateral trade volume amounted to $1.07 billion which is an increase of 28.5% in spite of the hurdles caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Also in 2021, the two countries signed new engineering contracts amounting to $1.43 billion.

In conclusion, all the above points at China’s contribution towards Uganda’s economic development from infrastructure development, to manufacturing and industrialisation, Agriculture and foreign direct investments among others.

Balongoofu Daniel and Ssemanda Abdurahim are Junior Research Fellows at Development Watch Centre

Uganda’s Vision 2040: China’s support in its attainability, colonialism talk is off point.

By Alan Collins Mpewo

In the wake of fast racing multilateral relations, the world countries have kept mowing their paths of prosperity and in scaling their economic stability, they’ve molded sustainable modules to attain that worthwhile goal. The industrial module keeps raising through the ranks and many countries that have globally harnessed it, are gradually appreciating its economic impact. The Republic of Uganda is equally taking on the challenge in a flagship project the country’s government termed as “Vision 2040.” Among other schemes, are the Chinese built Industrial Parks that will harbor these gigantic projects. However, in the same journey to attain the vision, criticism and talk about the ever-growing China-Uganda economic relations keep streaming. The so-called Chinese modern colonialism of the Global South is verbally being attached to the People’s Republic of China. But is the talk warranted?

Many don’t get to look at it or even think about it this way, but realizing the historical background and understanding of the term “Colonialism,” many wouldn’t apply it lightly. That understanding of the generic meaning of the term would just be an honest step to realization that its application as regards most of its economic policies towards Africa, is utterly a smearing spree to water down those good relations. It’s fair to state that what the Chinese government is doing or establishing in the African continent, and whether that befits the term “colonization,” should be a reserve for Africa’s inhabitants to determine and propagate a deserving response.

A sneak peek at what the actual colonialists did would point to indigenous settlers of Africa having forced to labour with figuratively no payment. Selling them as slaves, among other regrettable undertakings. That there, is a slight showcase of what colonialism is. The People’s Republic of China is supportive to African countries in as far as investing greatly in modern infrastructure to mention of, such as roads, airports, and buildings. The People’s Republic of China comes to this, at a time when much of the African continent continues suffering from decades of entrenched neocolonialism, stinking poverty, sociopolitical instability and deplorable corruption.

The People’s Republic of China looks at the world composed of numerous nations, all having own customs, socioeconomic systems, distinct in many forms, and are not inquisitive to alter. Its conception can fairly be seen as interested in finding a place in the middle kingdom. Being able to reach out so as offers can trade by them, perhaps as a World Trade Organ originating from the ancient silk route to the modern belt and road, or else they are in the middle of nowhere. African nations need direct foreign investment, compared to various other places. So the People’s Republic of China has massively impacted building infrastructure. Importantly to note, is that these projects by China in the African countries in which it has some presence, are endorsed as coming without political adversities. That stands out especially as regards the respect granted for national sovereignty of partner states.

In a report recently by the notable AidData research lab, College of William and Mary, Virginia, the Chinese Belt and Road projects are fundamental in reduction of income imbalances and inequality among regions in the nations in which they are set-up. The People’s Republic of China has seen the implementation of various infrastructure projects like the construction of energy dams, roads, and the expansion of the country’s National Airport – Entebbe International Airport, plus the development of industrial parks. Regarding the Industrial parks, these are gradually taking shape with new ones cropping up. Soon or later, the Standard Gauge Railway construction, a focus project for Uganda, will finally get its long-awaited completion. The construction of several of the above projects is Chinese financed.

Still on infrastructure, the 183MW Isimba Hydro Power Plant is complete, and this has been done by China’s Exim Bank that has funded about 85 percent of two major Ugandan energy projects — Isimba and Karuma dams. Meanwhile, construction works of the 600MW Karuma Hydro Power Plant is still ongoing. It furthermore financed and foresaw the building of Kampala’s $476 million Entebbe Express Highway that leads to the National Airport – Entebbe International Airport, which has greatly minimized driving time to more than half the time before its construction.

These Chinese funded projects’ impact cannot be taken lightly, because enhancement of transportation routes is an inevitable stepping stone to trade. However, the Uganda government has much more to offer and directly delve in, especially with the energy support systems that have since been launched. The Isimba and Karuma Dams escorted by the gradual construction of Industrial parks in different parts of the country calls for the need to expeditious ignition of an industrial module of achieving economic prosperity. Uganda’s exports to China are majorly agricultural, yet it imports much more finished goods from the People’s Republic of China. According to UN COMTRADE database on international trade, the Republic of Uganda exports to China were $39.61 Million in 2020. Much of it was in Oil seed, fruits, grain, and seed, to a tune of $18.01 Million. This creates a great void of trade imbalance, something that is constantly affecting Uganda’s economy. Such incredible relations between the two countries – Uganda and The People’s Republic of China, should be a stepping stone for Uganda.

The advantages of an industrial module, especially in a developing country with promising growth of major transport systems can not be overemphasized. The job pool to the various Ugandans with distinct skills and expertise, the retention of much money that goes to waste on imports, among others. Such an industrial model would also give justification for the loans acquired, whose outcomes would setoff a significant portion of the debt burden. In addition to Industrial support systems are peripheral projects by The People’s Republic of China like its financing of an oil pipeline project valued to over $4 billion, presently undergoing construction. The project will connect the western region of Uganda to the port at Tanga in the Republic of Tanzania. This will give Uganda – a landlocked country, access to the Indian Ocean. That access to the wide East of the globe will possibly streamline the chain of export from the full functional industries to world markets. The returns would accomplish enormous development for the Republic of Uganda.

Alan Collins Mpewo is a Research Fellow, with Development Watch Center, a foreign policy think tank, a fourth-year law student at IUIU.


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