China-Uganda 60 years of Diplomatic Relations

China and Uganda have a long diplomatic history dating back to the post-independence era. China is among the few countries that recognized Uganda as sovereign country just days after independence. Since then, Beijing has been cooperating well with Uganda, offering Kampala support in different sectors that we cannot discuss the journey of Uganda’s socio-economic development without mentioning the role of China.

In education sector, China continues to do a tremendous work offering training opportunities to different Ugandans at different levels. By end of 2021, Beijing had offered Ugandans hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships and over 5000 Ugandans benefited from China’s short course training opportunities covering different key areas such as agriculture, medical care, infrastructure, information and technology among others.  China is also collaborating with African universities funding research and other learning opportunities. Makerere University’s Confucius institute is among the many examples. Aware that human capital and well-educated and skilled people are essential to facilitate development of the country, one cannot discuss development of Uganda’s education sector and human capital development without mentioning China’s contribution.

In the field of agriculture, China has been playing a key role for more than 40 years. In 1973 and 1987, China invested and established the Kibimba Rice Scheme (Now Tilda Uganda) and Doho Rice Schemes which have increased rice production and provided employment opportunities to many Ugandans. Additionally, the South to South Co-operation has boosted agriculture in Mbarara, Kabale, Amuria, Wakiso, and Budaka. Agricultural technology demonstration hubs have been established in Kabale to boost horticulture. China has also been supporting fish farming by funding the construction of the Wakawaka fish landing site and the Kajjansi Aquaculture Training and Development Centre which is a national center for aquaculture research in Uganda. This has led to increased and sustained fish production.

In 2009 under the South-South Cooperation (SSC), in coordination with United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China launched FAO-China South-South Cooperation (FAO-China SSC) and established FAO-China Trust Fund. China invested $30 million in this program to to support agriculture in Uganda. China has since been supporting this program injecting $100 million in 2015 and 2021 for phase II and phase III respectively.

During phase II of China-FAO SSC, China sent 47 agricultural experts and technicians have to train Ugandans in the same field. During the expert’s two year stay in Uganda, they trained many Ugandans and helped to improve technologies used to in farming of various crops such as rice, foxtail millet, maize, grapes, apples and cherry tomatoes, as well as animal reproduction.

In energy sector, China’s contribution in Uganda’s energy is also visible. The Karuma dam hydropower station with capacity of 600 MW which under construction in Kiryandongo District is an example of China’s contribution in Uganda’s energy sector. The project is 85% funded by China’s Exim Bank and Uganda government is meeting the remaining 15 percent. The project is being constructed by a Chinese firm Sinohydro Corporation and is expected to be completed in June 2023. Isimba power station which became operational in 2019 was also funded by with a loan from China’s Exim Bank. Karuma and Isimba hydropower plants are identified in Uganda’s Vision 2040 as key projects to Uganda’s economic development.

In infrastructure development, China directly funded US $ 350 million for the construction of the Kampala-Entebbe express highway, which is the first express highway in Uganda. The expressway is a 51km, four-lane, dual carriage toll road linking Kampala to Entebbe airport. The stated intention of the highway was to; reduce congestion and increase the commercial viability of the Greater Kampala Metropolitan area, improve mobility and reduce travel times and vehicle operating costs, and provide better access to local facilities for communities and jobs.

The expressway has helped to improve mobility and travel times to the airport. The US $ 350 million loan will be paid in 13 years and current statistics from Uganda National Roads Authority indicate Ugandans have embraced using the road with average daily passages of 20,000 which is far higher than projected daily passage which UNRA had put at 13,000 passages.  This also means daily collections have risen which is a good sign that the road can sustain itself in terms of maintenance and paying back construction loan. Indeed, Joy Nabasa the spokesperson of Egis which was hired to maintain the road collecting the toll on behalf of UNRA recently told journalists that the number of passages is increasing daily. Last month, media reports indicated that the road toll had collected 13 billion shillings in 4 months alone.

Good road network is key in transportation of goods and services which is key for development. As two Chinese say; “Better roads lead to better life.” and “Build roads if you want to get rich” with more good road network, Uganda’s social-economic growth and match to middle-income status is a matter of time.

In health sector, China continues to play a key role in supporting Uganda’s health sector. For example, as a result of good relations between the two countries, China funded the construction of China-Uganda Friendship hospital at Naguru. The hospital offers health services to people, for instance, paediatrics, gynaecology, dental, and laboratory services.

On 10th June this year, a team of Chinese medical personnel arrived in the country and will stay in Uganda providing medical services to citizens. Since 1983, China has been sending a team of doctors and experts to help work with Ugandans in extending medical serves to Ugandans.,

In the wake of COVID-19, China has supported Uganda in the fight against the pandemic. China donated COVID-19 test kits to boost efforts against the virus. Additionally, Beijing donated up to one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Considering the positive contribution, the two countries have witnessed over the last 60 years, it is a living a testimony that China and Uganda are good comrades, good equal partners and good brothers always working hand shoulder to shoulder with major aim of building a community of shared future and prosperity for mankind. Considering enormous opportunities that comes with this brotherly relation should be natured by people of both countries. This to happen, as a Chinese saying goes, “amity between the people holds the key to state-to-state relations,” with the bilateral relations between our countries were elevated to the level of Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership three years ago in late June 2019, our two peoples must guard these relations jealously.

Vianney Sebayiga is a research fellow at Development Watch Centre and a Student at the Kenya School of Law.




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