Building a Prosperous Society of People Free from Toil And Want: Lessons From China.

By Joseph Nyero.

The government of the People’s Republic of China began to work for a moderately prosperous society, one they called xiaokang in 1980. This was a fight against poverty with aim of achieving decent life and improvement of human rights in the country. The major aim wasn’t necessarily being rich but so that the people are free from want and toil. The Chinese Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government basically wanted the people to have peace, stability and happiness.  They pushed for growth in all aspects of economic development whilst leaving no individual element like social, economic, cultural etc lacking.

It didn’t come with their hands folded, they had to input a lot which can be as well be emulated by developing countries like Uganda. Interestingly, 770 million people below China’s poverty line have been raised from poverty. Indeed, in February this year, Chinese president, Xi Jinping announced that the country had eradicated extreme poverty one of its main objectives in the last twenty years and stressed that “complete victory” that would “go down in history” had been realized. “According to the current criteria, all 98.99 million poor rural population have been taken out of poverty, and 832 poverty-stricken counties as well as 128,000 villages have been removed from the poverty list,” noted president Xi.

All the above happened 10 years ahead of the projected time of 2030 by the UN. For anyone interested in learning, the first lesson would be the possibility of this seemingly impossible venture with China as the evidence to its feasibility. Most of the problems China had then are the ones many developing countries like Uganda face now. Its therefore more logical for us to implement solutions that have been tested and trusted to work elsewhere other than going about experimenting as this would waste resources and time without guaranteeing outcome.

Foremost, the government has put advancing its people’s rights above everything else. All the people enjoy their human rights, with equal opportunities and the rules affect all the people equally. The people are not favoured nor marginalised on grounds of ethnicity, gender, race, color etc. Also, Beijing fronted rewarding merit (meritocracy) other than kakistocracy. As a result of this, government’s programs are realised as set and the people are unified, patriotic and are willing to work together for the better of the whole country. This is a step several developing African countries can look at and incorporate it into their systems.

According to this month’s official document issued by China’s State Council Information Office entitled; “Moderate Prosperity in All Respects: Another Milestone Achieved in China’s Human Rights,” the government of China offered free compulsory education for its citizens. All primary and secondary schools can access the internet, financial aid has been offered to over 150 million students. There is also a system where those who drop out of school are identified and helped back into school. in developing countries like Uganda, very few and lucky people can afford to pay higher institutions tuition with easiness which has increased on number of those dropping out of higher institutions before completion. Such challenges can be addressed by government waiving tuition or and or textbook fees to reduce burden parents and students face.

China also put-up special teaching posts in villages to ensure that university graduates got to teach in the rural areas. Though such arrangements are in place her – hard to reach areas, strengthening them will see developing countries like Uganda ensuring  that the students in rural areas also acquire a good quality education. Remarkably, China has over 3,000 public libraries where scholars can access reading materials that may not be in their school libraries. Uganda has only of which very few are well stocked.

China has put up places where people can go and do exercises, encouraged the people to do them and has also educated the mases on good nutrition. They have also promoted preventive services like cardiovascular screening and cancer screening. China’s rural areas have access to basic medical insurance. This ensures that the people don’t sell their belongings or die as a result of failing to access medical care. China has also made rehabilitation services generally available for the disabled and mentally ill. During this pandemic, they have pulled numerous resources to build 1000 and 14000 bed health facilities in 10 and 12 days respectively. They have made efforts to vaccinate all the people and on top of offering free treatment for COVID-19 patients. China’s commitment to the health of their citizens has had their life expectancy increasing while most of the world especially in developing countries is decreasing. If Uganda could borrow the whole tree (apparently a leaf might not be enough), we would have reduced mortalities and the unending challenges like strikes of health workers would be history.

China built an agrotechnology system that has greatly improved their productivity. Uganda being an agriculture-based country could benefit umpteen times from such a system. In China, the right to be free from hunger is guaranteed by the nutrition improvement program for children in poor areas and people having access to food through poverty alleviation. China has also ensured safe housing for the poor and put-up programs such as renovation of rural homes. If replicated here, Uganda would as well greatly benefit.

To address the problem of un employment, China has put up 45,800 employment agencies. Though Uganda is trying with programs like skilling youth, extra efforts will help make a big difference.

China has also strengthened the legal protection of human rights and increased the public awareness of the constitution and the law. Consequently, many people understand laws governing them and as they enjoy their much-protected human rights, they also understand what is required of them and hence, many are patriotic and always work to defend interests of their country which is key for development to take place.  Most Ugandans don’t even know their rights or even the constitution. China has as well put-up internet-based government services, the public supreme court has publicized judicial protection of private enterprises. All these have in a way led to the achievement of the desired goals and arguably, all Chinese have peace, stability and happiness which is key for a holistic prosperous society. Perhaps, developing countries like Uganda should embrace such, we shall be on wheels swiftly moving towards a xiaokang too.

Joseph Nyero is a research fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank and a fourth-year medical student at Makerere University.

 

China-Uganda journey of diplomacy: The Sun rose –work counting.

By Alan Collins Mpewo

The Chinese Government always attaches great importance to Africa. It has always been an important component of China’s independent foreign policy of peace to develop and strengthen the friendly relations and cooperation with the developing countries, like Uganda. The principles governing the relations between China and Uganda and indeed other African countries put forward by late Premier Zhou Enlai during his tour to Africa in 1960’s is still applicable today. In early 1980’s Chinese leaders proposed four principles on economic and technological cooperation between China and African countries, namely: equality and mutual benefit, emphasis on practical results, diversity in form, and pursuit of common development. During his visit to Africa in May 1996, President Jiang Zemin put forward a five point proposal on developing a long-term and stable relationship of all-round cooperation with African countries oriented towards the 21st century, the core of which being sincere friendship, treating each other as equals, solidarity and cooperation, common development, and looking to the future, thus expounding profoundly the fundamental guidelines and policies of China for developing its friendly relations and cooperation with African countries in the new century.

Selectively chosen, Uganda has benefitted from the fruits of the tree – diplomacy. China and Uganda established diplomatic relations in October 1962. During the period of 1962-1985, bilateral relations witnessed a steady development in spite of the regime changes in Uganda. The two countries saw relatively few high-level exchanges with each other during their first part of the relationship, but Beijing has become a patron of Ugandan diplomacy, for example having donated $6.5 million in 2001 to construct the headquarters building for Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was opened by 2004.

In recent years, Uganda has benefited a lot from its good relationship with China in several ways. First and foremost, China cancelled Uganda’s $17 million debt that had accrued from interest on loans before 2005, and China agreed to provide a grant of $6.8 million. China also granted tariff-free and quota-free treatment to more than 400 commodities from Uganda. China also plans to loan $350 million to the government to construct a six-lane, 51-kilometer express highway linking the capital city of Kampala to Entebbe International Airport, which will start in 2012 with funding on loan from the Chinese Government. In addition, China has constructed government offices and the state-of-the-art Mandela National Stadium Namboole. In southwestern Uganda, a Chinese road construction company, Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO), is constructing a 103-kilometer road linking the western town of Fort Portal to the Democratic Republic of Congo through the mountainous district of Bundibugyo.

China has further strengthened the solidarity and cooperation with Africa, and will makes continued efforts to achieve the goal of common development. Generally speaking, the main points of China’s policy towards Africa are as follows: Adhere to the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, respect the choice of the political system and path of development made by African countries themselves in light with their own national conditions, no interfere in African countries’ internal affairs; support African countries; just struggle in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; support African countries’ efforts in maintaining internal stability and unity, revitalising national economy and promoting social progress.

Support African countries in their efforts to strengthen unity and cooperation and solve their differences and disputes through peaceful negotiations without outside interference; support the positive measures including the implementation of NEPAD taken by the AU and other sub-regional organisations in seeking peace, stability, and development of the African continent, promoting African unity, and realising political and economic integrity.

Strengthen and develop a long-term stable relationship of all-round cooperation with African countries, increase exchange of visits by leaders of China and Africa, enhance personnel exchanges at different levels and in various fields, expand common ground, cement friendship, and promote cooperation.

Continue to provide, to the best of our ability, governmental assistance to African countries without any political conditions, and take measures to improve the performance of the projects built with China’s assistance; take the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation as a new platform and develop economic and trade cooperation with African countries in diversified forms and various fields on the principle of mutual respect, mutual benefit and complementing each other with our respective advantages, and encourage enterprises from both sides to enhance exchanges, enlarge bilateral trade, increase investment and seek common development.

Appeal to the international community especially the developed countries to show more respect and concern for Africa, attach more importance to the peace and development in Africa, adopt feasible measures to increase their aid for Africa, honor their commitment to debt relief, help Africa to solve their problems, promote economic development in Africa, and enable Africa to eradicate poverty so as to narrow the gap between Africa and other parts of the world.

Support African countries in participating and playing a positive role in international affairs as equal members of the international community, continue to uphold justice and speak out for African countries in international arenas, strengthen consultation and cooperation between the two sides, work together to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries and strive for setting up a just and equitable new international political and economic order.

Sino-African friendship is in the fundamental interests of both Chinese and African people and has a broad prospect. In the new century, China is ready to further strengthen diplomatic exchanges and increase contacts and cooperation at different levels in various fields with African countries. China is ready to explore together with African countries new areas, new forms and new ways in Sino-African cooperation and scale new heights for Sino-African relations.

Alan Collins Mpewo is a Fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank and a Law student at Islamic University in Uganda.

 

 

China’s medical diplomacy reflects president Xi’s philosophy of Community with shared future for mankind.

By Joseph Nyero

My favorite Chinese saying is; “if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a life time, HELP SOMEBODY.” This is a saying that they have taken very seriously!

I needn’t say it but for emphasis I will, a sick nation cannot develop! Imagine you had to go to work with fever, difficulty in breathing, sore throat, aches, pain and cough. Currently, the world is faced with the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought the entire world to its knees. We have been taught that prevention is better than cure and we agree but what if we can’t entirely prevent a disease because its airborne and yet we still have to walk around looking for food. The next option would be going for a cure except there isn’t one and that’s why high-income countries with sophisticated medical systems that a country like Uganda can only admire have terribly crushed down. If something befalls the jungle and leaves the lions down, the sheep don’t go running around, they take shelter. It brings us down to the only shelter that we have learnt with time about the noble disease, vaccinating. What this does is to reduce transmissibility and mortality and prevent the severe form of the disease.  All that has to be done is to vaccinate the highest percentage of the population so that even those that haven’t been vaccinated benefit from herd immunity.

Unfortunately for developing countries like Uganda, purchasing covid-19 vaccines has proved to be a very difficult, since developed countries pre-ordered almost all produced vaccines and others opted to hoard them until all their citizens are fully immunized. This has left many countries including Uganda unable to access these vaccines on market on top of the vaccines being super expensive. Even Covax facility which was started to help developing countries vaccinate their citizens experts say it vaccines at their disposal now cannot even vaccinate 20% of population in developing countries. This means developing countries like Uganda cannot fully vaccinate their citizens without support of other developed countries.

This means many developing countries are going to continue struggling in terms of health capacity and hence, the need for support. In sprit of Ubuntu and Chinese president’s philosophy of a community with shared future for mankind, also known as community of common destiny for mankind, China has embraced medical diplomacy by donating 300,000 doses of the vaccine to Uganda. Also earlier donated to support Uganda’s health sector in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic are; 20 tons of cornmeal, mattresses, sanitizers, blankets, masks, gloves. Even Chinese individual citizens such as Jack Ma himself, a successful entrepreneur that has inspired many Ugandans donated medical supplies. All the above extended in times of need is a clear evidence that friends in need are our friends indeed!

These vaccines are going to go a long way in relieving the effects of COVID-19 in Uganda. The cases began as numbers which shortly turned into names of people we know. With no particular selection criteria, rich or poor, families have broken down leaving behind orphaned children. The people are mostly senior citizens like Uganda’s ambassador to Sudan that are not only important to their families as bread winners but also crucial to the development of the country. The people they leave behind commonly drop out of school, can’t find food and its not rare that they become depressed. These are gaps that will never be filled. We have all been depressed because of loosing someone we know. These vaccines are a strong thread of hope to ending this otherwise unending nightmare.

Currently, Uganda is under lockdown. During the recent presidential address, schools will remain closed and the situation reassessed after 60 days. Before this second lockdown, millions of students did not report to school despite the opening of schools meaning that these dropped out. These are children who are highly motivated with dreams that they wanted to see through. Some of them like me, are the only educated people in their families with a strong desire to finish school and break their families free from the chains of poverty. The awareness that some of the young girls are ending up with teenage pregnancies or being married off as early as 14 years breaks me down to the bones. The opening of schools has been coupled to the vaccination of a significant percentage of the teachers and students. These vaccines will give a huge forward push towards opening up of schools.

A high proportion of Ugandans meet their expenses from their daily incomes. Having a lock down therefore means that they will run short of food, rent, name it. It would really be unfortunate for such a person to catch the severe form of the disease which the vaccine prevents. How can someone who is struggling to find the days food afford 5 million Uganda shillings which is the daily bill of a private hospital to manage someone who is critically ill? This is why we are so thankful for the vaccines from China.

They haven’t only began boosting the medical system of Uganda since the pandemic. China has over the past 36 years donated medical equipment worth $8 million. They didn’t just dump the equipment here! They likewise sent 21 teams of over 200 doctors to show us how to use these equipment and work in our hospitals too. China has also been a significant part of the Ebola emergency prevention and control program that has prevented Ebola outbreaks in Uganda or the spread of outbreaks from Congo. China built the center for disease control. This puts Uganda at a better position, a head of local epidemics due to the preventive nature of the facility. The china-Uganda friendship hospital built in 2012 has reduced maternal mortality rate by 99%, operated on over 7,000 patients and delivered 22,000 mothers annually. These are people who walked into the gates of the hospital full of agony, desperation, uncertainty and trying to find something to hold onto. They walked out of the gates as though reborn, with smiles and full of hope ready to pursue their dreams. As a medical student, I haven’t known more joy than that of patients improving because that’s the call and nobility of the medical profession.

Thanks to China, Uganda is now slowly but steadily crawling out of a poor medical system as they are donating very expensive medical equipment, teaching us how to use them and bringing in expertise and practices that made them breakthrough. It won’t be long till we are there. A dream becoming true!

 Joseph Nyero is a fourth-year medical student at Makerere University and a research fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank.

 

China-Uganda relations: an all-round mutual benefits engagement.

By Ngabo Octave.

Sino-Uganda relations date back as early as 1962 when Uganda attained her independence. These relations have grown since to considerably that today, China is Uganda’s top source of Foreign direct investments (FDI.) The two nations have signed multiple cooperation agreements, exchanging students, medical teams among others all meant to help Uganda build her human capital. It is therefore imperative to say that the two countries have excellent relations that are of mutual benefit.

In terms of economic relations, The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to which Uganda belongs was established in 2000 following a meeting between eighty African ministers and the Chinese leadership in Beijing. The forum established a program of cooperation between African countries and China in areas such as investment, financial cooperation, debt relief, and cancellation, agriculture cooperation, natural resources and energy, education, and multilateral cooperation. This cooperation has been of great developmental impact on Uganda’s economy. Many African countries Uganda inclusive have already enjoyed fruits of this cooperation.

In terms of trade between Uganda and china, the volume has grown and stands at US$558 million and China is Uganda’s largest trading patter. Uganda’s exports to China totaled up to US$39.61 million during 2020 according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. The major Ugandan exports to China are mainly agricultural products such as; oilseeds, grains, fruits, spices, coffee, tea, wood, and products of animal origin such as hides and skins. China provides duty-free, quota-free access to its market to least developed countries including Uganda, and this, therefore, has created an opportunity for Ugandan traders to export to China due to its large market and incentives provided. This has driven Ugandan exports high hence improving its balance of trade and balance of payment. China is also the second biggest importer to Uganda and in 2020, these imports were valued at US$1.35 billion. The main imports included mainly electric and electronic equipment, machinery, iron and steel, textiles, chemicals, and plastics. China is, therefore, a source of highly needed products in Uganda at relatively cheap prices and these products have helped drive up economic development and the importation business from China is a source of employment to many Ugandans as observed by various small-scale traders in many arcades and malls in Ugandan towns.

In terms of manufacturing, many Chinese firms have established several factories and helped the Ugandan government to establish industrial parks such as the Sino Uganda Mbale industrial park, Africa Shandong Industrial Park, and the China-Uganda Agricultural Cooperation Industrial Park. These industrial parks have helped drive up the level of industrialization in Uganda, hence diversifying Uganda’s economy. Chinese-owned factories include electronics factories that produce electronic products at cheap prices locally, factories that carry out value addition to agricultural produces hence creating a market for the local farmers, and factories that manufacture timber products. These factories have created employment opportunities for many Ugandans hence improving their livelihood. These factories have also led to a reduction in imports hence improving the balance of trade for Uganda.

China has emerged as a significant financier of infrastructure projects in Uganda. Most of this financing goes to the transport and the energy sectors and are financed through the China Exim bank. Examples of these Chinese-funded projects include US$1.4 billion Karuma dam, US$483 million Isimba hydropower dam and the US$350 million construction of the Kampala-Entebbe express highway. These projects are expected to speed up industrialization in Uganda due to the availability of cheap electric power and improved transport means. These projects have also created jobs for many Ugandans because 85% of the manpower on the projects are Ugandans. In addition to these projects, many Chinese construction companies are undertaking various infrastructural projects in Uganda; a case in point is the Pearl Engineering Company Ltd. The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is overseeing the construction of a pipeline from oilfields in Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania and this will help to speed up the development of the oil sector in Uganda.

The ICT sector is another sector that has greatly benefitted from Sino-Uganda relations. Two Chinese companies have invested in Uganda’s ICT sector, one of them being Huawei. With the support of the Chinese government, these companies are working with telecommunication companies in Uganda to strengthen the country’s ICT sector. In the media sector, Star times have got a hold of a reasonable share of the Ugandan market. It provides solutions to digital migration.

China has supported the education sector in Uganda by providing scholarship opportunities to Ugandan students in institutions of higher learning. These scholarships have enabled knowledge sharing and cultural ties between the two countries. The Chinese embassy has also donated various materials such as computers and other scholastic materials to Ugandan schools. In addition to this, the Chinese language has been approved as one of the foreign languages in Ugandan secondary schools to be taught and this, together with the setting up of the Confucius Institute at Makerere University has created cultural ties between the two nations. Thousands of people including women, members of parliament, police officers have participated in training programs organized by the Chinese government in China and Chinese troupes have also visited Uganda and performed. This is a form of people-to-people and cultural exchange.

In the health sector, the Chinese government has funded the construction and equipping of the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital at Naguru. Teams of Chinese doctors have also visited the country and trained Ugandan medical personnel.

The agriculture sector has greatly benefitted from this Sino-Uganda relationship through the training of farmers, a project of the South-South cooperation program, which China and FAO have been collaborating with Uganda. This has equipped local farmers with skills to improve their agricultural output. Around 3000 farmers have been trained and seven agriculture technology demonstration hubs have been established throughout the country, showcasing effective technologies in horticulture, livestock, cereals, aquaculture, renewable energy, agro machinery, value addition, and sustainable business models.

In conclusion, China has been a great development partner to Uganda in various sectors and through the provision of financial aid in form of loans, grants, and technical assistance. China tops the list of planned FDI in Uganda and was valued at US$607 million in 2019 and created about 62,876 jobs. The Sino-Uganda relationship has therefore been paramount in Uganda’s economic development and will continue to play a critical role in this development.

Ngabo Octave is a junior research research at Development Watch Centre, a Foreign Policy Think Tank, and a second year Pharmacy student at Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

Diplomacy of Mutual benefits: Recounting success of China-Uganda relations.

Ssemanda Abdurahim

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.

 

A Special Friendship: Six decades of Sino-Uganda shared Prosperity.

By Shemei Ndawula.

When the sun sets on the gentle hill of Naguru, the building is crowned with the golden hue of the sun’s rays reflecting off its glass windows showered in a golden kaleidoscope ambiance. This is the image of the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital, Naguru which; as it is aptly named, an everlasting monument of the special friendship the nation shares with the People’s Republic of China. This friendship dates back to 8th October 1962 when the Chinese Republic sent a congratulatory message to the excited citizenry of Uganda on the eve of the night, they would shake off the embarrassing shackles of colonialism. This friendship was cemented on 18th October of the same year when representatives from Uganda and China released a joint communique establishing official diplomatic relations and China became one of the first world powers to establish a mission in Kampala and recognize Uganda as an independent sovereign nation. This is what set the precedence for the glorious brotherhood the two nations have had for close to six decades.

Globally, the People’s Republic of China is an unprecedented success story having developed from a third world country to a word economic superpower. This makes the Chinese module for domestic development a yardstick for African governments especially Uganda. Uganda is especially blessed to not only be able to learn from the PRC but also get developmental aid from China though various Sino-Uganda projects implemented through the years. Arguably one of the main spurs for China’s high-speed development is it’s increased infrastructural capacity. A nation’s economy is as strong as it’s capacity to produce and over the years China has upheld it’s commitment to help Uganda develop by contributing to Ugandan’s infrastructural development. The deputy premier of China, Wang Yang, was in Uganda in June 2018 to officiate at the commissioning of the 51-kilometer expressway from Kampala to Entebbe Airport commonly referred to as the Entebbe Expressway. This road was the crown jewel of a growing list of world-class roads being built by Chinese Communications Construction Company in Uganda. This road with dual carriageways and toll stations has drastically reduced the transit time from Kampala city to Entebbe airport which has enabled exporters of many perishables like vegetables and meat products to transport their goods faster and more conveniently increasing their market life and the prices they fetch on the international market. Interestingly many of these goods are actually exported to China which has a worldwide repute as an insatiable consumer of local delicacies like fish and vegetables. In the same vein Chinese companies are at the forefront of constructing and expanding the road network in the oil laden areas of Hoima and Western Uganda and which gives Uganda a chance to proceed with it’s oil exploration conquests in hope of diversifying the economy.

But in the perspective of the average Ugandan, the defining future of the Sino-Uganda relationship which makes it particularly special is the Chinese government’s renown principal of non-intervention. Coming from a painful colonial past, Ugandans are quite understandably suspicious of foreigners who come in the guise of friendship and end up trying to influence domestic and foreign policy, abusing the good spirit of African traditional hospitality. This is why the People’s Republic of China comes as a breath of fresh air, a break away from the neocolonial impertinence that is associated with most modern foreign aid. Chinese direct finance into the Ugandan economy grew from around $33 million a year in the early 2000s, to grossing about $197 million by 2017 according to statistics from AidData. This helps spur the national economic development especially since Chinese investment is mostly focused on manufacturing and mineral exploration. An outstanding example of this is the Chinese company in Central Uganda which produces and assembles Ugandan’s first domestically assembled smartphones under the brand SIMI. This provides jobs to so many Ugandans along the assembly and marketing lines and also provides affordable, durable and efficient smartphones made particularly for the African environment.

The Sino-Ugandan relationship that was initiated back on 8th October 1962 has stood the test of time outliving so many heads of state and persisting through turbulent times in both nation’s histories. Uganda was a very outspoken ally of China back in 1971 advocating for China to be reinstated in it’s rightful place as a member of the United Nations. Similarly, the Chinese government has stood fully behind the people of Uganda in times of crisis and most notably during the recent coronavirus pandemic where the Chinese government donated food items and medical equipment to be used in mitigating the spread and impact of the pandemic. Most recently the People’s Republic of China was the very first nation to donate Coronavirus Vaccines to Uganda which benefitted quite a number of Ugandan’s of Chinese origin as well as members of the general public.

Arguably, very few of the dignitaries who received the congratulatory message from Beijing may still be alive today, however, the spirit of unwavering friendship and mutual respect which was established on that day persists to date, a special friendship reflected every evening in the golden sun rays embracing the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital building in Naguru, an image of a Panda and Crested Crane walking hand in hand into the horizon of a future if shared prosperity.

The writer is a research fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Ugandan-based foreign policy think tank

 

China sparking Green Revolution in Uganda with Bamboo.

By Shemei Ndawula.

Bamboo is largely known as an ancient Chinese crop, an aggressive grass identified by its long canes and synonymous with the Chinese pandas (which largely live on bamboo diets). However, in the wake of global warming and the shift to green energy, the plant has seen a rapid increase in value, grossing a global approximate trade of US$25 billion per year.

In the past two decades, Bamboo has spread to several countries across the world as a solution to environmental mismanagement. In Africa, it is used to address the rapidly declining forest cover and desire for a faster growing eco-friendly alternative to wood fuel. In 2012, a US based company developing commercial bamboo plantations – EcoPlanet Bamboo used Bamboo trees in a project restoring 480 hectares of land previously ruined by years of pineapple farming in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

In East Africa, Uganda has in recent years made tremendous strides in commercial farming with the aid of developing partners like China. In a country where bamboo has always been synonymous to the mountainous Elgon regions with the Bamasaaba (Bagisu) integrating bamboo shoots into their local delicacy malewa, it comes as no surprise that the crop has been embraced by the wider farming community. I recently had a chat with Mr. Andrew Kalema, a former newsroom journalist and editor of the agricultural magazine Harvest Money who is now fondly referred to as the Father of Bamboo in Uganda and in his view, this is one crop that if well managed can be the solution to most of the country’s energy needs. He explains that when he made his first trip to China in 2011, he was enthralled by what he refers to as Green Gold. “When in China you realize that bamboo is one of the most commercially viable and environmentally sustainable projects for the world to adopt in the wake of global warming because of its fast-growing properties and heightened ability to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen besides its anti-inflammatory abilities,” he says.

This year (2021) marks a whole decade since the trip and there’s been such rapid transformation in the bamboo industry of Uganda with generous contributions from the Peoples Republic of China going towards setting up and maintaining bamboo research units, plantations, technological transfer as well as various trainings done in China and on the continent. Currently, Uganda has an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 hectares of bamboo.

One such research units is the Bamboo project at Uganda Industrial Research institute in Nakawa which I have been fortunate enough to visit. This unit adds value to bamboo biproducts through small scale processing; making crafts, toothpicks, tablemats and furniture. Interestingly they also treat bamboo poles which are used in construction as an alternative to wood. These are elegant, sturdy, pest resistant (which comes in handy for rural projects) and relatively cheaper than most wood species. A casual walk around Kampala would reveal how comfortably this bamboo has been adopted by high-end popular night clubs which makes them look beautiful.

International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR)is the Dutch-Sino-East Africa Bamboo development programme once coordinated by Andrew Kalema as a multilateral effort in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, facilitated by Chinese and Dutch expertise in the areas of bamboo Value chain development, product design, marketing and standardization. This would help East African countries to unlock the vast potential of their indigenous bamboo resources in addition to contributing to green economic growth, investment and international trade between Europe, China and East Africa.

More farmers, environmentalists and research agencies within Uganda are investing considerably in bamboo agribusiness, research and value addition to bamboo products. With guidance and assistance from China National Bamboo Research Center (CBRC). Organisations like Uganda Forestry Authority, INBAR, Uganda Bamboo Association, Nature Uganda and even Uganda Prison Services (with an expansive bamboo nursery in Luzira) etc. are teaching farmers how to grow and multiply bamboo.

However, taking an objective look at the history of farming in Uganda, such ‘high potential’ crops have always let the farmers down with the outstanding examples being vanilla and cocoa. The long-awaited vanilla boom that was promised in the 2000s still haunts farmers who cleared large tracts of land to plant vanilla prophesized and championed by many prominent agriculturists; there was a gold rush into the business with hopes of earning lots of profits only for the price of vanilla to suffer a severe drop on the world market leaving them stranded. Could the renowned father of bamboo Mr. Andrew Kalema and his ilk be yet another outcrop of false prophets?

To contrast, bamboo is a fast-growing plant which multiplies fast and has potential to be turned into several byproducts that have large local and international markets. By adding value to the plants, using small scale manufacturing techniques, farmers can produce toothpicks, mats, fertilizers, bamboo vinegar and also treat their own construction poles (bamboo has been shown to have a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete). In fact, besides the processing ventures bamboo is also used for land demarcation and ornamental landscaping, so, the market for seedlings is currently booming.

However, the huge potential bamboo possesses could also pose a threat when natural forests are cleared to pave way for bamboo plantations. In a country losing an estimated 80,000 hectares of forest cover every year, this could prove disastrous. The solution to this can also be borrowed from the Peoples Republic of China which is the global leader in producing sustainable green energy where farmers practice selective harvesting of trees to maximize output of smaller tracts of land. Eastern Africa is currently on a healthy trajectory by building its capacity and transferring technology to local bamboo producers -including trainings funded by China’s Ministry of Commerce on craft creation, industrial use, furniture and also producing energy by making bamboo briquettes.

Currently, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia have got the largest reserves of natural bamboo forests accounting for some 3 to 4 per cent of the global known coverage and with the help of development partners like the Peoples Republic of China and Denmark, this could turn around the livelihoods of thousands of farmers in Africa while most importantly, flattening the curve of climate change.

The author is a research Fellow at Development Watch Centre, a Ugandan based Foreign Policy Think Tank

 

Uganda hosts the biggest number of separated children in the world.

By Aggrey Nyondwa

Recent statistics by the UNHCR indicate that Uganda now hosts 36,000 children who have arrived unaccompanied to the border, having been separated from their families due to conflict, killing and displacement – making it the country with the most ‘alone refugee children’ in the world.

As the country and aid agencies struggle to cope with the numbers of vulnerable children fleeing fighting in DR Congo and the ravages of war in South Sudan, anemic funding means that these children are not getting services which provide them with the material and emotional support that they need to deal with their losses.

Children are arriving in Uganda having witnessed the most appalling crimes, including the rape and murder of loved ones, the burning of their homes, sometimes having scattered to the four winds as militias arrive and with no clue as to what has happened to their parents.

The latest spike in child arrivals is from the DR Congo. There are now 13,000 separated children from that country living in refugee settlements in South Western Uganda. They join some 22,500 separated children from South Sudan who fled to the north, now in Bidibidi, Imvepi and other Refugee settlements in West Nile.

Sadly, when children cross without parents or relatives it increases their vulnerability, hence exposure to all sorts of sexual, psychological and emotional abuse. There have been major child protection concerns where cases of sexual abuse have been reported as the children cross to Uganda. Sexual and gender based violence also remains a big issue in refugee settlements and all these call for immediate protection attention and interventions.

Due to financial constraints, government and aid agencies are finding it hard to adequately address challenges faced by unaccompanied refugee children. Currently, aid agencies have resorted to finding refugee host families where such children are housed and the agency takes care of them from there. There is need to ensure that each child has people in their lives who can give them love and attention and who have the know-how and the resources to meet their individual needs, without compromising their safety.

Refugee children in Uganda are receiving child protection and education services which just aren’t good enough. Aid agencies, and the government are unable to meet minimum standards in humanitarian assistance because they don’t have enough money to hire and train enough case workers. Today one case worker is taking care of over 106 children instead of the international standard figure of 25.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), only 16% of the Refugee Response Plan budget is so far funded, leaving a huge gap to assist these refugees. Over the years, Uganda has been considered a model hosting nation with one of the friendliest refugee policies in the world. It is also one of the first countries to adopt the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) which emphasizes refugee self-reliance and resilience. The country today hosts over 1.3 million refugees, 774,000 (60%) of these are children. The international community must bridge this funding gap, lest Uganda‚ as hospitality and cutting-edge refugee policy frustrated.

With continued tribal clashes, grave violation of human rights by the different militia groups in the north eastern provinces of DRC, the monthly average Congolese refugee influx has more than doubled. Over 350,000 Congolese refugees currently stay in refugee settlements in south western Uganda, mainly in Kyaka II and Kyangwali Refugee Settlements. With constrained resources and almost no media coverage, this part of the response has become difficult for aid agencies, as challenges go unnoticed.

The government of Uganda and partner humanitarian agencies are working as much as they can, to support the refugee response; to have a presence in the lives of these vulnerable children and restore their hope through: early child development, child friendly spaces, peace building, early and vocational skills development, food security and livelihoods, and food assistance programming.

This is an appeal for more support and assistance to further extend and expand the assistance to South Western Uganda where the DR Congo refugee situation is rapidly growing and also reach and impact every single one of these separated and unaccompanied children, to save them the risk of being exploited and abused.

 

Aggrey Nyondwa Kikobera is Communications Coordinator, World Vision. Follow Aggrey on Twitter @AggreyNyondwa

Funding Cripples Refugee Children Protection Activities in Uganda.

By Aggrey Nyondwa

As the Uganda refugee crisis gradually continues to lose media attention, already underfunded services to protect children are being slashed. More than 1.3 million people found refuge in Uganda after fleeing violence and deprivation in neighbouring countries. 801,419 (61%) of these people are children under 18 whose lives have been destroyed by the wars and missteps of adults. Though they arrived in a country which has a great history of hospitality and where their basic needs are met; their psychological and emotional health is often neglected.

Recent statistics by the UNHCR indicate that Uganda now hosts over 36,000 children who have arrived unaccompanied, having been separated from their families due to conflict and fighting mostly in DR Congo and the ravages of war in South Sudan. This makes Uganda the country with the most ‘alone refugee children’ in the world. Anemic funding therefore, means that these vulnerable children are not getting services which provide them with the material and emotional support that they need to deal with their losses and trauma.

Child Friendly Spaces are safe spaces where communities and child protection actors create nurturing environments in which children can access free and structured play, recreation, leisure and learning activities. They provide educational and psychosocial support and other activities to restore a sense of normality and continuity. They are designed and operated in a participatory manner and serve a variety of age ranges. Every World Vision CFS also includes an Early Childhood Development (ECD) component for younger children. There is often additional, complementary programming like drama clubs or hygiene trainings happening at the spaces as well.

40 CFS currently funded by UNHCR and UNICEF will lose funding in January 2020. Today, 33,295 children regularly play and learn at these facilities. 63% of them are girls. Closing these down will be a big blow to our child protection efforts considering that the number of refugees in the country is expected to grow next year. Last year, over 90,000 new refugees arrived in Uganda and this means by the end of 2020 the number of refugees in the country will have grown to more than 1.5 Million.

Standard 18.1.7 in the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Emergencies provides that aid agencies should ensure that one case worker is in charge of overseeing well-being of 25 children (1:25), but given the current funding shortfalls, aid agencies find that One case worker looks after 99 children instead (1:99) which is below the minimum standard. Case management of vulnerable children does not and will not meet international minimum standards for child protection under the current rates of funding.

Child protection case workers are the foot soldiers in the fight against violence, neglect, abuse and exploitation of refugee children. From morning to evening, day-to-day, they visit vulnerable children to identify those at risk and monitor their well-being, ensure their access to critical services and provide psychosocial support services, letting them know that they are safe and cared for in Uganda. Right now, these children need adequate case management to protect them. As time passes, fewer children will require case management and normal government services will take over, but to achieve this transition, we need to lay a strong foundation that requires us to train, equip and empower local actors on issues of child protection and how to effectively utilise the CFSs.

In the Ugandan refugee response, we are failing to protect children. Not because we don’t know it’s important or because we don’t know how to help but because we don’t have enough resources to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence against girls and boys. It will require everyone’s extra effort including the international community to support the hard work of those on ground to restore hope and a future for these children.

Humanitarian Agencies and Development Partners Boost Uganda’s Fight Against COVID-19

By Aggrey Nyondwa Kikobera

As he grapples with his 4WD Landcruiser across a rugged deep trench in Bidibidi, through his mask, Musa Rothomio, a World Vision Driver, speaks of how dramatic life and his job have been since the outbreak of COVID-19. He says he has not seen his family since January, because of the nature of his job.  Restrictions on movement across the country, have made it difficult for him to see his pregnant wife, and daughter.

Musa works with the World Vision Food Assistance Team in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement. The team had to stay on ground and distribute food to the refugees, throughout the lockdown period.

“Food is a key necessity and I needed to stay and support the team, so that we continue feeding these vulnerable communities,” Musa says.

“Refugees are already vulnerable people, and COVID-19 has just made the situation a lot worse for them. We had to stay and support them through this difficult time,” He adds.

In Musa’s tone, you can feel the determination and resilience of the thousands of humanitarian workers, from over 2,000 agencies in Uganda. The courage to leave behind their families in a difficult season, in order to serve vulnerable communities at the frontline of a pandemic, that has killed over half a million people worldwide, should be hailed. It is this relentless effort of aid agencies and their staff, that has made the spread and impact of COVID-19 less catastrophic, especially in fragile contexts.

Since its outbreak at the dead end of 2019, Coronavirus has left the world in havoc, turning every aspect of life upside down.  Travel, finance, education, religion, and worship have not been spared. It has been total chaos that could only be combatted by concerted efforts.

Scientists, health workers, armed forces, bureaucrats, academia, the UN, and all Aid and development agencies, have had a big part to play in this fight. The overwhelming vastness of the COVID-19 outbreak, could not have been effectively neutralized, without such efforts.

In Uganda, NGOs and UN agencies working with the government and local communities, have designed special programmes to address the spread of the virus. This has been through awareness and information dissemination campaigns. They have also come up with innovative ways to overcome the short and long-term impacts of the disease.

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian agency, has supported over One Million individuals in Uganda, including 403,472 children.

“Our COVID-19 response is mainly aimed at working with government, to scale up preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus, and supporting children and families impacted by this outbreak,” says Freddie Opoka, the COVID-19 Response Director at World Vision Uganda.

“We have supported 53 districts in Uganda, through distribution of hygiene and protection equipment and items, especially to health centers and workers. We have also engaged in creating awareness about the disease and its prevention, through various mass media, and we now focus on helping communities navigate through the impacts of COVID-19, especially on education and livelihoods,” he adds.

NGOs are tapping into their wealth of knowledge from the past in dealing with health emergencies. World Vision is leveraging its vast experience from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and in DRC, and lessons learned from collaborating with local partners and faith leaders, to broadcast messages of hope and awareness. Over 1500 faith leaders have been engaged by the aid agency in Uganda.  This has greatly brought down the level of sexual and gender-based violence, against women and children in Eastern Uganda, during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The UN Refugee agency-UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP), have ensured that people in refugee settlements, are not hard hit by the outbreak or its effects. In March, World Vision warned that the mortality rates for COVID-19 could be unprecedented, in vulnerable communities and fragile contexts like refugee settlements. The organization asked that countries hosting high numbers of refugees, be given special and urgent support. This is because the impact the pandemic could have on these countries, would be far greater. Indeed, refugee communities suffered the effects of the lockdown most, compared to the rest of the country. A number of them were stranded across the border, where they usually go to fend for their families. Hundreds lost jobs and livelihoods, and over 800,000 refugee children are out of school-a place they considered as a source of comfort and play, and sometimes a morning meal.

WFP, through their partners, ensured that food distribution continued in the settlement. New measures at the food distribution points were introduced.  These included temperature checks, social distancing, and hand washing points.  The biometric fingerprint scanner, was replaced with a mobile app, that scans beneficiaries’ cards from a distance.

In May, the World Food Programme introduced the double food ration. This meant that refugees were to receive food for May and June, in one go. They also introduced the pre-packaging system, which requires food to be pre-packed for pickup by the beneficiaries, without the usual long processes that would increase the risk.

“WFP and partners agreed that giving double food rations, will reduce people contact, during the food distribution process. People will be coming to the distribution point only once in two months to get food, which we think is a good preventive measure,” said Stella Maris Lunyolo, a Field Coordinator at Yoyo I Food Distribution Point.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) embarked on production and distribution of masks, for over 230,000 refugees aged six years and above, in Adjumani and Lamwo district. This was in an effort to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. The refugee agency has also extended special support to refugee households, through distribution of radio sets for home-learning children, soap, and other essential none food items.

DanChurchAid, a faith based organisation, has distributed cash to over 5,000 people in refugee and host communities in Arua, Yumbe and Lamwo. This was in a bid to help them cope with the effects of COVID-19.

NGO Approach.

World Vision mobilized and trained children and adult volunteers, to go through the settlements using megaphones and public address systems, to highlight the importance of hand washing and social distancing. Community leaders were also engaged and hosted on local radio talk shows, to encourage community members to adhere to the set guidelines. The aid agency also trained Youth Journalists to spread news stories about COVID-19, through social media and creative rap music, which is played at food distribution points.

Children have continued learning by listening to radio lessons provided by the government.  Parents have also taken advantage of a World Vision-UNICEF funded project, that taught them how to produce basic toys using local materials like clay, which they have used to fashion things such as letters of the alphabet and figurines. For children who have fled brutal conflict in South Sudan, connecting with others to learn and play, is central to their healing.

“Psychosocial support has to continue even in the lockdown, and we are encouraging parents to develop play materials especially for indoor games, since children cannot access structured play materials at the Child Friendly Spaces. Homes must be friendly enough for children not to be stressed and traumatised, and this can be achieved through play,” says Dilis Alele, the World Vision Child Protection Facilitator in Imvepi Refugee Settlement.

It is this unique approach by the various NGOs, that has made their work and contribution so effective in this fight. Community engagement, effective collaboration, child participation, and a vast amount of experience and sacrifice from the humanitarian sector has been key in the battle against COVID-19.

Aggrey Nyondwa Kikobera is Emergency Communications Expert.

Follow him on Twitter @AggreyNyondwa

 

 

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