The adoption by African leaders of President Yoweri Museveni’s paper, “Bottlenecks facing Africa’s development”, shows how Uganda can lead the way in enabling the region to reach its potential
During the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in 2016, President Museveni outlined what he identified as the biggest hurdles to Africa’s growth after watching the continent’s development scene for 50 years. “I have picked some ideas which are responsible for our lagging behind. The problem seems not to be addressing all issues in a comprehensive way,” he said.
A motion to adopt the paper and task the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) secretariat to expand it into a blueprint for the continent was unanimously supported, positioning Uganda as a leader in African socioeconomic transformation.
Ideological orientation is Mr Museveni’s first focus, encompassing both tribal sectarianism and gender discrimination. “Africa should treat with contempt and not tolerate those who promote sectarianism and gender chauvinism; that is why Uganda’s record on women’s emancipation is excellent and there is peace in the whole country,” he said. Nurturing the private sector as an engine of growth is the second, followed by infrastructure development – from transport links to electrification.
But domestic economic development means little without markets to trade with, which is why Mr Museveni is also pushing for the rationalisation of Africa’s nation states into more viable regional units. Uganda’s membership of blocs such as the East African Community and COMESA enables it to reach far beyond its home market of 40 million people, while it is also advocating for global market access. In addition, Mr Museveni wants African economies to move up the value chain, exporting fewer raw materials and more value-added finished products to improve both export revenues and job creation.
To fill these jobs adequately, the president’s blueprint also includes an emphasis on upskilling Africa’s workers, to ensure its demographic dividend does not become a ticking timebomb. “An educated, skilled and healthy workforce is important for the socioeconomic development of a country,” he said. While agriculture remains Africa’s largest industrial sector, Mr Museveni called for a shift from subsistence to commercial farming, as well as greater investment into the services sector, which not only uses fewer natural resources than agriculture, thereby putting less pressure on the environment, but also requires more human capital, creating further employment.
Africa’s weaker states are particularly vulnerable to both external and internal conflict, and Uganda has prioritised international peace and security, calling on others to follow its lead. The blueprint adopted by African leaders also emphasises the importance of tackling corruption in civil service corps as well as good governance and strong democracy. “In the case of Uganda, we fought and restored democracy, hence we respect and promote democracy in all its forms,” said Mr Museveni.