Mr. President, you are on record for strongly advocating for science as a pillar for development of Uganda. Your strong views about the role and place of science in the development of Uganda have seen the government prioritize the salaries of science teachers, besides supporting the establishment of scientific institutions such as the Ministry of Science and Innovations, the Kiira Motor Corporation among others.
Allow me however, Mr. President to point out to you and your advisors that while your passion for science is beyond doubt, there are gaps that need to be filled to make the dream of achieving a science-based nation truly meaningful, especially for ordinary wanainchi.
One of the glaring gaps in the government strategy for science concerns the absence of mechanisms to embrace local artisanal scientists with the view to mainstreaming them into the manufacturing sector where their knowledge and creativity can not only help them to earn them a living but also helps the country create more jobs.
We have many in this field; from herbalists who have vast knowledge about possible cures of different health conditions using herbs, to repairers of a wide range of electronic gadgets and fabricators of different machines.
Uganda is truly blessed with geniuses in these fields. We have people who can assemble entire engines of vehicles or those that can fabricate entirely new equipment, but are languishing in backyard workshops without any government or industry support.
The challenge, in my view stems from both the western mentality that scientific professions are only built from formal institutions such as universities and technical colleges.
While these formal institutions are important, they are not the monopoly of science. As a country, we need a department or directorate that spots talent across the wide field of science, nurture it with the view to ensuring that the participants add value to their products or services.
I appreciate the role played by the Directorate of Industrial Training – under the Ministry of Education and Sports -of introducing a certification process for Juakali scientists. However, only a few garages and workplaces have enrolled. The government needs to reach out more by for example, introducing a carrot system that attracts Juakali scientists to enroll and improve their skills.
Beyond providing incentives, the government should build clusters or specialized industrial areas that bring juakali inventors and scientists that belong to common fields together. This would enable them to access cheaper power, but also share facilities such as packaging machines as well as greater access to markets.
Mr President, you may be aware that Uganda has some geniuses when it comes to the electronic sector. Hundreds of young men operating in Katwe, Kisenyi and Ndeeba are able to do wonderful things including repairing motors, Vehicles engines and several other machinery. To the surprise of many people, these geniuses are school drop outs who are managing to fix even government vehicles.
Mr. President, Uganda is endowed with unrivaled natural wealth when it comes to herbal or biological remedies. The vast natural wealth can be harnessed to create a vibrant pharmaceutical industry.
It saddens me to note that the Nation Drug Authority (NDA) seems to be hell bent on promoting the interests of foreigners as opposed to promoting Ugandans. I am saying this because NDA officials have frustrated local pharmacists and pharmacy operators and are instead hobnobbing with foreigners especially in Kampala.
It is my prayer that you Mr. President pick greater interest in how we can take advantage of the existing and abundant local knowledge and creativity to inspire development. After all, they say sustainable development has to come from within, and not from without.