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Leadership is failing Uganda

Ramathan Ggoobi

Leadership is failing Uganda

Uganda is known as a country that is good at good policies, plans & laws that are never implemented


Our heroic leaders are spending a lot of time politicking, plans and laws that are never implemented. In the course of my proactive engagements as an upcoming academic, I have been privileged to enjoy unprecedented access to policymakers and top leaders through professional and social networks, allowing relationships of trust to be built and permitting unusually frank conversations to take place.

Recently, I spoke to a senior leader who told me that Rwanda, today’s exemplar of efficient and effective service delivery in the developing world, did not bother to generate new policies and plans. That when the Rwandans that were serving in our government were leaving, to go back and rebuild their own country, they simply dusted and packed Uganda’s policy documents, not for reference while drafting theirs but for actual usage.

When they arrived in Kigali, the new leaders performed a very simple exercise to come up with the policies that have guided their success everyone is talking about. They simply control-clicked the “F” button to search for “Uganda” in the documents, erase it, and replace it with “Rwanda”.

Thus where we had Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), they got Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA). They also got Rwanda Coffee Development Authority (RCDA) from Uganda Coffee development Authority (UCDA), a Rwanda Export Promotions Board or agency, a Rwanda Investment Authority (later named Rwanda Development Board). The list goes on and on.

We have all heard the story of Rwanda. Some analysts prefer referring to this small country as the Singapore of Africa, owing to the level of organisation, efficiency and the speed at which it is turning things around for the better. The question should, therefore, be: If the same policies and programs have worked in Rwanda, a country with fewer resources and more structural rigidities than us, why have they failed to bring results in Uganda?

 Low productivity

It all goes down to leadership. You, our heroic leaders, have failed to lead us to use the good policies, plans, and programs to develop our country. You spend a lot of time politicking, attending parties, conferences, celebrations and national prayers, instead of whipping people to produce.  Whenever I switch on my TV to watch news, I see NRM leaders seated in a tent at State House or Rwakitura, or Kyankwanzi, discussing not how to boost agriculture productivity or how to industrialize the economy, but how to fix Mbabazi or to ring-fence their Chairman as the sole candidate for 2016.

 As you leaders continue to caucus over Mbabazi, and to engage your voters in this endless politics, the gardens also continue to fallow away. Because the people of Uganda have been over-politicized and spend most their time discussing politics on FM radios and the bars that NRM brought in droves, productivity continues to dwindle. What is even more shocking is that the little that the people harvest also goes to waste since there is no mechanism to handle the post-harvest.

For the last two months we have been analyzing the National Panel Survey data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) to establish the level of crop production and post-harvest losses in the country. The results are as shocking as our leaders.

For example, we found that on average, Ugandans use nearly 6 acres of land to produce a single tonne of coffee. Leading producers of coffee, such as Brazil and Vietnam, on average harvest a tonne every 2 acres, implying that they harvest 3 tonnes from the 6 acres where we are harvesting only 1 tonne. A total of 942,000 acres of land are used to produce 160,000 tonnes of coffee.                 

Massive post-harvest losses

We also use a total of about 2.1 million acres of land to produce about 532,000 tonnes of beans, meaning that on average we produce only 0.25 tonnes or 250kg of beans per acre! This is criminal. It is simply unacceptable for anyone to claim that they are leading people who as unproductive as Ugandans.

What is even more criminal is that even the little that people produce goes to waste after harvest. Over 50% of what people harvest every season is lost to rodents, insects, floods/rain, and other forms of post-harvest losses. That is the reason why food prices are high yet the people of Uganda who love to introduce themselves as farmers are among the poorest creatures on earth.   Ours is a double tragedy: low productivity and high levels of post-harvest losses.

Our research shows that Eastern Uganda and Central Uganda are the least productive regions in the country. On average, Eastern Uganda uses more land and more households to produce a relatively lower level of output of each and every crop. Central Uganda on the other hand is simply out of the productive league.

For example, the Central Region produces only 22% of its primary staple (Matooke), and only 25% of the total households involved in production of Matooke are from the Central region. The Baganda youth are no longer engaged in production. They are busy politicking, riding boda-boda, scratching tickets in sports betting centres, or calling CBS to diagnose their plight. These are the fruits of your leadership, Mr. President.  

Recycled lectures

NRM leadership succeeded at liberating the country from killers, but it has failed to lead Ugandans to economically transform. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in these pages that the deeper issues that Uganda faces today concern the appropriate roles of the State & the market. When the western multilateral agencies and academics advised the NRM government to liberalise, you took it too far.

You also took advantage of this advice to cover up your inefficiencies and incompetence in management. Every time you were called up to lead people you claimed how ours is a free market economy and that the state had no role to play.   

Mr. President, since the last election in February 2011, I have attentively listened to your speeches and followed media reports about your tours around the country. On many occasions, you have spoken about infrastructure, agriculture modernization, and a couple of other developmental issues. However, your lectures have to a larger extent remained just that, lectures. Many of them are being recycled. How I wish you kept quiet and let actions speak for themselves!  




Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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