Covid-19: Ugandan Entrepreneur Says Africa Can Emerge as Power as Rich Countries are Devastated

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Mr. Joseph Omagor of Eastern Uganda planting mangoe seedlings for future posterity

“This is the time for Africa to shine economically. Look at its fertile, rich arable- land and its favorable climate. Eighty percent of arable land in the world is found in Sub-Saharan Africa which can be used effectively for food production to feed the entire world. Post COVID-19 world will not be the same as pre COVID-19 world. Everything will not be the same. This is a new world order”

GULU-UGANDA: A lawyer, university don and a local entrepreneur has said it is time for Africa, currently riddled with conflicts, to emerge as a power as the COVID-19 pandemic had devastated economies of the industrialized powers.

He says the current crop of leaders on the continent must stop depleting and squandering abundant natural resources like minerals, oil, forests, and put to good use Africa's rich fertile land, and favorable climate instead of clinging onto power to satisfy their egos and foreign interests.

Mr. Tony Kitara, 47, made this statement in a recent interview on the kind of opportunities now presented to Uganda, and Africa generally, since news of the COVID-19 pandemic first broke in December, 2019, from China. The disease has now spread to every country in the world.

“This is the time for Africa to shine economically. Look at its fertile, rich arable- land and its favorable climate. Eighty percent of arable land in the world is found in Sub-Saharan Africa which can be used effectively for food production to feed the entire world. The post COVID-19 world will not be the same as pre COVID-19 world. Everything will not be the same. This is a new world order”, says Mr. Kitara.

There are 1.6 million Americans who have been affected by COVID-19 with 98,024 deaths recorded; and at least 36 million Americans have applied for unemployment grant from government since the outbreak of the pandemic reached USA soil. The total number of Africans affected by COVID-19 stands at 111, 812 with 3, 354 deaths and 45,001 recoveries.

“COVID-19 has had the worst adverse effects on economies of the ‘First World’ countries. The dollar is going to be weakened badly affecting all currencies. We must re-ignite the spirit of Pan-Africanism of our forefathers like Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba. We can’t talk of industrial revolution now but we can talk of agricultural revolution. The money we get from agriculture, can now be injected in industries. Africa is a sleeping giant”, he says.

Kitara predicts that currencies of all countries will crash and will be devalued because world currencies have depended the US dollar since the Second World War when the dollar took a dominant position, eventually leading to the collapse of the Gold Standard. He advised every African who has some money stored up in bank accounts to withdraw them now and invest in production; and that all financial lending institutions provide capital to farmers to enable them to do commercial farming.

“Don’t keep liquid cash. Pull all the money out of the banks and put it in production and produce food. This is the time for the rest of the world to bow down on its knees to Africa. If we can exploit our comparative advantage in agriculture, then we have a lot to benefit”, he asserts.

He appealed to African dictators who have overstayed in power and can no longer effect any meaningful change in the lives of their citizens to give space to younger blood who are able to plan and uplift the living standards of their citizens.

In the case of Uganda, Mr. Kitara advised Gen. Yoweri Museveni, in power for 34 years, who a few years ago initiated Operation Wealth Creation, which is being headed by none other than his younger brother, Gen. Salim Saleh, to ensure that he gives at least 10 tractors and employ agricultural extension workers to every sub-county to enable farmers to open up land for commercial agricultural production.

Mr. Kitara, who is married and blessed with six children plus other dependants, has withdrawn his savings of 30 million Ugandan shillings (about US$ 8,000) and invested it in a twelve-acre piece of land where he planted 7,000 stems of eucalyptus trees, four acres of indigenous cassava, three acres of beans and four acres of soya beans, among other seeds.

In January 2020, Ms. Flavia Amayo from the Department of Development Studies at Makerere University, Kampala, did research in Kapchorwa and Budaka districts on the role of women in agricultural productivity and some of the challenges they face. The majority of labor force involved in the agricultural production chain in Uganda are women.

She found out that “most challenges faced by rural farmers are multifaceted, requiring an integrated intervention from government and other development actors if their outcomes are to be sustainable”.

“Farmers need to be  supported by government and other development actors to recognize their potential and role in the development process if they are to transform some of the  challenges they face into opportunities that can better their livelihoods”, she concludes.

Some challenges rural farmers face across Uganda include loss of soil fertility due to over use, weather changes, land fragmentation which is not favorable to large scale commercial farming, food crops being abandoned in favor of cash crops causing  food insecurity, pests and diseases and inadequate knowledge, among others.

Ms. Amayo found out that “in some villages, farmers have formed associations so that they can easily receive support informs of training on how to improve agricultural productivity from government and other private organizations”.

 Mr. David Amone, the Volunteer Minister of Production and Investment at Ker Kwaro Acholi (Acholi cultural Institution), has authored a 53-page document where he suggests that each Rwot Kweri (the smallest cultural productivity co-operative unit) should revive the multi-functional co-operative spirit of the 1950s and 1960s.

According to him poverty and food insecurity persists in Acholi sub-region despite the abundance of very rich fertile arable land because of two major problems; conceptual and morals.

The Uganda government and other development partners have injected billions of dollars to transform lives in northern Uganda since the Lord’s Resistance Army rebellion ended here in 2007 which enabled displaced people to return back home to begin rebuilding their lives. However there is very little change seen and poverty has persisted with lots of land related conflicts.

“If we try to rush and get the physical resources now as government has done with other programs in the past few years, then it is going to waste. Prepare the people and let them solve the problems themselves and show methods of engagement”, Amone says.

He says the Puranga chiefdom has taken the lead to implement this model of production but all the other over 59 chiefdoms are yet to take off.

“Let us organize our people and give them the basic information they need. The task I gave to Rwodi Kweri of Lamola parish in Puranga chiefdom when I visited them in 2019 is that they should not wait for government or NGOs. We gave them information so that you can move and do business”, he says.

 On Sunday, November 07 1997, Gen. Saleh released a document on his investment plans for northern Uganda called “Salim Saleh Foundation for Humanity”. In the preamble of that document, Gen. Saleh states that: “The future of Uganda’s rural economy will be determined by production by the masses who have, been economically empowered, rather than mass production controlled by one individual. This is even so where at least every household owns land”

The project however, stalled and has never taken off because it became political in nature. The document was launched at the time of implementing protected villages where the army forcefully herded civilians into these camps and the locals interpreted as an attempt to grab land from owners.

 

 

 

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