By Joseph Kiggundu
Uganda’s paths and strategies to operationalise its vision statement has been embedded in its Vision 2040 which is, “A Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years” The vision intends to raise peasant earners to a competitive upper middle income country. It aims at strengthening the fundamentals of the economy to harness the abundant opportunities around the country. The country has recently been gifted with new findings including oil and gas in addition to other minerals, the tourism sector, industrialization among others all of which are great contributors to national economic growth.
At her celebration of the 55th Independence under the 31 year old rule of the National Resistance Movement, significant strides have been achieved with the aim of uplifting the economy that registered an annual growth rate of 4.5%, in the past five years compared to 7% in years before. The road infrastructure has benefitted more with the recent budget seeing trillions injected into the road development monitoring agency-the Uganda National Roads Authority so that there is a clear road network to the key sector points of Oil, Tourism, Industries among others. The ruling National Resistance Movement has managed to take on several mega projects and finish them, thus changing the lives of Ugandans. With President Yoweri Museveni preaching the 2020 middle-income gospel, government ministries, departments and agencies were all tickled into rapid response to developmental projects. From east, through central, to the west and from the north to the south, multi-billion shillings projects are visible, even to those with the shortest sight. But, the road sector development has been overshadowed by speculators who buy off chucks of land after privileged information where a new road would be constructed.
They hike the value of land and government pays heavily sometimes delaying the construction before compensations are made. But of course, this is done with full knowledge of these unscrupulous officials within government. Entebbe-Kampala Expressway, has been registered as one of Uganda’s mega projects, although comparisons with other similar projects in other countries put Uganda’s project as more expensive due to corruption. Entebbe express highway is a four-lane toll highway under construction in the Central Region of Uganda. The road is one of the most beautiful roads in Uganda. This is one of the many roads that have been constructed by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) since it came to power in 1986. Several other roads have been constructed and as of now, almost every major town in Uganda is connected with a tarmac road. Ugandans are assured of safe travel and reduced time on the road. Roads like the Fort Portal-Bundibugyo road, Hoima-Butiaba-Wanseko road, have been constructed. Border points like, Lamia in Bundibugyo district, Mutukula boarder, Malaba boarder, Katuna are all accessible by tarmac.
Currently, the NRM has constructed over 4,000 km of tarmac in the last 30 years and with this, Uganda ranks among the best countries with reasonable countrywide road network. However, a lot needs to be done; areas like Bukwo, Kween and some parts in Karamoja cannot be accessed because of poor roads. Regarding the Health sector, government has scored on the issue of building and rehabilitating health facilities like Kiryandongo, Hoima, Mubende, Entebbe have been given a facelift and expanded. The same has been done on Mulago National Referral Hospital; it has been refurbished and expanded with new equipment installed. New health facilities have been constructed, including Kiruddu Hospital in Makindye Division, Kawempe Hospital in Kawempe Division, Buliisa Hospital in Buliisa District. Through construction of these facilities, services have been taken nearer to the people. In the past 30 years, government has been able to reduce on the infant mortality rates to below 60, more children have been immunized and with this, Uganda has been able to eliminate polio and measles. Also, the government policy and regulatory frameworks have been good, this has encouraged the private sector participation in provision of health services.
However, the disease burden is still high. Malaria and HIV/AIDS are still a challenge. Many health facilities are lacking essential drug supplies and the number of health workers is still small.
Energy sector is one of the achievement by the NRM; many rural areas have been connected to hydro-electricity under the Rural Electrification Program. This has helped boost the development of these areas. Small scale factories have been constructed in these areas since they have energy to help them process their produce and add value to it. However, electricity rates are still high and thus power remains less affordable to a big majority of the society. In 1997, government introduced the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and later in 2007 Universal Secondary Education (USE) was introduced.Subsequently Uganda became the first county in sub Saharan Africa to introduce USE.
This was aimed at helping all Ugandans attain education and indeed the number of children going to school has increased thus numbers in UPE schools soared. Because UPE enrolment increased from 3.1 million pupils in 1996 to 8.4 million in 2013, Government has constructed a number of classrooms; at least every government aided school has had a classroom constructed. Government has also constructed seed schools in some sub counties in a bid to extend secondary education to the people.
About 200 sub-counties still have not got government secondary schools. This means the number of people that are dropping out at primary level is high. There is also a gap of teachers and lack of enough classes. Some schools have crowded classes, pupils have no desks and teachers have no quarters to sleep in.
At 64%, unemployment among the youth is one of the biggest challenges the government is facing, since majority of the graduates don’t get jobs after school. Some experts have called for curriculum overhaul to help students leave school with skills. Government, still has a lot to do to create jobs for the youth or enable them gain the skills that can help them create job.
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