Earth Finds

Earth Finds

Rajiv Ruparelia Writes To Cabinet With Post-Covid19 Economic Recovery Proposes

Uganda, make all countries in the world is pondering on which are best policies it can deploy to recovery from the traumatic coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic. As a government, this a giant job to do; it has to listen to proposes from experienced people including those in the private sector.

In this open letter to the cabinet of Uganda, businessman Rajiv Ruparelia, proposes that legalizing medical marijuana and opening up the externalization of labour business will drive economic recovery and create jobs for Ugandans on top of expanding the tax base. Bellow is the letter.

On January 2nd I turned 31 years of age.

Since I started actively running the Ruparelia Group- conglomerates of 28 companies, I usually use my birthday, which is just about the start of the New Year to reflect on business opportunities for the group in tandem with the opportunities in the country and beyond.

I have lived in Kampala for the greatest part of my adult life and I have seen this city emerge from a mere city of seven hills to now several hills and counting. Contrary to a lot of the negativity you see on social media, the reality on the ground is that Uganda is growing.

Matter of fact, Ugandans today, live longer than they used to Uganda’s life expectancy has grown from 48 years in 1986 to 63.3 years today, thanks to government investments in several healthcare projects such construction of hospitals, immunization Programmes, malaria roll back programmes as well a sexual health projects.  

It is also a fact that Uganda has been growing- at a sustained average of 6% for nearly 20 years. It is also fact that today; Ugandans are healthier and are more educated. Naturally, with healthier and more educated population, the next question becomes jobs. Speaking about jobs creation, I must first applaud government’s investment into creating an enabling climate.

First, as the private sector, we acknowledge the significant investments in creating stable and reliable electricity. Generation has grown from 404.4 MW in 2000 to 1268.9 MW as of October 2020. By mid-2021, this is expected to rise to 1,868.9 MW.

We also recognize government’s investment in roads―the total paved roads network as a percentage of total national roads has more than doubled from 8% (1,000km) in 1986 to 21.1% (5,500km) in 2019. I also do understand, from various government papers that about 18 roads, totaling to 1,375km are currently being tarmacked, while the tarmacking of 17 roads (825.3km) is under procurement and should start by 2022. Twenty-two (22) other roads, totaling up to 2,921.2km are lined up for tarmacking, starting in 2021.  

Uganda Airlines has been revamped and we know that the 1,724km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), starting with the 273km Malaba-Kampala route as well as the 45km Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Light Rail Train System (GKMA LRT) are all on course.

We also know about the various reforms and the digitalization happening within various government agencies, such as Lands, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) that have all contributed to make doing business in Uganda, easier, cheaper and more efficient.

For example, it is now possible to register a business in less than 48 hours and an importer/exporter in Kampala now only needs between 3-4 days to move cargo to and from Mombasa. Previously, this used to take forever.

With these government efforts and several other efforts by the private sector, Uganda is surely a much, much better country than it was, when I was born in 1990.

As night follows day, when you have increased life expectancy, coupled with higher education levels, you should expect that the demand for jobs will grow. And in Uganda where our population growth rates are rather too high, it is more likely the job seekers will outnumber the available jobs- in public, private and civil society jobs.

Now is the time to think out of the box I do appreciate that government, under its “industrialization for jobs policy” has so far put up nine (9) industrial parks and plans a a further 25 industrial parks and four regional science and technology industrial parks.

I also know that there are several initiatives by government to attract FDI into the country and therefore jobs, but given the rate and which the demand for jobs is growing- it is about time we also seriously started thinking outside the box.

This is especially in light of the extra challenges posed by Covid-19 which has disrupted several value chains and depressed local, regional and global demand. Thank God, there is a vaccine in sight. If all goes well, Uganda should start getting its doses towards the end of this half, a much-needed effort in the post-Covid-19 recovery.

Like we have seen in many post-crisis recovery plans, there is always a lot of emphasis and sometimes over-emphasis on business-as-usual. Hardly do policy and decision makers ever consider new ways of doing things. Sooner or later we relapse into our old ways, often prolonging misery and suffering especially in the private sector.

For example, even before Covid-19 there are some sectors that were doing already well, with minimal government investment, except regulation, such as the externalization of Labour. According to the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) there are more than 165,000 Ugandans- growing at an average rate of 5,000 monthly, in the Middle East with annual remittances of more than USD700 million (UGX2.8 trillion.) This is just about 50% of the estimated USD1.4 billion in total remittances by all Ugandans abroad.

The sector also directly employs more than 4,000 Ugandans locally and also pays another UGX25 billion annually to service providers and government agencies for services such as passports, Interpol charges, bank charges, vaccination, COV1D-19 PCR certificate fee etc.

Put together, this sector fetches almost twice more than Uganda’s coffee export earnings. This is before adding other benefits such as the skills, exposure and training brought back by returning workers.  

What if post-Covid-19 recovery policy makers put an effort in enhancing this sector so that Uganda’s earning from workers abroad can match that of Kenya- that according to a recent World Bank report reached USD2.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD2.9 billion in 2021?

Some other countries like Nigeria expect their remittances to reach USD21.7 Billion in 2020 and Ghana (USD$3.2 billion) and Senegal USD2.3 billion. Another emerging multibillion opportunity- Medical Marijuana is emerging and all signs are that if we don’t move first, we could easily miss out on the first mover advantage.

Last October, Rwanda approved the regulatory guidelines on the cultivation, processing and export of high-value therapeutic medical marijuana. While I do not want to compare Uganda with any other country it is a market reality that most times, the early bird catches the worm- and this time we are talking about a global market that is expected to reach between USD40 billion and USD45 billion by 2025.

Uganda still has a chance to move fast and make the necessary regulatory approvals. I wish to reiterate that if there is anything, I have learnt from Covid-19, then it is the danger of relying on the same sets of traditional sources of income.

Uganda is ready for take-off and the next game-changer will be how fast we can create more jobs than the available demand and truth be said, not all of those jobs will be resident here in Uganda.

 

Rajiv Ruparelia is the Managing Director of Ruparelia Group of companies

Youth Participation Key In A Green Environmentally Developed Uganda

It is a well-known fact that the youth of any country is a great asset. They are indeed the future of the country and represent it at every level. The role of youths in Uganda is more important than we might think. The intelligence and work of the youth will take the country on the pathway of success. As every citizen is equally responsible, the youth is too. It is time we accept that the youth are the building blocks of a country.

The young people are important because they are the present and shape the future. Today they might be our partners, tomorrow they will go on to become leaders. Considering their very energetic and enthusiastic spirits, ability to learn and adapt to the environment and willingness to learn and act on it, Uganda as a country requires young people participation to achieve the goals and help in taking the country towards progress.

That said therefore, I urge the government of Uganda to introduce programs that will engage the young people in fighting off issues like unemployment, poor education institutes and more to help them prosper without any hindrance.

Similarly, all leaders in government, church and cultural institutions must make sure to encourage our youth to do better in every field. We all must make sure that they should be given the wind beneath their wings to fly high instead of bringing them down by tying chains to their wings.

This can be achieved from school setting by encourage debates and discussions in higher institutions of learning on any policies to be passed to gather their views on such policy benefits and dangers. Invite student leaders and representatives in debates of national importance.

As a country, it is the perfect time we believe that young people are social actors with skills and capacities to bring about constructive resolutions to their own problems. Too often, though, there is a failure or even a refusal to recognize the benefits of youth participation in the legitimacy of young people’s contributions to programs, policies and decision-making.

Much of government policy has a direct or indirect impact on young people, yet it is developed and delivered largely in ignorance of how it will affect their day-today lives or their present and future well-being.

One example of the disconnection between policy adoption and application relates to education. Most Governments are concerned about improving young people’s educational experience, yet very few take any measures to find out from students themselves which teaching methods work, whether the curriculum is relevant, what factors contribute to school dropout rates and truancy, how to improve attendance rates, what is needed to promote better inclusion of girls, or how to enhance good behavior and promote effective discipline.

It is obvious that schools in which democratic environments are introduced are likely to have a more harmonious atmosphere, better staff-student relationships and a more effective learning environment. Furthermore, equal opportunities must be provided for all irrespective of gender, race, religion and more.

There are various issues of nepotism and favoritism that is eating away the actual talent of the country. This must be done away with as soon as possible. We must make sure that every youth has the chance to prove themselves worthy and that must be offered equally to all.

As we near our general elections, citizens should know that young people has the power to build Uganda so they must be given the opportunity. They are the future and they have the perspective which the older generations lack. Their zeal and enthusiasm must be channelized properly to help Uganda prosper and flourish.

Support them to occupy political positions rather than fighting them. Participation is a fundamental human right. All people, including the young, have a right to express their views on decisions directly affecting their lives.

Whether it is an issue relating to rules imposed at school, legislation, representation of young people in the media, or priorities in public expenditure, youth are entitled to articulate their concerns, participate in the development of policy and have their opinions given serious consideration.

Participation represents a means for young people to advocate for themselves and transform their situations. For Uganda to become a green community, youth participation is key.

Aryampa Brighton, director Youth for Green Communities (YGC) a charitable organization based in Kampala.
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Uganda’s Energy & Climate Crisis Can Be Addressed Through NDCs Implementation

By Patrick Edema    

In 2015, up to 197countries including Uganda signed the Paris Agreement, an international climate accord to strengthen global response to the threat of climate change. Various countries which were parties to the agreement agreed to work towards keeping global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels.

In line with this global commitment, Uganda submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2015. Through this NDC, the country hopes to reduce emissions from its business-as-usual scenarios by 22% by 2030 via a series of policies and measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

This was estimated to cost approximately USD 7.80 billion (World Bank, 2016). The mitigation efforts focused on forestry and wetlands, energy, transport, infrastructure, water and agriculture sectors. The business-as-usual scenario estimates an output of 77.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (MtCO2eq/yr) by 2030.

The country hopes that the NDCs will catalyze investment towards realizing Uganda’s commitment for 22% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction by 2030.

The Government of Uganda then developed a climate change policy (2015) geared towards addressing the consequences of climate change and their causes through appropriate measures while promoting sustainable development and a green economy. The country is currently formulating the Ugandan Climate Change Law, which is expected to govern climate change policy and regulate the implementation of Uganda’s mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The Paris Agreement under article 4 calls on Parties to deliver their new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) every five years that are informed by the best available science, latest advances in technology, and economic trends.

This year, 2020, countries will officially submit their domestic climate action plan for the next 5-10 years where Uganda will also submit its revised NDCs. The country’s priority areas include strengthening government institutions to support NDC implementation through capacity development, providing support in devising bankable project proposals, developing and implementing a robust Monitoring, Reporting and Verification framework and greenhouse gas inventory systems, and identifying financing for NDC implementation.

Throughout the planning process, various stakeholders were brought together including government experts from relevant ministries and authorities, private-sector actors and other development partners.

Despite Uganda’s contribution to emission reduction is multidimensional, through tree planting, afforestation and reafforestation programmes, and all these contributing to emission reduction through carbon sequestration, and other benefits, such as biodiversity conservation, as reflected in goal 15 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it is absurd that the natural resources that would contribute as mitigation measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are degraded and depleted.

For instance, it is estimated that the oil and gas sector worth US$ 2billion earnings for the country annually is projected to produce more greenhouse gas emission in the atmosphere than any other projects. The East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) oil project alone is expected to produce over 34.3million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) per year, Tilenga oil project is projected to produce 45million metric tons of CO2e while the Kingfisher oil project is projected to produce over 32million metric tons of CO2e per year.

Furthermore, majority of the Uganda’s population have opted to using unsustainable and polluting energy sources which are large contributors to gas emissions due to high power expenses that are not affordable to vulnerable groups including women, elderly, disabled among others.                                                                                                                    

Although Uganda’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution opens the door to affordable and modern energy as inscribed in goal seven of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), it is clear that since 1960, the mean annual temperatures have risen by 1.3oC and annual and seasonal rainfall has decreased significantly across country.

Yet the government continues to invest billions of money single source of energy (hydropower) and fossil fuels that will increase the impacts of climate change even when Uganda is endowed with abundance of sunshine that can generate solar energy throughout the year.

It should be clear that Uganda’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 22% by 2030 and contribute to global targets under the Paris Agreement requires more efforts that have to be undertaken.

These include expedition of Climate Change Bill 2020 into law to facilitate the implementation of the country’s climate change policy and the National Determined Contributions, reducing the power tariffs that cannot be afforded by the majority, investing in solar energy as well as leaving oil and gas resources underground.

Further, the capacity of district local governments to integrate and implement climate change actions in all relevant departments should be strengthened focusing on training, public awareness, resource mobilization and knowledge management systems.

More to that, there is need to align the NDC to the country’s National and district development plans and budgets to ensure that they are implemented. The government through the National Planning Authority (NPA) is already helping the integration of climate action within the Draft National Development Plan III and the country’s Green Growth Strategy has been developed. This should be capitalized on to enhance NDC implementation across the sectors spelt out within the National Development Plan III.

Finally, implementing climate change actions requires applying multi-level governance approaches and therefore integration and coordination of state and non-state actors is critical. This will require establishment of an NDC sectoral coordination Committee to oversee performance of implementation.

National and District Local Government Policies, strategies, plans and budgets need to be reconciled to ensure that there is a shared purpose in climate change actions and development priorities. The alignment of priorities, plans, budgets and activities across governance levels with a purpose of implementing the NDC is crucial.

Patrick Edema, Environmental Engineer at Africa Institute for Energy Governance  

    

Be Mindful Of Our Environment As We Decide Our Leaders

By Aryampa Brighton

Uganda has a vibrant landscape blessed with a green environment and abundance of natural resources. 0ver time, this environment has been encroached by human activities inform of industrialization, agriculture, brick making among so many others. Protected forests of Bugoma central forest reserve and Zoka forest have been the current notable examples being threatened during this pandemic. More environments are at risk of being degraded in this election period or if we don’t take action to protect it.

It is a well-known global fact that Uganda is now close to national elections due January 2021.  So far the election campaigns have been trailing with a firestorm of protests in the country. The protests have been characterized by burning of tyres, polythene, poles among so other toxic materials. And of course, the police, army and other security organs have retaliated to the protests with teargas, live bullets. Posters, polythene papers, plastic bottles among others are being loitered everywhere during campaigns. These events are raising significant health and safety concerns not only for those protesting but for the environment. As a country, we are facing air and water pollution, deforestation, swamp encroachment and other environmental issues now. They are a danger to our environment, ecosystems, biodiversity and most importantly our lives.

Therefore it is critical to protect the environment so as to reduce the destruction of ecosystems caused by these myriads of avoidable human activities. I believe it should be a moral obligation for every Ugandan to protect the environment from such degradation because every time an environment is degraded it threatens the long term health of Ugandans, animals and plants. This puts our ecosystem, biodiversity and humanity at great risk of distinction. Therefore it should be every Ugandan responsibility to take care of the environment to make this country and planet a wonderful place to live. We don’t need to put a lot of money to go green but rather simple changes in daily lifestyle is all that is required to keep the environment conserved for the present and future generations. All we need is to think clean and biodegradable, to resist so much from buying plastics and dumping them, plant one tree and then another, encourage recycling.

Take this election period to create an environmentally friendly country, protest peacefully if you must but desist from using materials that will harm our environment.  Exercise your right of voting under article 59 of the constitution by voting accountable and transparent leaders that will engage every Ugandan and put policies that create an environment that we all desire, leaders that will respect the vibrant environmental policies that we have as a country. This will be achieved if you put questions to the aspirant leaders on policies they intend to establish so as to protect the threatened environment and ensure clean air and energy. A Clean and healthy environment is one of the essential rights of a welfare state as stipulated under article 39 of the constitution of Uganda, therefore I urge the government to ensure that their agencies work harder to ensure the same, let’s not normalize the use of teargas and as chemical sprays to disperse peaceful protesters. We can probably use water or any other environmental friendly sprays. As a country, we should always remember that a healthy environment, healthy communities and a healthy economy go hand in.

Aryampa Brighton, Youth For Green Communities

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