H.E. Mr. Yoweri Museveni
President of Uganda
JAPAN and the WORLD interviewed H.E. Mr. Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda during his visit to Japan in September this year.
—President Museveni you have brought stability and economic growth to your country and encouraged the mutual defense pact with Rwanda and Kenya. You are an avid supporter of the notion that security plays an important role in the economic transformation, how do you intend to guarantee security in order to foster a climate conducive to investment?
Ugandan troops are part of an African Union Mission in Somalia to help the government fight al-Shabab, which is allied to the al-Qaida network.
The militants have been driven from Mogadishu and other strongholds, but still operate in some rural parts of the country and carry out deadly attacks. The recent deadly attacks on Ugandan soldiers in Somalia by al Shabab could be attributed to negligence on the part of Ugandan commanders. Uganda has however played a great role in weakening the al Shabab in Somalia.
Additionally, Ugandan troops are also supporting the government in neighboring South Sudan, where a fragile peace deal with rebels was signed last month. Ugandan troops will be withdrawn once there is no more threat.
I saw on TV this morning Hungarians throwing food at people as if they are dogs. We don’t want that to happen in a country like South Sudan, which is part of our people.
—Agriculture, minerals, ICT, tourism packaging and pharmaceuticals are high priority sectors for your government. Are there any specific sectors in which you would like to increase partnership with Japan?
The struggle to create wealth should be at the level of every household, and nobody should be left out in that campaign, if the country is to get rid of poverty. The Ugandan government is working on providing the much needed development infrastructure such as roads and the extension of power especially in areas that were ravaged by wars, conflict as well as natural disasters, but noted the population should utilize the infrastructure to improve and earn better their income. Uganda places very high priority on the improvement of social and economic infrastructure such as roads and electric power on its development strategy and has strongly sought assistance in this sector.
I call for more Japanese investment, trade and tourism in Uganda, to complement Japan’s development assistance for infrastructure projects. Japan is now supporting the construction project of the New Nile Bridge at Jinja, which is a key infrastructure project which inter-connects roads into neighboring countries such as Kenya, DR Congo, Sudan and Rwanda.
The most lucrative way to maintain sustainable relationships is through trade. Sustained trade, investment and infrastructure building with Japan hold the key to boosting Africa’s economic potential, as Japan is set to stage an international conference on African development in 2016. That will be the agenda of TICAD 2016. Japan has been vital in supporting the government “Prosperity for All” program through improving the rural transport network to boost the volume of trading activities between East African countries, which is rapidly growing.
—Agroprocessing is now a key challenge for Africa. The national development plan supports farmers in acquiring the necessary equipment and infrastructure as well as promoting commercial agricultural production. Can you please tell us how this is essential for the economic growth of Uganda?
Although I earn little, I am a rich man because I benefit from agriculture. The problem of unemployment occurs because young people do not have skills. If an educated young person cannot find a job, the person should engage himself in agriculture. In many African countries we have non-monetary GDP (gross domestic product based on products).
According to the 2002 census, in Uganda only 32% of the householders rely on “the money economy,” the other 68% rely on the subsistence economy [producing to consume]. Our campaign is to widen a concept of production for consumption and for trade. Our government’s goal is a full monetization of the economy.
Uganda could become an agricultural powerhouse, if farmers had better access to finance. To that effect, the aBi Group will increase its budget from 60 billion shillings to 120 billion shillings over the next five years.
It was just recently announced that our government would add 500 billion shillings (roughly 140 million euros) to the capital of the Uganda Development Bank (UDB), to lower interest rates in strategically important sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture.
Due to high inflation and the sharp depreciation of the Ugandan shilling since the beginning of 2015, market interest rates are currently high, and lending rates are close to 21% per annum.
I identify these high borrowing costs as a major impediment to the transformation of agriculture. Lowering the cost of financing in this sector will be a high priority in coming years.
—The first lady is the founder of Uganda’s women effort to save orphans and of the national strategy for advancement of rural women in Uganda as well as several other NGOs helping women and children. Could you please tell us about gender equality issues in Uganda?
We have just recently launched a campaign that intends to mobilize men and boys to support gender equality and women and girls empowerment.
The “HE FOR SHE”, which is a solidarity campaign initiated by the United Nations, intends to mobilize one billion men and boys globally as advocates and agents for change, to end persistent inequalities faced by women and girls. This campaign is premised on the fact that gender inequality is an issue that affects all people and that women and girls’ empowerment is progress for all. Empowerment of Ugandan women and girls is progress for all. Although the proportion of people living below the poverty line has dropped, the income inequality has greatly affected women. Uganda has 130 districts. Within these districts there are constituents. And we have secure seats only for women in the parliament. We are also giving extra attention to increasing the number of women studying in universities.
The Ugandan Government through the Ministry of Gender will put up proposals to have a Women Enterprise Fund to help women get an economic breakthrough.