Creating jobs in Uganda

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Uganda’s Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka is prioritizing new jobs and sustainable economic growth for her country, region and continent.

“In Uganda, just like the rest of the world, it’s all about jobs, jobs and the creation of more jobs.”

— Maria Kiwanuka, Minister of Finance,
Planning and Economic Development, Uganda

Uganda’s progress in recent years has been driven by:

  • A projected annual growth rate of 5.8%
  • A ranking in the top five African destination countries for infrastructure projects to February 2013
  • A ranking in the top 10 African countries for ease of doing business
  • Abundant natural resources

However, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Kiwanuka, is also focused on other priorities.

“In Uganda, just like the rest of the world, it’s all about jobs, jobs and the creation of more jobs,” she says. “We need to make sure that, at the end of the day, we have more jobs at a higher level of productivity for more people across the whole of Uganda.”

With the private sector responsible for over 80% of the country’s economy, the Minister admits that much-needed jobs will be sourced there, rather than directly by policy-makers themselves. That said, she is also clear that governments have a key role in assisting this process.

Uganda’s Government is focusing on the country’s competitive advantages, which the Minister says are strengths such as agricultural productivity and its geographical position.

Using these competitive advantages, she goes on to identify four areas where government can help:

  • Infrastructure
  • Human resource development
  • Research and development in agriculture
  • Maintaining macroeconomic stability

An “enabling environment”

Kiwanuka emphasizes the need to create an enabling environment for business, and for public private partnerships (PPPs) specifically. She cites the results of surveys of domestic and foreign investors by the International Finance Corporation, which identifies four recurring themes:

  • Reliable power supply
  • Reliable all-weather roads to and from areas of production and areas of consumption
  • Piped water to their production facilities
  • Skilled workforce

For Kiwanuka, the more Government opens up planned investments to private sector participation, the more it strengthens job creation.

In Uganda, such partnerships have been developed with the private sector in areas including energy, education, transport and tourism. However, most of these have taken the form of concessions in the development and management of existing government assets.

“In Uganda, our attitude to PPPs is that the economic benefits must outweigh the economic or financial costs,” she says.

Over the horizon

When asked about the biggest challenges facing Africa in general and Uganda in particular, the Minister says that there is little time to waste.

“Because of the global financial crisis, a number of aspects of our economies are negatively affected,” she admits. “However, we should see these not as problems but opportunities to re-arrange our attitudes to our economies.”

“The biggest challenge is that we must seize the moment. Africa is still the resource-rich continent. We must make sure we can extract our resources in the most efficient manner, and make sure we use those resources to start to create sustainable development.”

Read our article: We must seize the moment