After many years of living in fear and instability of post independence governments, there came a time when all the people of Uganda wanted was change, any change, in the hope that nothing could be worse.
We were yearning for a ‘democracy’ that would liberate us from dictatorship and authoritarianism. We wanted an end to violence – institutionalised or otherwise. We wanted a change that would free the majority of Ugandans from abject poverty. We were therefore ready to embrace any change in the management of our politics and the management of our economy.
That is why Ugandans were prepared to even die in defence of the NRM revolution. That is why we were ready to embrace the liberalization of the economy and that is why we were happy with our ‘no-party politics’ because it promised us an end to partisan and all forms of sectarian politics.
The economy was liberalized but politics remained protected from abuse for the sake of peace and stability in a country that had known only un-ending violence. We shuddered to imagine a return to the days of sectarian multiparty politics. Even when the liberalization of the economy led to loss of jobs for many Ugandans, were still hopeful of a stable and peaceful future.
Politicians being the only humans who will do anything to remain in power at any cost, soon dismantled our umbrella politics in favour of the politics of the winner-takes-all because of their selfishness. Because of everyone wanting to become president, broadbased politics was dismantled and multipartism was ushered in.
As many Ugandans anticipated, the struggle for votes soon led to buying votes in elections because parties wanted to win so that they can also ‘fall into things’. The unaffordable gargantuan government of today, the poverty, the unemployment, the slowly creeping-in violence and emerging uncertainty, is as a result of that political and economic greed of our shameless politicians.
Which brings us to the concerns raised in this week’s New York Times article titled ‘Africans Open Fuller Wallets to the Future’. In that article, not only does Nicholas Kulish praise the impressive economic growth across sub-Saharan Africa, he writes: ‘Africa will emerge as a success story in the coming years comparable to the rise of the East Asian Tigers in the second half of the 20th century’.
He goes on to mention how The African Development Bank latest annual report of May, states that the largest share of this year’s record $80 billion foreign investment in Africa, would be going into manufacturing. He adds, ‘Growth is uneven. Inequality is rising in many corners. Millions of people still live in extreme poverty. With violence simmering in a number of countries, it’s easy to fall back on the old pessimistic plotline for sub-Saharan Africa. The middle class has expanded rapidly across the continent, but the population has grown so quickly that the absolute number of impoverished Africans has gone up at the same time’.
Kulish is concerned that hotels and supermarkets do not improve the lives of subsistence farmers in the hinterland. He is bothered that most rapid growth is coming from very few countries on the continent. He concludes by writing thus: ‘The commercial gains are not spread equally across society or across the continent. A study of the top African brands found that of the top 25, all but one – Kenya’s Safaricom – came from Nigeria or South Africa. Seven of the top 10 brands were South African. How the spoils of growth are shared is as important as the national averages that mask deep inequality. The goal is a broad-based improvement in the lives of the masses, which has proved elusive.”The question of how the poor fared in the period of rapid growth in the last decade in Africa is a subject of controversy,” said Mthuli Ncube, chief economist at the African Development Bank. “The precise relationship between poverty and growth in the long term depends crucially on a growth pattern that is accompanied by structur
al shifts where labor moves from a low productivity to high-productivity sectors.”
Reading this you wonder where we are and why we are being left behind especially in the area of investment. Is it our politics that is beginning to keep investors away? If so, isn’t it time we begun getting scared for the future?