President Museveni has this morning delivered a keynote address at a high-level side meeting at the ongoing Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Nairobi, Kenya.
H.E. Kaguta Museveni’s keynote address: My problem with most of such discussions is that they handle topics in a fragmented way.
There is a belief that there’s always one problem at a time. In the 1960s in the universities, they spoke of integrated rural development, then moved to education then sustainable development. Recently they began women rights then children rights.
But according to my experience of 50 years, the best way is to handle these topics comprehensively. We should find a minimum package that will create impact.
In talking about Africa, the aim of good governance should be socio-economic transformation. The Europeans and recently the Asians have gone through this.
How does one stay a child and still talk of sustainability? A child must become a teenager and later an adult as a show of growth. And this growth must be both qualitative and quantitative.
In the last 600 years, Europe moved from a feudal society to a skilled middle-income working society. By the time of the French Revolution, society was structured with aristocrats, middle class, working class and peasants. Today, there are no more peasants and aristocrats in France.
The question then is; why is Africa lacking a predominant middle class and a large skilled working class? In my 50 years of observation, I have identified 10 bottlenecks in this respect.
For the conference, I will speak about five of them.
The first is infrastructure. These were not emphasized in the past; electricity, railways, roads and ICT. Take the consumption of electricity for example. With the exception of South Africa and Libya during Gaddafi’s reign, the rest of Africa has a very low kilowatt hour per capita. But without electricity how do you attract investments and jobs?
The second bottleneck is human resource development. To be fair, this is discussed widely at these fora.
Third is a fragmented market. How do you support production if you don’t have a big enough market? Africa was fragmented into 53 small markets by colonialists.
Compare with China. It is a Communist country, does not have the kind of democracy we see in Africa, the liberalism but it has attracted a lot of investments in the last 30 years. Africa is democratic but how come we haven’t attracted much investment?
Fourth is interference with the private sector either by policy like we saw with Amin and expelling Asians or by corruption. The private sector is the best avenue of creating jobs and giving you a good governance base.
In listing these bottlenecks, I always end with democracy. Democracy helps people have a say in how government is run, gives them an opportunity to speak out but by itself it can’t cause socio-economic transformation.
To conclude therefore, we must identify these bottlenecks in entirety and fix them for good governance to make meaning.