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Can 2022 deliver?

President Museveni’s end of 2021 or New Year 2022 address was in some ways full of hope and promise!

Contrary to global beliefs that there may not be any cure for Covid19 in the near future, the president seems genuinely convinced that we are close to something here in Uganda through our “ancient knowledge of the environment, (we) have discovered substances that seem to cure corona and other viral diseases!”

He is not alone; many Ugandans home (and abroad) believe in the healing powers of Dr Ogwang’s Covidex medicine to the extent that some take it regularly as an anti-Covid19 preventative medicine.

We positively await the clinical trials that could lead to its certification! And also join in the global super-Covid-monies available for grabbing!

At the peak of the second wave in June 2021, the only time Ugandans worried about Covid19, private hospitals minted money and the foresighted pharmacies that had stocked Covidex were selling vials at UGx50,000 or more! And we bought them! Even now when there’s less concern about Covid, testing centres are still collecting big monies for PCR tests ranging from UGx100,000 at Mulago Hospital all the way to 300,000 in private hospitals!

The president officially declared that schools will open on January 10, 2022 thus ending the world’s longest school closure and urged officials to stagger opening dates to avoid traffic congestion.

As predicted, the traffic congestion prevailed! Sometimes we forget that schooling is a complete industry or economy in Uganda.

Traffic jam in Kampala as students return to school

Soon after the presidential address, large sections of the economy ‘woke up!’ Supermarkets were back in business and the so called ‘school requirements’ sold out; salons have long queues as the mandatory back-to-school-haircuts are in demand; farmers can sell beans, maize..!

Let’s not forget that Luwum Street is busy again as schools stock up on stationary; bookshops are back in business and the traffic congestion suggests that fuel stations have also benefitted. When the bars and other entertainment places open up, that will be something else!

However, the Boda-Boda curfew has not been lifted! How absurd! The Boda-Boda is also another economy. One bike can work three shifts in a 24 hours’ period – curfew has derailed that employment! In any case, who’s that person telling our dear president that Boda’s are off the road at 7pm? It’s impressive that the president addressed his mind to traffic! Folks who live or work on Entebbe Road know that this must be one of his least concerns because he enjoys traffic-free journeys on that route daily.

Boda Boda riders in Kampala

Overall, traffic in or around Kampala is ugly and very frustrating. It would be great if he looked into the ‘lost time in traffic’ and how it affects business and the economy!

Incredibly, a formula that calculates lost time exists – look it up on Google or Wikipedia.

Right now, traffic congestion in Ugandan urban areas has reached ‘pandemic’ levels and a discussion on decongesting cities should feature in presidential messages especially when addressing efficiency and economic growth.

Challenge is that many policymakers have no interest in improving the traffic situation because they have a lead car with loud sirens to ease them through the traffic!

Finally, going forward, the president should also address his mind to the labour exportation of disenfranchised Ugandans to the middle east! The ministry of gender and labour call it ‘externalisation of labour’ but some call it exploitation or, even, modern slavery. With thousands of Ugandans flocking to the middle east for work; to earn a living. It seems like the many financial development projects including Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) or Parish Development Model (PDM), don’t work for them hence they seek opportunities yonder even after learning about the harsh environment.

Ugandan youth at the airport leaving for employment

Countries like the Philippines and Ethiopia help by engaging middle east countries to ensure their citizens work in more humane conditions. And Ethiopia has benefitted from remittances from their citizens working in the middle east! A December 2021 BBC documentary podcast, Runaway Maids of Oman, features some young women from Sierra Leone stranded in Oman.

A recent ‘returnee’ to Uganda described her life in the middle east as hell: she earned Ugx one million a month (when she was paid), worked 18 hours daily and was regularly beaten by her employer’s family!

Hundreds of them are trapped in abusive domestic work and are not permitted to leave since they are literally owned by employers. When they eventually leave and return home, there is nothing to show for their efforts!

Diaspora work should also be added on to the list of person development projects; we would then have OWC, PDM, Emyooga, NAADS, Bonna Bagaggawale, Kyeyo…!

Oskar Semweya-Musoke

A Founding Kigo Thinker

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