By Mutesi Sandra
“If you can’t speak your mind it’s because you have no mind of your own, or you mind what others say”. Last month, Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa,” was listed among the countries that the World Bank will halt new loans after passing the anti-LGBTQ law. It further paused project financing in the country, to them, the Anti-Homosexuality Act contradicts with the values of the World Bank. Can this be said to be true or was it a sort of masking for the western countries to impose their forbidden practices on loan surviving countries.
The question remains: Can Uganda thrive without loans from the World Bank? For years, Uganda has relied on financial aid and loans from international institutions like the World Bank to support development projects. I believe this shift presents both challenges and opportunities for the nation looking at the coin from both sides.
In the Bible, when the brook from which Elijah got water dried up, it was a sign that he did not need it anymore and that the season of God providing for him from that particular place had ended. He had to journey into a new season in his life, likewise, it is time for Uganda to stand on its own now that the brook is dry. As a child grows, it is not wise for them to continuously stay dependent on their parents but rather have to mature up and start fending for themselves. Moses Mukisa, in his book ‘The Straight Forward Financial Growth’, said, “Poverty dehumanizes people and gets them to lose their dignity and sense of worth”. However, this will not be said of Uganda after it chose to stand for its values even with the withdrawal of the World Bank.
With the above in mind, what challenges await us and how can the country maneuver and continue replicating its independence?
Uganda must now take greater responsibility for managing its fiscal policies, ensuring funds are allocated efficiently and transparently. This is going to require stronger financial discipline and accountability at all levels of government and this will also assist in curbing corruption in the country now that the country is not relaying on loans which had made swindlers to easily take money from government without being tracked downed since every cent counts, it’s time for the zero tolerance to corruption to seriously start working.
Agriculture plays a pivotal role in our economy, employing the majority of the population. The withdrawal of World Bank loans should push the government to prioritize sustainable agricultural practices and promote sector value addition in different things such as coffee which contributes 6.76% of the country’s GDP. Uganda is among the world’s top 10 coffee-producing countries, yet it earns less money than Germany, a non-coffee growing country that relies on imported coffee but earnsUS$6.8bn from it. Numbers don’t lie Uganda should reconsider promoting value addition to its raw materials or else continue eating the crumbs that fall from their “masters’ table”.
Uganda should explore partnerships with other countries, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and regional integrations with neighboring countries to open up new markets and trade opportunities to bridge the funding gap. Uganda is not the only country that is going to thrive without loans from the World Bank, other countries have been there and their economy is still blooming. Out of discomfort, one begins to think bigger and even get more creative – I guess now is the time.
Exploring new sectors through economic diversification in sectors such as renewable energy, tourism, and technology can create economic growth opportunities. It is important to note that Uganda is among the most gifted countries on the African continent, endowed with minerals, good climate, and beautiful sceneries. We have taken all this for granted and have not understood the wealth our land carries, which can even attract investors and encourage private-sector engagement.
Further, the country should look into reducing unnecessary expenses such as the extravagant allowances extended to cabinet members and parliamentarians, ranging from reducing escort cars. Revenue collected should be monitored to ensure that citizens have access to opportunities and benefits, which will be key to reducing poverty and inequity together with dependence on loans
Taking everything into account, while the withdrawal of the World Bank loan presents Uganda with a lot of challenges, it has also provided an opportunity to redefine its economic path. Some issues are so controversial that confronting them comes with a cost, and now we are paying the prize, which comes with having our own mind as a country. However, Setbacks should not set us back as a country but rather be the stepping stone as we redirect ourselves.
The writer is a second-year law student at Nkumba University in Entebbe, Uganda.
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