Just when I am frustrated with how inefficient most offices in this country are, I encounter just one person that makes me feel like my desire to stay home is not in vain. I met one such person today. After a heated debate with mama at lunch today, I accompanied her to one of her meetings at the Uganda Investment Authority. (it wasn’t so much a debate as it was a one person {me} rant about how the youth of Uganda are doomed thanks to the selfishness of the generations before them) .

Mama had her meeting and after it was done, she mentioned that the person she’d met with had similar ideas to the ones I had discussed with her at lunch. I was excited and wanted to hear some of them so he gave me his card and I promised to fix an appointment with him.

My issue was that there are no laws protecting the Ugandan people in the business/economic scheme of things. There are no rules for that matter protecting the Ugandan economy, its resources, and its local investors. That is why I believe we’ve become a pool of greedy, quick-deal driven people with no interest in developing the nation’s economy or ensuring even the smallest financial security for our children’s children. Take for example the new excitement surrounding certain minerals and oil found in Uganda. The process in which these findings were revealed and marketed to the nationals themselves is somewhat laughable. Better still, the speed at which biddings for foreign and local companies to take part in the extracting and processing of these resources is unreal. I don’t know much about the depth of research done about the quantities but it is clear that not enough thought was put into Uganda’s long term benefits and eventual opportunities. It is because of that miscalculation that we risk losing our very valuable resources to ‘investors’ and countries that are far more developed than ours.

My thing about all these foreign investors is that all of them might come under the pretence that they have Uganda and its people in their best interest but to this day, we are yet to hear/see the fruits of their promises.  Why are there no laws specifying that certain percentages of any investment venture return to the locally formed company to re-enforce its development? Is it that difficult to even have investment guidelines protecting the nation’s resources, commercial ventures, and other valuable assets such as land?

I can’t place all the blame on investors because they often come in as individuals or private companies so the blame has to fall on us, on the quickness with which we sign into fast dreams rather than assessing the offer and drawing up a concrete long term plan that would bring continuous growth to our economy.

I expressed all these views to the highly placed UIA official today and to my surprise, he answered my questions calmly and with a lot of interest. Most people in the position to give me those answers beat about the bush and get uncomfortable, quickly leaving or changing the subject. The nice gentleman told me that there should be such rules but beaurocracy has gotten in the way of them. He also mentioned that even if bills were passed, implementing them would be like turning a stone into a loaf of bread. In theory we can prevent such depletion as we’re facing now but a lot of things would have to change and people around here don’t like change (especially if they have to pause their fast paced lives and turn down that quick deal or enticing bribe).

There is however one law that states that if a concession is not used during a certain timeframe, government has the ability to retain it and or give it to another bidder. This to me sounds like we were on track to building a great protective unit over our resources around the time we got excited about privatisation but we didn’t think the thought all the way through. Resources that are in high demand will never sit for too long. Oil and precious minerals will always be needed so ‘investors’ will flock the country, doing everything in their power (and it is a lot) to get what they want. Whether they care about Uganda after they get it is a question we very well know the answer to. Africa has lived this nightmare before. We now call it imperialism… back then we didn’t know it didn’t benefit us and now we are reliving it economically. Years from now when we have nothing left, we’ll look around and ask, why did no one ever think of protecting us?

Hopefully, with men like the one I met today in service, we won’t have to ask that question. I can only pray that there are but a few more of his kind out there doing the best they can regardless of the pit of corrupt masqueraders they have to work alongside.

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