By Esther Mufumba

Published: 3rd Feb 2016

The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) embraced the Single Spine Agriculture Extension system in September 2015 with intentions of addressing public outcry from farmers on the state of Agricultural Extension Services in the country as well as fusing extension services into the line ministry.  
The system facilitates farmers, their organizations and other market actors to knowledge, information and technology; interactions with their partners in research, education, agribusiness and relevant institutions assisting them to develop their own technical, organizational and managerial skills and practices.

Creation of the Single spine extension system emerged after NAADS was restructured into a lean secretariat to handle strategic interventions and promotion to value addition technologies as opposed to extension services.
In Uganda, Agriculture is recognized as core for the economic growth and poverty reduction since the sector largely employs 60% of the poor and marginalized. Farmers gladly celebrated to learn of a coordinating center for all Agriculture extension services in the country. MAAIF established a Directorate of Agriculture Extension Service whose priority is to provide extension services especially to small holder farmers.  However, this Directorate does not have enough capacity with the limited number of staff recruited to offer services to farmers.  
 
The BFP 2016/17 has no clear wage bill for operation of Agriculture Extension system implying that those recruited at the Local Government level will be redundant and will remain in the sitting mode like their predecessors. Currently, extension services have failed to reach majority of the farmers with statistical estimates at 14% and most recently reduced to 7% which is remarkably low for a country whose population is largely agrarian.  As a commitment to implement Single Spine Extension system, MAAIF is undertaking a critical process of developing the National Agriculture Extension Policy & Strategy that will provide strategic guidance, Principles and objectives of the Agriculture Extension System aimed at transforming the Agriculture sector.

UDN recommendations:

• Uganda can only realize Single spine Agriculture Extension system if MAAIF concentrates on working towards increasing production and productivity especially through inclusive extension services and developing a results oriented culture.

• The Directorate of Agriculture Extension Services should be fully staffed for effective implementation of their mandate.

By Peninah Mbabazi

Published: 28th Jan 2016

The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project is so far one of the expensive ventures the East African Community (EAC) is undertaking. The SGR, therefore, can be a gateway for EAC to the rest of the world, in regard to global trade, investment opportunities and pro-poor development. The SGR for Uganda’s case is a blessing, for it will bring down trade journeys to only two days, from the current eight between Mombasa (Kenya) and Kampala (Uganda). The aggregate cut on cost of goods and services will also benefit the low income earners across EAC and this is welcome.

The construction of the Uganda Railway in 1896, was the first biggest construction project that the British government undertook in sub-Saharan Africa during the colonial days. The Uganda Railway, commonly known as the lunatic express, was established with an idea of having a railway from the coastline, towards more effective control over River Nile’s source in Uganda. And trade opportunities thereof. The "Lunatic Express" was completed in 1901 and the line linked the interiors of Uganda and Kenya with the Indian Ocean at Mombasa in Kenya.

To the extent that the current SGR project goes beyond the intentions of “Lunatic Express”, to mutually interlink EAC, is a move that should be supported by well-intentioned stakeholder. By the SGR linking Mombasa (Kenya) and other major EAC cities in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Juba brings to life the Northern Corridor which is the transport artery for EAC.

As such, the SGR will yield maximum benefits once the other critical projects under energy (e.g. hydro dams and wind power), roads and maritime, are completed in time. And designated cost. EAC Governments must, therefore, commit to full and on time implementation of such undertakings as the Lamu Port -South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) project to enhance EAC integration. The LAPSSET, for instance, draws critical transport infrastructure and investment opportunities for accelerated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. These can spur new technologies in agricultural production, manufacturing, services and attendant employment.

Conclusion

Not only does the SGR present its own obvious achievements but also consolidates other opportunities in the wider EAC projects. This can only happen to the extent that the SGR and attendant projects are implemented in a manner that fully ascribes to transparency, accountability, caution on debt sustainability parameters and reducing inequality across EAC. Through pro-people policy orientation, the incomes thereof can benefit majority citizens in rural economies across EAC, Sudan and Ethiopia.

By Adellah Agaba

Published: 19th Jan 2016

It’s time for the nation to take a moment and think about the fluctuating oil prices on the World Market and the implications of the same for Uganda. Oil production is set to begin in 2017 and this has generated anxiety and expectations which are already a threat to peace in the country, not only to humankind but to the environment, economy and ecology.


The discovery of oil and gas in any country worldwide causes impeccable excitement because it’s associated with greatness, power, success, economic growth, development and richness especially to the country and citizens at large. However, Studies worldwide have discovered that owning natural resources like Oil and Gas, diamonds or Gold does not necessitate economic development as is perceived by majority population. In most countries natural resources have been discovered but the quality of life is still alarming. Some countries that highly depend on Oil as a resource are economically troubled and this is a fact Uganda should not ignore as production gets closer.


The oil industry, with its history of booms and busts, is in its deepest downturn since the 1990s. Earnings are down for companies that have made record profits over the years, leading to early decommissioning and sharply cutting of investments in exploration and production stages. More than 200,000 oil workers have lost their jobs, and manufacturing of drilling and production equipment has fallen a trend that is yet to continue with the drop in oil prices which has drastically gone down and from the observations it will be long before oil returns to over $100 a barrel which is an indicator of tough times ahead. Companies like Royal Dutch and Chevron recently announced cuts on their payrolls as a saving mechanism and this shows the impact on smaller oil producers who must slash their dividends and sell assets because of the losses incurred.

Nigeria one of the largest oil-producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, with about 32 percent and 34.2 percent of Africa’s oil and gas reserves respectively, with the economy largely dependent on its hydro carbon, like many oil-producing countries, the nation has not been spared the agony the drop as one of the major oil exporters. Saudi Arabia, Norway, Russia and Algerian oil that once was sold in the United States is suddenly competing for Asian markets, and the producers are forced to drop prices. Among these net exporters their GDP growth is dampening as export revenues are falling. This is because countries exporting oil are generally more dependent on the price of oil than countries importing the resource.

One wonders what will happen in Nigeria considering her recurring violent conflicts associated with the management of her oil resource. In early 1967 oil-related disputes motivated an insurrection by a major ethnic group in the Niger Delta. Less than a year after, the nation experienced a civil war (the Biafran war of 1967-70), which was not unconnected with disagreements over the sharing of oil revenues. Nigeria now faces growing fiscal challenges as oil accounts for more than 70% of the country’s revenue and in this case it would need $123 per barrel to balance its budget which is not the case with the plunge.
     
In Ghana with average production of 100,000 barrels a day, oil has become a major source of revenue for the Government with annual oil revenues rising from $709 million in 2013 to $780 million in 2014 and was projected to drop to $215 million in 2015 and could get worse due to the low oil prices. With Oil Prices now below $32 a barrel, and the fall being attributed to the increased supply of oil, there are many lessons for the yet to be oil producing country Uganda.  

If the trend of the plunge continues, lower oil prices will weaken fiscal and external positions and reduce economic activity in a few oil-exporting countries and this will have an adverse effect on the developing countries like Uganda. With a decline in economic growth and development in oil producing countries: poverty, low quality of life, unemployment and devastating environmental damage are some of the foreseen consequences. This can also be explained basing on the level of competitiveness on the world markets and poor policies in countries on issues of revenue management and increased corruption scandals in institutions responsible for oil revenues.

It is not predictable when these prices will stabilise, but Uganda has to start preparing for this plunge before the resource becomes a curse for the nation. This drop will also compel most oil companies to cut their budgets for exploration and production of this finite resource.
However, one can choose to look at the drop in a different light as a means of calming down often inflated expectations by African governments over the future oil and gas wealth and unrealistic expectations by local authorities which are often said to be a key road block to progressing projects in the sector.

Whichever way you look at it, this plunge is an alarm that can’t be ignored by the Government of Uganda.

The writer is the Communications Officer with Uganda Debt Network