It’s therefore, no great wonder that even after many years of self rule the country’s industry still lags behind.
By Katherine Nabuzale
Reliable and affordable energy is the heartbeat of any economy. It is a fundamental enabler of economic growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, Uganda is characterised by regular power cuts and shortages which problem continues to hamper daily operations of productive engagements namely, industrialisation as well as the general livelihood of the people.
It's therefore, no great wonder that even after many years of self rule the country's industry still lags behind. Which hindrance is responsible for over importation of most products thus, undermining economic progress. Needless to say that with industries operating below minimal capacity, the inevitable corollary is the present prevailing unemployment in the country.
Despite efforts to light up most of Uganda, energy shortage remains a serious impediment to development in larger parts of the country. The country continues to face critical energy challenges reminiscent of a lack of access to modern energy services especially in rural areas, poor infrastructure, low purchasing power, low investments and over dependence on traditional biomass.
Recently there was a report in the press stating that, Uganda is set to export electricity to Congo. Such a move is to be commended as a remarkable economic adventure. However, it is said that charity begins at home. A lot is still required in the light up Uganda campaign before hurriedly embarking on aiding the neighbours. Much as Uganda needs that extra economic boost, the problem of reliable and affordable electricity countrywide is by far the most urgent.
Access for all, to affordable and reliable energy services is crucial to reducing poverty, creating employment opportunities, improving health, saving the environment, promoting education, increasing productivity, enhancing competitiveness and promoting economic growth.
Modern energy enhances the life of the poor in several ways. Thereby, directly reducing poverty levels by raising the people's productivity and extending the quality and range of their products thus, putting more wages into the pockets of the deprived. Uganda being an agricultural country, mechanical power can benefit this sector through modern ploughing, irrigation, crop and food processing as well as storage and transport to the destined markets. Additionally, electricity as the most efficient form of lighting provides the opportunity for extra work or study hours.
Access to energy services facilities economic development. By promoting start-ups, sustaining small enterprises, extending livelihood activities beyond daylight hours, hence, boosting locally owned businesses which create employment and assist in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.
Furthermore, energy facilitates economic growth both at national and international level by improving productivity and efficiency resulting into high turn-over for the country. Take South Korea as one of the examples of national economic growth with energy at the core of its development. The meteoric rise of the Korean economy since the 1960s has transformed the nation into a high-tech industrialized economic power that sits among the top world largest economies.
Availability of reliable energy services can help reduce hunger and improve access to safe drinking water. Uganda is often faced with outbreaks of diseases resulting from consuming contaminated water and food. This is because 95 percent of staple foods need cooking before they can be eaten.
A healthy nation is a productive and dependable human resource. To reduce child and maternal mortality and diseases is to recognize energy as a key component of a proper functioning health system. Refrigeration of vaccines and other medicines, sterilization of equipment, powering of operating theatres and special units all need affordable and reliable electricity.
To achieve quality, equitable universal primary education and at the same time promote empowerment of communities requires reliable energy. Energy services enable the use of educational media and communication technologies easing information dissemination and sharing in schools. Availability of energy also reduces the time spent by women and children especially girls on basic survival activities like gathering firewood, fetching water, cooking, lighting homes allowing for ample home study.
Environmental sustainability; considering how fast our environment is being degraded because of the obvious need of energy, provision of efficient and reliable energy will go a long in saving tree cover. In addition the use of cleaner energy alternatives will help to achieve sustainable use of natural resources as well as reducing emissions, subsequently protecting the local and global environment.
Access to reliable, modern and affordable energy for all, is one single most thing Uganda needs to spur its economy as well as achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The writer is a Ugandan living in Germany