President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is currently settling into his sixth term of office that will see him ruling the East African nation of Uganda for 40 years. He was sworn in on 12th May, 2021 after one of the deadliest pre-election crackdowns that saw over 30 Ugandan lives lost and his fiercest competition from Robert Kyagulanyi (39) alias Bobi Wine.
The 76-year-old veteran who came to power through an armed uprising in 1986 won the recently concluded elections in January with 53.3% of the vote with Kyagulanyi at 35% after being arrested multiple times during his campaigns giving rise to major questions about the fairness (or lack thereof) of Museveni’s proclaimed victory.
Uganda’s opposition, as has been the trend, boycotted the event.
But the issue in question is not the legitimacy of the election results. Why would a struggling economy with nearly 70 trillion Uganda Shillings (UGX) (21 billion U.S dollars) in debt spend 7 billion UGX (2 million dollars) to inaugurate the same president? Doesn’t every penny count? More on this later.
To put this into context, Uganda’s Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija and his officials have recently pointed out that nation is fast approaching the 50% threshold of the Debt-to-GDP ratio which poses a big risk to the country’s prospective repayment ability. You must know that that higher the debt-to GDP-ratio, the more difficult it is for a country to pay up its external and internal debts which means that in order to borrow more—which Uganda definitely will—the country ought to accept higher interest rates due to low credit ratings among creditors.
The recommended debt-to-GDP ratio from the Joint World Bank-IMF Debt Sustainability Framework for Low-Income Countries is 50 per cent. Uganda is fast approaching this threshold with an estimated crossover point somewhere set somewhere in 2022. However, countries like Kenya (which is already at a high risk of debt distress—where a country is unable to fulfill its financial obligations and debt restructuring is required) are way past it but on the other hand, some of them have strong inclinations towards domestic revenue mobilization, something Uganda is grappling with.
Ultimately, all this sets Uganda on the path to debt distress of which the risk is currently low, but may in the long run change.
Let us get back to the inauguration expenditures for a moment. The accumulated public debt in Uganda, which is nearly 70 trillion UGX as earlier noted—in the final analysis—means that of the estimated 43 million Ugandans, each one owes 1.5 million Uganda Shillings ($430). Why is it that a developing country so drowned in debt is spending billions on an inauguration of someone who will go back to the same house and office he has been in for 35 years? At least if it was someone knew this would be understandable and worth the celebration.
There was nothing to celebrate about the incumbent handing over power to himself. What this reemphasizes to the Ugandan people is that their President is so focused on retaining his seat that he will use much needed public funds during a time of economic downturn, to have a party. Let alone the fact that the event was attended by hundreds of people in clear violation of Covid-19 SOPs. If this was a celebration of any kind by the opposition, try to imagine what would happen.
When it was reported on July 7th, 2017 that Ghana had successfully launched its first satellite into orbit, there was wild celebration among the more than 400 watchers present at the All Nations University College, Koforidua, Ghana, where three enterprising students had built the satellite over two years and at the cost of more than $50,000. Media sources celebrated the groundbreaking achievement as the result of collaboration between the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency which provided support, the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which helped to launch it into the International Space Station, and Elon Musk’s SpaceX team whose flight 11 carried the satellite. Few news sources bothered to mention the names of the students responsible for this daring project, and fewer highlighted the underlying stories behind this success.
Take a bow, Benjamin Bonsu, Joseph Quansah and Ernest Teye Matey. Future Africa celebrates you for daring to dream and to create a reality that puts your country’s flag, its national anthem and other patriotic song among the stars where they truly belong. If GhanaSat-1 succeeds in its mission of monitoring the country’s coastline for mapping purposes, it will be because three university students took the road less travelled and did what they could for their country. It will also be because Rev. Dr. Samuel Donkor chose to build a private university only 15 years ago in 2002 with just 37 students.
Benjamin Bonsu, Joseph Quansah and Ernest Teye Matey. Source: www.africanews.com
Ghana’s first satellite was not launched into space courtesy of a government programme; it was not the result of a strategic move by the country’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation; it was not the outcome of research through a public-funded university, it was the outcome of the vision of a private citizen. When Dr. Donkor sought permission to build the university in 1988, he might not have imagined that it will take 14 years before the university would open its doors, but that patience and perseverance has put Ghana into orbit today. Future Africa also celebrates Dr. Richard Damoah, whose role as Project Coordinator inspired the next generation of Ghanaian innovators to achieve such a remarkable feat.
Achievements like this help to reinforce the call for active collaboration between citizens, governments, educational institutions and the civil sector to build desirable and sustainable societies in Africa. We believe that our countries are much better off when each citizen is empowered to make their unique contributions to solve our common challenges. Ghana celebrates today; where does the next big African innovation lie?
Future Africa was founded to redesign political, economic and social discourse in Africa by bridging the gap between public policy leaders and proven approaches to address current and future development needs on the continent. Learn more at https://futureafrica.net/why-we-exist/.
The focus of the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Forum, holding in Marrakech, Morocco is “Africa at a tipping point” and what needs to be done to ensure that Africa’s progress continues to rise rather than fall back. The result of this defining moment depends more than anything else on our ability to harness the energy, and meet the expectations, of Africa’s young people.
60% of the continent’s population are under 25 years of age. In 2050, Africa will be home to 452 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. Their drive, ambition and potential provide African countries with an extraordinary asset. But today, too many of them feel devoid of economic prospects and robbed of any say on the future of their own continent.
The commodity cycle of the past decade may have supercharged many African GDPs but it created almost no jobs. Young people may have spent more years in school but too few have been equipped with the skills the economy needs. The more educated they are, the less likely they are to find employment on their own continent.
The nature and fit of democracy is also being tested. “Free and fair” elections have indeed multiplied over the last decade, leading to peaceful changes of power. But voter turnout is declining and scepticism about elected representatives growing. An average gap of 46 years between the people and their rulers fuels doubt about whether those elected to office can relate to the interests of their citizens. Meanwhile, alternative political models such as China, and the rise of populism and parochialism in Western countries, which some believe will lead to better economic futures, weaken the appeal of current democratic models.
The lack of economic opportunity mixed with democratic fatigue and political disenfranchisement may become a “toxic brew”. The 1000% increase in terrorist attacks in Africa over a decade and the rising number of those risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean show where frustration, anger and despair can lead. Climate change, created elsewhere but impacting Africa the most, will only intensify these problems.
Terrorism’s growing footprint on the continent is fuelling conflict, division and instability and damaging prosperity by acting as a parasite on economies. It has become a well-organised multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise with growing control over the drugs trade, people trafficking and other parts of the black market. The jobs, status and income that terrorism offers to young people who are cut off from the mainstream economy, may be more attractive than the ideology itself.
High hopes can also lead to deep frustrations. If the energy and ambition of Africa’s youth continue to be wasted, they could become serious destabilising forces, threatening not just future progress but rolling back the gains of recent years. This huge and immediate challenge requires committed leadership and robust governance if Africa is to enable its young people to build the prosperous and peaceful future we all want to see.
Culled from the 2017 Forum Report of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation – http://s.mo.ibrahim.foundation/u/2017/03/27173846/2017-Forum-Report.pdf
Within the past week, there have been a number of scandals and mini-scandals that have emanated from the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to warrant the collective disgust and ire of all Nigerians. Firstly and most prominently, news emerged that a Senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District, Dino Melaye, had falsely presented his academic qualifications, including seven degrees purportedly earned from Harvard University and London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) among others. When challenged on the matter, Melaye in his bombastic style, refused to present credible evidence to defend his academic credentials, but resorted to death threats against his accusers, despite being publicly denied by both Harvard and LSE. On Tuesday March 28th, 2017, Melaye attended Senate hearings wearing an academic gown and cap in an apparent boastful challenge to his accusers.
Dino Melaye attends a Senate sitting in defiant academic regalia
During the same week, the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who has barely had a scandal-free week since assuming office, was once again the subject of an investigation: this time, it was about the fraudulent importation of a Sports Utility Vehicle with fake documents. In response to both Saraki’s and Melaye’s scandals, another senior Senator, Ali Ndume, had asked the Senate to conduct proper investigations into the issues, but was rather faced with an immediate six-month suspension from the Senate for “subjecting the senate to ridicule”. Despite mounting public interest in the issues, the Senate Ethics Committee instantly absolved both Melaye and Saraki of any wrongdoing, leaving Nigerians wondering where the truth lies.
As though on cue, it was reported during the same week that another Senator, Andy Uba, had doctored his secondary school graduation certificate issued by the West African Examination Council. All these have emerged at the same time that a spirited group of Nigerians has mounted a campaign to scrap the Nigerian Senate on account of the exorbitant cost of operating a bicameral legislature and poor evidence of the Senate’s relevance.
On Saturday April 1st 2017, it was reported that the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, had led a delegation of top politicians and monarchs to plead with Senator Bukola Saraki for leniency on Senator Ali Ndume’s suspension. If indeed Senator Ndume was suspended from his duties for a justifiable reason, it is curious that Senator Saraki would entertain other politicians in his residence to plead on his behalf. The entire situation reeks of a blatant disregard for the established institutions of governance and points towards vendetta.
Future Africa is extremely concerned about the shameful manner in which the Nigerian Senate has conducted itself this past week. At a time when the country needs strong moral leadership with clear dedication to resurrecting the weak economy and restoring public confidence, it finds itself crippled by a group of inept men and women whose desire for personal aggrandisement and wanton display of braggadocio supersedes their interest in governance. For aspiring public sector leaders, there are no positives to be taken from this utterly shameful display of the Nigerian Senate. Nigeria must do better. Nigerians deserve better.
Future Africa was founded to enable long-term political and economic stability in Africa by entrenching a robust system of citizen collaboration with governments, and preparing future generations of high impact public sector leaders. www.futureafrica.net
“Not how long but how well you lived is the main thing” – Seneca
Salome Karwah only lived 28 years, but her name must never be erased from the memories of all who value good quality life, for it was all she sought to entrench in her home country of Liberia.
When the Ebola virus broke out in 2014 and eventually killed 11, 310 people, including her father, mother, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins and a niece, Salome survived and dedicated her life to working as a nursing assistant with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), treating elderly people and nursing feverish babies. In her own words, “If a patient doesn’t want to eat, I encourage them to eat. If they are weak and are unable to bathe on their own, I help to bathe them. I help them with all my might because I understand the experience—I’ve been through the very same thing”.
Salome Karwah at work with Medecins Sans Frontieres. Courtesy: MSF
Salome’s role as a mental health counsellor proved pivotal to the success of the fight against the virus, as she exuded deep empathy and always gave a smile. When the world was afraid to approach Liberia, Salome stood in front of local and international media to speak about the challenges faced in combating the disease. She would eventually be named one of TIME’s Persons of the Year 2014.
Salome on the cover of TIME magazine. Courtesy: TIME
After the virus was successfully combated, everything returned to normal until Salome had a son on February 17, 2017 by caesarean section. It is reported that within hours of returning home, she begun to convulse and foam at the mouth and was eventually rushed back to the hospital. Because of the stigma of the virus, no one would touch her or give her critical medication due to her bodily fluids for more than three hours. Salome was left alone to die. It is shameful to note that the same failed healthcare system which she worked to save is the one which let her down. To have lost everything to the Ebola virus only to die due to its stigma, is completely beyond imagination. May her soul rest in peace.
Future Africa is saddened by the loss of such a brave young African citizen who gave her all to save her country. We know that there are millions of others across Africa who are being let down every single day by the same countries to which they pledge their allegiance. It is a responsibility for the living to respect the memory of the departed and work conscientiously to transform our systems. Every life lost for a preventable cause is one life too many.
Future Africa is a pan-African leadership organization founded to enable long-term political and economic stability in Africa by entrenching a robust system of citizen collaboration with governments, and preparing future generations of high impact leaders for the public sector. www.futureafrica.net