Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bridging the Digital Divide-Uganda's Case Study!

Enterprise/market development in BDD.

A comparative Analysis:
A Detailed Copy of this Report has been submitted to the the Diplo Foundation in Malta as part of the Internet Governance Capacity Building Program by this author who was an IGCBP7 Fellow of Diplo Foundation.

"Access" for all is thought to be necessary to tackle social exclusion and promote equality in the "new knowledge economy' by ensuring that the gap beween the "haves" and 'have nots' does not widen as ICT becomes increasingly influencial in relation to educational standards, economic competitiveness and citizenship(1). As Manuel Castel says “Information Technology(IT), together with the ability to use and adapt it, is the critical factor in generating and accessing wealth, power and knowledge in our time. The digital divide in Africa at the dawn of the information age may be the most lasting wound inflicted on this continent by new patterns of dependency”. (2) "The rise of informationalism in this end of millennium is intertwined with rising inequality and social exclusion throughout the world" (Castel 1996, p. 70). Castells traces the phenomenon of exclusion(social or digital divide) across different social and geographic contexts and concludes "the evolution of inter/intra-country inequality varies, what appears to be a global phenomenon is the growth of poverty, and particularly of extreme poverty" (Castel 1997, p. 81).

This project compares enterprise/market conditions in two localities in Uganda in the prism of interventions to bridge the digital divide.The project, comparatively analyses the impact of enterprise development in simple micro enterprises such as the Lawlyn Telecenter,Tororo Uganda and the relatively complex and larger humantarian funded Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter. The research critically analyses entire project cycles identifying key models or blend of model elements with a visibly high potential of rapid replication level of success in bridging the digital divide in Uganda. The study analyses key elements of success as well as challenges and limitations; structural and policy of both models. It also emphasies the importance of enterprise and market development as the key motivational factor of success in bridging the digital divide through the adoption and intergration of technology in production and supply chains in socially and digitally excluded communities. Finally, the project highlights key circumstances that require affirmative action strategically where markets are limiting. The object often is to stimulate enterprise and market development through adoption and intergration of technology in production and supply chains.

Background: The potential for ICT to transform society is well documented. Universal access to computers and the internet is considered necessary to avoid social divisions and offer opportunities for all by ensuring that future "knowledge economies" include everyone (HM Treasury 2000). The failure in bridging the digital divide threatens to result into powerful digital communication tools exacerbating and entrenching societal disparities. As ICT continues to proliferate, the development of 'digital divides' may require the whole concept of poverty itself to be re-examined. The 'digital divide' will need to be incorporated as one characteristic in a new conception of social exclusion(Damarin 2000; Jackson etal 2000).

The proliferation of ICT in education and expansion of internet-based information and services further amplify the chasm between the information 'haves' and "have-nots'. Those on the wrong side of the divide(s) will have less opportunity to participate and engage with both formal and informal education, training and information( Damarin,2000). Social inclusion and economic development in the 'information age' are mutually reinforcing, and for people in low income communities gaining and exploiting ICT skills leads to opportunities to participate fully in local and national economies(PAT 15 2000). Social exclusion therefore as manifested by the 'Digital Divide' requires a well coordinated multi-stakreholder approach in order to facilitate a process of equitable distribution of opportunities in a globalizing world.

The project was focused on two case studies in Uganda to compare project cycles from conception,execution and sustainability protocols. Uganda is one of the poorest countries located in Sub-Saharan Africa. Relative to the UK, Uganda as a country is digitally under developed. It neighbours Kenya to the East,DR.Congo to the West, Sudan to the North, Tanzania and Rwanda to the South. Seated at the top of the Nile Valley, it faces strategic security challenges that it grapples with to advance. The entire Sub-Sahran region faces immense economic challenges in meeting the social service demands of her people, thus regarded the poorest region in the world.

Lawlyn Telecenter ,Tororo is located 250km East of Kampala the capital of Uganda. Tororo town is approximately 12km from the Uganda Kenya border of Malaba. There has been an influx of donor funded projects on health, agribusiness, education, human rights and also a growing business community due to cross-border trade. Mobilie telecom infrastructure has been built in this township and across the country. There has been an influx of tourists and other cross-border travellers. The town has a large hinterland which is largely rural based with Subsistence agriculture as the major economic activity.

The Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter on the contrary, is located approximately 50km North of Kampala in a relatively rural community. Despite its closer proximity to the capital,Nakaseke community is mainly subsistentially agro based and infrastructurally inaccessible. Comparatively the community is much poorer than Tororo town which is peri-urban. Nakaseke is actually about 20km off the Kampala-Gulu Road defining the centrality of its inaccessibility in infrastructural terms. What therefore defines the feasibility of government extension of infrastructural services lies in the economic activity of the community and therelies the power of market forces which is a key highlight in the project in BDD in Uganda. Lawlyn Enterprise Telecenter in Tororo township is a small communications shop built purely on an enterprise model offering Internet Services, Email, faxing, scanning, photocopying at costs determined by the market and sound business decisions while Nakaseke Multi-Purpose is much larger more complex in terms of physical presence, equipment and general capital investment. The Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter, has the hallmark of an affirmative action initiative built on donor funds as a result of the international convention on universal access.

Discussion: Lawlyn & Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenters in Tororo town and Nakaseke Community are classic examples of public-private efforts in bridging the digital divide. Tororo, like many towns in Uganda, in 2002 did not have a single internet shop but now has a total of 4 internet cafes' taking advantage of the prevailing business opportunities in the communications sectors. The enterprise initiative was visibly built on a prevalent and gradually growing market for internet/Data Communications services. The enterprise development initiative of the Lawlyn Telecenter also is exhibit of the prevalent policy initiatives in government. Uganda today prides in a total of 4 Licensed National Operators since the collapse of the Duopoly agreement between government and MTN/UTL. It also points to the regulatory framework under the Uganda Communications Commission(UCC) under whose jurisdiction these Telecenters operate. The presence of 4 active National Operators in the Country means competition and market penetration in areas that were previously untapped, better services, price wars and better access by the public. UTL, Celtel,Warid Telecom and MTN have rolled out WIMAX technology to reach more rural communities such as Nakaseke, services that were previously the exclusive preserve of the urban elite in the capital.

The government policy on building a National Fiber Optics backbone radiating out of the capital Kampala to all remote Local Government Points will bring on board more actors in the market since it stimulates market divelopment as well as enterprise development. There are also challenges such as taxation that can be addressed by policy to encourage enterprenuers invest in this sector to stimulate the economy through improved access to information. There is the energy problem in the Country. While physical access to the national power grid remains a problem in the country side, high power demand has resulted into increased unit costs of utility and thus increased overhead costs for enterprenuers in the internet kiosk business. Governemt is addressing this through promotion of reneweable energy and alternative energy sources such as solar, thermal generation for immediate mitigation during load-sheding hours. This is collective policy action. A hydro electricity dam at Bujagali is under construction,other smaller dams as well as enforcement of energy saving technologies is underway. All these are public policy approaches that are geared towards not just providing free social services but stimulating productivity so that people can harness their environments with the right technology tools. It is a sound reason why Telecenters have sprung up in all townships in Uganda since 2002. All telecom operators have mobile internet services on mobile phones. It is all pointing to policy and market development therefore.

Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter had the hallmark of affirmative action. Being a rural community with no visible cash economy to talk about. Investment in this project by a private entreprenuer would not be feasible. Considerations such as relevance of internet service to a population that relies entirely on susistance agriculture comes in. How many people actually need access and can afford the service? What is the cost of installation, support and mantenance of the facility? How accessible is the community? What is the level of ICT literacy/general literacy of the community? What public infrastructures are available that can reduce cost of installation? Nakaseke community lacked the ingredients that can stimulate a local enterprenuer to invest in such a project justifying affirmative action from a collaboration with good objectives under the Universal Access Declaration between the government of Uganda through its policy framework and its International Development partners.

The Barriers faced by Nakaseke Community were addresed by:
  • Auditing the disadvantages of the community to establish their needs and requirements in terms of content, and promote initiatives that involve them in directly creating materials. This was carried out through a baseline protocol.
  • The initiators allowed plans and the entire project to evolve organically from the people they aim to help, but provide support mechanisms to scaffold the development of sustainability. A multi-stakeholder approach helped reduce fragmentation that can create barriers to community participation. An example is the local government requirement that all students in the community contribute to the sustainability of the project.
  • Development of better policy and delivery design by identifying clear lines of responsibility for coordination of advice and help through a single communication channel to all those who wish to develop community based initiatives in the community such as the Donors of other projects, district local government and the private sector.
  • Identifying and working with recognised information leaders with in Nakaseke Community such as district information managers, local ICT personnels through social mapping to find key individuals, community needs and interests (Benton Foundation 1998).
    The Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter is physically much larger and more complex than the enterprise telecenters across the country due to the investment capital put in by the donors,government and the community. The rapid replication rate of the micro enterprise telecenters is built around their simplicity and innovation of mobilizing refurbished hardware, skills out of business decisions that help sustain the projects. Because donors are not easy to come-by, complex projects of this nature are not easy to implement. In otherwords the difficulty the private entreprenuers finds in investing in undeveloped market niches combined with the scarcity of committed donors complicates the problem of socially excluded communities.

    A summary of factors contributing to the digital divide in a Liberal Economy.

    Shortcomings of the Markets:
    There is an arguement that commercial providers target the most profitable segments of society first and unconnected sections last. There are no guarantees that market provision will deliver affordable ICT to all groups in society. Thus while Lawlyn Telecenter saw an enterprise opportunity in Tororo Township due a growing market, Nakaseke community needed a strategic public intervention to stimulate enterprise and market development.
    Market-led provision may reach 'natural' saturation levels and inequalities may be exacerabted following new technical waves and inventions (Booz-Allen & Hamilton 2000). This can be explained from the evolution of the broad band boom and bandwidth intensive applications, the disucssion of Net Neutrality legislation and the threat of internet fragmentation.


  • The cost of purchasing equipment, telephone costs, tuition and perceptions of costs have been reported as barriers for non-internet users(Motorola 2000). From an enterprenuers perspective, the cost of credit access, interest rates, cost of business, lack of power and overhead costs become apparent. In Tororo this was addressed by the existence of credit service providers , enterprenuers because of feasible market conditions. Because of the remote nature of Nakaseke Community, ineccessibility, lack of or inadequate telecom services, poor business environment and energy problem would hinder a private investor come in leaving public intervention the only option.
  • Cheaper calls(26%), unmetered free access(17%) and cheaper subscriptions would encourage greater internet usage among existing home users( OFTEL,2000a). This calls for greater liberalization of the economic sector as well as the telecom sector to bring in more players in the market. Because of their relatively large investment capital chest, they would break into areas where small entreprenuers can penetrate untapped markets like Nakaseke and Tororo. Uganda's policy direction in this direction is impressive but more liberalization of other sectors of the economy has a strong bearing on market stimulation.
    Lack of relevance, interest and aspirations
    The percieved lack of relevancy has socio-economic dimension. A significant number of people in communities like Nakaseke believe ICT is not relevant to their lives (DTI 1999). They are poor and do not know the relationship between information and economic activity.Many people still largely associate ICTs to the 'economic domain' (Hochschild,Benton Foundation 1998). Individuals in higher socio-economic occupational strata are more likely to use ICT at work (DTI 1999). In 2003, when Lawlyn Telecenter was set up, most NGOs and the local government did not any ICT policy in their operational manual. Lawlyn Telecenter served this cohort of the market as well as travellers, tourists, cross borders and local entreprenuers in search of information. As the telecom sector grew, NGOs started establishing data links in their offices and employees enjoying the internet. More players joined Lawlyn in the business bringing on more competitions, price fluctuations, better services etc. But the issue of relevancy goes further among more remote communities like Nakaseke where the population is largely illiterate and engaged in susistence agriculture.
    Poverty aspirations and opportunity are factors that lead to the development of self exclusion and further inequalities. Perceptions of the utility of computers is mediated by individual family discourses, wider learning communities, and particular software environments( Dowes 1998; Tobin).
    Lack of Access & Support:
  • Many of the non users lack confidence and skills necessary to use the internet (ONS 2000b) as well as total lack of access to infrastructure. This fact is not exclusive to rural or the peri-urban environ. The market did not address the needs of the hinterland of Tororo which is equally largely rural and agro-based. This community is largely composed of the elderly, low literacy rates and poor vulnerable groups simulating the Nakaseke community. A majority of the people can't read or write in English so access to ICT and its use calls for training, affirmative action through strategic public-private interventions.
  • Lack of local technical capacity to support new users learn about ICT (DTI 1999) both in formal and informal settings. Rural communities like the hinterland of Tororo and Nakaseke itself lack local capacity to support new users. This is where the Nakaseke Telecenter model comes in handy.
    Lack of Literacy:
  • Many people are largely illiterate to use ICT at all or effectively(PAT 15,2000). The internet is predominantly English while computer key boards are mainly in English inhibiting use by people/communities whose first language is not English like the Nakaseke Community.
    Lack of Joined-up Approaches:
  • Community groups still struggle to find from 'one-time-limited initiative to another'. The private sector is still largely absent from debates surrounding ICT and social inclusion in deprived communities such as Nakaseke and Tororo (Leach 2001).PAT 15(2000) found that there is often little collaboration or communication between local projects, or strategic thinking acrosss organizations and few mechanisms for sharing experiences.
  • The 'digital divide' represents one aspect of wider inequalities. The 'joined up' nature of social problems is one of the key factors underlying the concept of social exclusion.
    Barriers to community access:
  • Learning in mixed groups at community access points can make some groups feel uncomfortable. Barriers exist to locations, opening times, lack of adequate child care, security, facilities for the disabled, ethnic minorities and the elderly.
  • Unsustainable, inconsistent, unsuitable and partial funding are barriers to community based initiatives such as the Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter.
  • ICT access points may be poorly promoted and marketed, and their role and content may lack local focus (PAT 15 2000).

    'Digital Divide(s)'s have no single, identifiable cause or effect. Many public or private initiatives therefore, are intergrated alongside broader concepts and policies that aspire to tackle deprivation and exclusion. While Lawlyn Enteprise Telecenter took advantage of the general liberalization investment climate in the country, it is possible to note that the Nakaseke Multi-Purpose Telecenter was a public-private response to a general understanding that market forces have limitations. It had the hallmark of the affirmative action initiative geared towards finding a model that helps achieve the ambitious declaration of universal access. Presented below are recommendations and suggestions that propose methods for Bridging the Digital Divide(BDD). Many are in thrusting forward a government framework that addresses policy issues that facilitate enterprise development while also strategically intervening in areas to stimulate market development.

    Increasing Access and Support:
  • Develop the use of existing community resources and locations, including schools, in order to help offer further free or inexpensive access and training for communities that need affirmative action.
  • The provision, extension and development of home-loan laptops should be considered and supported by other forms of support service. Examples of such initiatives are the One-Child-One-Laptop Project of Nicholas Negroponte and African Governments.
  • Meeting the information needs of non-english speakers should be promoted and content should be readily available in languages other than english.
    Supplementing/enhancing provision from markets:

  • Raise awareness about the extent and dimensions of the divide to industry sectors. This will help them to identify specific areas of product development and marketing as sales levels out due to saturation.
  • Create further competition to provide cheaper services among telecommunications, software and resource companies through strategic liberalization of the economy.
  • Promote the concept of corporate social responsibility with in the ICT industry to raise awareness and involvement in the needs of socially and economically excluded communities that can turn out to be future markets for the private sector.
  • Further promote and develop the market for resale and refurbishment of used IT hardware. Computer AID international has refurbished and shiped out computers to Africa for use in schools and private companies, NGOs which has been a good initiative. This is a private humantarian initiative that government can facilitate through tax exemptions so that the equipment becomes even more affordable.
    Reducing Costs:
  • Government must continue to develop a national infrastructure of low-cost or free access points in under-served communities through strategic public-private interventions. The National fiber optics backbone and a well grounded regulatory and enforcement apparatus in Uganda is starting point. Linking Local Governments(districts) to the national ICT grid will bring on board more players and extend services to the disavantaged communities.(Booz-Allen & Hamilton 2000).
  • Coordinate, develop and indentify a range of low-cost technical solutions to access provision for all types of ICT. This would help to reduce the numbers who percieve ICT as unaffordable.
  • 'e-Missionaries' such as teachers and students should be encouraged, or recruited, to train the 'unconnected'.
  • Develop 'taster' courses that link ICT directly to other aspects of life relevant to the communities involed.
    In summary, ICT development stimulates markets and markets act as incentives for enterprise development. While affirmative action(public intervention) is important in socially excluded communities, it must be geared towards enterprise and market development since there "aint anything like free lunch' at the end of the day. Sustainability of ICT projects in bridging the digital divide can only be possible when direct project beneficiaries have stake in keeping it affloat. The Lawlyn Micro Enterprise Telecenter and it survival in the market despite the replication of its model and stiff competition meant that the market all over the country had developed. Entreprenuers simply saw an opportunity to play their role in responding to the market. These simple telecenters are the face of comunication in all townships in Uganda and their role in bridging the digital divide is enormous. Thus the primary objective of public intervention even in socially excluded communities must strategically be aimed at helping the community build economic capacity and establish more access points to spread the service.




    6.Benton Foundation 1998 Losing Ground bit by bit: Low-Income Communities in the information age.

    7.Booz-Allen & Hamilton 2000 Achieving Universal Access.Consultation Report for the UK Government on Internet Access.

    8. Damarin,S 2000. The 'digital divide' versus digital differences: Principlces for equitable use of technology in education. Educational Technology. Vol 40(4).

    9.The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I. M. Castells (1996). Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 556 pp., ISBN 1-55786-617-1

    10.The Power of Identity, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. II. M. Castells (1997). Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 461 pp., ISBN 1-55786-874-3

    11.The End of the Millennium, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. III. M. Castells (1997). Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 418 pp., ISBN 1-55786-872-7 5.

    12. HM TREASURY 2000 Britain and the knowledge economy. Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Smith Institute in London. Feb 16th 2000

    13.MOTOROLA 2000. The British and Technology.Slough

    14. Policy Action Team 15 (PAT) 2000. Closing the Digital Divide:Information and Communication Technologies in Deprived Areas: London. DTI.

  • Wednesday, October 03, 2007

    What happened to Tony Blair's Commission on Africa?

    In early 2004, the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, established the Commission for Africa, commonly known as the Blair Commission by many political commentators. The 17 members of the Commission, 9 from Africa and all working in their individual and personal capacities, published their report "Our Common Interest" on 11 March 2005 addressed to the leaders of the G8 and to the wider international community. It was also addressed to the African people and the world as a whole. The measures proposed by the Commission constitute a coherent package to achieve the Commission's goal of a strong and prosperous Africa. But as the cynics have always said, the the Blair Commission for Africa was strategically designed to rebuild Tony Blair and Labor’s image for taking his country, in 2003,to war in Iraq based on sexed up intelligence.

    As strategically worked out with all the publicity the commission got, Blair and Labor swung back into power and an intra-party transition has just seen Mr. Gordon Brown come on board as the new Prime Minister of G.Britain.Key members of the Commission included Tony Blair, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Bob Geldorf, Melees Zenawi of Ethiopia, my fellow old Budonian Simon Kalema from Uganda and others as the new ambassadors of Africa's development needs. But the Blair Commission, after Bob-Geldorf’s much hyped up media Rock campaign for the drenched of the earth, is no more like the world-cup has come to an end. Like Tony Blair, George.W.Bush, a man who did not know the location of Nigeria on the global map, also whose election in 2000 against Albert Gore had all the farcical characteristics of a typical African election, announced the $15bn July,2003 to save ACP countries from the ravage of HIV/AIDS thus dubbed the "compassionate" Republican President by his Washington's politburo.

    In a similar pattern, Bush had attacked Iraq without UN authorization shoulder to shoulder with Britains Tony Blair. The 2002 election has bruised Bush public standing in the US and the World. Attacking Iraq after the 9/11 rallied some domestic support around him. But his trip to troubled Africa gave him a higher moral latitude thus the $15bn HIV/AIDS initiative. The object was to rally public support back home after the terrorist attack. Compare $130bn the EU uses for agricultural subsidies distorting global agricultural markets and Mr. Bush’s $15bn for fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa, Blair's romantic Africa commission and you will understand the comedy better.

    Question is: Does Africa or Uganda ever learn from these acrobatics from the West? Right now Trade negotiations that have been going on between the European Commission(EC), Brussels' EU Executive and representatives of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) governments under the Economic Partnerships Agreements(EPAs) are aimed are further creating more market access for European firms in the ACP trading block. The European Commissioner Mr.Peter Mandelson is a hawkish bully threatening ACP Countries with export tarrifs if they do not sign the EPAs by 31st December. The unfortunate bit is that the African people do not share ideas with their governments on important issues of this nature. Government negotiate on behalf of their people but the negotiations should have public input. There is need for national sensitization for people to understand their short, immediate and long term strategic threats from the trade agreements.

    Is Africa actually at the same competitive level in economic infrastructural terms to have a constructive partnership under the EPAs? I have watched the Ugandan government and its donor partners in a long poverty eradication crusade since the late 1980's with progress in the post-war reconstruction phase in the early 1990s due to humanitarian dollar inflows and public frugality of a young political regime. But the romantic figures rightly do not seem to translate into tangible economic benefits for a rapidly growing population. Overtime also the regime in Kampala has consolidated power and gradually grown complacent with the support from its development partners, with representatives of the EC in the diplomatic service in Kampala. On the 11th September 2007, the European commissioner for trade Peter Mandelson, a former political strategist and confidant of former British PM Tony Blair-of the Blair Commission fame, told members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that he would not consider offering more preferential treatment to ACP countries than the EU's general system of tariffs if the Dec. 31 deadline cannot be met. Typical gun-point diplomacy proper, Thank you very much!

    Africa faces an acute energy problem that has crippled production in the manufacturing sector. As many countries including Uganda resort to thermal generation, there is a problem of increased international prices of carbon fuels. Because most of the countries are land-locked importation of these carbon fules has a strong bearing on inflation. Cummulatively, the cost of a unit of energy and other utilities has sky rocketed just as transport costs translating into increased inflation across the continent. Strategic Public intervention is curtailed by the WB/IMF policy of non intervention in the market. This approach has compromized the state in Africa translating into an instrument of colonial imposition.

    What about public administration? Have government embraced e-governance? Always lagging behind due lack of a critical national vision. The fear for political backlashes as a result of re-engineering business, restructuring of public infrastructure and automation of operations is another problem as Africa's big men consolidate power through industrial revolutions structures. The impact of an archaic public structure in the relationship between Government, Citizens and the Private sector is manifested by the high incidence and prevalence of public corruption. All these hamper economic competitiveness.

    The decay in the road sector, poor regulatory regimes in the telecommunications sector is another hiderance to economic competitiveness of the continent. This also has a direct relationship on the financial sector.But above all the impact of poverty and deprivation as a result of an imblanced global trading regime is Disease,illiteracy and conflict. African leaders need to look at the options in their possession which are not very many anyway. Build accountable public institutions and make use of all available resources for public good as a means of stimulating productivity. EPA discussions are just one of those indicators that indeed "there aint anything like free lunch". The entire humantarian infrastructure that is the backbone of the donor community policy instrument in Africa is aimed at crippling innovation, productivity as a cushion to their crude trade agreements forced on to Africa.

    Africa’s leadership needs to share its challenges with its people in the prism of global economic management rather than posturing as agents of the capitalist elite in Europe and America as it currently seems. This can be achieved through professional Think Tanks and promoting vibrant public policy debate in institutions of higher learning so that the cause of our burden is undertood collectively as Africans.

    Friday, July 20, 2007

    Kalangala Island-The Tourist's hot Destination!

    When you work so hard and think about the toll work and all the other obligations have on ones systems you realize the importance of having time off and go far away from home and away from the hussles of a work environ to reflect on your life goals.
    When a group of friends and workmates decided to have time off work, we decided collectively to go to Kalangala Islands seated right on top of L.Victoria. The sound of birds, the sight of beautiful butterflies, the soothing of the water waves and the freshness of the air, the green was awesome. Kalangala Islands is just one of those natural ecosystems that still remind one of Uganda's rich natural habits. Our routine was simple. Wake up to a heavy breakfast. Walk back to our cottages, sit on the verandah basking in the sun,have a chat and plan our days escapdes. The Islands have a stretching beach with a number of hotels established for accommodation. Hotels have indoors games such as table tenis & Badminton. If you want beach volley ball I am sure you can have it based on the groups creativity.
    Just look at those pictures and you will simply nod in agreement that nature has its ways of healing ones mind than many can imagine.Kalangala for those who have not interfaced with rural Africa will give you that natural experience away from the polluted environ in the rapidly urbanizing Africa.
    During the festive season many people including western tourists flock this Island just to interface with the beauty of our ecological diversity as a country. Nature is certainly one element we ignore when locked up in corporate environs trying to work out contracts. A visit away from home can help one make even his home closer to some of these eco-systems. I was personally awed by the fishermen's prowess in laying out nets for a harvets the following day. Glowing lights at night deep in the amorphous lake as the fishermen lay their traps. It is was a classic example of how man can harness her environment for a better livelihood.
    I have lured all my friends to try their luck in Kalangala. It's a place to make a retreat if you want to re-think or re-examine your strategy, have an organization conference to re-align what we do to meet the ever changing demands of the market. It still gives people to get to undersand themselves better away from a corporate and demanding work environment.
    Board rooms which often are our decision making fora foten become a monotony. Employees who will not have the opportunity to have their leave will find the workplace extremely negatively impacting in terms of their productivity. A retreat for individuals as for entire corporate organization to Kalangala Island works just fine. The thirst in oneself to recharge ones system for another season after months of work deadlines, unfulfilled dreams is a normal desire. The object is to be more productive in the long term. Rejuvenate ones systems, rethink strategy and tactics in a achieving certain objectives and goals. I have have found Kalangala Island one of those remaining natural ecosystems in our rapidly degrading environment. Travel to Kalangala Island is by a cruise ship from Nakiwogo in Entebbe. The cost of travel for the 3 hour cruise is approx $15 or shs.30,000/- for first class travellers or shs.7,000/- for economy. The ship offers that comfort and the much needed visibility of the beautiful scenery. Trust me that group of people had a good time for the entire week we spent on the Islands. There is a ferry from Masaka to Bukakata. From Masaka to Bukakata the ferry takes 45 minutes. This is after 120km drive from Kampala by road. From Bukakata to Kalangala Island is again 1hour drive and frankly this is closely the same timing unfortunately there is a trade off of comfort as the road from Bukakata to Kalangala is not that good. I would personally recommend the cruise ship from Nakiwogo Entebbe straight to Kalangala.

    Irene & Shiela loved the cruise and as you can see they had a lions share of the fun in Kalangala. Honestly, you will not look at just Kalangala Islands and forget. Look at those girls.There is something about Uganda that many people find very fascinating. A Tanzanian friend of mine recently said to me that we simply blessed by God. Our rich natural heritage simply makes us "lazy" taking everything for granted. And why technically this is correct. Uganda's natural endowment has caused some degree of laziness. The environment has not yet put pressure on the population to think creatively and innovatively to produce and grow for the future.

    I kind of believed something fundamental about this comment. This country is the envy of so many yet we do not seem to realize this. We seem to have a strategic position in the region and the World though public policy manager do not seem to have the right upthrust to plan for country. Today, we have discovered oil in our midst. Mineral exploration analysis shows we are endowed with mineral wealth. I hope this does not make us forget all about our natural environment. I always believe in the future for I have lived today and the past. Uganda's future has the capacity, if what we have is taken advantage of, to grow into a regional economic power house to facilitate the growth of the region. We have a climatic advantage, we have that ecological diversity that we can take advantage of. We are equally endowed with natural resources and the inexhaustible human resource which if invested in appropriately can turn out to be the engine of our Pan-African Development.

    Finding such virgin beauty is rapidly becoming an exclusive right for a few as the environment else where is being polluted left right and center. Go to Asia and you will find alot of artificialization of the environment. Uganda still has her beautiful green but certainly this is being threated by the exploding population.

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Challenges of Entreprenuership in Uganda!

    I have always nursed ambitions in business since my University days. When I left University in 2000, like any other young graduate, my major challenge was putting my business conceptual ideas into reality. My thinking of the job market was not good.I had a bank account though with irregular activity. I had no capital but I had great ideas. In Uganda, like many other African nations, entreprenuers are a class that can't easily break into the realm of risky business because their capital base can even be blown by a slight wind. Meantime, you have micro-finance institutions charging between (3-4)% monthly interests on micro-loans which translates into (36-48)% annually. Certainly, this is not good economics for the poor. The Micro-finance institutions are private companies doing business and government has certified them as legal business entities and they pay tax based on returns. There are also financial shylocks in town that are playing a part in the financial market.By default, government knows very well how both the formal and informal financial market charges their clients. Infact, most of the interest rates are determined by Bank of Uganda with the full knowledge of the World Bank/IMF, the two principle economic policy advisory agents of government. It means Government efforts to fight poverty are contradictory in policy. The political will does not mirror the technical and policy platform on which the economy runs. This fortunately is not something that can be explained from a political prism to many potential voters who are trapped in poverty by would be beneficiaries.
    I ventured into livestock farming since its our traditional occupation as the Banyarwanda. I had heard students and people assert that obtaining a job required knowing people high up in corridors of government or relatives in corporate institutions. Certainly I did not know very many. Even those I knew, I did not have much political or social influence. I have for long had the ambition for Business and in a big way. Having graduated with a BSc. majoring in Biochemistry coupled with IT Training, as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer in 2000 and my knowledge in Cisco industry hardware deployments, I had a broad views of where the world was heading. But I lacked the social support to nurture this dream to fruition. Early 2001, I was hired as a Network Engineer by an international public health agency. This job gave me "comfort", my zeal for business went into a lull till 2003. My knuck for business saw me start my initial investment in real estates as a sole proprietor. The difficulty even here was that banks were only willing to grant me credit based on my employment and not the business proposal I had. Advisory services were purely inclined on the security of my employment rather than my business potential & projections. That to me was a minus to the banking sector in Uganda! The credit facility advertized at in the range of (25-28)% was not for investment in assets that could generate streams of income for the future but vehicles, home electronics & utensils. Then the mortgage industry was limited and still is to a few lucrative areas which many young people cannot break in. Those that existed had an operational radius of 5 miles from the city center. This locked out many would be participants. Patience and perseverence in business is important but the structural bottle-necks to infant entreprenuership drain morale, undermine productivity of a big size of our labor force. My initial investment was $3.500 and today my forced market value of my investment stands at approximately $50.000. This investment is locked up in my names and like many I fear the risk of presenting it to a bank at an average interest of 25% to expand my business.The above bottle-necks, registration of the company was laborious. A lot of paper work to chase around in the registry of companies. Public officers made it look like I was being done a favor.Many middle-men in the food chain asking for bribes. When it came to voluntary VAT registration of a new incorporated company, I was asked to avail the assets, properties, vehicles for a company that had not done any business. Presenting a few of my personal assets which indeed I was using to establish the company, I was asked to pay a provisional tax as a "show" of seriousness. To obtain the TIN number and the VAT certificate I had to interface with many middle-men(Red Tape). In addition, you have to pay for an operational licence as well as a Trading licence at local government level. This would not be a problem but there is need to offer incentives for registered businesses to grow rather than kill them before they can start. In a nut-shell, there are lots of young people who can't participate in the economy because of these structural disincentives.The end result is unemployment, redundancy, crime, politcal resentment and conflict. A few people manage to swim through these challenges but these are issues that can be addressed institutionally but any Visionary Government! Rockford Harris Group,Ltd a multi-skilled corporation through its syergistic approach is build capacity through institutional and business development consultancies to both individual, corporate and public institutions in specific areas of inters. You can find more info about the corporation on

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Internet Neutrality & fragmentation: future scenarios for the internet!

    Fifteen years ago, few predicted the profound impact of the revolution in information and communications technologies. Looking ahead another 15 years, the world will encounter more quantum leaps in Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs). In this thesis, I will highlight potential trends and scenarios in regards to the current neutrality of the internet. I will extrapolate the impact of the internet on other drivers of global trends from a political prism.

    The impact of the internet on global communication and trends will remain a key driver of global governance in the next 15 years. Not in isolation, issues of demographics, natural resource and environment, the global economy and Globalization, national and international governance, future conflicts, and the role of the United States remain key drivers of the future of the world. The internet and ICTs in general will remain the epicenter of global communications with a huge impact on all aspects of human development.

    The inter-linkage and interaction between the internet and the above drivers of the global future emerges major uncertainties of the current neutrality of the internet and its related technological innovations. The potential of internet fragmentation and a successful onslaught on the net neutrality will occur based on policy decision made by global leaders and other internet stakeholders. The internet driven globalization process has further socially stratified the world into wealth classes. There is a segment of the internet market that indeed can afford real-time application demanding resources and the prevalence of service providers willing to meet the demands of this market for $$$$$ is one good example of market driven innovations. Certainly, treating the internet as being homogenous through NN legislation is technically wrong.

    From a broader angle, the emergency of science and technology and its integration with ICTs, production and delivery chain automation have revolutionarized agriculture, health, transport, military, security surveillance and in leap-frog, applications such as universal wireless cellular communications networking developing countries that lacked landline telephony. The internet today clearly presents national security challenges of uncertain character and scale as over-reliance on computer networks will/make(s) state infrastructures more attractive targets for cyber-attacks between and among adversaries. The use of the internet for industrial espionage and economic espionage will present further effects on state relations. The use of spy-satellites for state intelligence or the potential for space militarization poses another threat to the current internet architecture. Rapid advances and diffusion of biotechnology, nanotechnology and other science materials and the integration of scientific research to the internet present further security challenges to the foundation of the state with increasing threats of bio-terrorism despite the obvious opportunities in advancing medicine for public health.

    From a US or state strategic point of view, the internet future presents a scenario where countries recognize the information advantage and military superiority of the United States as a result of its traditional lead position in technology innovation and the Internet. They also perceive the internet, despite its global public good attributes, to be the lead tool granting it further traditional leverage in cultural as well economic domination of world politics. Rather than acquiesce to any potential US military domination, they will try to circumvent or minimize US strengths and exploit perceived weakness particularly by reducing the impact of US cultural hegemony through the internet and other emerging cable media.
    USTTI Fellows at Cisco,San Jose,CA.
    The above approach potentially posses the emergency of regional, state controlled nets or development of sovereign cyber territories. Internet driven globalization will significantly increase interaction among extreme groups commonly known as “terrorists”, narcotraffickers, weapons proliferators, organized criminals, who in a networked world will have greater access to information, to technology, to finance, to sophisticated deception-and-denial- techniques and to each other. Such asymmetric approaches whether deployed by the state or non-state actors have and will become dominant characteristics of future global politics and will greatly craft in the hand of the state greatly diminishing the current net neutrality aspects. These will be definitive challenges for state strategy, operations, and force development and will require strategies to maintain focus on traditional, low technology threats as well as the capacity of potential adversaries to harness elements of proliferating advanced technologies. Some of these scenarios between the US and other strategic adversaries such as China are taking shape. We have seen states such as Iran, North Korea developing nuclear capabilities with missile-computer-guided delivery mechanisms that threaten global peace. The Chinese successful missile target on a spacecraft in orbit demonstrates this view further. The initial agreement that space must be demilitarized and strictly used for peaceful means and the US effort to develop a Nuclear Defense shield are all pointers to a cyberspace with serious global strategic concerns.

    It is generally recognized that the US and other Developed Countries will continue to posses the political, economic, military and technological advantage. How the global powers distribute opportunities for emerging economies to play their role will be a matter of concern in the future. China’s current exclusion from the WTO and the stringent requirement for her entry that grossly impact her domestic political configuration is an example. China like India understands their domestic agenda and their emerging global position as well as emerging domestic challenges. With a population of 1.3billion people of whom 100 million have internet access and 300 million mobile subscribers, we are talking of an emerging consumer market in China. The Chinese leaders understand the strategic threat China presents to the US in terms of its thirst for natural resources such as energy to oil their economies. China is building a technologically innovative labor force through education, the cost of production is relatively low and the liberal reforms in the economy have presented opportunities. But the state controlled cable media and internet is aimed at re-asserting the power of the state, cultural preservation and state stability and consolidation. To the human rights activists, this is violation of the freedom of speech and access to information but rights violation through internet content filtration, blogger registration is debatable. A lot of internet content is illegal in respect to national boundaries except where international conventions in regard to internet content have been ratified.

    The US cultural onslaught on China through the internet, like any other nation of the world, is not entirely “innocent”. China’s model seems to work according to Chinese authorities and china is an investment destination today. Political reforms that we have seen in Africa have not provided the silver bullet in terms of economic development, resource distribution, security and stability contrary to China. Certainly the 100+ million internet community in China is good market for e-Commerce mainly for US corporations. Breaking in is good for the US. The US strategy to counter the emergency of China is the financial facilitation of India as a strategic counter weight. Certainly India has its traditional foe in Pakistan previously supported by Russia. From a strategic stand point China wants the regional leadership. The economy as well as its growing military capabilities is pointing in this direction. For now it’s a peaceful emergency with contradiction as exemplified by the military missile launch into space.

    Experts still agree that the US with its decisive edge both in information and weapons technology will retain her lead position in the world for sometime. This perception among present and potential adversaries will continue to generate the pursuit of asymmetric capabilities against the US interests abroad. Adversaries will seek to undermine US infrastructure such as communication, transportation, financial transactions, energy networks which are vulnerable to electronic attacks and information operations. These attacks are likely to be delivered by computer networks rather than using conventional munitions as the affinity for cyber attacks and skills of US adversaries evolve. Cyber attacks will provide US adversaries with new strategic options with prospects of anonymity. These trends may not result into an out-right fragmentation of the internet in the immediate future. Much as China is building an internal network; “The Next Carrying Network” or CN2, it is not yet time to cry. China’s long term vision is clear: an Internet that feels free and acts an engine for economic progress yet in no way threatens the Communist Party’s hold on to power. The current trend is only reflective of how powerful countries refashion the global network to suit themselves but largely living the traditional net relevant to those who need it.


    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Is Traditional Political Rivalry affecting Internet growth?

    The extension of the Internet into virtually every branch of social and economic activity has led to growing public policy interest and sometimes concern as to how the Internet is managed and whether there is adequate accountability-not least in terms of respect of applicable laws. This development contrasts with the technological and academic origins of the Internet and with the tradition of self-regulation and noninterference on the part of governments.

    The European Union has been part of this process during recent years. Christopher Wilkinson is at the forefront of trying to find the necessary balance-in Europe and globally-between the potentially contradictory requirements for the liberal self-regulatory regime of Internet governance, including the necessary flexibility and speed of response on one hand and the growing pressures for greater accountability, transparency, and conformity, at least with the principles of relevant local and international laws, on the other hand.In March 1998, the European Union (EU) responded to the publication of a draft proposal by the U.S. Department of Commerce for the technical management of the Internet domain system. In that document, the EU called for the future of the Internet to be agreed upon in an international framework, and it pointed to several policy areas of concern to European public authorities. Those policy areas included the need to implement an international approach to issues of jurisdiction, trademarks, competition policy, dispute resolution, and the scalability and portability of the Domain Name System (DNS). That public statement was one of the first regarding public policy interest in the organization and management of the Internet.

    Following the response and other consultations with the White House and the Department of Commerce, the U.S. white paper published in July 1998 referred specifically to the global dimension of Internet management, and in due course, the Articles of Incorporation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) addressed directly the applicability of local and international law. The principle of geographic diversity was endorsed and implemented in due course in the composition of the ICANN board and supporting organizations.

    The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), meeting for the first time in Singapore in early 1999, also adopted a preamble to its Operating Principles that reflected the consensus of the governments present as to the scope of the public policy issues that should be within the remit of the GAC. One of those issues was the general principle that "The Internet naming and addressing system is a public resource that must be managed in the interests of the global Internet community." Since that time, the European Union has continued to maintain the importance of those principles. How do those matters stand today, three years later, regarding the scope of public policy and, secondly, regarding the nature of the responsible bodies?

    The Scope of Public Policy
    In a general sense, public policy is policy that is in the interests of the public at large and that is decided by bodies with public authority. However, the scope of such policies is not self-evident in the context of the Internet, wherein a high degree of private self-regulation has become the norm. Neither is it clear which bodies exercise the necessary public authority, particularly because the Internet itself has charged its own private entities-such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain) Registries-with varying degrees of responsibility for the public interests and, consequently, for certain public policy interests as well. Indeed, ICANN itself is a private entity under U.S. (California) law, but certainly exercises part of its responsibilities explicitly on behalf of other governments, worldwide-by delegation from the U.S. government-and implicitly through the international composition of its board and through the GAC.

    For the present purposes, we shall limit the discussion to issues that fall actually or potentially within the remit of the ICANN organization and its constituent bodies, including the GAC. This is clearly an arbitrary limitation from the point of view of public policy in general because it excludes-or should exclude-all content-related issues, such as cybercrime, copyright infringement, and commercial and fiscal fraud. The limitation is self-imposed in the interests of time and space, although burgeoning interest in the potential use of the Whois query services tends to belie that distinction.
    Would the scope and emphasis of public policy in the context of Internet management be any different today? First, the initial cut in terms of the appropriate definition of the scope of public policy in this area has proved to be not too wide of the mark:
    The importance of balanced international representation has been fully recognized and taken over as an article of faith by nearly all of the Internet and ICANN communities. The first steps in this direction on the part of the Europeans were quickly emulated by Asia and Latin America, and Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe will no doubt follow closely in the foreseeable future.
    Respect for local and international law has in practice been interpreted as including competition laws, intellectual property laws, and data protection and privacy laws. How this is implemented is to date not entirely satisfactory, notably because ICANN is confronted with significant differences between jurisdictions in certain areas of law and has not yet struck the right balance between its accountability to U.S. jurisdiction by virtue of its location and incorporation (and its contractual relationships with the U.S. government) and to international jurisdictions by virtue of the location of most of its international contractual partners, notably registries and registrars and the economic and social effects of its activities.

    Characterizing the Internet naming and addressing system as a public resource by the GAC has also been an important foundation for guiding the organization of ccTLD Registries and their relationships with national governments and other public authorities. Among these policy issues, one could highlight the matter of competition policy and particularly the extent of ICANN's responsibilities as illustrated by the recent negotiations of the .com, .net, and .org agreements with VeriSign.Privacy and data protection is another example, wherein the desire to see a globally consistent Whois query service operating across all TLD registries and registrars is not readily consistent with the diversity of national data protection laws, at least in the European Union.
    Other significant policy issues have emerged meanwhile that were not foreseen in 1998-99. For instance, the GAC has addressed the issue of geographic names and policy for ccTLD registries. Another case in point: the European Union institutions are working on a regulation to permit implementation of the .EU TLD registry. Naturally that text addresses the question of relevant public policy regarding such a ccTLD registry. The Commission's proposal pointed specifically to alternative dispute resolution and to preventing speculative and abusive registrations as areas of public policy. However, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have broadened the scope that now includes policy on revocation of domain names, issues of language and geographic concepts, and the treatment of intellectual property and other rights.

    The extent to which ICANN would itself effectively create regulations governing the DNS through its contracts with registries and registrars was also not fully recognized at the time. Granted that ICANN obviously does have regulatory responsibilities, the question as to how those responsibilities are being exercised currently through the so-called bottom-up process is attracting the increasing attention of both private-sector players, whose businesses are affected by these regulations, individuals and non-governmental organizations, and by governments, which see this as a process that they would otherwise have to be carrying out themselves.

    The Relevant Public Authorities
    The second broad issue relates to which are the relevant bodies with the necessary public authority to exercise these responsibilities and how. It is already clear that in the global Internet it is insufficient to think only in terms of national governments and international organizations as normally understood. Already GAC principles engage in linguistic contortions to include several entities in GAC membership that are not, strictly speaking, national governments. The GAC has also recognized that the ITU and the WIPO have particular roles to play (as indeed did the initial IAHC set up by the Internet Society in 1997). The European Union itself, a full member of GAC, is constitutionally unique because it is neither an international organization nor a national government, but manifests characteristics of both.Although the GAC has a clear view of the importance of all of these public policy issues, its responsibilities are advisory, and that has led some governments to question whether the GAC can fill the bill or whether it is worth its time and effort to participate actively.

    From the EU's point of view, we would argue that it depends crucially on how effective GAC is in preparing and presenting its advice in a timely manner and on how ICANN responds to the advice it receives. If public authorities fail to participate in the ICANN process through the GAC, they will effectively ensure that the advice is considered weak and is ignored. If ICANN fails to take adequate measures in the public interest, then it is clear that the governments will step in; in that event, it is essential that the EU be "at the table," should the need arise. This political fact has indeed been recognized explicitly by ICANN.

    Indeed, many would argue that in practice, ICANN itself is now one of the bodies exercising public policy responsibilities. ICANN is recognized as a unique experiment and consequently is difficult to classify or characterize, but it clearly:
    Functions as a sole regulatory coordinating organization for the Internet infrastructure. Since it functions as a global monopoly in its area of responsibility, it is important that it operate in the public interest and not abuse its position in any way. Whence the requirement for transparency, consensus, and potential review of decision-making processes.
    Creates rules for the market for domain names and for the allocation of Internet protocol addresses that are increasingly implemented via contracts between ICANN and the registries and registrars. This contractual framework does not look like a system of regulatory law, but it has very similar effects because it affects a whole range of economic and legal issues, including prices, terms of conditions of registration, and dispute resolution.
    Has a direct effect on the conditions of competition between registries and registrars, including determining whether the same company can operate as both a registry and a registrar.
    Determines the basis on which registration data is made available to the public, including, eventually, personal data.
    Determines, through IETF and IAB, the organizational framework in which the Internet technical standardization process takes place.
    Strongly influences-through the ASO and the RIRs-the global policy for allocating Internet protocol address blocks-increasingly perceived as the essential basis for the whole of modern communications.
    Consequently, even if ICANN strictly stuck to its last, narrowly defined, there is more than enough in /'the scope of its policy-making functions to garner the attention and occasionally the concern of governments worldwide. Furthermore, a corporate approach that is oriented principally toward the interests of major Internet operators-as increasingly represented by the supporting organizations-probably offers insufficient internal checks and balances to ensure the public interest worldwide. That is why ICANN has to give a very high priority to ensuring the adequate representation of public interests either within its own structures-notably through public interest directors, elected by the at-large membership and appropriately constituted-or through a very thorough and interactive relationship with governments.
    Whereas most governments appear to be supportive of the principle of the individual membership of ICANN and at-large elected directors, this has not yet been discussed thoroughly in the GAC and most of them would also argue that for the foreseeable future, it is the public authorities themselves and not the at-large membership that constitute the relevant manifestation of the public interest.

    At a time when the U.S. administration is appropriately relaxing its contractual controls over ICANN and progressively transferring authorities to ICANN-a process that is widely supported internationally-it is becoming increasingly important that the international or global dimension of ICANN's own decision-making processes be effectively strengthened, including in ways that can create and sustain the confidence of public authorities, worldwide, who see the Internet-and particularly the names, addresses, and protocols-as the most important element of the communications infrastructure and thus increasingly of the economy and society as a whole.Since there is no room for serious error, and here I echo Stuart Lynn's own words, ICANN cannot be surprised that governments ultimately see little distinction between an advisory relationship through the GAC and more active oversight, thereby permitting those governments to fulfil their own responsibilities to their societies, their legislatures, and their electorates.

    Monday, January 22, 2007

    Uganda's scenic beauty is her strategic advantage!

    Welcome to my escapades in Kalangala Islands. One of the pics on the left is the cruise ship to our dream-land. On the right is one of our friends enjoying the beaches of Kalangala. But that is just the beginning of a mouth-watering adventure of nature. Uganda,oh my! This is day one of my trip to Kalangala Islands sitting right on L.Victoria. I love these things with a passion. The dense tropical forests are awesome. The freshness of the water, the strong breeze of untampered air is simply a dream come true to those anxious visitors. Yes, my travel to Ghana sometime in 2004 gave me an insight of something similar to Uganda.Ghana is a West African tropical country covered by the think tropical belt. Accra's sits at the bank of the Atlantic ocean. Her Akosombo Dam, with a fresh water man-made L.Volta in Mid-North is equally a sight. I had a cruise ride on L.Volta and you will always find the amazing nature of water. On the contrary,Kampala the Capital of Uganda has close proximity with L.Vitoria from the bay at Port Bell. Accra's Ghana's gate-way to the world. There was something so similar about the two countries. The calmness of the people, the slow pace of things and that greenery so rare. Uganda to the contrary is land-locked. L.Victoria is a large fresh water lake with awesome aquatic diversity spanning three East-Africa Countries, Kenya,Uganda and Tanzania. Kalangala Island, seated right on L.Victoria is an enigma for that roving eye. From Entebbe, at Nakiwogo, you will catch that 3 hour cruise to Kalangala docking at Pearl Beach Gardens. There are many hotels in close proximity with cottages for excellnet accommodation. The hotels offer a variety of services including indoor games such table-tennis , pool in addition to outside games such as beach volley ball, boat racing etc. The Islands span a huge stretch of a land-mass with islands such as Banda. The group of tourists above were at Banda, one of the Islands, specifically looking for aligators in their hide-out in the rocks. I saw one of the biggest spiders I have seen in my whole life at Banda Island. It was an adventure of my time. The excitement was compounded by the freedom of movement. Boat rides with hands in water, sometimes waves picking up an expectedly made the whole trip,wow!. As the girls panicked over the growing waves while canoeing, the boys played the macho cards. Ofcourse, the girls tried to get close for comfort and the boys were promising to swim across the pacific to save the flowers. It was nice!!!! At Banda Island we had very nice lunch of fries, chapati,fresh beans, beef, fish-fillet and plenty of drinks. Banda Island is owned by a Kenyan of British ancestry and what surprised me was the sheer number of visitors to this camp. Ever heard of green-tea? It was there on the menu. All was affordable and to maximum satisfaction. It was complete adventure.

    We were in a group of six workmates and friends on this fabulous trip. You should have been there. You simply just have to go there. On the cruise ship I met my old high school friends I had not met in a decade. The world had moved us in different directions of our career dreams but it was all refereshing. We met some of our superiors on the ship and we were all surprised about our common quest to discover the magic Islands by our ownselves. I know many will ask quietly whether I mean a real cruise ship or a canoe. Umh! "Are you sure?" This is a common expression by many Ugandans.
    Our international friends who have heard a tour of Uganda over the years will attest, sometimes we do not give accurate information. As for me, a ship is a ship like a boat is. Food at the Pearl Beach Gardens is the delicious buffet with local dishes in high supply. You can have french fries, chapati with deep friend fish straight from the lake. Accommodation is very affordable which in most instances would make it very attractive for one to stay longer. Ours was a whole week of wildness. We watched the girls like a typical human carnivore would. That can't be a canoe or boat. The girls were in hip-hop mood. The ship ride is 3 hours from Nakiwogo in Entebbe at 2.00pm. There are snacks supplied on the ship and of course like in any society are classes. First class and Economy class with varrying sources of comfort. It 's all a choice for you my friend. At 5.00pm sharp, the ship docks at Pearl Beach Gardens where it will rest for yet another day for returnees and those coming to see the magic of nature at work. I have grown up in Uganda and my love for Uganda is rooted in the food, the calmness and hospitality of the people, and last but not least the visible power and beauty of nature. I still believe this is the most beautiful country in the world. Do not say it, I have been privilidged to travel around the world and I tell you, this country has what the world needs most. My humble opinion is that we need to upgrade our domestic agenda to reflect that we know our treasure. Kampala the capital of Uganda needs to be a visible capital with a good infrastructure. Accra is a well planned city which is still growing but on plan. The road infrastructure must be kept mantained. The hospitality industry must also be supported with the object of supporting the growing number of both local and international tourists who demand quality service in exchange for money. How about conflicts? We need to appreciate our diversity and also to understand the right for everyone to have an opinion which often will differ. But our methods of resolving divergency must reflect a growing civil order among both the political elite as well as the citizenry.
    I don't know about you but camping is one very wonderful thing for me. You go with friends in the wild-not too wild though. You walk away from the crowd of the city, the sound pollution, the dusty air, the strain and stress due to our daily interactions as we pursue our life's dreams. Camping if long enough can turn out like a perfect vacation. When we returned back for work everyone wondered why that warm hearted smile, the magic is all in nature's beauty. My hope is re-enforced by efforts by many stake-holders initiating projects like Gifted by Nature on international media houses such as CNN.If not politically motivated, not in a short term tactic to win political good will from international friends, if it is a long term effort aimed at re-constructing and marketing our national Brand, it will go a long way to help build the economy of this country.

    Now that was at Bukakata where the ferry from the other side of Masaka docks. The route through Bukakata requires travel from Kampala to Masaka about 2 hours drive then 45 minutes ride by ferry to Bukakata then another two hours to Kalangala. I think it is adventurous if you're physically fit and can be resilient for that long. The cruise has that comfort and on-board service. The journey is less cumbersome and gives that additional sense of safety onboard. I am sorry I have not used the ferry before but I can imagine what it means to have all equipment tied by ropes. The cruise ship is surely the way to go for that quick ride to Kalangala Island. We timed the ferry as it was heading for Bukakata to dock and it was amazing.

    Thursday, January 18, 2007

    China/India's Economic Boom-Is Africa Ready for the Asian Economic Tsunami?

    "There are a lot of new ideas on the continent, in the private sector. There's a lot of creativity. We are beginning to see a huge number of African entrepreneurs who are starting new businesses and growing them." Patrice T. Motsepe Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals (ARM), South Africa during a World Economic Forum on Africa in South Africa.

    China and India's deeper engagement with Africa offers both opportunity and cause for caution as many political commentators have observed.
    The need for China and India to fuel their surging growth has boosted trade between resource-rich Africa and the two Asian economic giants.

    Africa needs to develop a coherent strategy with which to approach relations with China and India. NEPAD could offer a useful platform for the management of those ties. But the the responsibility is squarely on the political elite manning the state in Africa to develop mechanism to address all multi-lateral interest in relation to China/India as well as the old legacy western industrial machine.

    Because of their development experiences, China and India offer valuable models for Africa as the continent seeks to achieve sustainable growth.
    "I see in India and China an opportunity to convert our comparative advantage into competitiveness." Firmino Mucavele Chief Executive, NEPAD Secretariat, China and India have become major trading partners of Africa and are increasing investment on the continent. Africa has the raw materials and commodities that China and India need to fuel their surging growth. Africa must develop a coherent approach to the two Asian economic giants, with commercial relations based on sustainability and mutual profit. China and India serve as models for Africa because their experiences hold useful lessons for developing countries on how to manage gradual economic and political transformation.

    Like any other region, Africa is dealing with the implications of the emergence of China and India. In one session, moderator Millard W. Arnold, Director, Murray & Roberts, South Africa, asked if China is a great opportunity or whether it should be approached with a great deal of caution. His question – one that even China's immediate neighbours are posing – captured the ambivalence Africans have about their growing relationship with Asia's two economic giants. Arnold's fellow panellists delivered the answer in unison: "Both!"

    The numbers support the case for China and India as an opportunity. China, the second largest consumer of energy, is importing nearly 30% of its oil and gas from sub-Saharan Africa. Chinese trade with Africa will exceed US$ 36 billion this year (nearly three times what it was in 2002), but this is still less than the US$ 50 billion in trade that the US conducts with the continent. China is now Africa's third largest trading partner, ahead of the United Kingdom. According to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study, Chinese enterprises are investing about US$ 1 billion a year in Africa, mainly into the energy and commodities sectors.
    Indian companies are following. The Tata Group, for example, has invested about US$ 100 million and plans to triple that over the next three years. Like China, India has invested in energy exploration in the Sudan and elsewhere. There are growing interests in Uganda's Petroleum Industry in the region too. It has also extended credits to West African nations to boost sales of Indian IT services, mimicking China's offers of financing to win infrastructure-building contracts. China has parlayed its purchases of commodities, from copper to cassava, into sales deals for its companies to provide anything from construction services to arms.
    Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman, Anglo American, United Kingdom, makes a point on the impact of Chinese resource hunger on Africa as NEPAD Secretariat Chief Executive Firmino Mucavele looks on
    "India and China need Africa," said Firmino Mucavele, Chief Executive, NEPAD Secretariat, South Africa. "If you look at the resources we have, we have a comparative economic advantage in mining, agriculture and tourism. I see in India and China an opportunity to convert our comparative advantage into competitiveness." As Nigerian entrepreneur Omwan' Busty Okundaye, President, International Operations, USTY Global Company, People's Republic of China, advised potential investors in China, Africa will have difficulty competing with the Chinese in low-end manufacturing. While labour costs may be comparable, poor infrastructure and other factors make transaction costs much higher.
    The seemingly perfect match of wants and needs could turn sour if not properly managed. The last thing Africa needs is another round of despoiling by plundering juggernauts hungry for the riches under its soil. Tanzanian President Jakaya M. Kikwete made that crucial point when he underscored Africa's new confidence and asserted that "China and India will not transform Africa; Africans will transform Africa." He declared, "There is no scramble for Africa."
    China and India are still feeling their way in Africa – and Africans have yet to forge a coherent strategy in relations with their new Asian partners. "The success of relationships with India and China depends on how we [Africans] work together," reckoned Mucavele. "We need to increase domestic investment and productive capacity. If we do that, we don't need to be afraid of China, India or whomever." Africans, he explained, had worked hard to end conflicts on the continent. The increase in commerce with China and India is part of the peace dividend. But, he argued, China and India are not saviours. "Our development will come from our own investment. The development of Africa depends on Africans."
    "For the first time, there are centres of power that understand our development challenges." Mandisi Mpahlwa Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa.
    For this reason, he and other participants, including Mandisi Mpahlwa, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa, called for NEPAD, the African Union's framework for improving governance and promoting sustainable development across the continent, to be the platform for managing a sound and sustainable pan-continental policy towards China and India. "This relationship should assist Africa with capacity challenges and should create the basis for sustainability into the future," Mpahlwa said. "We need to clarify the nature of our relationship. NEPAD must be the centrepiece of our engagement."
    Good governance is the key, concluded Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman, Anglo American, United Kingdom. Whether it is China, India or any other trading partner, he said, "…we should maintain the growing standards of transparency, particularly in resources. I would encourage subscription of all countries and companies to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative."
    To be sure, as developing countries, China and India pursue economic diplomacy in styles different from the US and Europe. In particular, China's value-neutral approach has made it welcome – even hotly courted – in certain markets where Western interests are reluctant to enter or do so with attached strings. For Africa, the attraction of China and India may be as much the sympathetic means as the mutually profitable commercial ends. "For the first time, there are centres of power that understand our development challenges," Mpahlwa observed. "We see China and India as models giving Africa the hope that sometime, someday, with the right policies, we will get there," added Kikwete.
    In the long run, that hope may be the most valuable product that China and India can trade to an aspiring Africa.
    "We need to change from a defensive mindset about China and India to one that is more embracing, and one in which we can help determine the terms of engagement." Ebrahim Rassool Premier of the Western Cape Province, South Africa
    "China and India will not transform Africa; Africans will transform Africa." Jakaya M. Kikwete President of Tanzania
    "We no longer need to go through a boom and bust cycle, at the end of which people say 'Money was made, but what happened to it?'" Obiageli Katryn Ezekwesili Minister of Solid Minerals of Nigeria.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Neo-Imperialism-Africa's Modern Strategic threat!

    Historically, war and the threat of war have been used as a tool of control and domination of our destiny by the west. Because of weak state structures, we have been vulnerable to external manipulation. Because of our internal weaknesses characterized by a low quality human capital, lack of or weak state institutions, incompetent states, unwarranted rivalry of our leaders and our inherent susceptibility to trust foreigners more than our own, we have been used to advance the cause of our strategic enemies against our people. The consequence is that Africa for long has been turned into a face of war, disease, poverty and ignorance that are not of our own volition. The face of modern imperialism today is two fronts-The Aid Driven "Democratic" Politico-Economy as well as brute engineering of conflicts as a vehicle of regime change when imperial interests meet local resistance.
    After the recent elections in DR.Congo, everyone looks at the Great Lakes Region with optimism.During a regional summit at the UN offices in Nairobi,regional leaders signed a owrking document to work for peace and development. This committment though long over-due is simply the first principle approach of how we must work as civilized people. The East African federation has admitted Rwanda and Burindi and an Economic as well political partnership.Uganda has struck oil in the Albertine Region. But challenges still remain as threats to undermine these noble objectives. External threats are over-extending and diverting the role of states in Africa thus the justification for formation of regional blocks.With the economic upsurge of China as a global player, the search for resources in Africa which was previously and exclusive preserve of the West threatens more conflicts in Africa.
    The quest by African leaders to acquire political god-fathers from the West has and remains a major cancer in stagnating the political evolution of the continent.The lack of a common purpose centred on the interest of their people is a major failure both for the pre-colonial and post-independence establishments. Today,the French want to regain ground which they enjoyed and lost to the Americans and the British in the great lakes region. Practically we are not talking about any other influence but the control of resources from other competing centers of capitalism. The hand-over of Venezuelan revolutionary terrorist Carlos The Jackal aka Ramirez Sanchez to the French government by Sudan on October 10th,1993 was aimed at bringing France into Sudan’s diplomatic court at the UN. But Sudan was logistically hosting Kony/LRA in Sudan while Uganda was supporting SPLA.LRA's Joseph Kony
    A glaring policy contradiction shows that Sudan had actually embraced "terrorism" as a means of ideological extension. By 1995; Sudan was host to Osama Bin Laden with the support of Hassan Tourabi, the then National Islamic Front ideologue who had been expelled by Yemen due to American pressure. The forced Islamization policy of the animist South by the Arabic north was not ideologically prudent.Why did Sudan not hand-over Osama Bin Laden to the Americans but Carlos to the French? Sudan’s policy towards France has been one of wooing an anti-American ally amidst sanctions just for regime preservation purposes. The French rightly or otherwise,have an ambitious foreign policy of wanting to lead an American counter-weight in global governance.This geo-political power play is all about quest for natural resources and in Africa war or the threat of it as well as conditional aid will be used in this fresh form of modern imperialism. But is Africa prepared by this foreign thrust or just in the state of the usual knee-jack reactions typical of unprepared desperados?

    Colonialism was perpetuated by African chiefs colluding with imperialist forces in rivalry against one another. We often see no reason to unite against this imperialist monster to preserve our dignity. We seem to be our own enemies. Africans leaders even in pre-colonial society were political as well as military rivals like their descendants of today. In the wake of a strategic foreign enemy they did not sit down to protect their mother-land and people. The consequence was the economic hemorrhage meted on our people through slave trade, balkanization, war and natural resource exploitation condemning Africa to medieval age. Have modern African leaders learnt from history? Have we transitioned from the Stone Age people to a modern people who can anticipate our strategic threats? No

    France Makes Come Back in Africa:
    At the moment,Rwanda faces this direct assault by a foreign power while DR.Congo as well as Sudan are in collusion with France in this project to create another theatre of violence against our harmless people in the region. It is reason Kony/LRA are in Garamba "state" with the full knowledge of the UN,EU and the Congolese government. The carnage in Darfur, conflict in Chad, Central African Republic has a strong hand of the French or it’s military. It is reason EX-FARS is an integral part of the Congolese armed forces.

    It is reason France is militarily arming the Congolese Armed forces through military pacts. It is reason France is supporting Eritrea to counter American backed Ethiopia in a proxy war in Somalia. The theatre of war is going to be Somalia as it was in former Zaire recently. The inaction in Darfur by the EU as well as the UN is because of paralysis due rivalry between super powers in corporate capitals. All this means, African leaders are simply pones in this political chess game.All these African "friends" backing one group/country against another are just those powers whose interest to perpetuate a state of lawlessness in our continent. They are just our enemies pure and simple. Lack of self-esteem could also explain why disagreements between African leaders can't be resolved in Africa. At the height of Uganda/Rwanda tensions, President Museveni and his counterpart in Rwanda had to go to Britain for mediation. .This state of affairs keeps fragile states from addressing their natural mandates. The impact of all this constant state of conflict on social-economic development is enormous. Human as well economic resources which would be used in building institutions will be re-directed for regime preservation and the interest of the people relegated to the peripheral.
    Wasted Human Resource.
    The political elite needs to raise the bar of constructive engagement and through intellectual Think-Tanks develop an all embracing African Blue-Print to counter this strategic threat. Our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora need to be more constructively engaged. We need to mentor the young ones through skilled education that they owe society more than the reverse. We need to work selfless as away of building for the future.Power Blog Hosting, RSS 2.0

    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    Challenges of Institutional growth-Uganda

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    In building a strong market and a competent state at least two elements are needed. First the rulers must feel sufficiently threatened to need the cooperation of some groups typically the rich and powerful in civil society in order to stay in power. Every society in a development transition must acknowledge the value of these centers of power and Uganda is just with in this bracket. Secondly, the rich and powerful actors in civil society( Genuine Business People) must find it in their immediate interest to demand the rule of law. The rule of law works for the common good of society.
    The object is the need to constrain the state from abusing its power. The state without any counter-weight often has elements whose tendency is domination and especially so in states in a transition to functionality. Is there a group of rich and powerful people in the civil society that threatens the power of the state in Uganda? Reason revolutions fail in Africa and other developing countries is because they are not grounded in any visible ideological doctrine.Structural societal stratfication in economic terms is homogenously peasantry. The elite is a producte of peasantry and just a group of enlightened peasants with no economic power except for potential representation of their tribal or ethnic origin at the center. The reason the cycle of corruption is a constant even with regime changes is because of institutional decay,lack of it and pure stagnation a result of a low quality human resource.

    Regime changes in Africa have been violent because there is no sense of ownerhip of property by the majority of the people. The militant group is characterized by a peasant movement manipulated by a small ethnic elite with a seemingly justified cause under a revolution banner. In Africa ethnic and tribal interests are at the core of politics rather than economic classes due the peasant homogenity. In organized societies, Civil society is important to the extent that powerful groups can constrain the state from abusing its power and demand reforms that protect their property rights. In thinking about powerful actors in Uganda we must emphasize the relationships between and among the donor community, the state, business community and the NGO sector. Has Uganda developed a solid business community strong enough to threaten the state? What is the state of Uganda’s civil society today? Has the business community developed a sufficient voice to question the state? What is currently the most important political consituency in Uganda? Is it the Citizens, the donor community or civil society in relation to the state?In answering these questions I will explain why Uganda suffers from a low momentum of institutional development and an almost unstoppable economic haemorrhage with the current trend. The private sector in Uganda is still small and the powerful and rich politically god-fathered or fused with the state. All private companies doing shoddy work building collapsing classrooms belong to the politicians or their relatives, companies doing shoddy work in building low quality roads in Kampala or any other are accomplices of politicians. There is fusion between those manning the state and the wealthy in Uganda meaning the rich and powerful do not regard the rule of law as important. The civil society which encompasses the Business community in Uganda is mainly what would be termed as the Third Tier in organized societies. In Uganda the business community does not view itself as part of civil society because indeed practically it is not. Those who would champion the cause of civil society are politically connected therefore rich and powerful and fused with the state and their role in society compromised. They do shoddy work and share they proceeds with state managers in return for protection. They therefore do not respect the rule of law and to the contrary the rule of law diminishes their power and wealth.They evade taxes with state protection meaning they do not respect the rule of law and therefore cannot constrain excesses of the state which they are part of by association or default. It is this relationship that fuels and perpetuates corruption.

    The state is highly donor dependent with official budget support to a tune of approximately 50%. The economic management in Uganda is mainly donor driven with conditional credit facilities and grants from IMF/WB or other bilateral donors. Donor dependence creates a lack of a localized agenda and ownership by government and citizens. A donor driven agenda distorts societal political evolution as it mandates donors a bigger political constituency than the citizens in relation to state. The lack of a localized sense of ownership in a way perpetuates corruption in both the civil and public service as state managers look up to the donor community as a foreign master who calls the shots. The citizens can’t question the state because programs do not make them wealthy to have what to protect; they are not participatory and feel their contribution to the function of state is small to question it. In otherwords, the donor is a more important political dynamic to the functioning of state than the citizens because it funds government. 80% of Ugandans have no sense of ownership to question the state except for tribal representation through offices like RDCs or cabinet. Political participation by citizens is simply a tool to help ethnic or religious groups access and control power and not to exercise authority on behalf of citizens but a small and powerful group only accountable to the donor community. Is this good for Institutional building? NO.

    The face of civil society in Uganda today is the NGO Sector which is equally heavily donor dependent just like the state.But who initiates NGO formation? What is the membership and ownership? It still points to political actors who are manning the state(Read the Global Fund). You actually have a very homogenous conglomeration of power actors from state/NGO sector converging in interest thus institutional decay or stagnation. The NGO sector also lacks a localized agenda. It is controlled to some extent by the state through legislation limiting its scope as well as donors who dictate what policy platform to articulate. It is viewed as a partner in theory but as a competitor in practice for the same donor account. Most NGOs are set up to improve the political profile of politicians. This can be exemplified by the Global fund scandal in Uganda and the NGOs that were involved. The global fund helps explain the impact of donors on institutional growth in the developing world. Donors cannot love us more than we love ourselves and common sense dictates that they run their agenda here.

    In summary, Uganda like many other developing countries need to launch a national agenda. There is need to own our destiny and our friends in the donor community must be made to understand we have that will. This calls for an intellectual revolution and decolonization, establishing national think tanks to examine where things went wrong. Unfortunately, at the moment, everything seems to be left to fate. We have a duty in our time to re-define our role as the elite.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Economic Espionage-Egypt Undermines Regional Dev't!

    President Mubarrack & Former US Sec.Of State Andrew Cohen. Economic Espionage can be defined as calandestine methods used to undermine the economic and defense interests of a country.The damage from economic espionage can take the form of lost contracts, breach of contract, jobs and markets, and overall, withdrawal of committment by credit institutions and a diminished national competitive advantage. Uganda's current energy crisis is partly a consequence of economic sabotage. Tanzania's water and energy crisis also strongly point to potential calandestine acts of economic sabotage.Economic espionage obtains due to a clash in inter-state strategic economic as well as defense interests. This often is the work of intelligence services of state as well as formation of international alliances that undermine strategic enemy state action. In this thesis, I will explain the impact of Egypt's Strong Diplomatic footwork,her interest in the Nile and the Development process in Countries covered by the Nile.

    A battle for control over the Nile has been raging out between Egypt, which regards the world's longest river as its lifeblood, and the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, which complain that they are denied a fair share of its water.In the latest escalation in the dispute, which some observers believe could lead to a new conflict in east Africa, Tanzania has announced plans to build a 105-mile pipeline drawing water from Lake Victoria, which feeds the Nile. The project "flouts" a treaty giving Egypt a right of veto over any work which might threaten the flow of the river.

    The Nile Water Agreement of 1929, granting Egypt the lion's share of the Nile waters, has been criticised by east African countries as a colonial relic. Under the treaty, Egypt is guaranteed access to 55.5bn cubic metres of water, out of a total of 84bn cubic metres. The Egyptian water minister, Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, recently described Kenya's intention to withdraw from the agreement as an "act of war". Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former secretary-general of the UN, has predicted that the next war in the region will be over water.
    The Nile Waters Agreement (NWA) over the allocation of its waters between Egypt and Great Britain (which represented Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika [now Tanzania] and the Sudan) was concluded on November 7, 1929 in Cairo by an exchange of letters between the Egyptian Prime Minister and the British High Commissioner in Egypt. The agreement allocated 48 billion cubic meters per year to Egypt as its acquired right and 4 billion cubic meters per year to the Sudan. These allocations were later increased to 55.5 billion cu. meters and 18 billion cu., respectively, under a 1959 bilateral agreement between these two countries that allowed for the construction of the Aswan Dam. Apart from Ethiopia, which had a government in place, the NWA was made before the other Nile Basin countries gained their independence. The agreement stated that no works would be undertaken on the Nile, its tributaries, and the Lake Basin that would reduce the volume of the water reaching Egypt. It also gave Egypt the right to "inspect and investigate" the whole length of the Nile to the remote sources of its tributaries in the Basin. This right "to inspect and investigate," which was tantamount to a veto power over any water or power project, has in recent years become moot, as all the former colonies on the Nile Basin have become independent nations and are not likely to readily agree to such encroachment on their sovereignty by Egypt. Indeed, some of them have begun to nibble on the NWA by initiating water projects that threaten to reduce the volume of water available to Egypt. Egypt considers any change in the agreement as a strategic threat and has repeatedly threatened to use all means at its disposal to prevent the violations of the agreement.The other Nile Basin African countries consider the agreement as a relic of a colonial era which no longer reflects their needs and aspirations and hence it should be annulled. Countering this argument, Sherif Al-Mousa, head of the Middle East Program at the American University in Cairo, argues that the Nile water agreement should be treated the same way as the boundaries of most Nile Basin countries which were established by colonial powers, and are recognized under international law.This has been gravely resented by east African countries since they won their independence. Kenya and Tanzania suffer recurrent droughts caused by inadequate rainfall, deforestation and soil erosion. The proposed Lake Victoria pipeline is expected to benefit more than 400,000 people in towns and villages in the arid north-west of Tanzania.
    Tanzania Challenges Egypt
    In early February 2004, Tanzania launched a project to draw water from Lake Victoria to supply the Shinyanga region. The project calls for the construction of about a 100 mile long inland pipeline at an initial cost of $27.6 million, to be constructed by a Chinese engineering company. To mitigate the anticipated Egyptian reaction, Tanzania announced that the pipleline was designed to provide drinking water to its thirsty population rather than irrigate agricultural land.
    Tanzania's population of 35 million has suffered from frequent droughts, desertification, and soil erosion. In fact, Tanzania was the first riparian country which, upon its independence in 1961, declared the 1929 agreement invalid.

    "These are people with no water," said the Tanzanian water minister, Edward Lowasa. "How can we do nothing when we have this lake just sitting there?"
    Suzanne Mubarak & Laura Bush.

    Another Challenge from Kenya
    Similarly, in response to a threat from Kenya that it was considering withdrawing from the 1929 agreement, the Egyptian Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mahmoud Abu Zeid said: "Egypt considers the withdrawal of Kenya from this agreement as tantamount to official declaration of war and a threat to its vital interests and national security." A Kenyan weekly quoted the Egyptian minister declaring in Addis Ababa that Kenya could be subject to sanctions by Egypt and the other eight members of the Nile River Basin Agreement. He said Kenya's position violates international law and customs "and we will not agree to it."
    The Kenyan deputy foreign minister M. Watangola repeated his country's demand for a revision of this historic agreement because Kenya was not consulted prior to its being signed. He said eight Kenyan rivers flow into Lake Victoria, which is the main source of the Nile waters.

    Ethiopia Asserts Rights to the Blue Nile
    The Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources announced his country's intentions to develop close to 200,000 hectares (ha.) of land though irrigation projects and construction of two dams in the Blue Nile Sub-basin. He further stated that these projects would be the first phase of forty-six projects which Ethiopia proposed to execute along with ten joint projects which Egypt and Sudan proposed. The Ethiopian Minister of Water Resources retorted that the agreement to participate in the Nile Basin Initiative reserves Ethiopia's right to implement any project in the Blue Nile Sub-basin unilaterally, at any given time. He charged that the 1959 agreement between Egypt and Sudan impedes sustainable development in the basin and called for its nullification.

    A Ugandan commentator Charles Onyango-Obbo wrote sometime back: "Egypt can't enjoy the benefits of having access to the sea, while blocking a landlocked country like Uganda from profiting from the fact that it sits at the source of the Nile." Uganda seems the least engaged in this battle for lack of diplomatic muscle, a visible lack of capacity for the state to initiate large projects and therefore has not given any direct threat to Cairo. Uganda's other disadvantage is also the role of IMF/World Bank whose influence in the running of the economy is enormous through budget support. Egyptian Intelligence also has classified the Ugandan state as unable to pose an immediate strategic threat and therefore contained.This means Egypt does not need to use threats of military action when it can diplomatically sabotage the development of strategic interests of Uganda through her sole source of direct financing. It is different with Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania countries that have moved fast to bring on the Chinese growing global influence in strategic investments. Uganda is still waiting in the wings because of her two decade alignment with the West. The state in Uganda has not made a bold step to bring on board the Chinese government growing economic muscle in her foreign policy because her multi-lateral and bilteral donors are mainly from Western Europe. Problem is Egypt is strongly allied to the US & Britain on mutual long term interests.The governments above are in a way directly involved in the economy through public interventions meaning they can finance big projects thus Egypt's tough response. Uganda is another case. Only the government can ponder about its state resignation at this glaring economic espoinage by Egypt and the donor community and re-align its foreign policy to address development contraditions.Through economic espionage, Egypt potentially is stiffling social-economic development because of her diplomatic foot work in Washington and London. It means, leaving strategic investments to private investors can be sabotaged through financial incetives by state as well as withdrawal of financing committments by International Credit Institutions with a more aggressive establishment in Cairo. Uganda technically is a victim of this to the greatest disadvantage as state planners wait for IMF/World Bank Instructions.In otherwords, we have to raise the bar of diplomatic engagement as well start looking at our mandate critically as a state like Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania have done.

    While east African countries are eager to make greater use of the river, Egypt fears any threat to its lifeblood. Most of Egypt's population lives in the Nile valley - on 4% of the country's land - and any fall in the water level could be disastrous. From the Egyptian perspective, any change in the volume of its water could have devastating effects on Egypt. The vast majority of Egyptians live in a valley which is about 4 percent of the Egyptian territory, and 95 percent of Egypt's water resources are derived from the Nile.

    Nevertheless, Egypt expressed its irritation with any project, arguing that under the 1929 agreement it has the right to veto any project - agricultural, industrial, or power - that could threaten its vital interests in guaranteeing its annual share of the river waters. While Egypt is handling the issue diplomatically, Egyptian officials stressed that "the diplomatic dialogue does not mean that Cairo does not consider any number of other options, if necessary." In diplomatic parlance, "other options" do not exclude the use of force. Tanzania has not budged. The Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Livestock Development, Dr. C. Nyamurunda, said that Tanzania's sentiments about the legality of the water agreement are well known. He emphasized that "other countries also believe that the treaties [NWA] were illegal but they are to cooperate in negotiations, although they are not restricted from using the waters of the Nile."

    An estimated 160 million people in 10 countries depend on the river and its tributaries for their livelihoods. Within the next 25 years, the population in the Nile basin is expected to double, and there is a growing demand to harness the river for agricultural and industrial development.
    The Nile treaty was drawn up at a time when Egypt was a British satellite, regarded as strategically crucial by London because of the Suez canal, which controlled access to India. The agreement is now in effect enforced by international donors, who are reluctant to advance funds for major river projects that will upset Egypt, a key Arab ally of the US in the Middle East.Sub-Saharan countries cannot match Egypt's diplomatic clout, but they face a dilemma as a major untapped resource rolls through their territories.

    "We have reached a stage where all the Nile basin countries are confronted by domestic development challenges," said Halifa Drammeh, a deputy director of the United Nations environment programme. "How many people have access to safe water? How many have access to sanitation? There is a tremendous pressure on these governments to sustain the needs of their populations, and to raise their standard of living.

    "After all, there is nothing we can do in life without water. Wherever there is sharing, there is potential for conflict."

    The Nile is shared by ten countries – Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda –- with a combined population of about 300 million, about 160 million of whom live within the boundaries of the Nile Basin. The ten countries that share the Nile waters include some of the world's poorest, with annual per capital income of less than $250.

    The Pressures for Change

    Population pressures, frequent draughts, and increasing soil salinity have intensified the demands by the Nile Basin countries to renegotiate the 1929 agreement. Not deterred by Egyptian reluctance to negotiate the 1929 agreement, or even Egyptian threats, and constrained by financial hardships, some Nile Basin countries are determined to implement projects that would tap into the sources of the Nile.
    The Nile Basin Initiative notwithstanding, member countries are forging ahead with their own projects and challenges. Droughts are difficult to forecast, even in the beginning of the crop season. Building dams to store water is not unlike a bank savings account, to be used at a time of need. While Egypt has secured its agriculture with the building of the Aswan Dam, it has been reluctant, if not belligerent, when other countries on the Nile Basin sought similar solutions.

    Water for Oil
    A senior Kenyan parliamentarian suggested that the Nile water should be sold to Egypt and Sudan for oil. He said that the time has come to replace the Nile agreement with a new agreement to allow the members to benefit from the Nile's waters. He added: "We have presented our natural resources to Egypt and Sudan free without them doing anything in return. We need to sell to them as they sell to us." The Egyptian treated the idea as "stupid" because the two countries have vested rights, rather than customers who would buy the water.

    Egypt Accuses Hidden Fingers
    In addition to Tanzania and Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda are also demanding the abrogation of the 1929 agreement and a bigger share of the Nile waters. Egypt accuses "hidden fingers known to the Egyptian side [which] are openly inciting the traditional allies of Egypt in the Nile Basin to annul the agreement, arguing that it is incompatible with the population and political developments that have transpired in the last 75 years." The anonymous senior Egyptian official who has made the allegation about the "hidden fingers" stressed that any change in the agreement was inconceivable and warned that "any infringement of the agreement would suggest that the African countries do not respect regional obligations."

    Egypt's Alternatives
    To deal with the threat to its vital oil supply Egypt has four alternatives. Some are not mutually exclusive:

    · Reduce waste through improved irrigation system.

    · Price water at market rates.

    · Maintain the status quo as long as feasible.

    · Resort to the use of force.
    Reduce Waste Through Improved Irrigation System
    According to a study by the World Bank, 96.44 per cent of the economically active population in Egypt is engaged in agriculture. It is the highest percentage in the Middle East, with Morocco in second place with 92.61 percent of active population in agriculture. By contrast, the corresponding ratios for Tunisia and Lebanon are 60.87 and 10.35 percent, respectively. As a result, much of the water is used in agriculture, which contributes proportionately a small percentage to GDP. In Egypt, 88% of the water is consumed in agriculture which, as a sector, contributes only 14 percent to GDP, while 8 percent of water used in industry contributes 34 per cent of GDP. The report suggests that "from a narrow macroeconomic perspective, rationale of justifying the allocation of water to agriculture over industrial and other sectors is weak."

    Price Water at Market Rates
    While the region remains one of the most water-scarce regions in the world, the cost of water for irrigation is set at below cost recovery levels. Egyptian agriculture is entirely dependent on irrigated land. The government provides irrigation water free, except of cost recovery of on-farm investment projects. Annual irrigation subsidies are estimated at $5 billion. In Egypt, irrigation subsidies are often rationalized as a means of offsetting low farm prices controlled to keep down urban food prices.Water pricing and subsidies are such that they lead to waste in agriculture and provide little incentive for conservation techniques.

    Maintain the Status Quo
    Egypt's third option is to seek a status quo while tolerating some changes on the margin. To do so, Egypt must continue to maintain a pro-American and pro-Western orientation to discourage them and organizations controlled by them, such as the World Bank, from financing costly water projects such as dams or power projects in any of the riparian countries, which they themselves cannot finance through internally-generated resources.

    Resort to the Use of Force
    The last and least likely alternative is to resort to the use of force to uphold Egypt's right to exercise the veto power on activities that it deems dangerous to its national interests. Egypt's saber rattling cannot be taken too seriously, certainly not by the African countries themselves. Indeed, as one Egypt daily pointed out, "the harsh language adopted by Abou Zeid … might not be working…" Not only does Egypt lack the military capacity to strike at countries two thousand miles outside its borders, but it will be hard pressed to justify a military action to enforce the provision of a 75-year old agreement concluded to satisfy colonialist considerations and priorities but dissatisfy the needs of the countries upstream. A Kenyan father of two, who owns eight ponds for fish farming, was quoted as saying: "If the Egyptians try to invade Kenya for the sake of its water we are ready to die for our rights. Kenya must forget the Nile agreement and return to the commercial consumption of the Lake Victoria Lake."

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Uganda's tourism potential can change the face of the economy!

    Who does not like going out there on the wild waters of Lake Victoria and get involved in that excting fishing despite the threat of crocs? Freaks, yes. Brig.Kasirye Ggwanga's smile on his fishing expeditions in Kalangala Islands just tells it all . This is the face of Uganda's tourism potential to the outside world. It is our potential outlook to the world. This is what they want. But we have to put in place incentives to make it attrative to them. The capital city can get a face lift by having its roads fixed indeed because its the first point of contact for our visitors as they radiate out to remote places. The power black outs really are not good and this honesly like many others require a strategic response. Unnecesarry political clashes among our usual beligerents are not welcome. I am talking about violent skirmishes between the police, black-mambas, supporters and non-supporters. We can do this in conference rooms, wearing our best suits and talking like civilized people indeed we are. We must work very hard to reduce this seemingly violent out look in resolving our petty domestic differences. We can copy Botswana's model here. It works!!! Tourists Enjoying it in Banda Island.

    We need to re-package our domestic situation better. We need the right attitude. The hotel industry must be up to the task to accommodate our visitors in a professional and hospitable manner. And Ugandans themselves must love what they posses. The chinese are their own biggest market in their own tourism industry. We may not afford this in the short term but it makes sense to see us enjoy what we have, that indeed we are friends of our environment. Reason we are not at the moment is because our attention is misdirected and there is not an organized way to focus on our most valuable strategic advantage to the world.

    Gorrillas in Mugahinga NP.Uganda.

    Uganda is endowed with the most awesome ecological potential for her growth. Her beautiful sceneries of
    mountain ranges, her dense moist tropical forests, a diverse fauna and flora which can be exploited not only for a potentially lucrative tourism industry but also for tropical research in medicine and other fields.

    The hospitality industry world over is shaped by an intergrated policy that over sees the establishment of a robust infrastructure in transport, Information and Communications Technology, good and affordable accommodation. Security of tourists is a very crucial and hopitality must be an intergrated culture. Uganda has a number of national parks with such Bwindi Impenetrable forests home to 60% of the world's remaining Gorrillas. The country has both national parks and game reserves in all regions of the country. But strategic investment in this industry requires a focussed and concerted approach and a re-orientation of those manning the state.
    Leadership is a vital aspect of our entire development process because in requires national planning and squarely on the shoulders of those who seek public office. They will need to be humble and work for country and plan for the long term future of the country. It is these efforts that will help re-shape the face of Uganda and Africa for the long term as true partner.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Whose wars have we been fighting in Africa?

    A childs working in a Diamond Mine in Siera Leone.

    Africa has been a theatre of war since the colonial struggles and worse off in the post colonial era . The spectacle of armed violence has been witnessed by the unarmed women and children who sometimes have been used as weapons of war. In some of the conflicts witnessed in recent history like in Liberia, Siera Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Northern Uganda, Sudan, DR.Congo, women have been raped as a weapon of war. Child soldiers have been part of the military machines built for Africa to fight Africa and destroy Africa. Darfur in Sudan today is a society going through what many observers call the other "quiet" genocide of our time. The African Union mobilized troops to stop the conflict but found a more complicated situation of more determined beligerents of which the state is part. We have watched on as we fight each other despite our enormous duty to establish and preserve peace for the prosperity of our people.

    A soldier on guard on Kisangani, DR.Congo.
    The government in Khartoum mandated to protect the great people of Sudan is more concerned about self-preservation than the people its supposed to protect. It is part of this inhillation policy of the black people in Darfur using its well armed wing of Arabs called Janjaweeds that saw Southern Sudan on a fireball for two decades of destruction. Like in Siera Leone when Fodeh Sankoh dehumanized the entire country, like in Liberia when Sgt.Doe, Charles Taylor and Prince Yormie Johnson and their armies ravaged communities with their quest for power, it all turns out that these are men and women with a western education. Men and women expected to know our strategic threats and realities as continent. The fundamental question is why we fail to work in unity as a people.
    To a keen observer, Africa is seemingly in a constant state of war. Communities are perpetually in a state of alert and fear and this causes unproductivity of communities. States are weak and constantly under threat of collapse. In 1993, Somalia got the last American attention, when U.S. Delta Force commandos and Army Rangers were dropped into its capital city, Mogadishu, to capture two aides of a Somali warlord. The mission was successful, but two Black Hawk helicopters were downed by Somali militia linked to Osama Bin Laden network which the Islamic Courts today are an extension, and in the ensuing firefight, 18 Americans died. Images of an Army Ranger's body being dragged through the streets horrified U.S. households. Soon after, President Clinton abandoned the country, and Somalia was largely forgotten until the 2001 movie "Black Hawk Down" retold the tragic story.Now, Somalia is on the brink of becoming the fourth front in the U.S. war on terror. As in Afghanistan, Iraq and in Lebanon, the U.S. is allied in some way against radical Islamic fundamentalists. The Islamic Courts Union, a growing alliance of Islamic militants, recently routed U.S.-backed warlords and took over Mogadishu. It seeks to oust a transitional federal government, which is supported by the African Union but controls only the town of Baidoa. On the sidelines is the U.S.-backed regime in Ethiopia that is eager to lead the battle against the Islamists, who may have ties to Al Qaeda. A war could quickly spread throughout the Horn of Africa and be as costly in human lives as the Israeli Hezbollah conflict. The collateral damage from all these conflicts does not seem to matter to many of those manning our governments.
    Fig.3 A child trapped by war.

    In many ways, Somalia, the latest front in the war on terror is the culmination of nearly 30 years of alternating Washington policy blunders and neglect in the Horn of Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. That history has left the U.S. with few good options in a worsening situation.U.S. missteps in the region date to 1977, when policymakers tacitly — and foolishly — encouraged Somalia to take advantage of political instability in the Ethiopian capital and grab control of Ethiopia's Somali-inhabited Ogaden region. The move backfired when Soviet and Cuban troops rushed in to defend the Marxist regime in Addis Ababa, turning Ethiopia into Moscow's staunchest ally in Africa. In response, Washington armed Mohamed Siad Barre's thugocracy in Somalia. When the Cold War ended, U.S. policy toward Somalia swung from intense engagement to indifference. Aid was cut off, Barre was overthrown and the country began its descent into anarchy.But in 1992, the New York Times published photographs of starving children in Baidoa, and President George H.W. Bush sent U.S. troops into Mogadishu under U.N. auspices to distribute food. It was a noble humanitarian gesture but ultimately misguided. Most experts opposed American intervention in Somalia because they believed that the famine was nearing an end and that the presence of U.S. soldiers would only exacerbate the conflicts among rival clan warlords that stymied relief efforts. Were they right?
    But how can real men always wait for external solutions to basic problems that call for just common decency? We can always talk about our differences and with respect and acknowledge we must always have resepctable differences as well as common interests. When do our leaders act in unisom? In battle just to prove machoism and the strength of their neo-colonial backers!

    Fig.2 UPDF Hunting for LRA Rebels .
    But have we asked ourselves who our enemy is? Have we asked ourselves who our powerful weapons imported from Eastern Europe on borrowed money are decimating? Have we asked ourselves whose communities our machoism is raking? We have borrowed money over the years to build military machines to kill our own people. In some instances State armies have turned against their people to protect corporate interests exploiting our natural resources further degrading our people. The African elite that formed the bulk of our post colonial leadership has over-rated its importance thus the constant attempt the western life style. It has lacked the courage to be humble in the course of duty thus the massive levels of corruption, institutional decay and state collapse. Like our pre-colonial chiefs they have been so gullible to form psuedo-alliances to perpetuate wanton suffering of their people. We rebuke all those leaders who have failed to know they are just temporary dynamics like all of us. They don't know their role fundamentally is to build a better future for men and women who will come after us. That we build a foundation of a strong partnership of our children and the world.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Cross Cultural Exchange through Education!

    A Cisco Engineer Explains Routing/Switching
    Algorithsms .
    17 ICT Engineers from the Developing World were hosted by the United States Telecommunication Training Institute, Washington DC and later descended on San Jose,CA at the Cisco Headquarters for an IP Security and Traffic Engineering Training which was turned out to be the most enriching experience for many.

    This Tech Cross-Cultural Interaction re-enforced a few aspects about humanity and the modern challenges facing most of the developing world. Many of the Engineers under going training were always earge to share information about experiences back home. Their discusisons were multi-directional rainging from policy regulatory issues in their home countries, limited ICT infrastructure, lack of skilled human resource, political instability etc.
    ICT Engineers tour Stanford University

    Education remains the key structural requirement that will help intergrate Africa in the world economy through improved communication, acquisition of technical skills that are relevant to national, regional and global market demands. One of the principle benefit of globalization has been the cross cultural influences that have opened Africa to models that have worked and that can be replicated without necessarily subjecting our valued heritage to damaging distortions.

    The conservatives have argued that indeed western culture is not good for us albeit with alot of vagueness. Culture evolves due to human interactions, through information exchange, through education, the mass media and now the super-highway. It is imperative to note the influences of global intergration in almost all aspects of life. The industrial revolution did not impact Africa fundamentally since we remained agrarian as a society. The land distribution system has been grossly fragmented and used for subsistence agriculture. Mechanization which brings economies of scale has not been part of us. The consequence has been poverty. Poverty breeds insecurity, disease and conflict. This continent is not poor in natural resources and comparatively we have more resources, a better climate, a more undistabilized ecological system than other land masses. In otherwords, we have comparative advantages that we must take advantage of.

    Shaka at the Cisco Headquarters San Jose,CA.

    Our most important resource though is not the oil or diamonds that we are now striking in many part of Africa since these are exhaustible. It is our human capital. But this human capital must be of high quality and this comes with an education of worth. And education and a cultural orientation that has a broad outlook of the past, the present and the future. We have what the world needs and they have what we need. Meaning we are supposed to be partners in a mutually symbiotic relationship. But we have to identify what we can offer to the world. So far we do not seem to know what we can offer to the world. The political leadership is still in the mud with feet of clay thus the glaring intellectual paralysis. We have the fauna and flora. We have fresh water sources, we have tropital forests, we have organic foods in diversity, we have the most awesome culture and languages. But we need to have capacity to identify our comparative strengths. We need to exploit our heritage to our advantage in full knowledge of the global forces that impact us positively and negatively.

    A Nigerian Engineer Tests Vidoe Conferencing.
    We need to invest in education infrastructure that embrases a global culture to address the demands of a global market. We need to look at the future of our continent and the African society in relation to the world. The leadership needs to lead by humility and sacrifice for country. We need leaders who can sit and talk, strategically plan for the long term. We need leaders who can admire with inspiration. Many of our leaders have travelled but seem to have let their heads back home and did not benefit from the visible functional urban transport, financial and other public systems. Cross cultural education does help young people learn, admire and get inspiration from functional systems. It helps people learn how to replicate technology to our local needs. It broadens our scope of experiences and sharing and this what I found out at the United States Telecommunications Training Institute, Washington DC. .

    My interaction with Albanians, Bulgarians, Russians, Kenyans, Phillipinos, Papua Guineans, Americans extendend my horizon that societies world over have peculiar problems and sometimes these intersect. That tested models that have solved challenges in other places can be replicated sometimes with minimal modifications rather than going to first principles. This was a Technology grounding training which brough Engineers from 17 countries in the developing world. I was inspired by the strong sense of insitutional response to public issues by Information age governments. I was inspired by the sense of nationalism among the people in expressing their love for country. I was amazed by the respect for the law and sheer functionality of systems. The culture of documentation of protocols was revolutionarizing. I made up my mind to try to be an ambassador for the good. Yes we can fix our society for the future of our children.
    Shaka Robert.

    Strikes &Demonstrations Exhibit Policy Contradictions!

    Makerere Universitiy has been closed due to a sit down strike by lecturers over pay. Kyambogo University until recently saw its lecturer go on strike and in all these seemingly "unruly and unpatriotic" demonstrations of resentment by our academics, students are the most affected and therefore justified to support those who impart knowledge in the future leaders. Gulu University has threated to follow suit just like the Medical Doctors in all National Referal Hospitals.

    The motivation of the growing resentment is just one:Public Irresponsiveness. The Ministry of Finance, Dr.Ezra Suruma recently confirmed that his ministry has budgeted for the comfort of our members of Parliament who have already hinted on their expectations to the tune of shillings 20bn to share among themselves. Each member of parliament expects a minimum of shs.60million for the purchase of a powerful 4WD car to ease transport on our very bad roads. The minister is a potential beneficiary as an Ex-Official of this parliament like many pot-bellied politicians and other Presidential appointees. This is tax payers money in a very b