By Najib Mulema
Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament Betty Nambooze has attacked President Museveni for refusing to commission Toyota Uganda.
Last week, while commissioning new factories in Namanve Industrial Park, the President refused to commission Toyota Uganda citing that it was only a warehouse (showroom) and that he would regard it a factory if they start assembling cars from there.
However, Museveni’s action did not go well with Nambooze who said the President just embarrassed himself and Uganda at large.
According to the legislator, though Museveni is looking for quick fixes to solve the country’s youth unemployment, it was not justifiable for him to ‘behave like one of the uncivilized African chiefs of long ago’. She said by pressuring investors in a manner he displayed in Namanve, Museveni will scare away even the few companies that have already put up warehouses in the country.
In her missive released on Tuesday on the ‘Madam Teacher’s Class’, Nambooze further stated that basing on the country’s deprived political, economic and social situation, no investor can build a car manufacturing plant here more so when 99.9 per cent of the population cannot afford to buy new cars. She said a serious investor like Toyota can only offer a service centre to Uganda due to the prevailing circumstances.
“Ssebo, with a predominantly poor peasant population of about 35 Million people of which 75% are citizens below 30 years, your must accept that Uganda is a very small market that makes investing in a costly car assembly line unviable. Which investor would invest his money in a product that 99.9% of the population can’t afford? Imagine all the 450 MPs in the Country are driving used cars!” she said.
Nambooze also disclosed that auto industry experts have already warned Uganda that a project of this kind will be too costly for any investor because the country lacks basic supporting services in the field. In addition even existing manufacturers are facing burdensome manufacturing costs owing to country’s poor energy supply and limited availability of skilled labour.
“The companies are also struggling to find a market in Uganda and the neighbouring East African countries. Further production volumes are making it difficult for our products to compete with other producers in, the region. Worse still the ever deteriorating security and political situation make many credible investors to shy away from Uganda,” she noted.
Adding, “As area MP, I know what those industrialists are experiencing. Today , because of your failure to address the security of people and their property, a whole platoon has been imposed on every factory and a squad of soldiers onto every foreign worker purportedly for their security. Besides, for one to establish a factory/warehouse, they must put up with the rampant institutionalized corruption and extortion plus inefficiency in service delivery. All this should make us as leaders, you inclusive to drop any form of arrogance towards industrialists and investors in whatever form,”
Nambooze, however advised Museveni that if he wants Uganda to have a competitive and comparative advantage to warrant investing in such a costly high tech sector as car manufacturing, the country should first develop a pre-processing sector to feed itself and maybe the region before it pressurizes investors into high end industries.
“When we target small cottage industries then develop competences like building a critical mass of technicians, electricians who would find employment in a car industry later. Today if Toyota was to open up a Car assembly plant in Namanve, where are they going to get technicians or is it your suggestion that Toyota builds a Car plant and also imports labour? How will they pass the tests on standards in an area with almost no expertise on testing the safety of auto mobiles?” Nambooze inquired.
She noted that big and sophistication industries will continue finding it easier to manufacture things in developed countries and then export them to outlets in Uganda because producing alongside other big producers, in countries with experienced labour and stable political atmosphere is less expensive and allows for goods to be produced in very large volumes.
Meanwhile, she also ‘urged’ the President to deploy Special Forces Command (SFC) operatives to break the backs of errant investors who are refusing to set up industries in the country since he is accustomed to employing military might to solve all his problems.