By Henry Mutebe

The increased presence of China in Uganda is very interesting. There are an estimated 10,000 Chinese in Uganda. Many of them are either workers in construction companies or operating industries and large businesses…and some are doing ordinary jobs.

Assuming that each of those Chinese earns about UGh. 1.5 Million (US $405) every month, it would mean that, even if they spent 500k on food and other personal effects, they save and send back about 1 million shillings every month. Collectively, this would mean that Uganda loses about 10 billion to China through people employed or doing jobs Ugandans can do.

So if Chinese as a group suck 10 billion Ug.shs out of the economy every month, in wages alone as this does not include business profits repatriated or money made from imports from China, it would mean we need to do more to prepare Ugandans to take up these jobs.

There are cries amongst employers that many Ugandans do not have marketable skills. It is the responsibility of leaders to sort this. If we don’t fix this issue, other people are going to continue taking up ordinary jobs that young people should be doing. Local content is a big issue in many countries and these need to be addressed by those plan and give out these tenders and or contracts to these Chinese companies.

I can not, with precision, put a finger to how many Chinese companies are being given contracts to construct roads…but I am sure it’s huge. So…in effect, most of the money we are pumping into the construction industry is flying out because few of these companies are local or employing Ugandans in professional positions that fetch a descent income.

While I was thinking about Chinese I remembered that we have over 20,000 Indians in Uganda. Assuming that 10,000 of them are either children or women, not so actively engaged in business as men, it would mean there are another 10,000 Indians engaged in common jobs that Ugandans can do. If each of those 10,000 Indians earns just 500,000 Ug.shs and sends it back to India, it would mean 5 billion shillings is flying out every month or 60 billion each year.

If you combine Indians and Chinese, you would get about Ugx 180 billion or about 48 million dollars every year. This amount is almost equal to the government of Uganda allocated to ministry of Trade Tourism and Industry (98 billion) and ICT ministry (106 billion) in the last financial year. As the oil business starts to take shape, the number of Chinese is even expected to increase.

I hope someone is deeply thinking about how to prepare Ugandans to take up these jobs.The locals need to be thought about. Otherwise we are going to start losing more money than we may be aware of. Their presence is not bad, we benefit alot from them but government needs to be deliberate in planning to ensure Ugandans are more prepared to take up certain jobs. I don’t blame Chinese or Indians. I blame the government that gives permits to every Tom Dick and Harry to settle in and do jobs that ordinary people ahoild be doing. you dont get that permit easily in other organised societies. Here it seems any one can get a permit and settle in even if they are making pancakes.

You have to be deliberate in matters in matters of national security. China sends over 100,000 students to US for studies every year to get skills, copy techbologies and take it back to China. US also learnt its lessons. it also started sending about 100,000 US students to China to study and learn how Chinese are doing things and bring back the secrets or knowledge. It is deliberate…it’s not accidental. I don’t know what strategic steps we are making to position ourselves as leaders in any field…but if we are not careful…others will continue doing even that which we can do.

Talking about Cuban doctors coming to Uganda… this has its implications…I will discuss it some day