By Kabona Esiara
Uganda should invest in innovation to raise people’s living standards and reduce trade balance which is bleeding the economy of the hard-earned foreign currency, according to experts.
Unquestionably, the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrialisation Development (PIBID) researchers have proved that problem encourages creative efforts to meet the need or solve the problem.
The challenges farmers faced include low productivity of their plantations. The PIBID experts estimate that 7 tonnes of bananas harvest from each hectare, per year farmers loose Shs2.2 million annually.
To boost production, they encourage a combination of applying fertilizers and irrigating the banana plantation, could boost productivity to 100 tonnes.
The low yield per hectare translates into low earnings for smallholder farmers.
“We are relevant economically because at the peak season, almost 50 per cent of the bananas do not reach the market. So, the situation of the farmers will never be bettered, if we do not capture all these bananas, it will turn into an economic mystery,” said Dr Florence Isabirye Muranga, Executive Director Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID).
According to Dr Muranga, already 150 people are employed formally and over 300 informally and more jobs are expected. PIBID
She revealed that PIBID is currently negotiating for contracts to start supplying the police and army, a development which could reduce the Uganda’s widening import gap.
“We had interface saying look! do not go to South Africa, the UK for fast foods we can do the products that you have been importing, and you can save the money and also give this money to the farmers,” said Muranga.
The unique selling proposition of tooke brand, which has been tested against international quality standards in Germany and France as is does not pose health risks. The flour is being used in making of bread, cakes, biscuits and other processed products, including baby food.
“Tooke is health food as opposed to wheat and has a loner shelf life,” said Muranga.
Health experts say wheat contains gluten which causes celiac disease by damaging small intestine and impaired absorption of nutrients.
According to Muranga, the PIBID team is also promoting the production of ethanol to supply the burgeoning global sanitizer industry in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic, further reducing imports.
Some of the ethanol is imported putting pressure on foreign exchange reserves.
“The money that we are putting into importing simple commodities should be invested in science and technology.”
Murannga’s Innovativeness skills started during President Idi Amin era in 1971-1979 era, where everything was scarce after inexperienced handpicked Ugandans mismanaged Asians businesses.
“I keep telling people that I am one of the plus people who stayed around during Amin’s regime. We didn’t have bread. We did not have wheat,” explained Muranga.
Indeed, she emphasizes that necessity is the mother of invention.
“But I said no. I will never stop eating bread. So, I started innovating using alternative flours to make my bread. That is where my passion for playing with flours started,” said Muranga.
She followed in the footsteps Uganda’s innovative grandparents who used to make backcloth spears, bows, arrows and used hides, however, these indigenous outfits and utensils have disappeared.
“We need to go back to the principals of our grandfathers of making things for ourselves. When the whites (colonialists) came, we were among the native communities found not naked,” said Muranga.
BUBU opens opportunities
It is during the BUBU implementation period that government hiked taxes on imports the country can produce to protect the domestic industries and businesses.
“…because of BUBU, we have taken muscle. And we have gone to frontlines of government where we think our products can make an impact,” said Dr Isabirye Muranga.
Imported raw materials and inputs used in manufacturing have been zero rated, a development which makes the country’s goods and services competitive in pricing.
According to John Rujoki Musinguzi Commissioner General Uganda Revenue Authority, the tax amendments are geared towards industrialization and import substitution which will in return boost local production and create employment.
“Government will ensure that manufacturers acquire raw materials cheaply, which will lower costs of production thereby making domestic products more affordable to Ugandans,” said Musinguzi.
Safe to invest in Uganda
Muranga further explained that investors now feel more secure to make investments in Uganda, because as BUBU is set is set to ride the economy of fake products.
With BUBU, Muranga says the playing field for producers has been leveled as regulation, standards and quality assurance systems are uniform.