By Gloria Laker Aciro Adiiki
Atiko Walter is the Executive Director of Acholi Economic Forum (AEF). He is an Economist based in the United Kingdom who is well-versed with Uganda’s economic situation. He spoke to Gloria Laker Acio Adiiki on Uganda’s economic situation, the potentially catastrophic implications of Covid-19 and proposals on how to mitigate them.
Covid-19 is Here; How Much Is It Impacting Uganda’s Economy?
Before Covid-19 Uganda’s economy, just like other African countries, was undergoing a down turn. The 4 major challenges include rampant youth unemployment across Africa. Why? Because jobs are exported. The private sector is not very efficient and urgently needs reforms.
Secondly, national debt is so high that servicing the principal and interest is consuming a big chunk of the GDP while the education system on one hand needs urgent reforms to create creativity rather than reliance-this goes to cultural reforms.
Africa has a democratic crisis whereby elections are held but do we really vote in leaders who brings in the much-desired economic growth?
What is your take on Acholi’s economic fortunes with the advent of Covid 19 yet the area was just recuperating from 20 years of civil war?
Economically Acholi has suffered immensely over the years and has just been making a slow come back. Like other parts of Uganda, Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the education sector since schools are closed. There is going to be a high dropout rate as teenage girls are getting pregnant. There has been rampage violence against women but this scourge has been counteracted by community response mechanisms through empowerment of women.
On a positive note Acholi people massively engaged into farming on an unprecedented scale. Both food and cash crops are being produced in great quantities, the use of technology is gradually increasing in almost all the sectors.
What do you recommend?
We should make the youth-the engine of growth-more productive and make sure the education sector is providing classic education systems, facilitate support vocational trainings institutions to absorb those that can’t continue with schooling.
To reinforce vocational institutions youth apprenticeship projects where young people can acquire key skills and then move up the economic ladder need to be rolled-out. Africa is importing everything and an import substitution policy will create jobs domestically.
What is your view in relation to Acholi health sector’s management of Covid-19? And What needs to be done differently to improve the health sector in Uganda and Acholi in particular?
Acholi health sector is blessed because we eat organic food, we just need to streamline and create awareness among the people. We need more innovations to enhance the quality of services and allow professionals, not politicians, to lead health activities. Decisions have to be based on research work rather than gambling. Research triangle can be good for Acoli where sectors feed each sector linking activities together.
From day one AEF called for closure of border points and only allow in trucks whose drivers have been tested negative. By so doing, real economic activities will flourish in settings. What we shall need in stage two of the COVID-19 is a strong team that can quickly isolate, pick plus providing medication.
Economically what are the implications of Covid-19 lockdown on Acholi community and Uganda at large?
COVID-19 lockdown has actually led to unemployment and a shortfall in revenue collection. Failing businesses are never going to to come back and it has given room for other socio ills as crime rates and poverty that are going to rise to the levels not seen before.
Going forward, the number of infections in neighboring countries is going over the roof. AEF would strongly advise an East African community that could include phone calls to Kenya, Tanzania to share some of the ways in fighting the virus. Finally, we need investments in Education which is the key to our future success and competitive stand in this modern world.
Lastly AEF would like the Government to spell out clearly the economic stimulus. We in Acholi would like to remind you of what we have been through and ask for special government commitments towards reviving our economy.
As told to Gloria Laker Aciro-Adiiki is a Ugandan award winning Journalist and heads Refugee and Migration Media Network, She is also a media activist involved in supporting refugees and promoting Peace Journalism. Gloria covered the LRA conflict in northern Uganda.Twitter @GloriaLaker, Email; email@example.com