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Medical Marijuana, Labour Externalization To Play Role In Post-COVID19 Recovery

By Rajiv Ruparelia

On January 2nd I turned 31 years of age.

Since I started actively running the Ruparelia Group- conglomerates of 28 companies, I usually use my birthday, which is just about the start of the New Year to reflect on business opportunities for the group in tandem with the opportunities in the country and beyond.

I have lived in Kampala for the greatest part of my adult life and I have seen this city emerge from a mere city of seven hills to now several hills and counting. Contrary to a lot of the negativity you see on social media, the reality on the ground is that Uganda is growing.

Matter of fact, Ugandans today, live longer than they used to Uganda’s life expectancy has grown from 48 years in 1986 to 63.3 years today, thanks to government investments in several healthcare projects such construction of hospitals, immunization Programmes, malaria roll back programmes as well a sexual health projects.  

It is also a fact that Uganda has been growing- at a sustained average of 6% for nearly 20 years. It is also fact that today; Ugandans are healthier and are more educated. Naturally, with healthier and more educated population, the next question becomes jobs. Speaking about jobs creation, I must first applaud government’s investment into creating an enabling climate.

First, as the private sector, we acknowledge the significant investments in creating stable and reliable electricity. Generation has grown from 404.4 MW in 2000 to 1268.9 MW as of October 2020. By mid-2021, this is expected to rise to 1,868.9 MW.

We also recognize government’s investment in roads―the total paved roads network as a percentage of total national roads has more than doubled from 8% (1,000km) in 1986 to 21.1% (5,500km) in 2019. I also do understand, from various government papers that about 18 roads, totaling to 1,375km are currently being tarmacked, while the tarmacking of 17 roads (825.3km) is under procurement and should start by 2022. Twenty-two (22) other roads, totaling up to 2,921.2km are lined up for tarmacking, starting in 2021.  

Uganda Airlines has been revamped and we know that the 1,724km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), starting with the 273km Malaba-Kampala route as well as the 45km Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Light Rail Train System (GKMA LRT) are all on course.

We also know about the various reforms and the digitalization happening within various government agencies, such as Lands, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) that have all contributed to make doing business in Uganda, easier, cheaper and more efficient.

For example, it is now possible to register a business in less than 48 hours and an importer/exporter in Kampala now only needs between 3-4 days to move cargo to and from Mombasa. Previously, this used to take forever.

With these government efforts and several other efforts by the private sector, Uganda is surely a much, much better country than it was, when I was born in 1990.

As night follows day, when you have increased life expectancy, coupled with higher education levels, you should expect that the demand for jobs will grow. And in Uganda where our population growth rates are rather too high, it is more likely the job seekers will outnumber the available jobs- in public, private and civil society jobs.

Now is the time to think out of the box I do appreciate that government, under its “industrialization for jobs policy” has so far put up nine (9) industrial parks and plans a a further 25 industrial parks and four regional science and technology industrial parks.

I also know that there are several initiatives by government to attract FDI into the country and therefore jobs, but given the rate and which the demand for jobs is growing- it is about time we also seriously started thinking outside the box.

This is especially in light of the extra challenges posed by Covid-19 which has disrupted several value chains and depressed local, regional and global demand. Thank God, there is a vaccine in sight. If all goes well, Uganda should start getting its doses towards the end of this half, a much-needed effort in the post-Covid-19 recovery.

Like we have seen in many post-crisis recovery plans, there is always a lot of emphasis and sometimes over-emphasis on business-as-usual. Hardly do policy and decision makers ever consider new ways of doing things. Sooner or later we relapse into our old ways, often prolonging misery and suffering especially in the private sector.

For example, even before Covid-19 there are some sectors that were doing already well, with minimal government investment, except regulation, such as the externalization of Labour. According to the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) there are more than 165,000 Ugandans- growing at an average rate of 5,000 monthly, in the Middle East with annual remittances of more than USD700 million (UGX2.8 trillion.) This is just about 50% of the estimated USD1.4 billion in total remittances by all Ugandans abroad.

The sector also directly employs more than 4,000 Ugandans locally and also pays another UGX25 billion annually to service providers and government agencies for services such as passports, Interpol charges, bank charges, vaccination, COV1D-19 PCR certificate fee etc.

Put together, this sector fetches almost twice more than Uganda’s coffee export earnings. This is before adding other benefits such as the skills, exposure and training brought back by returning workers.  

What if post-Covid-19 recovery policy makers put an effort in enhancing this sector so that Uganda’s earning from workers abroad can match that of Kenya- that according to a recent World Bank report reached USD2.3 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD2.9 billion in 2021?

Some other countries like Nigeria expect their remittances to reach USD21.7 Billion in 2020 and Ghana (USD$3.2 billion) and Senegal USD2.3 billion. Another emerging multibillion opportunity- Medical Marijuana is emerging and all signs are that if we don’t move first, we could easily miss out on the first mover advantage.

Last October, Rwanda approved the regulatory guidelines on the cultivation, processing and export of high-value therapeutic medical marijuana. While I do not want to compare Uganda with any other country it is a market reality that most times, the early bird catches the worm- and this time we are talking about a global market that is expected to reach between USD40 billion and USD45 billion by 2025.

Uganda still has a chance to move fast and make the necessary regulatory approvals. I wish to reiterate that if there is anything, I have learnt from Covid-19, then it is the danger of relying on the same sets of traditional sources of income.

Uganda is ready for take-off and the next game-changer will be how fast we can create more jobs than the available demand and truth be said, not all of those jobs will be resident here in Uganda.

 

Rajiv Ruparelia is the Managing Director of Ruparelia Group of Companies

Have A Taste Of Mongolia’s Healthy Foods At Kabira Country Club Every Friday

Ugandans are people who love to adventure especially with things that bring excitement and satisfaction in their lives. And when it comes to food, Ugandans are not hesitant to spend on exotic cuisines.  

Ugandan restaurants and hotels have exposed Ugandans to food from other parts of the world like Asia. It is therefore not surprising to find a Chinese, Indian, Indonesian or a Korean restaurant in Kampala. Other restaurants or hotels have theme nights where they serve food from these cultures.

Kabira Country Club is one such hotel which has exposed Ugandans to food from other cultures most notably Mongolian dishes. Mongolia is a nation bordered by China and Russia in the Far East. Over the years, the hotel has been treating guests to a Mongolian dinner every Friday at what it calls Mongolian Fridays.

And this year, Kabira Country Club has returned with Mongolian Fridays where it serves guest the best of Mongolia’s goods and drinks. The Mongolian Dinner is good for both vegetarian and meat lovers, Ajit Singh, the hotel manager revealed.

“Bring to light a selection of possibilities to fulfil your taste buds this Friday, please your families and avoid the chore of preparing a meal after a long week of too much work,” Singh said. Mongolian Fridays cost a paltry Shs50, 000 for each adult and Shs30, 000 for each child.

Kabira Country Club is the leading boutique hotel in Kampala, with a world-class restaurant, gymnasium, accommodation and a heated swimming pool. It is also the perfect hotel for a relaxing getaway and venue to hold special events, weddings and business meetings in Kampala.

Kabira Country Club Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; the restaurant offers contemporary delicious dining and a mouth-watering array of food from around the world. If fine dining is something you are seeking with mood lighting and music, it’s on the menu at Kabira Country Club.

Make Reservations here: +256 752 711 009.

Fresh Dairy Urges Customers To Utilize Its Boosted Free Home Delivery Solution

Fresh Dairy, the leading dairy products producer in Uganda has urged its customers to utilize its boosted free home delivery services this festive season for the safe and quick delivery of both Fresh Dairy and Brookside products.

The recently expanded home delivery fleet includes more tricycle Tuk Tuks and mobile vans and a dedicated sales team that deliver door to door with an aim of heightening consumer convenience.  

Marketing Manager Fresh Dairy, Vincent Omoth said, ‘This festive season, we want to ensure that our consumers enjoy both Fresh Dairy and Brookside healthy and nutritious products conveniently at a click of just a phone call (Customer care Toll free 0800 100 020/21) or WhatsApp (0715 744 664).  

Our home delivery solution is aimed at ensuring that consumers remain safe and healthy especially during this time of rising COVID-19 cases, while enjoying the greater convenience of safe product transportation using our door to door tricycle Tuk Tuks and mobile van delivery solution. 

Omoth further noted that all Fresh Dairy and Brookside products are available for the free home delivery services to include: Fresh milk, flavoured milk, Long life or UHT milk, powdered milk, Yoghurt (both flavoured and Brookside fruit yoghurt), Butter, Ghee and Cream. ‘All our dairy products are nutrient-rich with Energy, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fat and Calcium among others.’ 

Fresh Dairy’s home delivery solution is free and available to all customers in Kampala and Greater Kampala areas of Entebbe, Wakiso and Mukono districts primarily throughout the week. 

Omoth elaborated that a dedicated team of distributors and agents have equipped the entire motorbike and van home delivery team with health and safety equipment such as masks, gloves, sanitizers and social distancing skills to re-assure consumer safety.

‘We believe that health safety is key in re-assuring consumers during this COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, we have also publicized our location specific agent contact numbers via all Fresh Dairy’s social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that consumers can call for home delivery as well.’ 

Omoth concluded by noting that all payments for the home delivery service can either be made via mobile money or cash on delivery. ‘Fresh Dairy and Brookside products are still available countrywide in Shops, Duukas, Kiosks, Supermarkets and Tricycle Agents located near consumers.’

Women Are Key To Building Resilient Communities Beyond COVID-19

In Africa's fragile contexts, the burden of conflict, poverty and climate change falls most heavily on already marginalized groups. If we do not significantly and collectively step up our efforts, the continent's share of the world's poor will rise to over 90% by 2030, and 8 of the world's 10 poorest countries will be in Africa and in situations of fragility.

We need to act decisively to reset this trajectory. Today, pockets of fragility are increasingly spreading within and across borders, exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak with its health and socio-economic consequences. The pandemic has disproportionately impacted women and girls living in fragile contexts with ripple effects on education, livelihoods and nutrition, among others.

However, women are the backbones of African economies and can be key drivers of transformation as we strive to build back better more resilient societies. It is women if empowered and provided with adequate support, who can help rebuild communities once the crisis has passed.

Studies demonstrate that in Africa, women reinvest up to 90% of their income in providing a social safety net for their families, with a positive impact on health, education, and nutrition. Investing in women generates higher development returns.

Challenges of Vulnerability and Fragility

Fragility and its manifestations are complex, multi-dimensional and evolving as a result of dramatic social, economic, political and environmental changes that exacerbate patterns of inequality, exclusion and marginalisation. Women have been for far too long – and are unfortunately too often still – confined to unpaid care work and low paying jobs, which results in unpredictable and inadequate sources of income and social protection.

The COVID-19 crisis has deepened these inequalities. A study carried out by ImpactHer and UN Women across 30 African countries in July 2020 revealed that 80% of female small- and medium-sized (SME) business owners had to temporarily or permanently shut down their businesses due to pandemic restrictions.

The effect of an economic retrenchment in women-led businesses is being felt across society as women-led businesses account for about 40% of Africa's SMEs. This has resulted in reduced access to basic services, including food security, nutrition, health, education and housing, to mention a few, rising fragility pressures across the continent. At the same time, governments' fiscal space is narrowing, as a result of diminished economic activity and rising budgetary demands for social protection amid the pandemic. This leaves fewer resources for development finance.

Tapping the Potential of Women to Stimulate Resilience Building

Women are at the center of our economies and societies, and their access to more opportunity results in collateral benefits for all – and magnifies impact. If women are empowered and provided with adequate support, transformation to inclusive communities with shared prosperity and reduced poverty is possible on the African continent.

The African Development Bank remains on the frontline of the challenge to reach the continent's most vulnerable and to bolster resilient communities.

Specifically, the Bank is working with partners to address some of the root causes of fragility and vulnerability among women, youth and other marginalized groups such as forcibly displaced and hosting communities, through key strategic and operational policies. We do this through expanding analytics, knowledge work and tools that underpin our strategies, policies and operations across the African continent.

One example is the Bank's support for income-generating activities in the Sahel, in areas such as Timbuktu in Mali, Diffa and Agadez in Niger and Kishira in Chad, with the aim of breaking long-term cycles of crisis and vulnerability. While responsiveness and flexibility guide the Bank Group's approach to addressing fragility, more emphasis is to be given to early warning of risks, mitigation and prevention efforts.

Innovative Partnerships

While a lot of ground has been covered, many challenges still lie ahead. These should be addressed through an integrated approach across all sectors, for specific interventions to be identified, performance monitored and reported.

We need innovative partnerships that break the silos of development and humanitarian interventions along the peace-development-humanitarian nexus. We need to bring in the private sector and leverage our comparative advantages to have the desired impact at scale on the ground and break the cycle of poverty and fragility.

Some of the most effective ways to invest in the resilience of women, youth and vulnerable communities will be spotlighted from 11 to 12 November at the virtual Finance in Common (FiC) Summit (for example, but not limited to, High-Level Event 3 on Human Security in Fragile Settings: Scaling-Up Humanitarian and Resilience Investment and High-Level Event 7 on Development Banks as Actors for Change Towards Gender Equality). The Summit brings together 450 public development banks for the first time, with the aim of promoting new forms of investment to foster inclusive and sustainable growth. Join us online (https://financeincommon.org).

The time has come to invest in women, harness their strength and resilience to build more prosperous communities.

Because where women succeed, everyone benefits.

* Mrs. Vanessa Moungar is Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society at the African Development Bank

* M. Yero Baldeh is Director for the Transition States Coordination Office at the African Development Bank

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