uganda

How cottage industry can be a strong catalyst to the transformation of Uganda’s socio economy

(Last Updated On: 27 December 2022)

The government has for years introduced several programmes and projects worth billions of money to alleviate poverty so rampant in most communities in Uganda yet the problem has persisted. Setting up cottage industries, a diplomat says, can transform the economy.

This is because the government considers that absolute poverty must be eradicated at all costs, notwithstanding numerous challenges like rigid and negative attitudes by most Ugandans who fear venturing into new areas.

While experts and politicians have introduced many intervention measures, some voices have come out to urge the government to encourage the cottage industry which has been a success story in some parts of the world, specifically India.

Former mayor of Jinja Al Hajji Mohammed Beswari Kezala who has temporarily quit active politics for diplomatic services proposes that the government of Uganda initiates a Memorandum of Understanding with its Indian counterpart on Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), borrowing from Indian’s undisputable prowess.

Kezala, once a critic of President Yoweri Museveni’s NRM government envies the critical role that MSMEs have played in transforming the lives of the Indian people and contributing to national development.

Anchoring on his four-year experience as Deputy Head of Mission in India, Ambassador Kezala now based in Doha in the same position is confident the same can also be replicated in Uganda.

“…our belief in the Indian MSME model is anchored on the fact that our production as a country is still traditional where the majority are still espousing peasantry lifestyle and production techniques…”, the former National Chairman of the opposition DP states.

Kezala believes that any efforts to transform the status can be captured through the cottage industry philosophy that seems to be working in other economies like India.

What is the Cottage Industry?

The term “cottage industry‟, is used when products are manufactured on a small scale and India is well known for its large number of traditional cottage industries.

The Cottage Industry generally is a concentrated form of small-scale industry where the productivity of goods takes place in the houses of the labourers and the workforce includes the members of the family.

The equipment used to generate products is not the hi-tech ones but generally those which are used at home.

With the advent of modern technology, cottage industries witnessed a sharp decline, Kezala says the government of India has since taken steps to revive cottage industries and they now play an important part in contributing to the economy of the country.

He says the top five Indian cottage industries are cotton weaving, silk weaving, carpet making, leather industry, metal handicrafts and small food processing industries.

“…we believe that a leaf can be borrowed from the Indian experience in efforts to transform Uganda’s population…”, he says, adding most of the projects under this scheme range from about 2000 USD and 50000 USD, an equivalent of UGX7m to UGX18m which is available in the hands of many.

Kezala who encouraged several foreign investors to Jinja where he served for more than 20 years in political leadership is optimistic that the already established business community in different fields in Uganda have a lot of lessons to pick from their Indian counterparts by also tapping into their rich experience and replicate some of the best practices appropriate to Uganda.

Challenges

As they say, “Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it”, the biggest challenge is to convince Ugandans to accept a diversification of mindset to bolster their long-held traditional ways of doing business by copying and pasting from others.

It’s worth noting that most Ugandans are now in real estate which is very expensive, takes a long time to register returns on investment, creates no employment and contributes little to the national economy.

Way Forward 

As a way forward, Kezala suggests study tours and training as some measures to help the local business community in Uganda to appreciate this approach through a positive mindset and embrace the cottage industry.

“…I am optimistic that Uganda’s already established business community in different fields can borrow a leaf from the Indian experience and replicate some of the best practices appropriate to our country and economy…” he asserts.

He also proposes that the youth can be organised by a government enterprise under a consortium to make group purchases of raw materials and marketing.

Kezala floats another idea of exposure through trade fares and helping them to meet with potential clients of their products. In these forums, the youth can freely interface with potential clients and build long-lasting partnerships.

To avoid past mistakes where some Ugandans mistakenly treat loans as tokens of political appreciation for their voting patterns, Kezala stresses that some conditions be attached to accessing the money through financial institutions with the government acting as the guarantor.

“…this will mean the government agency will be in a position to oversee their operations to ensure they are in line with set objectives, which in turn helps the youth to build business capacity, to grow and pay back the loans…,” he says.

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