Creative industries can drive Uganda competitiveness

Posted on February 11, 2014 07:14 am

Uganda’s economy is expected to grow by more than 6% this year according to the estimates from Bank Of Uganda. While speaking to an economist working with an American research company yesterday, Uganda’s jobs in television, film, music and software are expected to grown by 20% in the next three years. The industry is expected to be among Uganda’s fastest growing sector and could be worth more than $1billion a year by 2016 making up 7% of the workforce, the researcher told me. According to him, the sector is an “economic might” that has yet to be exploited fully and to increase Uganda’s global competitiveness, policy makers in Kampala should support creative industries. The creative products he told me would drive such a phenomenal growth and job creation are performing arts, Internet-based mobile applications, fashion-related designs, green energy, water purification and computer gaming that has gained popularity in all urban areas in Uganda. However, such field requires research and development, as opposed to products of university and college conveyor belts. For ‘pearl of Africa’ to realize such goals, the government is leading efforts to invest in technological innovations and there Uganda Communication Commission, the sector regulator has been at the forefront in supporting such by funding awards geared towards encouraging innovation in the country.

Kampala Skyline as seen in this photo I took
Kampala, Uganda’s capital city as seen in this photo I took

Innovation is the key to rapid economic growth and sustainability in Uganda, a country with an estimated population of 36 million people. To realize that there is need for financial and logistical support of private companies, universities as University of Makerere has been doing through their computer science department initiatives and involvement of government research institutions would also be a great idea. Uganda’s biggest problem is the absence of institutions specifically mandated by the relevant authorities to foster a culture of innovation and oversee the development of new technologies and the task has solely been left to University of Makerere, the best according to world universities ranking in East and Central African region. In my own thinking, an established national innovation system would be the key to sustainable human development. Such initiatives are needed to create synergy and collaboration of programs, policies and activities among stakeholders and across government institutions.

I do strongly believe that strengthening this Uganda’s innovation system would boost economic growth and distribute it more evenly, regenerate the environment and empower the people from ‘pearl of Africa’.The innovation system refers to state-led efforts to develop science and technology. Uganda’s prodigious film, television and music industries can play a key part of the figures for both employment and overall value to the economy in the next decade. Other facilities that can contribute to the growth and job creation include in national museum in Kamokya, art galleries and photography, national theatre where tourists flocks in thousands every month. The strong performance of the Uganda music industry in the region and abroad is evident in the success of music starts Peter Miles, Navio, Bebe Cool, Jose Chameleon, Bobi Wine, Radio and Weasle, Juliana Kanyomozi, Jacky Chandiru, Irene Namubiru among others.

Design which encompasses the fashion industry has also been performing well with country’s top fashion designer and arguably the best female designer in East African region Sylvia Owori providing a range her own designed outfits in in Kampala and in Nairobi while there has been new faces recently that include but not limited to Gloria Wavamunno, Racheal Kisti, Connie Shalita and Judith Banya Kyanda. Technocrats tasked with addressing the problems faced by Ugandan scientists, especially the lack of funding that stunts the progress of scientific research and leads to the stagnation of industrial innovation, as well as the lack of marketing and promotion for completed projects should more than mere talking and presentation of fancy ideas in workshops and seminars. I must laud University of Makerere for transparency in releasing scientific results and newly developed technology to the public and for allowing it to be used by the people. The problem with other Universities in the East African region is that they have failed to be open to scrutiny and have confined their work to scientific journals without translating it into practical applications and no wonder they don’t even appear among the best in Africa where South Africa, Nigeria and Egyptian universities rule. Innovation index is what shows a country’s ability to improve the living standards of its people through innovation and technology.

Contador Harrison