Innovation in Uganda can generate high economic growth

May 18, 2015

In Uganda, innovation has an important role in economic growth. Any country with better levels of innovation and technological development have better economic growth while countries with low levels of innovation have worse economic growth. Human history wrote that technology and innovation encourage high economic growth for countries that had high innovation. Levels of innovation in Uganda can be measured from the proportion of total funding for research and development both public and private to gross domestic products, the number of patents, the lack of reliable researchers, weak synergy between relevant institutions mainly the government, universities, industries and institutions funding research in the implementation of research.Currently, Uganda is one of the countries with a very small amount of funding for research, reaching only 0.1 percent of GDP in 2014. This amount did not change much from the estimated 0.2 percent of GDP spending expected in 2015.Compare Uganda with US research budget in 2014 that averaged more than 2.8 percent of GDP.The number of patents in Uganda is also non existent compared with 50,990 in Japan in 2014. In the first four months of this year, Uganda recorded only zero patents according to World Intellectual Property Organization data.

In order to increase the power of innovation in Uganda, the stakeholders in government need to facilitate the flow of technology and the flow of public information needed by stakeholders consisting of technology developers namely the academia and technology users who are also producers of goods and services, and the government.Uganda government’s task is facilitation and regulation of relations between the developers and users of technology that can be more intensive and more mutual.The flow of technology is the process of technology transfer from technology developers to technology users and producers of goods and services that is translated into a form of goods and services. Products and services, as a result of the application of technological inventions, are then marketed to consumers.Uganda currently has one of the fastest growing number of consumers in Sub Saharan Africa. Flow of technology should also run from the developer of technology to the government.Under normal circumstances, the processes are an effort by developers to obtain legality such as patents and certification based on the Uganda National Standards. The flow of technology does not run in a vacuum. It is the feedback from the flow of public information from the consumers and or public. Producers of goods and services see a market opportunity that they then recommend to the developers of the technology to fill the gap.The challenge for the administration of President Yoweri Museveni is creating a good national innovation that accelerates the flow of technology between the stakeholders by first improving the capabilities of each stakeholder.

There are some efforts that should be made to address these challenges.Me thinks the Ugandan government should increase research funding as a stimulus for researchers.I do also believe that government must give incentives for technology developers as researchers are known. It also is absolutely necessary to increase the flow of technology information from the developers of technology in the form of new discoveries and also assist learning institutions like University of Makere and Kyambogo University with adequate research funding.This is because the absence of adequate incentives causes the technology developers to look to other places or countries that provide higher incentives. No wonder many Ugandan technology developers do not return to Uganda after completing their studies abroad.Minister for Education Jessica Alupo need to ensure that educational curriculum is oriented to create innovators and not workers only. Currently, the orientation of education in Uganda is mostly to prepare graduates to enter the labor market and not to become entrepreneurs. There’s also need to educate the public on the awareness of the importance of innovation and of the use of domestic products, especially products developed for technological innovation in Uganda.In addition, the new Uganda Revenue Authority’s Commissioner General Doris Akol should figure out how to provide tax incentives for products made from home-grown innovation.

Contador Harrison