H.E. Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President
23 September 2008
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YOWERI KAGUTA MUSEVENI, President of Uganda, suggesting that he, like some others in Uganda, believed the so-called “food crisis” was actually good for Equatorial Africa, emphasized that it was certainly good for Uganda’s farmers. In the past, those farmers had not always had sufficient access to markets, primarily due to the protectionism of the United States, European Union, Japan and China, as well as a lack of factories to process and ship the food to distant markets. But other obstacles -- such as poor transportation infrastructure, intermittent electricity and a lack of seeds -- faced by some African countries were not a problem in Uganda, and today’s high food and commodity prices, largely due to the growing ranks of middle class consumers in China and India, had created an opportunity for its farmers. As a result, Uganda had enjoyed recent annual economic growth rates of 9 per cent.
While it was good that once protected markets had been opened to African products, he said, the issues of subsidies remained. Those trade-distorting farming subsidies -- which did not exist in Uganda -- should be removed.
Recent innovations now allowed Uganda’s surplus milk to be processed and exported around the world, he continued. Government-funded scientists were also converting the 40 per cent of the banana crop that had previously rotted in the market place into processed foods. Even Uganda’s salaried urban classes had the capacity to own land or had access to land through their relatives. They could subsidize their diets by growing their own food. Given those benefits, Africa and other agriculture-based economies should rise up, utilize their full potential and take advantage of the high food prices.
Challenging the consensus view that “all African countries cannot meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015”, he went on to say it was incorrect to talk about sustainable development without discussing socio-economic transformation. Just as Europe and some Asian societies had, Africa needed to transform itself socially, economically and technologically into a middle-class society of skilled workers. That metamorphosis would allow it to meet all of the Goals.
To achieve such a change, Africa had to industrialize and modernize its services sectors and commercialize its agriculture, he stressed. Emphasis should be put on market access with the aim not only of gaining entry into the world’s biggest markets, but of rationalizing those of the continent. Doing so would require lowering the cost of doing business by developing energy, transportation and educational infrastructure. In closing, he wondered why industrialization and value addition had not been part of those goals initially. If African countries added value to the raw materials it currently exported, its share of world trade would inevitably rise. Jobs would be created and poverty rates lowered.