Busoga: According to the U N H S Report 2019/20, Busoga was ranked among the top 5 (five) sub-region’s that had failed Uganda from attaining middle income status by 2020. This was alongside Acholi at 68%, Karamoja at 66%, Bukedi at 35%, then Busoga at 29% and Kigezi T 28%. Further UBOS records indicated that of the total number of 8.3million Ugandans reported as poor, Busoga as a sub-region was found to have 1.2million poor people which translates to about 14% Busoga’s contribution to the national poor people numbers
In contrast, Busoga thrived in the early 50’s, 60’s to the mid-70s as Jinja City transformed to become East Africa’s largest industrial town, providing thousands of jobs and indeed livelihoods to the people in Busoga and Uganda at large. At the time, No region of Uganda apart from Kampala grew at the pace of Busoga in terms of Agricultural productivity, trade and business, Tourism, Industry, among others. Jinja hosted about 75% of the Country’s Industrial establishments which triggered the growth of the local economy as they provided ready market for the strong agricultural productivity of the sub-region.
In terms of leadership, Busoga enjoyed a strong coherent leadership environment driven by a strong cultural institution of the Obwa Kyabazinga Bwa Busoga and strategically influential political leadership in the central Governments. The continued political cohesion and influence of key National leaders such as the 1st Vice President of Uganda and Kyabazinga of Busoga Kingdom at the time His Royal Highness William Nadiope, late Shaban Nkutu former Chairman of UPC, the late Mathias Ngobi former Minister of Agriculture and cooperatives in the 60s, the late Eng James Zikusoka of works, Mzee Henry Kyemba who held strategic positions since the 60’s through the 70s, among others kept Busoga’s role in Uganda’s economy strong through the promotion of Jinja’s economic prowess even after the abolition of Kingdoms. The prosperity of Uganda was partly hinged on the prosperity of Busoga.
According to the Busoga Development Agenda (BDA), Busoga’s economic collapse is partly a result of the collapse of Jinja’s industrial prowess due to the 1994 privatization policy and weakening of the cooperative movement in Busoga, a disunited political leadership and cultural leadership differences that destabilized the role of the Kyabazingahood as a rallying point for the unity of Busoga after the demise of the late His Royal Highness Henry Wako Muloki.
This explains the regrettable socioeconomic trends the subregion encounters today associated with high unproductive population, unguided growing of sugar cane in some parts of Busoga, weak unity, bad leaders, entitlement mindset, poor Education Standards, poor health services, unplanned and unwanted teenage pregnancies, youth redundancy, poor road network, etc.
Which Way to go?
Though there is still a lot to be done, the Uganda government has to some extent played her part by initiating several development projects in the Subregion of both economic and social nature such as rehabilitation of some roads in the region, construction of health centers, construction of schools, the implementation of policies such as prosperity for all, Operation wealth creation, etc.
Those initiatives though good and commendable, their effect to household transformation has been negligible considering the UBOS performance reports by the sub-region over the previous 15 to 30 years.
In October 2020, Busoga became the 1st sub-region of Uganda to generate and launch a 10 (ten) year regional development plan referred to as the Busoga Development Agenda. Under the framework of the Busoga Consortium for Development working in close collaboration with all regional social and development actors, the Busoga Development Agenda 2020/21-2030/31 was designed to guide the revival and transformation of Busoga’s socioeconomic predominance over a period of 10 (ten) years.
The target is to guide the transition of Busoga’s average percapita income from the 2017 estimate of about $350usd (USAID Report on estimating district GDP in Uganda November 2017) to the lower middle class Gross National Income percapita average between $1,036 to 4,045usd by 2031.
Through the use of the bottom- up model which also is in tandem with the aspirations of the recently launched Parish Development Model, the approach for the implementation of the BDA is grassroots-citizenled and community driven with interventions crafted on the basis of existing local strengths and development potentials as foundations for bolstering the socioeconomic prosperity of Busoga.
These where laid out in order of priority as BDA pillars including; Commercialization of Agriculture, Tourism development and promotion, education and skills development, development of roads and water infrastructure, environmental sustainability, industrialization and private sector development, health improvement, land and mineral development, urban and human settlement, and at the centre of them being the supporting of the empowerment of the Obwa Kyabazinga Bwa Busoga.
Following the successful commencement of implementation of the 2023/24 BDA work-plan with the Busoga regional prayer week that served as a trigger for Busoga’s Unity among the political leadership, a renewed ray of hope for the rebuilding of a strong and prosperous Busoga was ignited.
There is still so much Hope and opportunities for the Busoga Sub-region. Through the BDA, 25 interventions have been identified alongside the 10 (ten) strategic pillars with the focus of making the best of our resources such as the Fertile soils and natural resources/minerals to catalyze the sub-region’s transformation.
Aware of the importance of the role of shared beliefs and values as drivers of common prosperity, the Busoga Consortium for Development seeks to implement the BDA with the main principal of “living no-one behind” alongside the promotion of the 4 (four) core transformational values of; UBUNTU (I am because we are), Patriotism (feeling of pride, devotion and attachment to Busoga), Integrity (practice of being honest) and consensus (culture of general agreement in good or bad).
Countries such as Singapore, Korea, China, among others are said to have transformed due to focused leadership and building shared transformational beliefs and values. A huge mass of people should for example be modeled to believe and practice being honest, being God fearing, value of keeping time, team work, etc.
I therefore would like to conclude by appealing to all the people of Busoga to embrace and support the implementation of the BDA having consented upon it as the sub-region’s guiding transformation agenda. This is because it is the game changer for the renewed prosperity of the sub-region.
The writer(Mula Anthony) is the Director General- Busoga Consortium for Development