Uganda’s Path to Sustainable Development: A Tale of Mutual Learning with China 

By Crispin Kaheru

This year’s 74th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China presents a remarkable opportunity for Uganda and the broader world to take stock of a profound journey of mutual learning and collaboration.

Looking at the intricate web of lessons that China and Uganda exchange, it becomes evident that this relationship is not merely about learning; it’s a dynamic exchange that continues to enrich and challenge both nations. Each lesson carries the weight of experience, shaping the roadmap for Uganda’s modernization journey. 

Building a Strong Domestic Foundation: China’s ascent to global prominence underscores the importance of strengthening domestic foundations before engaging with the world. Uganda is emulating this strategy by prioritizing internal stability, governance, and anti-corruption efforts. Corruption, in particular, poses a significant threat to development and must be tackled relentlessly.

By fortifying its domestic institutions, Uganda can create a solid platform for sustainable progress. In fact, Uganda recognizes that the fight against corruption is not a one-time battle but a sustained effort. It draws inspiration from China’s determination to root out corruption, a campaign that did not only improve internal governance but also fostered an environment conducive to economic growth. 

Strategic International Engagement: China’s approach to international engagement, characterized by clear terms and alignment with national interests, provides a valuable blueprint for Uganda. As Uganda seeks foreign investments, aid, and partnerships, it must ensure that these arrangements align with its development objectives. By negotiating from a position of strength and safeguarding its interests, Uganda can maximize the benefits of international collaboration. Uganda should consistently be mindful of crafting agreements that prioritize its long-term interests. International partnerships should not compromise sovereignty or burden future generations with unsustainable commitments. 

Military Modernization: Beyond ensuring security, a modernized military can serve as a guardian of national interests and regional stability. Uganda’s recognition of the importance of military modernization mirrors China’s approach to safeguarding its growing global interests. A well-equipped and disciplined military can play a vital role in preserving peace and stability, essential for development. Uganda’s commitment to military modernization aligns with its vision of being a key regional peacekeeper and contributing to global security efforts. It understands that a strong military not only protects sovereignty but also enhances capacity to engage in regional diplomacy. 

Active Global Diplomacy: China’s shift from a defensive stance to proactive engagement in global governance reflects a commitment to shaping international outcomes. Uganda, too, understands the significance of active participation in regional and international forums. By contributing to peace missions and participating in global initiatives, Uganda not only enhances its global standing but also learns valuable diplomatic lessons. Uganda’s role as one of the largest hosts of refugees in Africa and the world places it in a unique position to contribute to global efforts to address displacement crises. It recognizes that diplomatic solutions are essential for both regional stability and development. 

Adherence to Rules-Based Trade: China’s participation in the WTO highlights the benefits of a rules-based global trading system. Uganda mirrors this approach by engaging in trade discussions and advocating for equitable trade practices that strengthen its economy and benefit its citizens. Trade stands as a cornerstone of Uganda’s economic growth, offering opportunities for mutual learning and collaboration with China. Uganda’s commitment to fair trade practices extends to its regional engagements. It recognizes that fostering trade relations with neighboring countries is essential for regional economic integration and growth. 

Digital Transformation: China’s investment in E-Government has revolutionized public service delivery. Uganda can harness this lesson to propel its government into the digital era. Digitization promises transparency and efficiency in public service. Uganda’s journey towards digital governance includes initiatives to digitize public services, streamline administrative processes, and enhance citizen engagement. It envisions a future where technology bridges gaps and ensures equal access to services for all citizens. 

Rural Development: China’s commune village system, emphasizing self-reliance and communal resource sharing, offers a model for rural development. Uganda has recognized the potential in this approach, launching the Parish Development Model (PDM). PDM empowers local communities, stimulating rural economic growth and addressing poverty. Uganda’s commitment to rural development extends beyond economic growth; it encompasses social inclusion and poverty reduction. The Parish Development Model aims to uplift every Ugandan, ensuring that no one is left behind in the modernization journey. 

Leadership Development: China’s rigorous leadership development process within the CPC instills discipline, sagacity, and unwavering commitment. Political parties can play an active role in grooming leadership that can articulate a compelling modernization vision. In Uganda we ought to acknowledge that leadership is not just about individuals; it’s about nurturing a culture of accountability, transparency, and service to the nation. It is possible for political institutions to foster leaders who prioritize the interests of the people and the nation above all else. 

Foreign Investment and Tourism: China’s strategy of seeking investment opportunities and promoting tourism abroad has enhanced its global influence. Uganda also acknowledges the benefits of attracting foreign investments and tourists while safeguarding national interests. This approach aligns with Uganda’s vision for modernization, leveraging external resources for large-scale projects. Uganda’s investment promotion efforts focus on attracting businesses that align with its development goals. It recognizes that foreign investments should contribute to job creation, technology transfer, and sustainable economic growth. 

Sustainable Development a Shared Goal: As we continue to explore the lessons exchanged between Uganda and China, it becomes evident that this partnership transcends geographical boundaries. It’s a partnership of shared aspirations, mutual learning, and collaborative progress. Uganda’s modernisation vision of 2040 is not a solitary endeavor but a journey where the wisdom of nations converges to illuminate the path forward. 

As Uganda and China celebrate their unique journey of mutual learning and collaboration, they stand on the threshold of a brighter future for their nations and the entire African continent. By embracing these shared lessons and committing to unwavering determination and collaboration, Uganda and China are poised to transform their aspirations into a shared reality, ushering in a new era of global development. If China has done it, Uganda can certainly do it.

Kaheru is a Commissioner, Uganda Human Rights Commission

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