Workers yet to benefit from unions
Mr Paul Oketch, 45, a worker at one of the sugar manufacturing factories, joined the labour union 10 years ago. Unions help members to enjoy benefits of employment such as fair treatment, better pay, working conditions and fair compensation.
But instead, he has suffered more like other workers who are not unionists. He says, the union leaders who would have helped to fight the exploitation of members, instead ‘connive’ with the employers to make their life harder while at work.
Mr Oketch says their plan to withdraw from the union, which even deducts three per cent of their monthly salary to facilitate its activities, have also been frustrated by both the employer and union leaders.
“We are between a rock and a hard place and our leaders are simply there to collect wealth yet ordinary workers are suffering,” he says. “I even find no justification of deducting three per cent from my meagre monthly salary to facilitate a union, which does not help me,” he adds.
All the unionised workers on sugar and tea plantations scribe to National Union of Plantation and Agricultural Workers of Uganda (NUPAW). But Mr Bruno Pajobo, the NUPAWU secretary general, says some union members speak ‘ill’ of their leaders because they were defeated in elections.
Mr Oketch’s case is one among the many victims as thousands of workers are silently being oppressed at work places but fail to speak out because of fear of losing their jobs.
Despite their failure to safeguard the rights of workers, union leaders are said to be corrupt, a vice which has affected the organisation’s operations which handles an estimated 300,000 civil servants and 11million private sector employees.
Consequently, this has led to splinter groups that are defeating the desired teamwork spirit.
The Central Organisation of Free Trade Unions (Coftu) broke off from National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) in the run up to the 2006 elections, following elections in NOTU in which workers Member of Parliament, Dr Sam Lyomoku and Mr Christopher Kahirita emerged losers.
But Dr Lyomoki , who is also Coftu general secretary says despite having internal bickering, the current labour movement leadership has tried to deem its image locally and internationally .
“As brothers of the same family, such misunderstands are inevitable but we believe in solidarity and it is through this that we have managed to achieve something,” he says.
He cites the enactment of the National Employment Policy, securing workers’ representation on the National Social Security Fund board, and improving awareness about workers’ rights as some of the achievements registered.
“I do not really think that there is any employer today who doesn’t know that mistreating workers is bad. We have done our part and what is lacking is taking action,” he says.Read More
Experts call for competitiveness
As workers commemorate World Labour Day, the competence and productivity of people employed in the various sectors remain a growing concern in Uganda. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the Ugandan labourforce is estimated at 9.8m people, of who 53 per cent are females.
It also indicates that about 75 per cent of the labourforce is below 40 years and yet 30 per cent of the total labourforce is illiterate. An estimated 77 per cent workers have education below secondary school level.
This means that the majority of the individuals who enter the labour market do not have required skills leave alone being aware of the labour laws. Mr Bernard Mujuni, a legal specialist, calls for robust labour administration and competitiveness involving strengthening administrative systems, and personnel to promote labour standards. He says this will promote increased productivity.
Mr Mujuuni says labour productivity and competitiveness should match the infrastructural development. “There should be a deliberate effort to skill and re-orient the critical human resource necessary for delivering the desired industrial growth,” he says.
As a way of enhancing the competiveness and productivity of the labourforce, the government has come up with a new 10-year programme dubbed “Skilling Uganda”. To Ms Jesca Alupo, the Education and Sports minister under whose docket the programme falls, the initiative should be supported by all Ugandans as learners will be trained in competencies and competiveness as opposed to theory. In addition to students, she says the initiative also targets people who are already working and in self-employment.
Dr Gideon Badagawa, the executive director of Private Sector Foundation-Uganda, says the private sector is working out modalities together with institutions of higher learning to provide industrial training and apprenticeship opportunities.
“To that effect, we have presented a proposal to the government to incentivise the companies and organisations that take on students for industrial training and apprenticeship with tax exemptions,” says Dr Badagawa.
He stresses that the overall objective of this all-round training programme is to give confidence to the employers that the kind of people they are going to employ will not jeopardise their operations.
“Some companies are skeptical about employing young and inexperienced people because they think they will burn down their factories due to poor handling of machines. So, we want to expose these young people to the real practical world,” he says.
In the region, studies show that Kenya’s labourforce is the most skilled and competent, a reason why Kenyan nationals are aggressively taking on jobs that should be done by Ugandans mainly in the areas of tourism and hospitality, IT, manufacturing, among others.
What the government says
Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana says the government is doing everything in its mandate to enhance the competence of the labourforce through collaborative efforts with other government departments and stakeholders.
“Of course this is the major outcry everywhere, with employers and regional markets saying our people do not have employable skills let alone the right work ethics and attitude,” he says.Read More
Youth unemployment rate continues to soar
For Mr Lubowa Musoke, a metal workshop entrepreneur in Rubaga, Kampala, attaining vocational skills is but not good enough, especially to the young people who do not have capital to start their own enterprises.
He thus advises the government to increase its funding to vocational income generating projects if the problem of unemployment is to be reduced. “Since there are fewer government jobs, it is important that people seek self-employment but this is hindered by lack of start-up capital,” he says.
According to Mr Musoke, the government should ensure that the young entrepreneurs are availed with capital in form of soft loans or better yet, exempt small scale industries from paying tax.
Projects such as carpentry, and metal welding can be rewarding to an extent that a person may not even think of looking for formal employment.
“For example, I started my business four years ago with only Shs7m but it has grown to over Shs30 million and I am able to pay fees for my children and take care of my family,” Mr Musoke says.
The government has initiated several youth focused projects to promote entrepreneurship skills. For example, under the youth capital venture fund, Shs25 billion was provided in the financial year (2012/13) as start-up capital for the youth and medium enterprises.
In 2010, the government launched the non-formal training programme under the Ministry of Education and Sports, which saw a significant number of Ugandans acquiring non-formal skills which they can utilise to increase production.
In 2012, the government launched a new education programme named, “Skilling Uganda” meant to introduce short courses for school leavers at primary seven, senior four and six, school dropouts and graduates.
It is aimed at giving learners an opportunity to go through a parallel education programme to that of formal education.Read More
FAO roots for commercial fish farming
interview. The fishing industry remains one of the key contributors of foreign exchange in Uganda. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Country Representative, Alhaji M. Jallow, spoke to Daily Monitor’s Brian Ssenoga about FAO’s new interventions in the fisheries sector.
Give an overview of the Food and Agriculture Organization support to the fishing industry in Uganda?
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency for agricultural issues and food security, including fisheries. In Uganda, the major source of fish is Lake Victoria and so the fisheries sector in the country is important. FAO jointly works with the government of Uganda in conserving fish stocks in the water resources.
The government set up the beach management units to regulate the fishing industry. However, the units have not been as successful as we envisaged in managing the resources and sharing the lake with other regional countries made the protection of resources more difficult. With time, we realized a shortfall in fish stocks, especially in Lake Victoria. Fishermen who caught 200kgs per day are now getting 20kg or less.
What we are addressing currently with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries is the aspect of fish farming (aquaculture) to complement catches from the different lakes in the country. We are involving the youth and fish farmers through a $500,000 (more than Shs1.3b) FAO funded project. It is not a lot of money, but we plan to use it effectively.
We recently evaluated the hatchery and pond construction challenges in the country. Fish feed availability is currently being assessed for improvement, especially at the farm level. In order to complement the aquaculture project, the Ministry of Finance has endorsed a $1 million (more than Shs2.6 billion) FAO funded project for the facilitation of youth employment through fish farming.
What is your assessment of the opportunities available in the fishing industry?
As I mentioned earlier, commercial fish farming will be viable in Uganda if we consider the abundant water availability and topography of potential fish farming areas. This will be necessary for the construction of ponds that can hold water and support proper growth of the fish for commercial purposes. Uganda produces up to 15,000 tonnes of fish from aquaculture, including production from small-scale fish farmers, emerging commercial fish farmers and stocked community water reservoirs, and lakes and rivers. There are an estimated 20,000 ponds throughout the country with an average surface area of 500 square metres per pond. With improved market prices for fish, government intervention to increase production and stagnant supply from capture fisheries, aquaculture has begun to attract entrepreneurial farmers seeking to exploit the business opportunity provided by the prevailing high demand for farmed fish.
This expansion in aquaculture has also resulted in the transformation of 20-30 per cent of the smallholder subsistence ponds into profitable small-scale production units through developments in management and production scale. However, fish farming as a business must be done from a professional point of view. There are some fish farmers, but most of them are doing it more for subsistence. Farmed fish has a huge market here and outside the country. Ugandans consume fish in large quantities but production has always been limited.
In terms of large scale investment for export, compared to the neigbouring countries, Uganda is strategically positioned and blessed with all the resources to support the fish industry. There is a huge market for Uganda’s fish and fish products in those countries. Fish exports generate substantial revenue averaging nearly $124 million in the last five years, representing 7-15 per cent of all agricultural exports. What is now lacking is money and commitment to heavily invest in the industry, including in fish farming. The fish value chain must be promoted with deliberate intentions to create jobs and industrialize the sector to effectively contribute to the development of the country.
What do you think are Uganda’s chances of having fish as a major source of nutrition and income?
Many people tend to look at food security as only the availability of food in the house, but, technically, food security involves food for consumption and at the same time to generate income to buy other things to fulfil human needs. It is known that fish is not only nutritious but has medicinal components as well. Yes, the lake volumes are dwindling but the fish farming option is here and we are ready to support it as a source of food and income. We are planning to get involved and work with fishing communities on protecting the resources in the lake and sustaining the livelihhoods of fisher folk in the country.
The World Food Day is in October, what is the theme for this year and how is it linked to fisheries?
Now that the World Food Day is near (October 16), we want Ugandans to know that this year’s theme is; “Family Farming: feeding the world and caring for the earth.” The UN General Assembly has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming and this is to reposition family farming at the centre of agriculture and general policies in the national agenda to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development.
This is to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers.
In Uganda, for example, there are 3.9 million agricultural households and these significantly contribute to food availability and eradicating hunger, promoting food security, nutrition, environmental protection and natural resources management. We can widen that to include the fish farmers and the fisherfolk in the fishing communities.Read More
UCC uncertain on registered sim cards as deadline looms
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) was by yesterday unable to give the numerical progress of the ongoing sim card registration exercise expected to end on March 1, a year after it was launched.
In a telephone interview with the Daily Monitor this week, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC executive director, said the overall performance of the registration campaign will be provided at the end of the exercise, reasoning that what is most crucial right now is for individual subscribers to ensure that their lines are registered as per the deadlines or risk being switched off in March.
He said: “Registration will be closed at the end of the month after which telecoms will be required to block unregistered simcards. Those that have not registered should hurry up and do so because; we (UCC and telecoms) agreed to maintain the initial February 28 deadline.”
UCC’s failure to provide simcard registration numbers is not helped by telecom firms, many of which have stayed cagey on their numerical progress. Save for Orange telecom which says that about 80 per cent of its 1.1 million subscribers had registered by end of January 2013; the others are only relaying percentages without declaring their latest subscribers bases.
For example, MTN Uganda says that more than 70 per cent of its subscribers had registered by end of January, Warid reports about 67 per cent, and Airtel more than 68 per cent. However, the failure to have a clear impression of the total numbers of the already registered and unregistered subscribers is in essence affecting all telecommunication stakeholders as no one can evaluate the progress of the exercise and forge a clear way forward.
According to the ICT minister, Mr Ruhakana Rugunda, simcard registration was adopted to streamline the telecommunication sector and also protect both the country and its people from individuals who use mobile phones to plan and perpetuate crime.
But since the exercise was launched on March 1, 2012, telecom firms have highlighted absence of national IDs as the biggest challenge to registering their subscribers mainly in rural areas. This, they believed, has slowed what would have been a faster exercise.
Last week, a journalists’ body, Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) filed an application to court seeking an injunction to stop UCC from blocking sim cards of unregistered subscribers on the stated deadline, on grounds that the whole exercise is illegal as there is no parliamentary approval.Read More
New telecom claims over 80,000 subscribers
New player K2 telecom, has already gathered more than 80,000 subscribers before launching calls across all networks services, Mr. Saul Katumba Segawa, the telecom’s interim chief executive officer, has said.
In an interview with the Daily Monitor last week, Mr. Segawa said in just a month after K2 was officially launched, the telecom has already acquired a clientele base of up to 82,000 subscribers and is now finalizing inter-telecoms before its full-service package is availed across all networks.
“K2 is finalising the process of interconnect negotiation with the other telecom companies; a process that has lots of relationship dynamics to agree upon such as call tariffs. In just a few days, we will have this finalised and K2 will effectively have full service levels,” Mr Segawa wrote.
He added: “We are focusing on building the K2 family with the benefits of affordable call rates. Our clients are benefitting from affordable calls at Shs100 per minute.”
Despite claims that the telecom is collaborating with an international telecom, Mr Segawa noted that K2 is an indigenous company without any foreign capital investment.
Asked to clarify about K2 telecom’s subscribers, UCC executive director, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, said he did not have any official statistics since the new entrant has not submitted them.Read More
Telecom player faults industry price wars
A telecommunication player has advised his counterparts not to indulge in unjustified price wars again, arguing that they are harmful to the industry and unhealthy for the economy.
Speaking at a function to release its 2012 financial results in Kampala last week, MTN chief executive officer, Mr Mazen Maroue, said low call rates not only constrain telecom operators from making more investments but also lower their contribution to the economy through reduced tax revenues.
The telecoms industry entered a price war in 2010, stretching into 2011. According to the revenue collecting body, price wars in the telecommunication sector led to a shortfall of Shs24 billion due to the decline in average call rates.
Mr. Maroue said: “We have ensured that we have an efficient market and call rates that will contribute to the economy’s development.”
Low income earners to access insurance
Low income earners, who have for long been unable to afford insurance covers, are set to benefit from a new product that will enable them to pay their medical bills in case of an accident.
The MyLife mobile personal accident insurance product launched by Liberty Life – a life insurance service provider – and MCash – a mobile money payment service provider – provides cover for accidental disability, loss of life as well as hospital cash back in the event the insured is involved in an accident, upon payment of monthly fees of between Shs2,500 and Shs12,500 depending on the plan.
The product has three plans including silver where a customer pays monthly fees of Shs2,500, gold Shs6,250 for the gold plan and Shs12,500 for the platinum plan.
Upon being hospitalised for more than 72 hours, disability or loss of life, the beneficiary or customer is entitled to a lump sum of Shs1 million, Shs2.5 million and Shs5 million for the silver, gold and platinum covers, respectively.
Speaking at the launch of the product in Kampala yesterday, Mr Joseph Almeida, Liberty Life managing director, said the product was driven by the insurance firm’s commitment to create a range of products and solutions to meet customers’ ever changing financial, investment and lifestyle risk situations. “One will never know when an accident will occur and sometimes the unexpected happens when we least expect. …MyLife will take away the burden of worrying about the financial implication of such an accident,” Mr Almeida said.
He added that the firm has sophisticated software that enables them to track at any stage claim submitted to ensure prompt settlement after receiving all the required documentation.
MyLife product is expected to improve access to insurance, especially among the lower segment of the population which has for long been untapped and grow penetration rates from the current 0.6 per cent, at which it has stagnated for years. The product, however, will be accessible to M-Cash account holders as premiums will only be paid through M-Cash.Read More
Travel to Uganda with Conservation Concepts and BeadforLife
April 11 – 21, 2012 I will be leading my seventh trip to Uganda in partnership with my wife’s organization, BeadforLife.
This trip to Uganda is full-immersion, and will be a very powerful experience. This is not Africa through the windows of an air-conditioned bus, but a chance to feel the red dust on your face and engage one-on-one with some of the most welcoming people in the world.
Here is a sample of what you will experience:
- Learn about the complicated issues of global poverty and BeadforLife’s holistic approach to poverty eradication.
- Visit BeadforLife’s Friendship Village to see the life-changing benefits of home ownership
- Go on a 4-day safari in spectacular Murchison Falls National Park
- Explore environmental issues and their impacts on people’s lives
- Visit an AIDS clinic and find out what living with HIV means in Africa
Follow the link to learn more about traveling to Uganda with Conservation Concepts and BeadforLife. And please forward this message on to your friends!Read More
Ugandan Shilling Hits Greatest Low in 18 Years
The shilling is the worst-performing currency against the dollar in the world so far this year, depreciating to 2,780 per dollar around 4 p.m. today. Oil importers and telecommunication companies have played a strong role in the demand for U.S. currency, Bloomberg reported.
The shilling is the weakest against the dollar that it has been since July 1993. The U.S. dollar has been strengthening significantly on the international markets as well, despite the S & P downgrade of the United States, due to international financial turmoil, particularly in the Eurozone.
In June, the shilling traded at sh2735/2750, but a Central Bank intervention strengthened it to sh2400, New Vision reported.
President Museveni spent one-third of the state budget—or 1.3 billion USD—in just the month of January 2011, shortly before the national elections. $720 million was also spent on buying six Russian fighter jets, the Council on Foreign Relations reported.
Ugandan opposition leaders vowed yesterday to begin protests over the rising cost of living, particularly fuel and food, AFP reported. Inflation last month reached 18.7 percent.
Kizza Besigye and other opposition politicians pledged to restart the walk-to-work protests at a candlelight vigil in Masaka for a toddler shot by a security officer in April. Besigye was recently cleared of all charges against him connected to the demonstrations early this year.
As opposition supporters went to lay a wreath at the home where the child was shot, the army and police fired teargas into the crowd. The Ugandan police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said any protest would be stopped for security reasons.
The Minister of Security, Wilson Muruli Mukasa, said that the opposition is using Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube as part of a “grand plan” to topple the government, BBC News reported. Social media was being used, he said, to “psychologically prepare the people, especially young people, for armed insurrection”.
The government has voiced concerns that Besigye will organise an Egypt-style uprising gain power through the streets after losing elections in February, according to BBC News.Read More