Some Thouhgts On Socio-Economic Engineering In Fragile States In Africa: The Case Of Uganda
The variable(s) explaining the poverty or otherwise of nations has successively moved from that held for a very long time - access to natural resources, physical capital, the acquisition and sustainability of technology, the development of human capital, the generation and implementation of sound policies and more recently to institutions. With respect to governance institutions, in pre-colonial sub-Saharan Africa [SSA], with the possible exception of Ethiopia and Eritrea, shifting cultivation and pastoralism precluded the emergence of formed sedentary agrarian social classes and states based on the production, exchange, and distribution of agricultural surplus in the mould of the other two developing regions of the world, Asia and Latin America. While the SSA governance institutions may have been adequate given their respective traditional mode(s) of production, given their dis-organization by colonialism in the transition to modernity and multi-ethnic polity, they have given rise to more fragile states with serious shortcomings to serve as a locus for economic development. Emerging from the chaotic years of the rule of Idi Amin, when the fragility of the state had attained its maximum expression, Uganda has been in the process of building institutions for economic development within the framework of structural adjustment and liberalization of the economy. These have been anchored around three policy areas enunciated by the Ugandan Government vis. Agricultural Modernization, Poverty Eradication and Universal Primary Education (UPE) in relation to agricultural and rural development The field observations on which this paper has built on were garnered in the course of poverty study in seven districts of Uganda - Apac, Lira, Soroti, lganga, Ntungamo, Bushenyi and Mpigi. The mainly anecdotal observations are discussed around five main themes - Access to Land and Livelihoods, UPE & Poor Households, Poverty & Life Cycles, Three Hours as a Working Day and A Very Poor Village in a Rich District. The paper interfaces the observed institutional realities on the ground with the demands of sustainable economic development. It is hoped that the issues raised will stimulate further discussion in tandem with the above policy pronouncement of the Ugandan Government. Towards this end, the paper suggests that for creative institutions and policies situated in the African social space, policy analysts need to disentangle the economic, political, social and cultural roots of existing institutions and mould them to nurture and sustain policies and instruments chosen by society. In doing so, such institutions need to be socio-culturally comprehensible but also sufficiently reformist and modernist; inclusive of all stakeholders but attuned to the task environment; endowed with predictable behavior without being inflexible; durable but also adaptable in process and finally transparent and accountable enough to justify their autonomy from undue political interference in their operations.
Ethiopian Journal of Economics Vol. 15 (2) 2006: pp. 51-73
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