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Scholars Concerned over Uganda's Aid from China

Dr. Giuliano, who is also an Assistant Professor at the American University of Beirut, observes that where China has lent extensively, it has gone ahead to attach some of their national assets in order to recover its invested money.
“Uganda The Dynamics of Neoliberal Transformation

Audio 3

  Uganda and international scholars have expressed concern about Uganda’s current trend of getting aid from China.

  They argue, in a new book, that Uganda’s push to source money from China has amplified indebtedness but also put into question the country’s ability to finance it. 

  While China's money has no strings attached to human rights and democracy, it is not a benevolent act – it is usually Chinese firms that take much of the government contracts. 

The book titled; “Uganda: The Dynamics of Neoliberal Transformation” academicians unpacks the self-celebratory narratives of progress, prosperity, and modernization in the name of development as advanced by government officials and donors.

 

They indicate that while Uganda has in the last three decades been referred to as one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, scholars and researchers on ground say there is not much felt in terms of social and economic transformation.

  They indicate for instance the growing inequality gaps between the rich and the poor.  

They argue for instance that while President Museveni was a donor darling in his early years in office because of his commitment to the implementation of World Bank policies, the 2006 elections undermined Uganda’s relationship with several funders.

Consequently, many cut or suspended aid to Uganda.  It is estimated that about 177 billion shillings in aid was cut in 2006 by Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden all with explicit political reasoning due to preliminary concerns about the political transition.  

This, according to scholars, prompted the Ugandan government to shift its allegiance to China.   The Chinese have become a soft landing for President Museveni’s quest for accelerated modernisation through large energy and transport infrastructure projects.

  Dr Giuliano Martiniello, one of the editors says Chinese money currently constitute about 30 percent of the country’s debt.    Beijing has financed important projects in the country – from Karuma dam to Isimba, Entebbe Expressway to the Sukulu phosphates plant in Tororo.

  Chinese companies now have investments worth $4.2b (sh15.5 trillion) in Uganda. Key among the infrastructure projects has been the construction of the 1.7 trillion Uganda shillings ($450 million) cost of the Entebbe Expressway.

  Dr Giuliano, who is also an Assistant Professor at the American University of Beirut, observes that where China has lent extensively, it has gone ahead to attach some of their national assets in order to recover its invested money.

 

Some of the countries already facing the wrath of Chinese loans include Zambia, whose national power company by China was handed over to China after it defaulted loan repayment.  

In 2017, Sri Lanka formally handed control of a strategic port on its southern coast of Hambantota to China as part of a 99-year lease agreement.

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Prof John Jean Barya, a law don at Makerere University, says it is a good contribution to the debate on the economic liberalization in Uganda, privatization and the retrenchment of the state.     He says Uganda is mortgaging its national resources to China which is makes the country highly vulnerable.

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  Dr Daniel Lumonya, from the University of Cornell, says the book provides an opportune moment for Ugandans to analyse the policies advanced by President Museveni after taking power.  

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