Govt to acquire Shs319bn loan for tech elevation

Airtel 4G Innovation in Uganda

The government of Uganda is set to borrow a loan amounting to US $84.73 million (about Shs318.9 billion) from the Exim Bank of China to finance the National Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation Skills Enhancement Project (ENSTEI-SEP), Minister of ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze said in a Tuesday statement.

According to the minister, the money will be used to establish two projects, that is, the National Science, Technology and Engineering Skills Enhancement Centre (NSTESEC) and Technology, Innovation and Business Incubation Centre (TIBIC).

These projects, the statement continues, are to enhance skills development and promote science, technology, engineering and innovation-based enterprise development.

The beneficiaries from this initiative will be graduates, craftsmen, technicians, engineers as well as other scientists and innovators, according to the statement.

Over the years there have been an outcry of universities churning out products that are unready for the employment sector, even job creation.

With these funds, government hopes to retool graduates, craftsmen, technicians, and engineers such that they can undertake various infrastructural works, including electricity distribution, water drilling and distribution, road construction, building construction, pipeline construction and light railway.

Government has of recent been advocating for the promotion of local content and, according to Tumwebaze, this money will help in implementing this so that jobs can be created and wealth generated.

Local content is the development of local skills, technology transfer, and the use of local manpower and local manufacturing in the industry. With powerful local content, most of the workforce and supply of material in the industrial and employment sector used is locally sourced.

Essentially, local content is about securing direct and indirect opportunities for employment and procurement to home nationals, while fostering the development of local skills, technology transfer, and use of local manpower and local manufacturing in capital projects.

Countries like China are already promoting local content by banning certain social media platforms; for instance, China has banned the use of WhatsApp in their country so that nationals can use the homegrown chatting app, WeChat.

Recently, while responding to the proposed taxes that will be imposed on social media users, Tumwebaze said they were aimed at discouraging people from using foreign applications so that local ones that would be tax free are made.

With the emerging oil sector in Uganda, promotion of local content has been one of the key points on agenda so that Ugandans are well trained and skilled to tap into the vast opportunities that will be available.

But to achieve that, there are some things that need to be done, and according to the statement issued on Tuesday, the government will use the loan to establish technology, innovation and business incubation facilities including workspaces and Common User Facilities for scientists and innovators to help them further develop their technologies and business models.

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