Leapfrogging – where certain steps are skipped – may work in employment promotions (e.g. from trainee engineer to senior engineer, or from lecturer to associate professor, or from a local council member to an MP). However, most experts believe that countries cannot skip development steps. The famous Rostow’s Stages of Economic Growth, ‘Model 9’, postulates that economic growth occurs in a structured manner in five basic stages of varying length:
Stage 1 Traditional society (characterized by subsistence agriculture; limited technology; some advancements and improvements to processes but not much growth due to lack of modern technologies, class or individual economic mobility).
Stage 2 Preconditions for take-off (external demand for raw materials; development of commercial agriculture; massive investment in infrastructure; increased use of technology; changing social structure; individual social mobility; greater national identity and shared economic interests)
Stage 3 The take-off begins (urbanization increases, industrialization proceeds, technological breakthrough occurs, expansion of secondary goods sectors such as in Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution the textiles and apparels were the first take-off industry). The take-off also needs a group of entrepreneurs in the society who pursue innovation and accelerate the rate of growth in the economy.
For such an entrepreneurial class to develop, firstly, an ethos of “delayed gratification”, a preference for capital accumulation over expenditure, and high tolerance of risk must be present. Secondly, entrepreneurial groups typically develop because they cannot secure prestige and power in their society via marriage, via participating
in well-established industries, or through government or military service (among other routes to prominence), and lastly, their rapidly changing society must tolerate
unorthodox paths to economic and political power. An example of an African country currently in the Take-off Stage of development is Equatorial Guinea. It has the largest increases in GDP growth since 1980 and the rate of productive investment has risen from 5% to over 10% of income or product.
Stage 4 The drive to maturity (diversification of the industrial base with multiple industries expanding
and new ones taking root quickly; manufacturing shifts from investment- driven capital goods towards consumer durables and domestic consumption; rapid development of transportation infrastructure; large-scale investment
in social infrastructure i.e. schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, community housing; etc.)
Stage 5 Age of High Mass Consumption (the industrial base dominates the economy; the primary sector is of greatly diminished weight in economy and society; widespread consumption of high-value consumer goods such as cars; much disposable income beyond all basic needs; urban
society where people move away from rural areas to the cities).
Which stage do you think are we at in Uganda?
The current philosophy is that road infrastructure is for facilitation of movement of mostly low-value agricultural goods from the rural areas to markets in the urban areas.
I want to posit that this will only perpetuate poverty for the majority of rural people without any hope of ever propelling the country to the Take-
off Stage. I want to advocate for an infrastructure investment model that can transform Uganda into a modern economy quicker.
This paradigm shift requires that we work towards infrastructure for moving money, manpower, and methods from the urban to rural areas (in all honesty only Kampala City is a truly urban area albeit not very modern either).
Such an approach will result in balanced development, greater urbanisation, and industrialisation of the entire country. The beauty with Uganda is that every part of the country, even the remotest corner, has some comparative advantage with enough justification for taking there the capital, skills and technologies. That’s why some of us have insisted that the Oil Refinery be built in the Albert Region instead of taking all our oil to be processed elsewhere. The mere fact of taking skills, money and technologies to the region will have a multiplier effect in many other sectors in the region and beyond.
The Thatcherite “trickle-down effect” cannot work in a predominantly peasant society where we don’t have a critical mass of the so-called “captains of industry”. The current attempt to lure capital, skills and technology away from Kampala to the rural areas has not worked. The decentralisation system of governance needs a rethink to make it work beyond politics.Currently it is merely a breeding ground for corruption and patronage but not significant service delivery or economic growth in the districts.
The New Nile Bridge model
The New Cable-stayed Bridge under construction at Jinja represents good Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)- financed infrastructure:
- It has good loan conditions – payable over 40 years with a 10-year grace period at 01% interest per annum
- The contract is under Ugandan laws
- It has high local content – manpower, materials, technologies
- There is much skills transfer
Conclusion: Firstly, there are no shortcuts to sustainable infrastructure development.
There are no substitutes for infrastructure development and there are no shortcuts for faster economic growth. It is only when prerequisites to economic development are taken care of that nations develop and there are lessons for Uganda and other countries that are trying to grow and leapfrog into the elite club of developed nations.
Unless Uganda invests in all elements of the infrastructure component (the 3Ms – money, manpower, methods), its development will be slow and retarded, and we will miss the bus and lose out in the race for economic competitiveness. This is the hard truth and the bitter reality which should spur us to invest in sustainable infrastructure.
Secondly, come with me and change Uganda
Steve Jobs and John Sculley, then Pepsi Cola president, were sitting on a balcony overlooking New York’s Central Park in 1983. Steve Jobs turned and said to John Sculley to lure him to Apple: “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your
life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Sculley says the question landed like “a punch to the gut.”
One day, very early in his tenure at Apple, Sculley was sitting in the Macintosh lab late at night and the conversation turned to how Bill Gates and Steve Jobs wanted to empower non- technical people with personal computers and easy-to-use
software. The entrepreneurs talked about building tools to help people unleash their best ideas, creativity and performance. For Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, money wasn’t the noble cause; they wanted to change the world. Sculley reinforces the point that every major innovation or advance—every ‘moon shot’— begins with a noble cause, a vision by the founders to make the world a better place.
Engineers, our time has come – the time to change Uganda – because we have a noble cause, the noblest of all causes, to develop this country’s infrastructure sustainably! Are you going to come along so that we can change our profession and Uganda?