The outgoing Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has challenged Uganda officials to become more passionate about addressing society needs
Ms Elsie Attafuah said the needs of Uganda and Africa at large are changing every day, which calls for more commitment and innovation from leaders.
She listed unemployment, limited skilling, climate change, lack of access to regional markets as some of the challenges affecting Uganda.
“Graduates always come to my house with BSC degrees from Makerere University and they say; ‘I want to clean the house just give me something and I ask myself why should a graduate who has spent three-four years at Makerere graduate and say I want to mop the floor. I can’t even do it. That is why we must have be fire in our belly to change something. So as I leave this place and to Ugandans and to our development partners; we cannot do development the same way we did development years ago. It must be development unusual with fire in the belly,” she said.
Ms Attafuah was speaking in Kampala on Friday during a farewell dinner hosted in her honour as she completed her tour of duty in Uganda. Ms Attafuah has been the UNDP Resident Representative for Uganda since 2019 during the UN agency has been partnering with government and the private sector to promote several development initiatives.
She urged Ugandans to leave the dream of the Ugandan motto.
“So as I leave, I want to leave with the Ugandans, especially that when say for God and my country, it must mean something to us. And if it doesn’t mean anything to us, then too bad. And for all our development partners, I think our eyes have been opened by COVID. COVID opened our eyes to fault lines even in the way we do development cooperation. We’ve seen the wars, the climate and many things. We must do development on issues with speed with scale, with scope,” Ms Attafuah said.
“It is just paradoxical that a country like Uganda has everything it takes to prosper and yes, tell our people we must distract that. We cannot have a country that has 11% of the entire world’s best species here [and remain poor]. You have crater lakes, snow-capped mountains, the Source of the Nile, Lake Victoria everything and yet we must feel frustrated and disrupt that,” she added.
“For a development agency like UNDP it’s the usual thing sometimes will never get done. Second thing we said we will do that. Let’s try it. Sometimes we have been questioned by headquarters. ‘Why are you doing this? Why are you partnering with an airline’ but we say with an airline we are connecting two countries. We have all the tourists in Nigeria coming here? That’s big markets for you. And so we are bold we are ambitious. And we say let’s do something different,” she added.
Minister for General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister Kasule Lumumba, who represented Ms Robinah Nabbanja, hailed Ms Attafuah for helping government in policy implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation.
“When we started the parish development model, we were all up there as politicians to say yes, this time we’re going for the most vulnerable, the 38.9 or the 39%. We’re going for them. Others who are saying within the government, let’s wait and go after year after we’ve done ABC. But many of us were saying let’s grow, work, make Mistakes keep improving because we’re working with the most vulnerable person. She said, ‘Okay, you can do your work as politicians. But for me, let me go and work with Makerere University so that we study your steps; where you make mistakes, we’re ready to advise you,” she said.
“And she even brought Makerere University is so close to the office of the Prime Minister. We are supposed to be working together so closely but we were not working so closely on issues to do with policy. But this lady has narrowed the gap between the office of the Prime Minister in terms of implementation of the policies, but also in terms of informing and forming policy by doing monitoring and evaluation on the side and creating a platform for us to share,” she added.
She commended the UNDP for supporting Uganda’s national development through poverty reduction, youth empowerment, and disaster risk management, and for ensuring access to justice and making legal processes more efficient.
Former Makerere University Chancellor Prof Ezra Suruma also waxed lyrical of Ms Attafuah.
“I take this opportunity to thank you Elsie for your commitment to improving the lives of the people of Uganda in general and especially their commitment to improving the lives of the poor and underprivileged. For almost five years, including the COVID 19 pandemic years, you served Uganda with great zeal and perseverance and with the tangible impact.
Thank you for all your efforts in helping to scale our youth to push for increased digitization and helping Macquarie University’s innovations program and pushing hard for environmental awareness and conservation. Thank you also for fostering the implementation of the SDGs in Uganda and for pushing for Africa wide economic trade and integration. The list is endless. But please rest assured aoathat your efforts have not been in vain. And we greatly appreciate and value your selfless contribution to Uganda and or Africa.
Prof Suruma in his key note address also said Uganda needs to address its root causes of poverty, including high population growth, unemployment, and dependency on foreign debt and aid. One proposal is to provide contracts to the labour force and utilize oil revenues for social protection and pensions, he said.
“African integration and regional and continental markets could also benefit Uganda’s economic growth. Unknown Speaker emphasizes the importance of addressing these issues to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty,” he added.
The function was attended by, among others, Justice Minister Norbert Mao, EU Ambassador Jan Sadek, several Members of Parliament, religious and cultural leaders, and other members of the diplomatic community.
At the function, UNDP launched the Coffee Table Book celebrating 51 years accompanying Uganda’s development journey.