People worldwide are living longer. Today most people can expect to live into their sixties and beyond. Every country in the world is experiencing growth in both the size and the proportion of older persons in the population. The World Health Organization estimates that the world will have 1.4 billion old persons by 2030. Older persons are defined as those with 60 years and above.
This growing population in Sub Saharan Africa is unfortunately getting many governments unaware of how to handle the growing aging population in addition to continuously harnessing their potential. This dilemma was the centre of discussion during the three-day conference on “Aging and Health of Older Persons in Sub-Saharan Africa” which took place in Entebbe from February, 20–23. The State Minister for the elderly, Hon. Dominic Mafwabi Gidudu, who opened the conference called for more research into health challenges faced by the elderly. There are few countries that have Geriatricians and specialized centers for older persons, the Minister noted.
“When we look at social protection, very few countries have instituted social protection programs for older persons yet when people age, they are prone to social shocks and vulnerabilities which need to be cushioned,” Hon. Gidudu said. Some of the health challenges facing the elderly are dementia, eye sight challenges, and hearing problems. The Minister said there is need for research to provide practical guidelines on how to respond to such conditions. “We have a big task to educate our people on how to manage this condition least they will continue to stigmatize older persons with dementia,” he added.
Older persons in Uganda constitute 4.3% of Uganda’s population. This number is projected to increase from 1.5 million to 6 million in 30 years. This follows an increase in the life expectancy of Ugandans from 53 to 60 years.
The minister however noted that almost 45% of older persons live in poverty and yet care for young orphaned children.
According to researchers, two out of three older persons are caring for young children while only one of five older persons can access credit, one of five older persons have severe disability. The according to researchers are some of the many challenges governments need to address in an effort to improve the livelihoods of older persons and also improve their productivity. Research also shows that there is widespread illiteracy among older persons with more than 50 % of then being illiterate. In the case of Uganda, only 2.3 % older persons receive a pension. The minister said the government had taken some steps to address some of these challenges through the enactment of the National Policy for Older Persons 2009 which came in place to provide a framework for development of interventions and programmes for older persons.
The government has also put Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment, a cash transfer programme that provides monthly grants to older persons, Hon. Mafwabi said.
The conference was organized by the Department of Population Studies, Makerere University, University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the Federal German Institute for Population Studies, the Max Planck Institute of Demographic Research and the United Nations Department for Social Affairs. While addressing researchers from the various countries, the Principal of the College of Business and Managements Sciences Prof. Eria Hisali, said there was need to slow down lifestyle diseases among the elderly. He said it was important to address the issues of social security, financial security and healthcare for older persons. He said the issues concerning older persons had not attracted a lot of attention because Uganda has a young population. He called on researchers to continue with work in this area and also educate the population about issues concerning older persons. Prof. Hisali thanked the Department for organising the conference and Volkswagen for sponsoring the conference. The Dean, School of Statistics and Planning also joined the Principal in thanking the sponsors and organisers of the conference, especially Dr. Stephen Wandera from the Department of Population Studies, Makerere University.
Makerere University hosts CSAE Economic Development workshop 2023
Makerere University has hosted this year’s Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) workshop that brings together scholars across the world.
The workshop started on November 27and is expected to run up to November 30 at Makerere University Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility II (CTF).
The Center has brought together economic scholars from Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia among others to discuss how the economy of Africa can be developed through conducting research.
According to Prof Eria Hisali, the Principal of the College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS), they are looking at scholars doing research to the extent that it can help them to understand the problems hindering development, understanding the obstacles and finding the correct solutions to the development of the African countries.
“Researchers are presenting their research to get advice, get room for improvement and pave a way of translating the research finding into policies,” he said.
He noted that it is a great opportunity for researchers from different universities both on the African continent and outside the continent to present the work that they are doing and to understand the economies of the different countries.
This years’ conference is attended by about 40 speakers on the continent and around 10 speakers from Europe, Asia, and North America, Canada among others discussing different areas that are relevant to understanding the economies.
These include the Natural resources and environmental misuse, fiscal policies and monetary policies, agriculture, inequality and poverty and trade and structural transformation among others.
Prof Hisali said Uganda’s problems arise from her structural formation but there is need to look beyond just the physical problems like poverty and unemployment and establish the root cause of that.
“It is true we have unemployment in Uganda and we still need to grapple with issues of poverty but we need to appreciate that unemployment, poverty among others are not the primary problems, they are actually effects of certain underlying problems. So, we want researchers to understand what explains unemployment as we see it,” he explained.
Prof Stefan Dercon, the Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford who doubles as the Director of CSAE revealed that African researchers need to improve the quality of their work and create avenues for associating with policy makers to appreciate their work for the development of their economies.
“Scholars are presenting their research and we give them feedback, share knowledge and learn from each other. A lot of research is still academic because we don’t create space for advisors. Very many economists are not good translators of research not only in Uganda but throughout the world,” he noted.
Prof Ibrahim Mike Okumu, the Dean of the School of Economics said this forum brings together scholars to discuss issues of the African economy among their colleagues who appreciate the African context saying, “They are here for quality checks. We have an opportunity to improve the quality of research papers that scholars across the African continent have developed. By improving the quality, we are trying to get authenticity, proof that the methodologies, the quality of analysis that we have is of standard and consequently we can have credibility regarding policy recommendation that will come from research papers.”
African scholars have come from Cameroon, Morocco, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and Botswana among others…
He re-echoed the message from the Principal concerning the problems affecting Uganda noting that they are not unique to Uganda, she (Uganda) is just struggling with sluggish structural transformation and that is the transition from agriculture to industry which he says is the same story across Africa.
“For as long as industries are not able to create sufficient jobs, the economy cannot pick up because the industry is what moves agriculture forward and is what gives business to the service sector. For as long as industry is not robust enough then you tend to have weak service and agricultural sectors,” he emphasized.
Dr Oluwabunmi Adejumo, a senior lecturer at Obafeemi Awolowo University in Nigeria who is conducting research on the clashes between herders and farmers from different states of the country from which over 10,000 fatalities were registered in 2020, advocates for a law of migrating herders to a separate place and stay away from farmers.
She noted that herders in Nigeria graze their cattle on the crops of farmers when the green space is exploited as a result of climate change like drying out of Lake Chad.
“I am suggesting a policy that I think will bring back sanity in Nigeria especially among herders and farmers,” she said.
This is the second time that this workshop is being held on the African continent, the first one was held in Ghana. The rest of other conferences have been held at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Makerere University to set up an agro-processing skilling hub in 2024
Makerere University in partnership with Promote Uganda Company Limited (PROUL) is set to establish an agro-processing skilling hub next year to expose students to agricultural machinery.
The hub that will be based at Makerere University main campus in Kampala will house agricultural machines that add value to agricultural products.
While unveiling the initiative on Thursday, November 23 during the opening day of the three-day 2nd Innovation and Agro-processing machine exhibition at Makerere University’s Freedom Square, Mr David Nsubuga, the Director for PROUL said many youths remain unemployed despite their academic qualifications and it is high time they embraced new technology to create more job opportunities for the graduates. He revealed that the university will be signing a memorandum of understanding with PROUL next week.
“On top of the courses students are studying, we are going to establish a skilling center where they can be exposed to the machines that add value to agricultural products. We believe that when they start buying and selling finished agricultural products, this, will start them on the journey of industrialists.” he noted
The Vice Chancellor, represented by his deputy Prof. Umar Kakumba, revealed that the university has student innovators who just need backup funds to transform the agricultural sector.
“They have innovated machinery that can do irrigation. We are partnering with Promote Uganda Limited to showcase some of the innovations and to be able to connect them to banks which can give them credit and be able to promote their machinery that they are producing including those that do a lot with production of finished goods.” He said in a message delivered by Prof Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics.
Student innovators of agricultural machinery are those pursuing degree programmes related to bioprocessing engineering, water resources engineering, dealing with mechanical engineering and students of business management sciences among others.
The 2nd innovation and Agro-processing machine expo is a three day exhibition that will run from Thursday, November 23 to Saturday, November 25.
Prof Kakumba understands 80 percent of Makerere graduates fail to get formal employment and revealed the need to inject money in such innovations to harness surging number of unemployed youth flooding the streets of Kampala looking for what to do saying, “Every year, higher institutions of learning and tertiary institutions produce about 150,000 students and yet government job slots are around 30,000 only which is a great blow to students who want white collar jobs,” he added
Mr Steven Byantwale Tibeijuka, the Director Crop Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Fisheries and Industries who represented the minister for Agriculture, Mr Frank Tumwebaze pledged on behalf of the government to support the skilling hub that will be established at Makerere University next year.
“I ask the University to put it into writing and address the letter to the minister, the government cannot fail to give you funds once everything is ready,” he pledged
Dr Cathy Mbidde, the manager of the Makerere University Innovation hub said the hub was established in August 2022 under the office of the Vice Chancellor to commercialise the innovations from basically research that the university does and their main goal is to create awareness of the agro-processing machinery.
She added: “When you look at the current Uganda National Development Plan III government’s agenda goal one is agri-industrialisation. As the University, yes we do research and teach but how do we work with the private sector to achieve that goal. We have students who have done research and discovered nutritional values but they don’t have the machinery and access.”
She believes this expo will act as an eye opener to young innovators to team up and purchase the agricultural machinery they need to start up small companies and food processing enterprises while still at the university.
According to her, every year Makerere University graduates around 13,000 students and they can’t find jobs anywhere so there is a need to come up with financing models through financing companies, Non-governmental organisations, and the government to help them to get machinery on credit.
Promote Uganda limited is a company that produces agricultural machinery and their partnership with the university is to introduce the idea of using machines to add value to agricultural products.
When many students graduate, they fail to get formal employment, and end up going to Arab countries where many have lost their lives.
Mr Nsubuga wants the skilling training on operation of agricultural machinery to be added to the students’ courses.
The skilling center will help students to become entrepreneurs and know how to utilise raw materials that are readily available from agriculture to make value added products. The expo is a cross-cutting student exhibition.
Mr Anthony Akandwanaho, a student from Busitema University, said had come to exhibit a day and night dryer invented by his lecturer.
“The machine uses solar thermal during the day to dry the products which it collects directly from the sun and transpires the heat to the products for drying and solar energy during the night,” he said
He noted that this machine dries products from both animal and plant types including meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables. And the maximum drying time for products is 24 hours, for those with higher moisture content like pineapples. However, for products like meat, it dries them within eight hours.
“The unique beauty with it is that you collect the water from the product and can be used for domestic purposes.” Mr Akandwanaho explained
The student also exhibited a chicken de-feathering machine which is able to rip all feathers from the chicken. The mode of operation is that you slaughter the chicken and soak it in warm water for about one minute and transfer the chicken to the machines and in 15 seconds, the feathers are all removed. Its production rate is three chicken per minute.
Some of the exhibited machinery include a garden sprayer, a maize mill, grain grinder stainless, potato slicer, electric chips cutter, vacuum sealer, food dryer, bone Shaw, meat cutter among others.
EfD Uganda Stakeholders Propose Sustainable use of Biomass
The Inclusive Green Economy program of the Environment for Development Initiative in Uganda on 17th November hosted stakeholders across the country’s sectors to get their perspectives on biomass transition to clean energy sources in Uganda.
Uganda’s IGE engagement specialists Dr. Peter Babyenda says this is one of the work plan item on on social inclusion where stakeholders were identified by IGE fellows during the 17th EfD Annual meeting in Ghana.
In a meeting held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, stakeholders gave the situation analysis of biomass use in the country, where they want to go, how to go there and who should take the country there.
“We found out that almost 90% of our households depend on biomass whether in rural areas or town. This is attributed to cultural issues where certain foods are believed to have good taste when cooked on firewood or charcoal, the fear to use electricity and gas that may result to shocks and fire explodes, inaccessibility to clean energy sources and affordability issues.”
The meeting resolved to primarily focus on behavioural change efforts of the sustainable use of biomass and gradual transitioning to clean energy sources.
’We concluded that for now we cannot say let us move to clean energy but go slowly go slowly on sustainable use of biomass by planting more trees so that instead of depending on natural forests, we depend on plantation forests, use energy saving stoves and those that can save users on effects of smoke and slowly move to clean energy sources by connecting households to electricity and make it affordable and make gas available at an affordable cost’´Babyenda said.
The meeting also proposed the need for more awareness creation about alternative energy sources such as biogas for schools and prisons.
Representing the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences, Dr. Yawe Bruno thanked Sida through the EfD Global hub at the University of Gothenburg for funding the IGE program and the EfD-Mak centre.
“The use of biomass in Uganda has persistently remained high. 80% use firewood and 13% charcoal for cooking but there is a proportion that use a combination of those two. This imposes great implication for household welfare.
Biomass usage affect our productivity, schooling of children, labour market participation especially by women and children. On health, the use of biomass especially firewood causes eye defects, breathing difficulties, snake bites, body dislocations and sexual abuse,” He explained.
Besides household effects, Yawe noted that reliance on biomass has effects on the environment.
Yawe reported that Uganda’s forest cover is being threatened by biomass usage reducing it from 24% in 1990 to less than 9% to date. Transiting to renewable and clean energy requires clear understanding of supply and demand relationship for both biomass and clean energy.
“We must know what drives the uptake and while many can afford gas and electricity, why are we insisting that we should have charcoal? Comparatively, a 6kg gas cylinder costs 60 thousand and today a bag of charcoal costs not less 70 thousand but some households find it cheaper which is expensive and because of the felling of trees, the quality of charcoal may not last more than a week,”
He challenged stakeholders to find out why the supply and demand for biomass is still high amidst detrimental effects and why the supply for clean energy is still low amidst numerous innovations.
Representing the Director EfD-Mak Center, the Dean, School of Economics Dr. Mike Okumu said many households are struggling to transition from firewood and charcoal due to socioeconomic characteristics that define them.
Okumu attributed the climate change effects to the household behaviours and enterprise behaviour and challenged stakeholders to find innovative ways of co-existing with the environment to enhance productivity and also feed communities
He congratulated the IGE engagement specialists for being intentional in identifying the participants taking into account that the majority and poorest population resides in the rural Uganda, and Uganda’s biggest population being the youth.
The meeting comprised specialists in environmental conservation, researchers in renewable energy specifically biomass energy, persons dealing in innovations in sustainable productivity, those working with rural energy transition and renewable energy through use of waste plants and animal residues and persons engaged in youth environmental initiative particularly agroforestry.
Okumu also congratulated the EfD-Mak centre for bringing on board collaborative partners from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies , the private sector and Civil Society organisations.
He expressed the centre’s commitment to engage in similar engagements for purposes of having a drive into a cleaner Uganda and mitigating climate change effects on Uganda’s economy and a drive to having persons making informed decisions towards a better climate sensitive Uganda.
Jane Anyango is the Communication Officer EfD Uganda
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