Friday, December 13, 2013

EPRC raises the bar for oil discussions in Uganda

By Esther Nakkazi

Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development officials have commended the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) for the research on oil for intergenerational equity. They say EPRC researchers have raised the level of discussion in the oil and gas sector taking adequate stock of what has been done and giving a positive look at what will happen.

The research is in a published paper entitled ‘Accelerating Growth and maintaining Intergenerational Equity using oil resources in Uganda,’ presented in Kampala on 10th December 2013 by Lawrence Bategeka, a senior Research Fellow at EPRC and Joseph Mawejje a Research Analyst at EPRC.

The paper suggests things Uganda should do right to avoid the natural resource curse and to ensure that the benefits from oil accrue equally to the current as well as future generations.

“It is good to have the academicians and researchers talking about oil. The country can now have an engagement between the people who know and people who do,” said Ernest Rubondo, the commissioner for Petroleum Exploration and Production Department (PEPD) at the Ministry of Energy.

“We have only walked the journey of exploration and this has been done well.”

The paper focuses on three issues: resource, oil revenue and environmental management. It explains the legal and regulatory framework - the National Oil and Gas Policy, which proposed three key institutions; Directorate of Petroleum in Ministry of Energy to provide monitoring and policy direction, The Petroleum Authority – as regulator of the sector; and the National Oil Company – to manage the commercial aspects of the petroleum activities on behalf of the state.

Rubondo says the paper by EPRC researchers is an improvement of the discussion about oil in Uganda. “The arguments are better, it is readable and since oil is becoming a big animal, all of us should participate,” said Rubondo.

He corrected the impression about Uganda oil licensing moratorium and said it was an effective licensing strategy –taken since 2007- and it is a disciplined decision as Uganda had to first of all put the necessary legal framework in place. ‘This effort also provides for intergenerational equity.’

Ronald Kaggwa the director Policy, Planning and Information at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said the report is tilted more to the economic side and less on the environment.

While Bategeka said NEMA lacks capacity with only 13 of the 38 staff required to do a good job, Kaggwa said NEMA is not the only manager of the environment in Uganda. He also said he was disappointed that the paper does not talk about what has been done in terms of readiness to the environment and concentrates so much on conservation ignoring other areas.

He emphasized that all projects implemented in the Albertine Graben undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) by NEMA, which does not necessarily always approve applications as was alledged.

“Investment in the ecological infrastructure is a public good we need to invest in. There are risks but the returns are high and it is the best way to achieve rural development,” said Kaggwa.

Ms. Pamela Natamba a senior manager at Pricewaterhousecoppers (PwC) said management of oil resources needs a delicate balance. She said the paper was clear with goals of different actors well spelt out but even if the revenue management policy had been well written nothing was said about its implementation.

Member of Parliament for Buliisa Stephen Biraahwa Mukitale suggested that Uganda should not keep its oil money in a dollarized account because it will finance foreign economies and said he supports a single account for oil revenues.

Interesting, he also suggested that ‘Uganda should use oil money in creating a national airline?’ and that more investment should be put into knowing what Uganda has in other sectors. “If you know what you have then you are at the stronger side and can negotiate better. I suggest that government should give money to the have-nots,” said Biraahwa.

He also wanted to know about the development plan and suggested that there should be a road map, coasted with time lines because that is ‘what business is’. Oil is about leadership and it is about a balancing-act, said Biraahwa.

Currently, the debate on oil in Uganda is about front loading funds in form of a big push, a Marshall plan to fix the infrastructure. IMF says they are limiting Uganda’s front loading to $1.5 million commercial borrowing and the World Bank says Uganda should just get concessional money.

More issues were raised during the discussion about why Uganda should build a pipeline, which will be useless when oil that will only last for 30 years is finished. Why not build a railway? Meanwhile, Rwanda is already negotiating with Uganda on prospects of the pipeline.

Some participants asked why we should not front-load development. Why not front load and we finish the infrastructure problem? Clarity on the forecast of how much money is expected from oil during its production life -$10 billion, $50 billion, over $250 billion was also raised.

Ivan Mugabi from NAPE was sure that since oil waste is accumulating, Uganda is already in the production stage. “Waste is accumulating to levels that suggest production,” said Mugabi.

But Rubondo assured that oil waste is produced at every stage of oil production. For instance at the exploration stage now there is already waste or cuttings.

Rubondo said the paper focuses on specific aspects but it should focus on other aspects too so that these are not seen in isolation. He also said some of the recommendations made the researchers have already been put in the oil policy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Young Professionals can now apply to join the Movement for Health Equity

Applications for the 2014-15 Global Health Corps (GHC) fellowship are now open. It is the sixth class of fellows and young professionals who want to make an impact in global health and development should apply for its fellowships in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and the United States.

GHC is creating a new breed of health sector leaders - a global community of changemakers - that develop innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging health problems.

GHC now seeks to engage young professionals with skill-sets that are often viewed as outside of the traditional health field, such as financial managers, communications specialists, architects, computer scientists and supply chain analysts.

Through the fellowship, these professionals apply their expertise to help address urgent global health challenges by working with Ministries of Health, non-profits and other health organizations. Fellows work on issues such as HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, agriculture and health financing.

“Global Health Corps is proud to recruit its sixth class of outstanding fellows,” said CEO and co-founder Barbara Bush. “The GHC community is comprised of young leaders who share a common belief that health is a human right, and we invite passionate young leaders who are committed to social justice to apply for the fellowship and join the fight for health equity.”

According to Barbara Barungi Kayanja the CHC East Africa Regional Director, they have contributed to increasing employment opportunities for they youth in Uganda as all the fellows who have gone through the program are now employed.

“We provide an entry point to fellows interested in working in Global health although they may not have a health background. So far 37 Ugandans have found jobs after our fellowship with their placement organization, government or another health organization,” she said. CHC started in 2009.

For instance fellows developed and implemented ACODEV’s inaugural communication strategy, which formalized internal and external communications, promoted documented accountability mechanisms, improved knowledge management, and increased visibility of organizational impact.

They also built the capacity of ACODEV staff and partners in resource mobilization through the creation of a decentralized Resource Mobilization Team that has thus far submitted nine grant proposals of over $1.3million. Another team of Fellows procured over $2M in paediatric and EID commodities for public sector patients.

While another one directed two youth camps for over 60 youth from vulnerable backgrounds, and created a Slam Poetry group for high school girls in Mukono, which aims to teach them skills in public speaking, creative writing and provided a safe space for them to come together and share their stories.

GHC offers young leaders year-long paid fellowships in partnership with internationally renowned organizations, including Partners In Health, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and USAID, who are working on the frontlines of the fight for global health equity.

 Each international fellow is paired with a fellow from the host country in which they work to promote cross-cultural knowledge sharing and support. Throughout the fellowship year, GHC provides training in partnership with The Global Health Leadership Institute at Yale University, mentorship, and professional development opportunities to ensure that fellows are equipped to be global health change makers during the fellowship and beyond.

“What makes this partnership special is that it brings together talented young people and organizations working on the ground to create innovative solutions in global health,” said Adrian Stuart, Country Director of CHAI Malawi.

“Our Global Health Corps fellows work seamlessly with the CHAI employees to bring fresh ideas to the table and implement new strategies to ensure that individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis have regular and affordable access to life-saving medicine."

Since 2009, Global Health Corps has placed 322 fellows to work in non-profit and with government partners focused on healthcare delivery. The fifth class currently in the field consists of 106 fellows from 16 countries, who work with 44 non-profit and government partners.

The fellows are working on a range of projects, including developing electronic medical record systems in Malawi, counseling homeless youth in New Jersey, and constructing a world-class hospital in rural Rwanda.

“Global Health Corps is a unique opportunity not available anywhere else,” said Lisa Grossman and Neil Malilwe, 2012-2013 fellows with Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ). “During our fellowship, we worked directly on complex problems like the need to improve women’s health and service delivery, while simultaneously gaining a better and broader perspective on the complex issues of social justice and equity.”

To apply for a 2014-2015 Fellowship, please visit All applicants must be 30 years or younger, have earned an undergraduate university degree by July 2014, and be proficient in English. Applications close on January 26.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) launches third FinScope Report:

By Esther Nakkazi

The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has launched the third FinScope Uganda 2013 Survey Report on 28th November 2013 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

Under the theme ‘Unlocking Barriers to Financial Inclusion in Uganda’ the report examines the demand, access and usage of financial services in Uganda through four major access strands namely: saving and investment; credit and borrowing; remittances and money transfer; insurance and risk management.

In addition, the FinScope report also establishes the level of financial literacy among the adult population and their perception of consumer protection offered by financial institutions.

Sarah Ssewanyana the executive director EPRC said that they hope that the FinScope III survey Report will contribute to enhancing the landscape of financial inclusion, and assist in the development of appropriate products and services, including the design of relevant policies and necessary regulatory frameworks to bring those that are financially excluded into the mainstream of development.

“The importance of this survey results is underscored by the high levels of financial exclusion prevailing in the country. In Uganda, Financial Inclusion remains a challenge in spite of the many gains and successes we have achieved in the financial sector in the last 20 years,” said Maria Kiwanuka the minister of Finance.

The FinScope III survey for Uganda follows two previous surveys' FinScope I and II carried out in 2006 and 2009, respectively. And like these two earlier reports, FinScope III gathered detailed information from the adult population (individuals aged 16 years and above), relating to: financial and risk management strategies; financial discipline and knowledge; preference for financial service providers; usage and attitude to mobile money technology; rural and agriculture issues; remittances; and asset accumulation patterns.

Unlike earlier FinScope surveys, the 2013 FinScope III included a specific section on mobile money as well as additional questions to reflect the new changes in the financial landscape. It is expected that the survey will provide deeper insights and understanding on the behaviour of people and their needs for financial services, said Dr. Ssewanyana.

FinScope surveys are being implemented in a number of African countries with the objective of determining the levels of access to, and use of, financial products and services by adult population 16 years or above.

“Increased financial inclusion can be achieved through opening bank accounts, increasing the level of savings and investments and securing loans from formal financial institutions, which are registered and regulated,” said Justine Bagyenda, the executive Director Supervision Bank of Uganda.

“Some of the findings from this 2013 FinScope survey have shown that we might need to accelerate our reforms or perhaps review them, said Ms. Bagyenda.

For instance the FinScope report says a relatively small proportion of adult Ugandans, i.e. 20% or 3.4 million are the only ones currently using the formal financial institutions including banks. The low level of using formal institutions (i.e. commercial banks, MDIs and credit institutions) is reflected in the recorded low levels of savings, borrowing and access to formal insurance.

“Clearly, there are some economic implications arising from this situation and Bank of Uganda is committed to studying the results and providing further guidance for improvement,” said Bagyenda.

The report notes a tremendous improvement in financial access through the non-bank formal institutions and outlets including SACCOS, Micro Finance Institutions, FOREX Bureaus, Insurance companies as well as mobile money. Mobile money services have contributed over 90% of the growth of these channels put together.

“Mobile money services could be improved further by linking to formal banks through new innovative products which can increase access and use of financial services in Uganda,” said Kiwanuka.

She also noted that SACCOs are growing as an important avenue for improving the number of adult Ugandans holding accounts. Hence, reviewing the regulation and product structure of mobile money services and SACCOs could enable a larger proportion of adult Ugandans to access formal products and services.

Financial services such as savings products, credit and loans, payment and money transfer services, provide the population with greater capacity to stabilize and increase their incomes. In addition financial services help individuals and communities to build assets and cope with shocks. Financial products have proven to be great tools that mitigate the effects of low, irregular and unreliable incomes which keep many people below the poverty line.

According to the survey findings, only 20 percent of adults in Uganda had access to a formal bank account and only 12 percent borrowed formally in the last 12 months. Only 2% of adults had any form of formal insurance.

The small numbers suggest a critical need for a further push to the financial inclusion agenda to ensure that the people at the bottom of the pyramid join the formal financial system, reap benefits and improve their financial well-being, said Ms. Kiwanuka.

Financial inclusion is a central theme for all of us because most of those in poverty do not have access to financial services.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Financing Social Protection in the Region


BY Esther Nakkazi (This is a report from the two day meeting where I was a rappotuer) 
Summary of Executive Director, EPRC, Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana’s speech at the regional conference on “Financing Socio-Protection in East and Central Africa.”

This conference is very important and timely partly because the population affected by poverty and destitution remains very large in the region and without reliable and predictable resource allocation to socio-protection, some countries in the region may not be able to meet part of the international commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
At the same time, the relatively high population growth rates in most of the countries in East and Central Africa means that the demands for socio-protection are likely to continue rising for the foreseeable future.

Declining Socio protection budgets
The socio-protection landscape is changing fast on the African continent and this calls for rapid response to the changing environment by governments as well as other players. First, the overall budget allocated to socio-protection has declined in the recent past as national governments are focused on expanding infrastructure.

The decline in budgets is happening against a backdrop of renewed global commitment to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. As such, there is need to engage the Ministries of Finance in our respective countries on the need for additional resources for SP programmes.

Small scale cash transfer schemes
Two, different countries are pursuing different SP programmes. For instance, a number of countries in the region have initiated socio-protection programmes the most notable being cash transfer schemes. But most of these schemes being implemented are relatively small scale in comparison to the need. As such, identifying ways of expanding such socio-protection schemes is a major priority for the various actors engaged in socio-protection programming including policy makers, development partners, politicians and researchers in the Uganda.

Natural resource discoveries and socio protection
Three, the discovery of commercially viable deposit of natural resources in the East and Central Africa region has the potential to change the socio-protection financing landscape in the region.
Uganda is in the process of developing its oil resources in the Albertine region while Kenyan process is also underway in Turkana. Such vast natural resources, if utilized appropriately, offer an opportunity to finance nationwide socio protection programmes exclusively from the national budget.
Members here should actively engage in debate in their respective countries on how the proceeds from natural resources should be governed and managed.

Training and Research on SP
Four, development partners have responded to changing post-conflict environment by supporting SP training and research. For example, the IDRC sponsored the initiation of the Master of Socio-Protection degree at the University of Mauritius

Similarly, IDRC has also supported universities in Kenya, Burundi and Uganda to undertake a regional research project examining the impact of socio-protection programmes on the welfare of vulnerable groups. It notable that academicians have also taken a keen interest in socio-protection issues in the region—either through training or research.

The two day conference focusing on financing socio-protection in east and central Africa was organised by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and Development Research and Training (DRT). EPRC’s mandate is to contribute to evidence-based policy making and the Centre has over the past few years actively engaged in the design of socio-protection programmes as well as regular monitoring of the performance and reach of Uganda’s socio-protection programmes.

For instance, EPRC and DRT contributed to the design of the Uganda’s social cash transfer scheme—the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) scheme and also participated in the baseline survey for the impact evaluation of the SAGE programme being spearheaded by the Oxford Policy Management (OPM).

Participants were from Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and the host Uganda. Unfortunately, participants from Rwanda and Ethiopia could not make it due to lengthy clearance procedures. Renowned socio-protection experts from outside Africa (Italy) also shared their experiences.
The conference was organized by EPRC and DRT with support from the Think Tank Initiative (TTI) at IDRC and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Check out EPRC’s research activities from the website or follow the Twitter handle EPRC_Official or like the Face Book page Economic Policy Research Centre, Uganda or the blog

Summary of Beatrice Mugambe, the Executive Director for Development Research and Training (DRT) at the regional conference on “Financing Social Protection in East and Central African: 

Learning from Experience.
Purpose of the conference;
We hope to stimulate discussion and learning about various options of financing of Social Protection programmes, particularly in low income countries, especially in Eastern and Central Africa.
We are keen to hear about innovative ways of mobilising resources and effective ways of using them to achieve Social Protection objectives in our countries. These objectives rotate around eradication of extreme and chronic poverty, vulnerability, income inequality and social exclusion.

The work of EPRC and DRT is to support decision-making processes, give evidence-based analysis, information and data to guide decision makers and donor agencies, government, private sector and civil society among other stakeholders.

Some of the processes that have led us to this moment are in 2005 Launch of the 1st Uganda Chronic Poverty Report; 2006-2008 Design of a Cash transfer scheme; 2008 1st International Conference on Social Protection for the Poorest in Africa; 2010-2013 Launch of Pilot Senior Citizens Grant (SAGE) in selected districts, Learning & documenting lessons and experiences on the pilot and ongoing process of developing a Social Protection policy framework.

In 2013, there is this 2ndIinternational Conference on Financing Social Protection in East and Central Africa: learning form experience.” What is next?

Financing of Social Protection programmes has featured in various formal and informal meetings and low income countries but in many of these countries, Governments have not reached a consensus on committing to finance Social Protection programs due to various reasons. Yet others have already designed and implemented innovative interventions. More positively also, the debate is increasingly involving policy makers, development partners, civil society, media and ordinary citizens.

The debate has also generated consensus that Social Protection interventions are among key strategies that will contribute to significant changes in the lives of majority of people that are currently unable to find employment, feed and send children to school, find quality public health care and deal with weather-related risks that affect their main source of livelihood. On the other hand, many countries are aspiring to become middle income and First World in the next 3-4 decades.

The discussions today will set us in motion to answer some of the questions that remain unanswered in policy debates. The conference has over 10 interactive sessions, appropriately chosen to help focus our discussion to those policy issues that resonate to our country needs at this point in time. At this meeting, the 2nd chronic poverty report was launched.

DAY 1:  A summary of the issues raised about ‘Financing Social Protection’;
Declining Social Protection budgets;
Budgets in East and Central Africa are more focused on infra-structure development while Social Protection budgets are declining. There is a need to engage the ministries of Finance and the society to streamline Social Protection and the program gets integrated with other government programs. All stakeholders should be involved.

Sharing of experiences:
Countries should be encouraged to share what works because what worked for one country does not necessarily work for the other. It’s important for countries that have just discovered minerals like those in the East African region to try and copy what other countries did, for example Brazil.
In 2001, Norway came with the fiscal policy, all government revenue is put in the pension account, and only the returns are used for future refunds and to keep people safe. It’s not because they have oil revenue, it’s because the revenue from the mineral resource are taxed. Real returns on investments are the ones used to handle other expenses which are not oil generated. The idea is that we collect taxes from you then we put it back to the people collectively.

When you invest in dealing with poverty, it helps other sectors because poverty has a pull down effect hence affecting those who are not poor. It is important to support others. After all, the fastest growing countries are those with fine equality investments schemes for poverty eradication.

Natural resource for financing Social Protection:
The discovery of natural resources is one way to improve Social Protection. Natural resources can now be used to facilitate Social Protection. Governments are being encouraged to mobilize revenue from Natural wealth to fund it.  
The most dangerous part of Social Protection is when the mineral resources will come in, prioritization and allocation may become a problem.

Cash transfer or not?
At times Social Protection is mistaken for cash transfer. Social Protection calls for national and international design of Social Protection programs. The major players in making this decision are the Private sector, civil society, Donor agencies. Government has not reached a consensus to support Social Protection, but the big question is can Uganda afford to support it?
Cash transfer welfares should be recognized.

Social Protection is a Right;
Everyone has a right to Social Protection. The responsible bodies should realize that Social Protection is a human right and not just some kind of charity given to people others are taking pity on or to eradicate  poverty and for those who are socially excluded.
South Africa has a bill that stipulates that Social Protection is a basic right. Establishment of a system of social security encompassing health care contributes to Social Protection .There are rights that are not restrained to social contribution.

Funding Social Protection:
There are many ways of financing Social Protection even in low income countries. Social Protection can be financed through taxing basic income; progressive realization, natural resource wealth, social grants and constitutional commitment.
It’s also important to note that governments should roll out sustainable options to handle Social Protection. The challenge faced is that of targeting, so as the work is being done, a lot of consideration should be put on targets.

Another issue is ‘Are we asking the right question as to why Social Protection is not being funded?’
When dealing with Social Protection, we should know that we are also dealing with major issues like Education, Health, and Poverty eradication, so measures should therefore be put in place to handle the challenges this activities come with.
Credit should be given to civil society organizations and development agencies that have contributed towards the improvement of the Social Protection agenda.

Donors funding Social Protection:
Most initiatives are donor funded and even if it’s limited, it can avert poverty. Other avenues that can be looked at are family networks, friends and our networks.
Areas that should be looked at to try to improve livelihoods include, programs for children, Enterprises for women, school feeding programs, credit schemes and women economic empowerment among others.

Barriers to Social Protection uptake?
Among the barriers to the uptake of Social Protection in East and Central Africa are issues like no one thinking of a holistic approach to Social Protection, the concerned parties went sector wise, project wise and then stopped there, so this alone did not help.

Social Protection should be a political and leadership issue:
Until Social Protection becomes a political issue then resources will be made available. Leaders will explain where the money belonging to Social Protection cases will have gone and in what ways everybody will have been taken care of.
So we should then ask ourselves, how do we get Social Protection institutionalized into government, how do these things translate into Social Protection, when and how do we integrate the outcomes of Social Protection into the system, it’s a reality that we need resources, but how do we tap into domestic resources.
In the East African countries, the evidence available indicates that it’s not about the availability of resources; it is more of a political question. There is confusion between government expenditure and Social Protection. This expenditure doesn’t go down to the very poor because of the in efficient distribution systems.

 Prioritise Social Protection:
Social Protection is not expensive, governments’ activities are focused on the same expenditure (infrastructure), and it’s an assumption of tradeoffs between efficiency and functionality. But the major focus is supposed to be put on prioritization. They assume things are constant, that they are in a fix and yet when you grow your resource base also grows.
Opportunity cost of Social Protection:
Social Protection is that before you give you take, with competing needs, what do you give up? To increase protection, there is need to prioritize. Leadership in this situation is key, because once resources are allocated, it is important that they reach the targeted group and that can only happen with proper leadership.
Consideration should be put on the cost of doing things and focus should therefore go to a regional agenda. Those pursuing Social Protection should find a way of how to get recommendations that will come out with a way forward. When allocating resources, poor people should be put first.

A survey done in Kenya showed that if people who fall in the category that need Social Protection continued with school, the rate of Economic shocks, life cycle shocks and copying strategies in case of drought out breaks would be reduced.
The survey also indicated that if women were to be given a chance to accumulate wealth, the standards of living would improve. Some households remained very poor because they were given very little money.

Role of Non-state actors;
Non-state actors inform government because most of them are non-partisan. These may include community based; faith based; professional groups; local, national and international NGOs among others.
When all these are put together, there is a collaboration and hence success. In Kenya for instance, 87% are run by Community Based Organisations (CBOs). So there is need to handle issues arising like lack of solid government structures, coordination and clear policy frame work. The sources of funding should be clarified, organizational groups should be formed and above all sustainable strategies adopted.

Social Protection as a social policy;
It refers to collective public efforts affecting and protecting the social well-being of people in a given area. Social policy can be used as a collective intervention to directly affect social well fare and social intervention. It also has a multiple tasks effect; it embodies production, redistribution reproduction and reconciling.
We need to adopt the Prophylactic social policy, where you treat the disease before you even get it because it will cost you more if you contract the disease.

DAY 1 Discussion Highlights and Questions:
·         Integrating and streamlining Social Protection.
·         Integrating the Social Protection agenda with that of the MDG targets
·         Who are we targeting for Social Protection because about 50% of the populations in Africa are poor? So which group should be tackled first?
·         Who takes the leading role in Social Protection?
·         What are the outcomes of inclusive growth blended with Social Protection
·         When governments focus only on infrastructure and not Social Protection what happens?
·         How will the discovery of mineral and oil resources affect Social Protection and what research bench marks will it provide?
·         Who should benefit from Social Protection; the vulnerable, those at risk, the deprived and critically poor.
·         Can the discovery of minerals and oil change our incomes and attitudes towards Social Protection?
·         Social Protection is about protecting people from vulnerability, or risk, that’s not only before or after it has happened.
·         Are we in position to administer the set targets? Why are we not in position to hit our own targets?
·         Are our countries being pushed to allocate money strategically for Social Protection?
·         Is it only those at risk, the vulnerable, those with shock and those in a crisis that should be targeted?
·         Why do governments wait until it becomes a major issue instead of handling problems when they are still at the initial stage?
·         Achievements should be celebrated because there is a massive improvement of people living above the poverty line.
·         A combination of traditional and contemporary approaches should be adopted.
·         What is the exit strategy if the strategies put in place do not work as planned?
·         It should be noted that the cash transfers that have been given to some people have helped raise standard of living.
·         When cash transfers are being made, all the vulnerable people and those at risk including the elderly should be considered.
·         Measures should be taken according to the location and standards of living ( Area, Location, Household size)
·         Households should be empowered to cope with shocks.
·         Involve local institutions because they work well with people at the grassroots.
·         The government should be tasked to explain to what extent and at what pace its ready and able to handle Social Protection.
·         Communities should be encouraged to organize themselves into small groups
·         Social Protection assistance should not lead to dependency; instead they should be linked to empowerment and given empowerment packages.
·         Extended families should be encouraged to take care of their own and cultural values apprehended. This would cut down on the numbers of those suffering because everybody is taking part in Social Protection matters.
·         What is the role of young people who should have originally taken care of the elderly and now don’t want to help the old because they are getting money from the state.
·         In South Africa, one dollar 25 cents would buy u a loaf of bread and a bottle of water, but by August all of them will have died because they have no clothes and shelter when winter comes. This is a deliberate type two errors that indicates that only a fraction of the chronically broke people are the ones being taken care of.
·         The people who receive money cannot share with those who are not in the project, then we become an open laboratory, and that brings conflict. The government still needs to handles those things so that people don’t complain

DAY 1 Challenges;
        Social Protection is limited in coverage and outlook
        Being donor driven comes with its negative impacts
        Some governments don’t consider Social Protection as a development strategy.
        Programs and policies are not harmonized
        Social Protection systems are undocumented.
        Do we share before we grow or we grow before we share, is the question that we should have at the back of our minds.
·         Transparency in identification of the beneficiaries is key but how is it handled this?
·          There is no place, voice and space for children and older people. They are not involved in the issues that affect them.
·          People just meet in hotels discussing issues concerning children and the elderly without their involvement.
·         There are some strategies that are not feasible for instance, old people were supposed to have mobile money active phones, but some of them live in places where there is no power let alone mobile network.
·         When it comes to the administration of cash transfers, there were administrative inefficiencies.
·         Strict measures like prosecuting the corrupt should be put in place if not we will never address the Social Protection problem.
·         The money given is also inadequate, although the beneficiaries live below the poverty line and whatever little they are given they are able to do something with it.
·         People may relax because they think government is taking care of the elderly.
·         It is not easy to convince politicians to adopt Social Protection.
·         So before all the above, we should then ask ourselves and to get it institutionalized into government as well as integrate the outcomes of Social Protection into the system.
·         In some countries, the money the elderly are given for their upkeep is converted to buying books and pens and yet it is the duty of the government to handle such issues, so we should stop looking at things and attend to issues from a broader perspective.
·         While people think they understand Social Protection, we have policies and not market failure, where people are now looking at issues narrowly and not as broadly as it’s supposed to be.

DAY 1 Recommendations;
        Governments should invest in Social Protection projects
        There is need to finalize Social Protection policies.
        Incorporate Social Protection policies in the national budget
         Enact school feeding programs and focus on women entrepreneurship
         Civil societies should be actively involved.
        Social Protection can be financed through taxing basic income; progressive realization, natural resource wealth, social grants and constitutional commitment.
        Rethinking the problem is necessary at this stage.
        More thought should be on what lessons we can learn from the past, we should be looking at the hard ware not the software kind of attitude.
Day 2- Discussion Highlights:  
§  We need to have a change of mind about Social Protection.
§  We should endeavor to improve the wellbeing of the marginalized society
§  Improve the wellbeing of older people. The wellbeing of older people is more important than cash transfers
§  There should be a dignity of existence for all our people.
§  How does mono tasking and mono thinking help generate these other dimensions of wellbeing?
§  The route you take depends on the political will because even now in its early stages, governments can decide to put their money in Social Protection.
§  The model for funding Social Protection depends on the demands of the country. GDP has generally increased in different countries. The government can look at what they have then they would allocate resources according to the needs. Then other money can come from taxation, borrowing, and grants, among others.
§  Without political power you are just a person people sympathizes with, Social Protection eligible people should come together as a constituency and put their demands forward and place their demands for what they need.
§  Dependency on the good will of the ministry of Finance does not help without personal commitment. It cannot be sustained by the will of those who suffer. When you are with the contentious problem, they will feel for their issues because they affect them directly unlike when someone else is the one handling their problem or someone talking for them.
§  There is much more work to be done, when it comes to Social Protection and to put it in its proper place so that it does not interfere with the rest of the programs or Systems that are consistent with the already existing policies.
§  Corruption can easily occur when it comes to allocation of the resources, the articulation and management of systems. A plan should be put in place so that in the near future, people should be in position to have NSSF numbers.
§  We are just at the beginning of Social Protection at the moment. If the beneficiaries can be organized en be elected to power, then they can be heard in parliament, since they will be represented.
§  Affordability of Social Protection ultimately means willingness and society‘s willingness to finance specific programs depends on how they are designed and how they are delivered.
§  It’s important to note that people are willing to pay taxes when they actually know where that money is going and if it benefits them directly. Cutting down subsidies and red tape would help in mobilizing for Social Protection funds.
§  Is Social Protection a public good? Government provides public goods and private sector provides private goods.
Discussion: How can we come to some form of consensus?
v  Protecting children mostly those who have lost both parents.
v  That we all want dignity at an old age.
v  We all want medical insurance in cases of complicated diseases. People are urging that the politicians are going out for treatment while peasants stay in the country to die.
v  We also want to help the disabled
v  An Unemployment insurance should also be put in place for all the able bodied people. Those who lose employment so that people’s children do not drop out of school.
v  We all want to be treated with dignity. It is not acceptable when you walk on the street and you find people eating off garbage cans.
What are the weaknesses and myths of Social Protection?
v  It encourages people to be lazy and idle
v  It taxes the hardworking people to help the idle ones
v  It shifts priority from economic growth and development to poverty and re distribution
v  It is a foreign conspiracy to increase dependency on the west.
v  There will come a time when we will have to accept the idea because we have orphans and vulnerable people as well as the old.

Dr. Ezra Suruma; Social Protection is a Human Right
Dr. Ezra Suruma, the Economic advisor to the President of Uganda, said his views on Social Protection have changed after listening to a discussion at the conference on ‘Financing Social Protection’ in East and Central Africa at Lake Victoria Serena Resort in Lweza organized by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).
The former minister of Finance said that when he was still minister, he had opposed the idea of cash transfers to poor people under the Social Protection programme.
“In 2005, one of the junior ministers in the Ministry of Finance traveled to a conference and came back with the idea of Social Protection. He wanted us to adopt the idea of some donors making cash payments to our vulnerable people. I had spent 20 years in government trying to bring about poverty alleviation and we had some degree of success. Having donors pay our people seemed unsustainable. I was not convinced. I thought it would involve donor dependence yet we were trying to be donor independent,” said Dr. Suruma.
But now his position on Social Protection has changed mainly because of the prospects of oil revenue. One of the ways to use oil revenue is to follow Alaska and Norway, which have a fund in which Ugandans are owners or chairs in the fund.
Currently, the policy is that all oil resources should go to infrastructure. It is good but it benefits foreigners especially those who build roads and railways.
Suruma would like to see Ugandans benefiting directly especially for purposes of accountability. “Oil will continue to be a big problem if some of the funds are not paid directly to the citizens,” he says.
The Ugandan government and the community are yet to grasp the essence of Social Protection and this is the main problem; it seems like it is an idea from the outside. We have not yet reached a point where Social Protection is a widely and fully accepted program. We need to create more awareness among the communities.
What are we trying to do in Social Protection? Everybody gets old and ill. So there should be a common ground on how to move together to deal with illness, old age, health, destitution, unemployment, poverty.
All this, in my view, we are still way down the line in terms of competing with other ideas, policies and programs for the government budget.
We need to convince and persuade government because potentially there is a constituency of people who will benefit from old age pension, medical institution and disability payments.
This is something that cuts across the whole country and I believe with the oil coming we can get a Norwegian type of funding where we get a cash transfer for old people benefiting from Social Protection.
We also need to politicize Social Protection because the issue of dignity is important in a person’s life. In German, it is not acceptable for a German citizen to fall into a sub-human state. I wish this idea could come to my country so we can value human life to the point of it not being an individual responsibility but a social responsibility.
The debate in Uganda is if you are poor that is your problem and that you are not working hard enough. We need to recognize that some people through no fault of their own are poor. It is a social responsibility to ensure someone in that state gets adequate help.
We need to focus on a targeted continuous campaign on raising awareness on Social Protection. In 2005, I was not convinced on Social Protection but now I am on board.

Financing Social Protection conference closure:
Summary of the closing remarks by Minister Madada:
The minister in his closing remarks emphasized communication, understanding and appreciation of Social Protection saying there are resources available for Social Protection, but it is a matter of understanding and appreciating the issue.
For instance, the government of Uganda in 2009, gave special grants for people with disabilities, it therefore means that there is money in government. If we do not allow Social Protection the rich will become richer, while the poor are becoming poorer.
In Uganda, Vision 2040, Social Protection is embedded in the system. Chronic poverty cannot be broken without affirmative action. Social Protection should not be limited to direct income support.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pastrolists in Uganda Benefit from ICTs

By Esther Nakkazi

Cattle farmers in developing countries play a major role in meeting the nutritional requirements of a growing and increasingly urbanized population. However, whereas other farmers in the agriculture sector have largely been supported and set to benefit from using new Information Communications Technologies (ICTs), in their activities, farmers especially herdsmen in cattle-corridors lack that full support.

The field report below is on how a two- year initiative, the Climate Change Adaptation and ICT (CHAI) project, one of its kind in Africa, is giving a chance to farmers in the cattle-corridor mostly herdsmen to use ICT to improve their adaptive capacity to changes in the climate, providing an enabling environment for them.

The adaptation to climate induced hazards seeking initiative, led by CHAI, for farmers in cattle-corridors, aims at creating food security in these nomadic communities and making available critical weather and climate information for them to make instant decisions.

“We are focusing on enhancing the adaptive capacity of communities in the cattle corridor area to climate change-induced water challenges by improving the quality and timeliness of climate risk and adaptation option information generation, dissemination, and use through the utilization of ICT tools,” said Berhane Gebru, Director of Programs, FHI 360 TechLab, a non-profit human development organization.

As one of the most fragile areas in Uganda, the ‘cattle-corridor,’ a semi-arid area, suffers prolonged and severe droughts that negatively affect the hydrology and biodiversity of the ecosystem. Meanwhile, it is home to many farmers.

For instance in Uganda, the cattle-corridor, has about 60 percent of the 7 million cattle in the country and its 12 million people, mostly herdsmen all live below the poverty line, a situation exuberated by lack of information and access to ICTs.

Prior, to its commencement in 2011, CHAI carried out a biophysical and social vulnerability assessment in the four districts of Rakai, Nakasongola, Soroti and Sembabule, which found that more frequent and severe climatic events create acute water shortages, diminished value of livestock and loss of livestock and crops as well as distressed sale of assets.

Indeed, the assessment also found that these events also lead to migration in search of water and pasture; diminished livelihood opportunities; conflict over limited water resources and pasture as well as changes in the farming calendar.

According to the Water Poverty Index (WPI), 2002, which was developed by a team of researchers to combine measures of water availability and access with measures of people’s capacity to access water, Uganda ranks among the lowest 20 water-poor countries out of 147 that were included in a study conducted by Keele University in the UK in 2002.

While one of the major impediments to agricultural performance in Uganda remains water stress due to Climate Change. But the sector remains the backbone of Uganda’s economy as its main source of livelihood and employment for over 60 percent of the population. It also contributes over 70 percent of Uganda’s export earnings and provides the bulk of the raw materials for most of the industries that are predominantly agro-based.[1]

There are many problems besieging the agricultural sector, and evidenced by its decline through different indicators. For instance, its share in GDP has declined from 64.1 percent in 1985 to 41.0 percent in 2001. The non-monetary subsector of agriculture has been the most affected declining from 39.9 percent of total GDP in 1985 to 22.7 percent in 2000.[2]

Cattle-corridor farmers and ICT: how it works:
So far, CHAI, has installed and serviced 22 weather stations in the four districts of Rakai, Sembabule, Nakasongola and Soroti. It has also developed and deployed mobile based weather data collection transmission system as well as trained weather data collectors at sub-county levels.

Rainfall and market information is collected on mobile phones from all the sub-counties in the intervention districts and transmitted directly to a server at the department of Meteorology, where analysis is conducted and feedback sent to the communities.

The feedback is sent through FM radio talk shows, text messaging, community loud speakers, and notice boards at sub-county levels and in markets.

Patrick Kibaya, the CHAI project manager, says that the results are very encouraging – beginning at the Meteorology Department, a key and instrumental institution in provision of timely, accurate and reliable weather and climate information – which now accesses weather data in real time.

He also says this in turn has enhanced the accuracy of forecasts, shortened time and localized them – which was not feasible before. 

The whole system has ensured mutual exchange of information between the collection sites and the different levels of government. While, it has also ensured that data generated are interpreted and used, by involving all relevant stakeholders and through using available ICTs, local early warning systems are fed that are used by institutions such as Uganda Red Cross, The World Vision and others key partners to Uganda’s National Early Warning System.

The data generated this way is reliable, timely, localized, accurate and appropriate for planning on water related agricultural risks and adaptation options, said Kibaya.

Dr Gerald Kitaka, the National Agriculture Advisory Delivery System (NAADS) co-ordinator Nakasongola, says that the localization and contextualization of the seasonal forecasts and other weather products is increasing productivity because now the information passed on to farmers is relevant to them instead of previously when it was general.

“Communication of information is good but information has no value unless used. This goes beyond communicating information to making an impact,” Philip M. Gwage Director, LDC Environment Centre.
CHAI is also going beyond just providing information. Partnering with ‘resource actions’ the gaps identified from the information is shared with organizations that can bridge this gap, for instance low cost water harvesting, says Kibaya.

Florence Nabukenya a farmer in Nakasongola says “adaptation information has enabled her go into horticulture and vegetable planting which has enabled her overcome the drought in Nakasongola by not depending on rain alone.

“Previously, we would plant bananas’ but they would die away in a short time due to the harsh drought conditions, but after getting information, World Vision helped us construct low cost water harvesting facilities.”

We then started planting oranges and mangoes, which has boosted our incomes and has enabled me pay school fees for three children now at university, said Nabukenya.

“Managing scarce water requires the application of good technology, some of it embedded in traditional knowledge and some of it inspired by fresh science and new insight,” said Edith Adera a senior program specialist, Climate Changes & Water at Canada’s International Development Research Center (IDRC).

James Kabagoza a coffee farmer in Sembabule says his coffee plantation was nearly all destroyed during the recent drought, but CHAI showed as a video of another farmer right there in his sub-county whose coffee was doing better simply because she had trees in her garden yet he cut his trees.

“We believe that climate proofing; adaptation and promotion of mitigation actions are some of the critical areas where ICT is critical. This will contribute to the government climate change knowledge base,” said Chebet Maikut from the Climate Change Unit (CCU) of the Ministry of Water and Environment.

“Usually when there is a crisis like a prolonged drought herdsmen sell their animals as a coping strategy. We are providing them with the information to cope and make choices,” said Gebru.

CHAI is also unique in that it is using a collaborative mechanism among public institutions like Universities, Civil Society organizations (CSOs’) and government agencies responsible for agriculture, hydrology, and ecosystem data broadens the reach and strengthens the results and outcomes across sectors – thereby mainstreaming effectively.

For instance, Makerere University students in climate science courses have been engaged in data collection and its dissemination during their internship.  “This project has given us both financial and technical support,” said Justine Arinaitwe a student at Makerere University pursing a Master of Science in environment and natural resources degree.

“It is such a unique project generating data from the people and the University giving it a scientific touch to be relevant to the needs of the communities,” said Arinaitwe.

“Generating new knowledge is key to universities. The knowledge that is being collected will be part of our curriculum at Makerere and students are gaining through these internships,” said Professor John B. Kaddu, Professor of Zoology based at the College of Natural Sciences, Department of Biological Science Makerere University.
CHAI is co-implemented by Uganda Chartered HealthNet and FHI 360 Techlab, the Ministry of Water and Environments’ Climate Change Unit (CCU), Wetlands Department, department of Meteorology and the directorate of Water resources management; Makerere University College of Health Sciences, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

[1] WTO agreement on agriculture : the implementation experience

[2] WTO agreement on agriculture : the implementation experience

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Unnecessary TB deaths to be thing of the past thanks to new mobile drug resistance test device (Press Release)

06 November 2013 St George's, University of London

Thousands of deaths from tuberculosis (or TB), an infectious bacterial disease, could be prevented using a new hand-held device that is being developed to detect potentially fatal drug resistance in less than 15 minutes.

Presently of all infectious diseases, only HIV that causes AIDS kills more people than TB. In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people globally developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease.

The UK reported 8,751 cases of TB in 2012 with most cases occurring in its cities and London, where mobile TB X-ray units have reappeared, with 3,500 cases being reported last year, more than the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, and Greece combined, and also more than some African countries, such as The Gambia and Eritrea.

Most cases of TB are curable if treated effectively and promptly and early treatment also prevents the spread of infection. TB most commonly affects the lungs; although anyone can catch TB if exposed, for most healthy people infection causes no symptoms, but certain people are more vulnerable such as the old or those with weak immune systems.

Currently neither the TB infection itself, nor those people with strains of the disease that are resistant to the most common drugs, can be identified quickly enough for patients to be given a specific prescription without considerable delays.

The World Health Organisation has recently declared the fact that about 3 million people with TB are being missed by health systems across the world as “a public health crisis”. The need for better and faster diagnostic tests to help solve this crisis is globally agreed.

But now British biotech firm QuantuMDx has been awarded a £1m government grant towards developing a new rapid test, called Q-TB™, for diagnosis and drug resistance and will build on expertise from specialists at St George’s University of London and collaboration with South African laboratories.

The test which uses a small cartridge to hold the sputum sample from patients could be used by doctors, nurses and health professionals in developing countries and in cities where TB is seeing a re-emergence. The test will integrate the DNA analysis device with sputum analysing technology and a TB identification system developed by St George’s, University of London and its partners.

Professor Philip Butcher, professor of molecular medical microbiology at St George’s, University of London, said: “A simple, fast and accurate method to diagnose TB is urgently needed to effectively fight the disease and prevent its spread.”

“It is a major advantage that this new test will also guide the treatment of patients.”

Dr Jonathan O’Halloran, QuantuMDx’s Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder, said: “The only way we can effectively treat and prevent the spread of MDR-TB is to perform rapid testing at the patients’ side, enabling the immediate prescription of targeted drug treatments”.

“Our robust handheld device is ideal for use in field settings, and is responsive to the addition of hundreds, even thousands, of new diagnostic targets for disease as these are discovered, thus providing a one-stop testing device meeting the testing needs of communities worldwide.”

The UK government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) awarded the £1million grant to further develop the TB test. QuantuMDx’s is also developing similar systems to detect and diagnose malaria and a tumour profiler.