President Yoweri Museveni has urged African leaders to stop what he described as ideological meandering. Leaders, he said, should thoroughly discuss and distill positions which can help their people transform and develop using their natural resources.
Museveni added that focus should be on home-based solutions and self reliance. He said new US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies will jolt Africans into the reality of their situation.
“I love Trump. I love that man Trump because that man has told you that he is not your uncle. And I think it is good. For those Africans who feel orphaned, am sorry for them. Let’s come back to our continent and mind our own affairs,” Museveni said.
Museveni was speaking Saturday at a discussion on “Managing Natural Resources In Africa: Challenges and Prospects,” at the ongoing 6th High Level Forum on security in Africa at Blue Nile Hotel, Bahir Dar in Ethiopia.
The president spoke passionately about processing Africa’s minerals from Africa to create jobs and get more value from their resources, illustrating his point by saying it was “foolish to give your neighbor firewood when you don’t have firewood in your house”.
“We have a lot of Uranium. Canadians came and said they wanted to take to Canada to process it from there and I said it will stay in the ground until we build own nuclear power station because am not a fool to give firewood to my neighbor when I don’t have firewood in my house,” he said.
Education is not only solution
President Museveni who disagreed with some of the presenters who said education was the solution to solving Africa’s problems said policy mistakes by both technocrats and polictical leaders have led to various problems in Africa.
“That if you educate your people, everything will be okay? This was part of mistakes in 1960. This fragmented thinking, fragmented vision is incorrect. If you educate people but you don’t have infrastructure including electricity, where will they work? How will they work”? the president said.
The president used the example of the Phillipines which he said has its citizens working all over the world because they don’t have jobs in their own country while South Korea has its citizens working home.
“We in Uganda have identified 10 strategic bottlenecks and our view is that they all must be handled together. These include ideology, state formation, infrastructure development, market integration –
If I produce but do not have enough buyers, how will I benefit?”
Museveni said while Africa is at a structural disadvantage in that great ideas do not apply to the whole of Africa, the Tana Forum can still spread the ideas throu ‘osmosis’. He said it takes good ideas to spread on the continent to consolidate its gains and urged all Africans to come together and achieve this.
“Africa has a structural disadvantage. We are not like China. In China when there is one good thinker…the whole china follows them. Here, you may have good ideas in Ethiopia but they are localized and do not apply to the whole of Africa. This forum can help ideas spread by osmosis,” he said.
He urged all Africans to come together and achieve this.
Who owns the resources?
Museveni also urged the forum to focus on who owns the natural resources on the continent.
“On issue of mineral resources, my question is who owns the minerals. With petroleum we have production sharing agreements (PSA) where the company which has exploration licences agrees with government to pay so much to regain what they invested and the rest is for government,” he said, adding that, it is not clear what the case is with other minerals including where companies own minerals but governments have loyalties.
“In Uganda, am not bothered with minerals because Uganda has been developing at a good rate depending on agriculture and industry. We discovered petroleum about 12 years ago but up to now we have not exploited it because I could not agree with those companies. They wanted to cheat us. I said no, the petroleum has been in the ground for the last many years it can stay there until we agree. That is because in my view, minerals should belong to the country,” he said.
Mineral rich Uganda
Museveni also emphasized locally based value addition for countries to fully exploit their natural resources for the benefit of their people.
“We have got huge reserves of iron ore in Uganda. Indians came and said they want to export soil to India and process it there. If they take as soil, they would pay $38 per tone. Our iron ore is 70% pure, one of the best in the world, only second to Peru. When steel prices are high instead of $38 per tone, you get$900. I said nobody will take an ounce of iron ore from Uganda until we agree.. up to now its still in the ground,” he said.
He revealed that the government agreed with the Chinese to process locally the lover version magnetite which they are using to produce steel.
On petroleum, Museveni said various companies tried to convince Uganda to export its petroleum from abroad and where discouraging the country from building an oil refinery saying it was not economically productive.