COVID-19 may spur innovation

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda has pledged to avail resources to boost human capital development after it emerged that the young population was increasingly being ignored, much so, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This according to the chairperson of the National Planning Authority, Pamela Kasabiiti Mbabazi during the launch of the State of Uganda population report 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on population development.

In her remarks while representing the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda she said that the Government was fast tracking development of industrial parks, recapitalizing Uganda Development Bank and Uganda Dairy Corporation.

‘We shall avail resources in order to harness the demographic dividend and achieve vision 2040 .It is important to note that most Ugandans, 78% are young people who fall under the age of 30. We must therefore work to increase opportunities for young people so that they can become the engine of Uganda’s development for many years to come, Kasabiiti said

The move comes a month after the cabinet approved the national population policy.

In March 2020, Uganda registered the first case of COVID-19 and a lock down was effected countrywide. Being a pandemic the government instituted restrictions across the private and public sector but the extent of the impact could not be ignored.

Country Representatives of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Mr. Alain Sibenaler said it was a good leadership gesture for Uganda to finalize its National Development Plan III while the United Nations finalized its sustainable development cooperation framework which is directed mirrored to the NDP III.

He added that UNFPA had presented its final draft program document that will start in 2021.

However, Alain noted that social economic development cannot happen if 1 out of every 4 girls is pregnant before 18 and when half of Uganda’s girls are married under the age of 18. ‘We have also seen that under COVID-19 pregnancy, sexuality and violence against women and girls were not under lock down. so the issues that we are looking at today; sexual and reproductive health, maternal health, access to basic primary health care and Gender based violence have been exacerbated during COVID-19.’

‘These issues have never been more popular but for the wrong reasons and this report and others is evidence enough for policy and decision makers to make changes in the way they are delivering services.’

Stakeholders were also challenged about the likely opportunities in COVID-19, and questions were asked as to whether the country will be able to take advantage of it as a disrupted or a catalyst.

Keynote speaker, Dean of Makerere School of Public Health, Professor Fredrick Edward Makumbi said in health, there should be an ability to create innovation just like the development of a self-sanitizing mask by Makerere University students which needs to be upgraded, economic innovations in agriculture and in business because entrepreneurs no longer accommodate many people in offices and others have adopted doing deliveries.

Socially, men and women have had time to be with family irrespective of domestic violence a trend that needs to be investigated.

In Education, the 17 million School going children were grounded and now it is a requirement for most institutions to adopt e-learning, which could in turn lead to more enrollment.

So COVID-19 pandemic is a potential springboard for innovations and advancement in Africa and so research is supposed to continue and a lot of data needs to be tapped into to spur more opportunities for development, Makumbi said.