UGANDA’s President Yoweri Museveni has challenged Africa’s leaders to be prepared for the next industrial revolution as they have missed out on the previous three by falling asleep at the wheel while the rest of the world accelerated ahead.
Like a dozen other African leaders, President Museveni is in London for the first ever UK-Africa Investment Summit hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Yesterday6, on the sidelines of the summit, President Museveni was the guest speaker at an event organised by the African Leadership Magazine themed Harnessing Africa’s Global Economic Appeal.
At the event attended by several heavyweights on African affairs including the chairman of Ben Television Dr Alistair Soyode, Jim Murphy, the former UK foreign office minister and Nirmala Rewa of the Mauritius Economic Development Board, President Museveni delighted guests with a historical narrative about how Africa missed the global industrial boar,. he pointed out that human beings have been on the planet for about 4.5m years but it was only 100,000 years ago that man left Africa and development began.
According to the president, this when things changed as around 8,000BC man began planting seeds and agriculture started and this was then followed with industrial development. He pointed out that the printing press, the steam engine, the train and gunpowder all got invented, which enabled man to industrialise but unfortunately, African leaders were asleep at the wheel while all this was taking place.
President Museveni said: “In 1453, a group of people captured the area known as Turkey today and so the Europeans needed to find a new route to Asia as the Ottoman Turks blocked their overland route. Because the Europeans needed to find a new routed, they had to pass through Africa and this was how Europe led by Portugal found sub-Saharan Africa.
“By 1470, the Portuguese had got to Sierra Leone and by 1472 they got to Angola and by 1498 Vasco Da Gama arrived at Natal. However, in Uganda, we did not see a white man until 1862 and all this while, our chiefs and leaders were asleep, failing to act while everyone else was moving on.”
He added that there was too much internal wrangling going on between African chiefs at the time and as such they could not form a united front to address the external challenges they faced. According to President Museveni, this lack of vision prevented them from joining the groovy train and the ethnic spats did not allow them to tap into the commercial opportunities which the arrival of the Europeans presented.
“Our problems were internal and although the foreigners exploited it, we were asleep while everyone else was moving on. When it comes to marketing products for instance, once you have goods, you need to sell them, so you appreciate the value of your neighbour but a man who has nothing to market, sees the next village as a threat rather than as a potential market.” President Museveni added.
Pointing out that the next industrial revolution will be key to Africa as the continent is the last untapped market in the world, President Museveni said her leaders need to be prepared. At the London summit, only Kenya has so far made significant gains, with President Uhuru Kenyatta securing $1.7bn worth of investment.
Dr Ken Giama, the publisher of African leadership Magazine who organised the event, handed President Museveni an award in recognition of his work in bringing investment to Uganda. Priscilla Nwikpo, the chief executive of Kairos Media, who MC’d the event, said that hopefully, there would be more of them held in subsequent years.