China spurs Uganda’s ICT development to drive economic growth

China is helping Uganda with its development of the information communication technology (ICT), which could drive the East African country’s economy amid the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China is one of the key countries that are helping Uganda spur its development through ICT, Ugandan Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja said at the launch of Huawei’s ICT Competition Awards and ICT Talent Development Report on Friday.

Amid such infection prevention measures as social distancing, there is a need for ICT upskilling to drive growth even with limited physical contact, said Ugandan government officials.

In 2006, Uganda acquired a 106-million-U.S.-dollar loan from the Export-Import Bank of China to build the country’s National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure and Electronic Government Infrastructure. The project included the installation of optical fiber cables.

Government figures indicated that a total of 321 ministries, departments, agencies, local governments, hospitals and universities have access to the network, which allows reduced physical contacts and also enables saving of transportation costs in accessing service delivery.

“The ICT now is part of our daily life, we need to accept the changes and embrace and prepare for future technologies,” Nabbanja said.

Jiang Jiqing, economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Uganda, said the ICT is critical as the world is in the era of Industrial Revolution 4.0 (Artificial Intelligence).

As part of the outcomes of Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China and Africa reached a consensus to enhance cooperation on the ICT, Jiang noted.

Chinese private companies, like Huawei Technologies, have been setting up ICT Academies in universities across Uganda. Huawei also has other projects like sowing the “Seeds for the Future.”

These projects, said Ugandan government officials, are key to ICT upskilling, which is critical for fast tracking development.

Rukia Isanga Nakadama, third deputy prime minister and minister without portfolio, said Huawei’s ICT skilling projects are critical for building the country’s capacity to use ICT in fast track development.

According to Huawei figures, about 5,000 local students in 15 universities in Uganda have benefited from the company’s ICT Talent Development initiatives since 2019.

Nakadama said the ICT sector is one of Uganda’s fastest growing sectors and contributes significantly to the country’s gross domestic product.

John Chrysestom Muyingo, minister of state for higher education, said COVID-19 has posed the country a challenge, where over 15 million learners are out of school due to measures to stop the spread of the pandemic.

ICT professionals, including those who have acquired skills from Huawei’s projects, have a responsibility to develop infrastructure where learners can access education amid the pandemic, said Muyingo.

“With the broad experience that Huawei has developed over the years, I am very confident that this partnership can help us to find more innovative solutions to these challenges which we are facing,” Muyingo said.

He added the government is committed to upscaling and mainstreaming ICT in the delivery of education as a measure to facilitate continued learning.