About me.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding Managing Editor of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs newsmagazine. One of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, TED Speaker and Foreign aid Critic



Monday, June 24, 2019

Uganda’s trending fashion


How popular sentiments have undermined our journalism and blinded our intellectuals from reality

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | It has become increasingly trendy and fashionable within certain sections of social media in Uganda to denounce President Yoweri Museveni. It does not matter what arguments one makes or evidence they adduce to back up their case or the values they stand for. It is just cool to accuse Museveni of looting and destroying Uganda. Many Ugandan journalists, intellectuals and pundits seeking popular validation of their ideas, afraid to be “misunderstood”, desperate for approval, or plainly emotional and ignorant, pander to popular sentiments in complete disregard of the facts.

Monday, June 17, 2019

ANALYSIS: Inspired by Japan


Where people, values, mentalities and habits create pure harmony

THE INDEPENDENT | ANDREW M. MWENDA | In February and March of this year, I visited Japan and travelled extensively across that country’s major cities – from Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima to Osaka, the commercial capital of Japan. I was intrigued and impressed by the orderliness and cleanliness of the country. Many people argue that Kampala is dirty and disorganised because it is large; with many people (1.5 million) living in it. Osaka is a city of 19 million people (counting its entire urban area) while Tokyo is 14 million people. The streets of these cities remain spotless clean.

Museveni’s state of nation speech


Why, in spite of our continued poverty, there is good reason to celebrate our gains as we plan ahead

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, President Yoweri Museveni gave his State of the Nation (SOTN) speech. He gave interesting facts about Uganda’s economy, which many of our “intellectuals” deny. Between 1986 and 2015 (when I have reliable data), Uganda’s economy grew at an annual average rate of 6.92%. Given that population growth has been 3.3% over the same period, per capita output has grown at an average annual rate of 3.62%. This is an excellent performance by both contemporary and historical standards.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Uganda’s messiah complex


Inside our overblown expectations and the religious origins of our hopes and frustrations

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | In February, my mother (84) visited Germany. Driving from the airport to the city of Cologne, she was impressed by the highways, flyovers and majestic buildings of that country. My sister asked what she felt about these achievements of the German people and state. “Impressive,” my mother replied, “very impressive.” Then my sister asked how long she thought it would take Uganda to achieve such developmental results. My mum answered without any reservations: “If (President Yoweri) Museveni is given another 15 years, Uganda would surpass all this.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

Uganda and Rwanda’s slippery slope


Why the current situation between Kampala and Kigali needs to be deescalated before it leads to disaster
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The conflict between Uganda and Rwanda is escalating and, if not arrested, will most likely lead to war. Last week, Uganda claimed that Rwandan troops had crossed into Uganda and shot two people dead. Rwanda said the incident took place on its soil. Given the circumstances, the facts do not really matter. In such tense situations, these incidents only provide propaganda value to partisans on each side to prove their side to be the aggrieved party.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Debunking Africa’s delusions


Why our everlasting obsession with the state, its leaders and politics as the problem is misguided

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | There is a near unanimous view that the problems of our nations in Sub Sahara Africa are a result of leaders, specifically our presidents. Others broaden this view arguing that our problems are a result of the state and its politics. To such analysts, the societies of Africa are capable of rapid economic transformation like in East Asia but are being stifled by corrupt and autocratic leaders and states.

Monday, May 20, 2019

A preliminary peep at 2021


The things opposition parties should ignore and those they need to focus on to have a chance in 2021

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The opinion poll by Research World International (RWI) found Kyadondo East Member of Parliament (MP) Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine (at 22%) far ahead of long-standing opposition leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye (at 13%). President Yoweri Museveni led the pack with 32%, but far below the 50% plus one he needs to win a first round. While this may be great for Bobi Wine, it has potential to be a risk to the opposition chances of beating Museveni in 2021. I will return to this subject towards the end of this article.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Uganda’s democratic contradiction


Why I think Museveni is a liberal democrat while Bobi Wine and Besigye are potential tyrants

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | Last week, police using heavy-handed methods stopped the MP for Kyadondo East, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, from holding a concert. Even President Yoweri Museveni agreed that the brutality police employed was uncalled for. To make a bad situation worse, the Uganda Communications Commission then ordered television stations to fire reporters, programmers and producers who were involved in the live coverage of this event.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The road to serfdom


How Ugandans have cultivated a mindset that is making them servants of foreigners in their own country

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | My friend Henry Mayanja left Uganda as a teenager and lived in the UK for 20 years. He worked for the UK government earning a salary and thinking he had made it. When he visited Uganda in 2011, he found some ordinary guy he left in Hima – uneducated, riding a bicycle and selling milk – a successful entrepreneur in Kampala with 24 lorries and investments in real estate. The guy explained to Henry that he had grown from the bicycle to a boda boda, to a small pickup, to the lorries.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Is Uganda’s debt sustainable?


How Prof Hyuha Mukwanason’s response to my article fails to move beyond abstract theoretical arguments

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | Prof Hyuha Mukwanason wrote in Daily Monitor of April 13 a 4,214 words-long article responding to my article published in The New Vision of January 21 (2,400 words). In his response, he purported to demonstrate that Uganda’s debt is unsustainable. Yet nowhere in that long article does he make any effort to meet this promise. Instead he went into a host of irrelevant theoretical abstractions about debt generally that have little or no relevance to Uganda’s actual debt situation, ironically the very issue he was criticising me for.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The fall of Omar Bashir


Why the Sudanese leader is a hero not a villain for nurturing the progressive forces that removed him

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Finally prolonged popular protests have brought down the 30 years long rule of Sudanese president, Gen. Omar Al Bashir. This was inspiring news for the Ugandan opposition who wish President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 33 years now, suffers a similar fate. Sadly, these wishes are unlikely to yield anything because actions, not wishes, are what really bring down governments. Most likely Sudan may provide Museveni an opportunity to look for ways to manage future uprisings better.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Japanese versus European colonialism

How Japanese colonialism in East Asia was transformative compared to its European counterpart in Africa
Kampala, Uganda | ANDREW M. MWENDA | I spent about ten days between late February and early March in Japan; talking to government officials, academics in universities, policy wonks in think tanks, tasting Japanese cuisine, visiting technology museums and art galleries.
I was intrigued that the Japanese do not want to speak about their role as colonisers because many of them think it was their nation at its worst.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Our country’s misguided priorities


How the debate on Lubowa hospital exposes the self-indulgence of Ugandan elites and their poverty of ideas
Two weeks ago Uganda government approved $380m (or Shs1.4 trillion) to build an “international specialised hospital” in Lubowa. On the face of it, this is a great idea. It is prestigious for a poor country like Uganda to own a state-of-the-art hospital that can handle highly complex medical problems. Besides, if our country is to attract high-end tourism, it needs such a highly specialised hospital so that rich tourists can visit our country confident that in case of a medical emergency they can be handled.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Uganda’s storm in a teacup


How our MPs invented a scandal around Uganda Airlines’ shares and our chattering elites joined the chorus
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” Voltaire
Last week, our parliamentar- ians alleged that some unscrupulous ministers had stolen government shares in Uganda National Airlines Company Limited (UNACL) by registering them in their private names on the shares allotment form. A “vigilant” committee of parliament “unearthed” this fraud. Parliament went hysterical with the deputy speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, saying he would have fired the ministers if he were president. On traditional and social media, pundits outdid one another denouncing this blatant theft.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Uganda’s strategic dilemma Part3


Why Uganda’s economy is dominated by multinational capital and what cannot be done about it
So we come to our third and last instalment on how post-1986 Uganda cultivated groups and interests hostile to local firms. First to be discredited were local banks, followed by locally owned construction firms. They were accused of doing “shoddy work” at a high price. New procurement laws requiring international competitive bidding effectively locked them out of key contracts.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Uganda’s strategic dilemma Part2


Why Uganda’s economy is dominated by multinational capital and what cannot be done about it

We begin from where we stopped last week. Uganda’s growing economy served three critical purposes: It increased government revenues, gave greater confidence to donors to give more aid, and increased resources available to government to pay for patronage, provide basic public goods and services and fight armed insurgency thereby aiding legitimacy and political consolidation. Consequently, Museveni gradually shifted from implementing these reforms as an opportunistic beneficiary and became a believer in their efficacy.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Uganda’s strategic dilemma


Why Uganda’s economy is dominated by multinational capital and what cannot be done about it

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Uganda is facing a dilemma. The country is investing tens of billions of dollars in huge infrastructure projects – dams, airports, highways, bridges, railways, water systems etc. Many Ugandans are complaining that all the big contracts are won by foreign firms especially Chinese, who even bring their own workers and materials. They argue therefore that these investments bring little value to the citizens as local manufacturing and construction firms get little or nothing. Consequently, the debate on and demands for local content have become loud.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Rwanda-Uganda conflict

How Kampala has mismanaged her relations with Kigali and why Rwanda closed her border

Let me do what politicians always do – claim they run for office due to popular demand. Many people have been asking me to comment on the heightened tensions between Uganda and Rwanda. By writing this article, I am yielding to popular pressure. I think Uganda and Rwanda will most likely degenerate into war; something I have shared with friends since October last year and this is the reason it is critical that I share my views.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Fortune favours the bold


Why government of Uganda should heavily invest in Kiira Motors even in the face of many impediments
Uganda wants to manufacture cars. It doesn’t have any comparative advantage in this field. It does not produce iron ore from which to make steel, an important input into the car manufacturing industry. It is landlocked. It has no prior experience in manufacturing anything significant. And it is trying to do it using a state owned enterprise, Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), in a government riddled with corruption and incompetence.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wrong thinking on health services

Why expecting a Ugandan peasant to have the same quality of healthcare as an American is madness


THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, I attended the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE)’s monthly State of the Nation seminar on public spending and governance on the health sector in Uganda. Like all such conferences on African issues, context is always missing. So we discuss the state’s ability to deliver public goods and services as if poor countries have the same resources – both human and financial – as rich nations.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Museveni’s AU speech

Why there is a big disconnect between Museveni the intellectual and Museveni the politician

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, President Yoweri Museveni delivered an impressive speech to fellow African Union (AU) heads of state in Addis Ababa about the need for regional and continental integration. According to social media, the president even got a standing ovation. The speech was Musevenisque in its historical sweep, breadth of perspective, depth of analysis and strategic foresight. It showed how Museveni the politician contradicts Museveni the intellectual. It also proves that leaders are human – they have egos and other emotions that stand in the way of their strategic ambitions.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Impunity at Bank of Uganda


How institutional independence allowed the central bank to indulge in gross mismanagement and incompetence

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week was the most shameful for Bank of Uganda. During hearings before the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) it was exposed that BoU sold the assets and liabilities of the now defunct Crane Bank Limited (CBL) irregularly in blatant violation of the law.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Michela Wrong’s war on Kagame

How racial prejudice led The Guardian to publish an article that is basically a hit job on Rwanda

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On January 14, The Guardian newspaper in England published a 5,800 word long article by Michela Wrong titled “Rwanda’s Kashogi.” It accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda of complicity in the murder of former Rwandan spy chief, Patrick Karegyeya. Wrong makes no effort to substantiate her claims with even the most rudimentary evidence. She relied on a litany of rumours.

Monday, January 28, 2019

URA’s unnecessary headquarters


Why government of Uganda’s approach of owning buildings to save on rent is economically unproductive

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week President Yoweri Museveni officially opened the new Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) head office building in Nakawa. As a work of art, the building is majestic. As a source of national pride, it is inspiring. At 22 floors high it is the tallest building in Kampala, a beautiful piece of architecture that improves our city’s skyline. But as an economic investment, the building is a disaster.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Uganda’s growing public debt

PUBLIC DEBT: Why is it growing? Is it prohibitive, unsustainable?

Kampala, Uganda | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On January 10, I watched with increasing depression a debate about Uganda’s national debt on the NBS Frontline show. Although the Minister of State for Finance, David Bahati, made many good arguments in defence of government, his delivery was not effective.

The value of loyalty


The value of loyalty: What the story of a simple attendant at a fuel station can help us learn about building successful organisations

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On Tuesday January 8, 2019 I passed a Total service station in Luzira to load Mobile Money. Because there was no V-Power Petrol on all Shell stations in Kampala and I had a few minutes to spare, I decided to ask a fuel attendant at this Total station, a one Vincent Komakech, whether their fuel is fit for my car.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Museveni’s land politics


Why the president’s defence of squatters is humane but economically retrogressive

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | During his New Year speech, President Yoweri Museveni reiterated his commitment to defend squatters being evicted by “land grabbers”. Yet he also promised to protect the ownership rights of title holders. In trying to please both, Museveni may be doing good politics but it is bad economics. Here is why.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Museveni and African hairstyles

Why the President’s emphasis on hairstyles to assert the African identity addresses the form and ignores the substance
 
THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | On December 30, 2018, President Yoweri Museveni tweeted thanking Miss World Africa, Quiin Abenakyo, for heeding his “advice” to keep her hair “natural”. Museveni claimed that this asserts her “African identity”. “God beautifully created Africans and there is no need to add or subtract anything,” the President tweeted.