Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why is Uganda So Prosperous Compared to Liberia?

A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to experience two weeks in the bush of Liberia.  There I saw abject poverty and unemployment.  I saw a community school not being utilized due to teaching stipends from the government being cut.  I witnessed a people who were totally dependent upon NGO's.  My host had informed me the Liberian people were suffering hangover effects from their civil war which had ended a decade earlier.  I had no reason to doubt my host; however, today, being in west central Uganda, I see a completely different story unfolding.

One could argue that Uganda is the better candidate to be suffering a civil war hangover that is hardly over.  Reports indicate hostilities in the north of Uganda were documented as late as May of 2012; so what is Uganda doing differently?

Godfrey Karubanga, Chair of PUfCO with CRS volunteer Mike Mayott
I first offer the insights of  my host, Godfrey Karubanga, a 35 year old father of 3 boys, an engineer by training, a farmer by choice and the present chair of the Pakanai  United Farmers Cooperative Soceity (PUfCO) Limited.  The Ugandan people are actively seeking out NGO and government assistance to build their economy.  Godfrey, a soft spoken and gentle giant of a man, speaks with passion as he explained to me his vision for the people of the Masindi (ph: mas cin dee) District, to grow their economy to provide a better future for their children.

Sitting in the dark under colored lights at the Kolping Hotel, Godfrey painted a picture of a society that is stifled by a social more that finds it an insult to achieve more than ones father.  Godfrey is the exception to this rule having been orphaned in 1986 when his father was killed during the civil war.  For Godfrey, his days are filled being a leader among the people.  Godfrey has a firm belief that education is the key to raising the Ugandan people out of poverty into prosperity.  He acknowledges the needed changes are generational and he will only witness the beginning of the paradigm shift.  When asked if his wife was also a university graduate he replied yes with a wide grin on his face.  Knowing the value of education, Godfrey's eldest son is at bordering school and his two younger sons will follow their brother.  Therefore, in this one family there is a very likely possibility three sons will excel beyond their father and raise their children to advance beyond them.  Our discussion reminded me the road of prosperity of the US was based upon the principal each generation would advance beyond the previous; no wonder Godfrey and the people of Uganda look to the US for assistance in their countries development.

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