Uganda can pay a living wage from enuuni exports

Nile perch

Nile perch

Fellow citizens, objective number five of the NRM 10 point program was to “build an Independent, Integrated, Self-sustaining economy, which would stop the transfer of our resources abroad.’

We seem to have made progress there because the World Bank concedes that Uganda’s economy (GDP) has grown from $3.92 billion in 1986 when NRM captured power to $37.6 billion in 2020.

But despite this progress it is shameful to see hundreds of our young girls and boys flying out daily in search of petty jobs. This is indicative of a mismatch between the tremendous economic growth and the people’s standard of living.

There are many opportunities that government and her citizens can harness to reduce unemployment among the youths, and save our girls from domestic harassment in foreign homes. Let us take one item called ennuni. Enuuni is the air bladder or the air sack, which keeps the Nile Perch afloat on water.

God blessed Uganda with some renewable resource (enuuni), which government can use to propel her citizens to the first world in six years. This month, the New Vision published a report from East African Community Lake Victoria Fisheries organisation showing that the three east African countries sharing Lake Victoria earned $157 million (Sh603.8b) in 2019 from 1,640 tonnes of enuuni exports.

Tanzania earned the lion’s share of $77.9 million (Shs 299.6 bn), followed by Uganda worth $76.3 million, (Shs 293.4 bn) while Kenya got $3.7m (Shs 14.2bn). Statistics from the ministry of Agriculture show an increase in enuuni export earnings from $27 million in 2015, to $31 million in 2016, $48 million in 2017 and $52 million in 2018.

The MAAIF export figures are government’s official record handed in by exporters. But the real figures are far higher. See below: $270 million was earned in 2015 followed by $310 in 2016, $480 million in 2017 and $520 million in 2018.

The difference between my figures and those of MAAIF is so wide and unbelievable but I can show Ugandans that mine are correct. Explaining why government statistics are incorrect is a long story and so is the search for an answer. But this subject matter is an eye opener for a search for a living wage for the 40 million Ugandans.

But the significant difference is: If one kilogramme of enuuni sells for $1000, it means 1,640 tonnes sell for $1.64 billion. Remember even 1640 tonnes was too small.

In 1989, I discovered that enuuni was a Chinese delicacy. At that time, enuuni was a hygienic nuisance. To slaughter Nile Perch you must have dug a hole to bury the enuuni. The story about the hygienic nuisance of enuuni is long. I reserve it for another day.

From 1990 to 2005, through my company Begumisa Enterprises Ltd, I exported 85 per cent of all the enuuni from this country. My company won the yearly Presidential Exporters Award year after year. In 2005, my gross annual turnover was $24.5m. I know all the intricacies of enuuni. So, listen to me as I explain how Uganda can use enuuni to  climb into the first world. 

On top of discovering the enuuni in 1989 and the many years selling it, I also researched about the Nile Perch fish and its enuuni. During my research, I counted Nile Perch eggs (always in millions). With this vast knowledge, I talk with confidence about the search for a living wage for the 40 million Ugandans.

For Uganda to gradually qualify to be a rich country and pay all her citizens a living wage, we must orient our citizens to work longer to produce goods and services. This can be done by attracting large scale capital investment, financed by domestic savings (Project research thesis available) and producing things much more efficiently in this digital age.

We must identify, ring fence, and specialize in economic activities, which bring increasing returns, technological change and synergise with other industries. Specifically, the new industrial populace must jealously be indigenous citizens.

The windows of opportunity for innovation and technical change must be in line with our country’s identified potential, enuuni and evenly distributed among all economic activities. These opportunities will increase Uganda’s per capita income, reduce the external debt burden, build morale and also national patriotism.

Uganda must identify and focus on local opportunities, which can help her to make large scale capital investments, financed by large domestic savings. This will give birth to rapid productivity growth, nationwide industrialization, boom exports, plus foreign investment. 

Large scale capital investments, financed by large domestic savings must run in concert, enhanced by legally enacted economic reforms, to boost high efficiency in the economy.

Once this is done, Uganda must maintain high rate savings as government directs her citizens to a policy, which creates an in built high domestic savings, hence higher GDP. If Uganda maintains high saving rates, resources may be channelled to large scale agricultural reforms, which are more market oriented and efficient to both the local and export market.

This project creates a big financial infrastructure, where individual earnings suddenly grow big. Since all the earnings are digitally known, we can allow for some savings based on a style similar to current Wazalendo or other successful SACCOs.

On the other hand, this financial infrastructure made out of our most valuable exports, has some similarities to the 1980’s rapid growth of the Tiger economies.  This national project is projected to proceed gradually for six years from the day it starts, and expected to have covered 40 million people at the end of the sixth year. This will gradually but ultimately raise the living wage of citizens of Uganda.


The specific meaning of a living wage is: sufficient income paid by government to her employees, covering: food, shelter, utilities, transport, health, hidden expenses and all social amenities available in that country. Living wage also means: sufficient income, or pay or net profit, from any legal activity involving the day to day life of any Ugandan citizen. This also covers: food, shelter, utilities, transport, health, hidden expenses, sufficient family wage and subsistence wage.                                         

In Uganda, the United Nations pays something similar to a living wage. If Uganda endorses this potential project, the country will never be the same.

A few dos and benefits

1-Extract large scale capital investment financed by domestic savings from local potential.

2-Innovatively create sufficient income or earnings or wages for all her citizens.

3-Enable government to supervise and earn from this gradual, digital, self-accounting, national resource exploitation. While Uganda’s idle and none idle citizens (at least those out of school) quietly and informally earn a modest living.

4-Reduce national crime rate: Gradually, if all idle youth are involved in some decent earning, national crime will gradually but significantly reduce to most minimum.

6-Enable government to allocate the equivalent of almost all the current budget to infrastructure development.

7-Facilitate the government to re-design the agricultural policies, including special addendum to the current Fish Act to suit this project. The current fish bill does not specifically address enuuni as a special resource.

8-Enable government to prepare initially to finance the construction of the digital supervisory structure right from the grassroots. Also finance the qualitative software and hard ware to kick start the project.

9-Enable all Ugandans, especially the fish folks to embrace the initial six months social, economic, political suffering, as government supervises the six months fishing holiday. The work done in the six months fishing holiday include to: “Innovatively and fundamentally overhaul the fishing industry” as we move from analogue to digital, with a soft and wise approach to the enuuni export market.

10-Enable the government to re-stock and introduce Nile Perch in all fresh water areas in Uganda, with particular emphasis on the availability of Nile perch prey.

The writer is a businessman and former exporter of a nuuni between 1990 to 2005

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd