Being in Jinja for a few days, we were able to see many of the abandoned factories as well as the railroad which leads into Kenya. Also, we saw the source of the Nile and Bujagali Falls, as discussed in Lauren Asp’s post. These attributes all play a role in the explanation of an important industrial past that Jinja once played in Uganda.
Before Amin, Jinja was a booming industrial city. These industries included textiles, beer, cotton, and smelting (mostly copper). At one point, the textile industry alone accounted for ten percent of the Ugandan labor force. These industries chose to operate out of Jinja due to the readily available hydro-electric power resources. The railroad to Kenya also provided an excellent mode of export. These factories were run and owned by Indians during this time.
Conditions changed drastically for Jinja after Amin took power. The Indian owners were forced out and killed if they refused to leave. The factories were taken from them and became government enterprises. Amin gave many of these factories to his cohorts who quickly ran them into the ground as a result of their greed, corruption, and incompetence in managing the industry. This is why we see the vacant factories today.
After Amin’s overthrow in 1986, the NRM began privatizing these industries. Today, there is even a policy in place that if a person can prove that their family owned one of these businesses before Amin’s regime, the ownership will be returned. However, many of these factories are so run down that they are being sold at very low prices. Also, the Indians who are reclaiming their factories are generations removed from the individuals who actually operated the factories. These descendants no longer have the knowledge or the interest to run these dilapidated factories and usually choose to sell the land rather than revitalizing the factories and the area’s industrial sector. Today, re-privatizing of the Jinja industries is still taking place. For instance, large enterprises such as National Water still have yet to be privatized.
An additional detriment to the industrialization of Jinja is an industrial flight to Kampala in order to be closer to their markets. Additionally, the establishment of an industrial park within Kampala has also contributed to this industrialization failure. In Kampala’s industrial park, the government has constructed buildings, infrastructure, and utility plants so that different businesses can easily start manufacturing. This is where the Coca-Cola plant is now located.
Now, Jinja is largely reliant on tourism due to the source of the Nile and Bujagali Falls. It is unknown what the effect of the new dams will have on the area’s industrialization because of the flight of the businesses out of Jinja to Kampala. It is clear, however, that these dams will damage the tourism industry. The locals of Jinja have staged demonstrations in protest of the new dams to no avail. Government has countered protests with the industrial argument, saying that the electrical power is more important than local tourism. Locals, however, are largely reliant on tourism in and around Jinja; the rapid growth they have recently experienced and become accustomed to will come to a sudden halt. The government has compensated locals for use of their land. Despite this compensation, locals are still discontented. Some say that these people simply want to “have their cake and eat it, too,” while others claim that they were forced into giving their land to the government and they thereby have a legitimate gripe.
The countries to the north of Uganda on the Nile, including Egypt, Sudan, and the Congo are also very disgruntled with the construction of these dams. Although the countries do not mind the dam itself, which will provide clean energy through hydro-power. However, the nations fear that once these dams are constructed the water will be used as irrigation and therefore siphon water off of the Nile.
These factories have large effects on sustainable development. If Jinja is able to revitalize and regain its factories, Uganda will gain manufacturing power and expand its job market. This manufacturing power will also lead to a larger need for infrastructural improvements, such as roads and airports to export goods. This will also lead to further economic growth and diversification of the economy (instead of having 90% in the agricultural sector). However, this industrialization seems to come at a price to the environment, local communities, and foreign policy.
Questions to consider:
Where do you draw the line between environmental sacrifice and industrial improvements?
Is industrialization vital to the development of Uganda?
Should Uganda utilize the Nile even at the risk of a war over water?
Will the construction of these dams revitalize Jinja, or will the power just be exported and used elsewhere in the country?
Should these dams even be built? What property rights should the locals be able to exercise against the government in these eminent domain cases?
Note: Pictures included are of the dam, Jinja factories, a power plant, and the railroad leading to Kenya