Op-Ed: Denying Makerere land in Budondo is denying development

By Paul Kwanguzi

A few weeks ago, I attended a burial in Budondo, my birthplace, in Jinja Northern Constituency and one of the issues that surfaced within the burial talk was the need for Jinja Northern Division authorities to find it economically rational and allocate land to Makerere University.

For starters, the former Budondo sub-county has about 52 acres of land currently underutilized with no viable economic and development value. In the circumstances, the university approached Jinja Northern Division for land. Although it is said the then town clerk made a minute granting the university’s expression of interest, such minute lacked the full approval of the Council, thereby hitting a dead-end

Worse still and sadly, rumour mills have it that councillors have demanded to have their palms greased in the form of an acre for each from the same land if at all the university’s request is to be granted. Frustrated by the councillors’ parochial understanding of this whole affair and misguided sense of false entitlement to public property, the division mayor sounding helpless said he had decided to bring the matter to the attention of the public court at the funeral.

On the other hand, ordinary Budondonians currently using the land for subsistence farming equally stated that they hold equitable interests therein and that the same shall not be defeated by their loss.

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In light of the foregoing, what manifests is a clash between individual interest and public interest. In societies where acting rationally is a full-time duty, public interest cannot be held hostage and subservient to petty individual interests.

The Makerere University Project is a Public Interest Project looking at its benefits to the community of Budondo as I will later deal with them. I want to urge all those concerned to drop their personal and individual Interests for the Public Interest.

What then is the Public Interest in this matter? As a public policy expert, Economist, and Lawyer, I believe to the fact that education is a public good. It benefits everyone in one or the other, especially the people of Budondo. Makerere is a public University, not even its fee collection will go to individual pockets of the proprietors. A public university is developmentally as relevant as a public road, hospital, or airport, among other infrastructural developments.

Are some people worried that this is a mere branch of Makerere University?

Budondonians should be proud that Makerere University wants nowhere else, but Budondo. Makerere University is a super brand; it is the Number One university in the country and Africa. A branch is the same as the main campus, especially in terms of certificates awarded.

To understand this, even MUBS which seems “almost an independent University”, all their graduates have certificates from Makerere University, not MUBS. Therefore, to undermine this project by placing it at the corrupt altar of equally criminal and unjustifiable petty individual interests is to unjustifiably betray the broader collective aspirations of Budondo as a liberal community open to development.

If I may ask, is the Division possessed of any rationally viable use to which it intends to subject the land in question? I am informed Makerere University is currently asking for 30 acres, leaving out 50 acres yet that as it may be, I am not aware of any reasonable project the Division has for the land.

What are the anticipated gains/benefits of this University to Budondonians and Jinja Northern Division?

I have personally pursued three degrees at Makerere University at the bachelor’s level and one at the Master’s level. I recently concluded my bar course studies at the Law Development Centre Kampala. Evidently, all these academic programmes have been undertaken in Kampala miles away from Budondo; thus I am best suited to extol here below the eventual benefits that would agree to Budondo if the land is granted.

1. Increased value and investment in the housing sector in Budondo;- Once, the University acquires the land, the overall value of land in Budondo will shoot up as other related investors will seek land to construct decent houses for students. Relatedly. The construction industry is likely to boom and most likely our mansions from BudondJinjaja are likely to make a kill ( if they are up to the task).

Even those with already constructed houses will benefit from this market since the demand for houses is likely to increase. In perfect competition, demand determines the price.

2. Increase in the number of people attaining university education and skills from within Budondo. It will be cheaper for our dear parents to enrol students in university education since the cost of housing, feeding and transport would have been substantially cut down for students from Budondo and the surrounding communities. This project is in one way or the other an incentive to Budondonians to have their students attain University Education.

3. A boast to the local economy. The moment the university starts its operations in Budondo, the following businesses will automatically do well.

a) The food industry. Students and staff will all need to eat on a daily ad remember they have ready money/ cash money. This money gets back to the local economy of Budondo.

b)The Transport sector. The people in the transport sector will benefit a lot and these are people from Budondo. Taxis and transporting people from Jinja town to Budondo are likely to make a kill once this university starts its operations and most of the drivers and owners of the Budondo taxis are our own from Budondo. It may now take up to 30 minutes for a tax to Budondo to get full unlike now where it takes hours. The Boda Boda Industry will also boom since some students may not wait for taxis to get fully aware of timelines associated with lectures.

c) The secretarial and printing industry. University education is associated with typing, printing, and photocopying daily and provided our people are prepared, all this money will get to their pockets.

d) Hotel and Tourism sector. Many lecturers tend to hire guest houses for one to two days a week as they tend to lecture in many universities, but equally, some students who attend class on weekends tend to hire guest houses where they live for those few days. This of course calls for preparations around this area.

e) Bars and restaurants will boom. Students party a lot; they spend on birthday parties and almost go out every weekend. All this means spending, and if the community is prepared, no doubt all this money will get back into their pockets.

4) Employment to the Community. If our people are prepared, it’s likely and possible that our people can get employed with the University. Actually one of the terms and conditions the Jinja Northern Division Council can set is to ensure our people who merit get employed with the University. A University has many sectors and departments which all require workers. This university is likely to offer both direct and indirect employment to the people of Budondo, Jinja North, Jinja City and Busoga, and this obviously trickles down to the local person. Those who will be employed indirectly will be the majority as explained above.

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5. Jinja Northern Division will benefit from Ground rent. I am informed Makerere University is expected to pay 400M as Ground rent to the Council. This will be local revenue that will also impact the earnings of our councillors since it is classified as local income to the Council.

In general, the university will benefit all the sectors of the economy including agriculture, those operating clinics, etc. because of the expected numbers in terms of students.

This, therefore, is a clarion call to the Jinja Northern Division Mayor and Council in General that you have a chance to have an achievement you will talk about for your entire life as leaders. Put aside all your individual interests and egos and grant land to Makerere University. To do otherwise will be to throw away the net at the shoreline and head to the sea for fishing. You will thank me later.

Paul Kawanguzi is an Economist, a Senior Policy Consultant, a Lawyer and an alumnus of Makerere University born and raised in Budondo, Jinja Northern Division, Jinja City.

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