Gulu town is the defacto capital of northern Uganda. The region has had peace for the last six years, after the two-decade long conflict between the government of Uganda and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) came to an end.
With the return of normalcy, humanitarian organisations that during the war aided Gulu in the provision of basic social services such as water, support to health centres, and schools, have pulled out with the few remaining ones also on the verge of leaving. How will Gulu fill the gap left by these NGOs?
Moses Odokonyero sought answers from Peter Douglas Okello, the Speaker of the Gulu District Local government council. The council passes the town’s budget, ordinances and policies, among other things.
Moses Odokonyero: How does Gulu district plan to cover the role that NGOs used to play and where will you get funding from?
Douglas Peter Okello: It is true that donor support has dwindled. It is also true that the money we get from local revenue is very meagre. We only get 680 million shillings [about $270,000] in a financial year. Support from the NGOs has reduced by 15 percent and will continue to reduce. But we have put in place a five year strategic plan that we think will address the gap left by the NGOs and raise local revenue to meet social service in Gulu.
MO: What are the areas that you have identified in your strategic plan to raise more local revenue?
DPO: Gulu is strategically located because of the available road network, an airport, a rail network [last month, for the first time in two decades, the first train travelled to Gulu] and land. Gulu is also in the middle of Kampala and South Sudan’s capital Juba. These are advantages that have been identified in the strategic plan. We have also identified agri-business and agri-industry as possible sources of funding in the next five years. We hope to develop an agri-business park in the central business district and an agro –industry in the outskirts of the city. We want to transition from collecting revenue from small markets and move to big business.
MO: Where will you get the funding for the projects you’re talking about?
DPO: The projects will be financed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). UNIDO has already put the project in their Uganda country programme. It is going to be a huge support for the district. Work on the agri-business park and agro-industry project will begin in January 2014.
MO: How will Gulu raise revenue from the projects?
DPO: To start with we will be having a big waste management project. We hope to employ 8,000 jobless youths. This will solve the problem of youth unemployment. But also we expect that once the projects are completed in the next five years …the first year after the project we project to get 1 billion shillings [$400,000], 1.8 billion [$720,000] in the second year, 2.2 billion [$880, 000] in the third year, 3.6 billion [$ 1.4 million] in the fourth year, and 5.8 billion [$2.3 million] in the fifth year. To achieve this goal, we have instituted a revenue enhancement committee comprising of technical and political staff.
MO: What financial support are you currently getting from the central government?
DPO: We currently get up to 80 percent of our support from government but this comes in the form of conditional grants with specific roles like salary for teachers. This money can’t be used elsewhere.
This article forms part of Urban Africa’s urban reporting series.
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Main photo: Peter Douglas Okello, Speaker of the Gulu District Local government council. Credit: Stephen Okello
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