In the words of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni during his address on National State of Affairs, at State House Entebbe on September 09th 2018, “Uganda has reached the take-off point.” The choice is on all of us- our leaders and we the led, to take off with her and support her amidst the turbulence, or pull her down and make her crash.

Happy 57th Anniversary celebrations to all Ugandans here and in the diaspora!

Despite the many challenges that we as a country face at the individual, household business, political and all other levels, I have every reason to believe that as a Uganda, we are making great strides towards a Uganda we all want.

The country has enjoyed perhaps the longest period of peace, we have a more educated population that is healthier and is now living longer. Government has invested and continues to invest in better the quality of social services as well transport and energy infrastructure so as to attract investment and create jobs for the population.

There is a good amount of investment in key sectors such as agriculture, oil and gas, tourism and industrialisation, although much more is needed.

Outlook for the economy is positive, jobs are growing and business confidence index is high as measured by Bank of Uganda- 58.57 in September 2019; quite close to the Stanbic Purchasing Managers Index that in September 2019 was 55.7. Both indexes talk about rising demand, improving outputs, improved financial situation and rising jobs creation.

Uganda is no doubt ready for take-off!

In the words of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni during his address on National State of Affairs, at State House Entebbe on September 09th 2018, “Uganda has reached the take-off point.”

The choice is on all of us- our leaders and we the led, to take off with her and support her amidst the turbulence, or pull her down and make her crash.

Just like this year’s Independence anniversary theme- “consolidation of national unity, security, freedom and prosperity” suggests, there is a lot to cover; to right the wrongs and make better and or best the things that are already doing well.

This 57th Independence Anniversary, in a 3 part series, I choose to celebrate the fifty seven (57) things that have gone well; the things that have put a smile on my face and made me proud to be a Ugandan.

Behold, the first 20 of 57 my subjectively objective reasons that have varously made me stand tall and proud to be a Ugandan.

What are your reasons?

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In this September 22nd photo, President Yoweri Museveni and Commander in Chief poses with the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) High Command and the Army Council, the latter being the military’s supreme decision-making body. The UPDF has been central to restoring and defending peace and security in Uganda and in the Great Lakes and COMESA region, thus opening opportunities for trade for Ugandan businesses. The Comesa region accounts for 51.2% of all of Uganda’s export earnings (USD1,467.7 million out of USD2,866.5 million in 2018). In the last 10 years, total exports to COMESA stood at a combined USD11,384.6 million. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #1000reasonstovisituganda #UGat57

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A bird’s eye-view of the 100km and UGX240 billion Kabale-Kisoro-Bunagana/Kyanika Road that was started in in September 2007 and was completed in 2012. The road has reduced travel time from Kabale-Kisoro from 6 hours to two hours as well as improved the quality of life for locals. There was only about 844km of tarmacked roads in Uganda in 1986 but by FY2007/08, this had increased to 2,875.6km. The stock of paved roads has increased by 72.9% from 2,875.6km in FY2007/08 to 4,971km in FY2018/19. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #1000reasonstovisituganda #UGat57

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On September 30th Sinohydro engineers, together with Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) and ÅF Consult engineers lifted and lowered the last of 6 rotors for unit 6 at the 600MW Karuma Hydropower Project. The project is located on River Nile in Kiryandongo District in mid-northern Uganda, 110km downstream of Lake Kyoga, and 270km from Kampala the Capital of Uganda. Construction works were launched by President Yoweri K. Museveni on 12th August 2013. Overall physical progress of works is estimated at 94.9%. The Uganda government is funding 15% of the USD1.7 billion project while the Chinese Exim Bank lent 85% of the remaining cost to Uganda. Construction of supporting transmission lines, namely the 400kV Karuma – Kawanda line, 400kV Karuma – Olwiyo line and the 132kV Karuma – Lira line are simultaneously ongoing by Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL). President Museveni on September 4th 2018, told the Forum for China – Africa Cooperation, that with the improved supply of electricity and lower transport costs as a result of government’s massive investment in infrastructure, the rate of return on investment for businesses investing in Uganda will increase from 11% to 15%. #InvestinUganda #1000reasonstovisituganda #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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President Yoweri Museveni inspecting Modern Laminates Limited, in Jinja, before commissioning the factory in May 2019. President Museveni is a keen enthusiast of Uganda’s industrialization and value addition. Uganda has implemented several business and regulatory reforms over the years, such as the One Stop Centre at Uganda Investment Authority that allows for a company to be incorporated in just 6 hours (it used to take over a week) and only 48 hours for an investor to get licensed in Uganda. Other initiatives such as the Single Customs Territory, Centralized Document Processing Centre and the Uganda Electronic Single Window have reduced the time need to export and import goods across borders. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57 #InvestinUganda #1000reasonstovisituganda #BuyUgandaBuildUganda

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Government of Uganda in 2019 restored Uganda Airlines- the national airline. To date, Uganda has taken delivery of 4 CRJ 900 aircrafts, 2 of which are already operational. Uganda has also confirmed orders for 2 airbuses A330-800neo to be delivered by 2021. The revival of Uganda Airlines is largely to enhance the country’s competitiveness by reducing the cost of air transport and easing connectivity to and from Uganda. Initial routes for the airline include, Nairobi and Mombasa (Kenya), Juba (South Sudan), Bujumbura (Burundi), Mogadishu (Somalia) as well as Dar-es-Salaam and Kilimanjaro (Tanzania). These are some of Uganda’s biggest sources of tourists as well as biggest trading partners. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #1000reasonstovisituganda #UGat57

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On September 27th, 2019, National Social Security Fund (NSSF) declared 11% interest for the financial Year 2018/2019 to its members. Since 2012/13 NSSF has consistently paid a double digit return to its members. The Fund in 2012/13 declared 10% interest rate, 11.23% in 2013/14 and 11.50% in 2014/15. In 2015/16, the interest rate rose to 13%, then declined slightly to 12.30% in 2016/17 and 11.23% in 2017/18. In 2018/19 the fund paid a historic high of 15% in the Fund’s 34 years of existence. Although at 11%, the interest rate paid this year is lower than the 15% paid last year, it is still a real return as it is 4.7 percentage points above the 10 year average rate of inflation (6.71%). NSSF’s assets under management, stood at UGX 11.3 trillion as at 30th June 2019! Did you know it takes an average of 8 days to claim and receive your NSSF benefits? #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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Inside the Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal Hospital. Dubbed, an independence gift to the people of Uganda, the Mulago Specialized Women and Neonatal Hospital was officially opened on October 2018. The 9 storey facility offers world-class maternal and neonatal care to all mothers and babies in Uganda and is a key asset in Uganda’s bid to reduce the high rates of Maternal and newborn Mortality in the country. Although there are still very many glaring gaps, the government has invested significantly in Uganda’s health sector. This, added to development partner and private sector investments in the sector, Ugandans enjoy a better quality of health- thus the improved life expectancy levels from 45 years in 1962 to 63.7 years today. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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Workers of Abubaker Technical Services, a Ugandan owned company at work on one of the roads in Uganda. The company this January, got a UGX9.125bn funding from the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) for plant and equipment that included an asphalt plant, stone-crushing plant, CAT loaders and excavators among others. Government of Uganda by end of FY2018/19 capitalised UDB to the tune of UGX272bn. An additional UGX103bn is planned for 2019/20 so as to reduce the cost of money for local entrepreneurs. Government is also pushing for local content in all its spending. For example In FY2018/19, UNRA awarded road deals worth UGX 736,953,042,566/= to local or resident providers in accordance with the guidelines for Reservation schemes for promoting local content. This represents 28%by value of the contracts signed in the FY 2018/19, up from 24% in the previous year. The target is 30%. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #BuyUgandaBuildUganda #UGat57

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In this October 7th 2019 photo, National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) workers arrive to lay and charge 1.5km of water mains extension in the areas of Burkoyen, upper Chebukat and Siron in Kapteret Parish, Tegeres Sub-county, Kapchorwa District. So far, the area has had a total of 23km of mains extension laid in the first quarter of FY19/20. According to NWSC, more Ugandans now have access to clean safe water following a period of aggressive expansion by NWSC, Government of Uganda and Ministry of Water and Environment. Geographical coverage has expanded from 36 to 253 towns and urban growth centers in the last 5 years serving up to 10 million people. NWSC was named among the best performing government enterprises for the year 2017/2018. According to the Auditor General in the Financial Year 2017/2019, NWSC was the third best performing state Corporation coming after Bank of Uganda and National Social Security Fund which came first and second respectively. For the period under review (2017/18) NWSC made a profit of Shs51.2b after taxes compared to Shs26.7b in the financial year 2016/2017. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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This insanely beautiful Crater Safari Lodge, lies on the shores of the Nyinabulitwa Crater Lake, just a few minutes away from the lush green tropical rain forest that is Kibale Forest National Park. Lake Nyinabulitwa is one of the 52 crater lakes located in Kabarole District. Rubirizi District (about 100km away) in south western Uganda is the second place, after Kabarole that has several crater lakes with 32 crater lakes. Crater Safari Lodge is owned and run by Christine Mwinike, a Ugandan. 75% of the hotels in Uganda are owned by domestic private players. Hotel sector employment grew by 10.3% from 605,500 jobs in 2017 to 667,600 jobs in 2018, much faster than overall economic growth, which stood at 5% in 2018. Of specific significance is the fact that 77% of the sector jobs go to the youth (18 – 30yrs) and 58% of sector employees are women. Thanks to aggressive marketing of Uganda as a tourism destination, restoration of peace and security, investment in energy and tourism infrastructure as well incentives to the sector, sector profitability/sustainability has improved. Hotel room and bed occupancy rates in Uganda, reached 51 percent and 44 percent respectively in 2018 (for any hotel to break even, it must operate at 40% occupancy according to Uganda Hotel Owners Association.) #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #1000reasonstovisituganda #UGat57

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In this 2018 photo, a Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) official, checks the quality of coffee before export at Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd. Coffee is Uganda’s biggest export revenue earner; Uganda, has over the last 10 years, earned USD4 billion from coffee exports alone. Overall, Ugandan exports have registered a Compounded Annual Growth rate of 10% over the last 4 financial years, from USD2.7bn in FY15/16 to USD4bn in FY18/19. The Uganda National Household Survey 2016/17 reported that there had been a 25.2% rise in average household monthly income from UGX242,024 in 2012/13 to UGX303,000 in 2016/17. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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Goods and passenger vehicles cross the Busia One-stop Border Post (OSBP). Today there are 5 OSPBPs, namely: Busia (Kenya Border), Mutukula (Tanzania Border), Malaba (Kenya border), Mirama Hills (Rwanda Border) and Elegu (South Sudan border). The OSBPs are funded by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) and the government of Uganda. Other trade-enhancing initiatives implemented by URA and other trade-related government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) in partnership with Trademark East include the Centralized Document Processing Centre (DPC), Regional Electronic Cargo Tracking System (RECTS), Authorized Economic Operator Programme (AEO), Cargo Inspection Scanners, Single Customs Territory and Uganda Electronic Single Window (UESW). Because of the improved coordination among government agencies; establishment of cross border information desks; decongestion of customs stations and improved working environment for staff and stakeholders, the above initiatives have greatly eased doing business in and with Uganda. In general there has been reduced turn-around time at the border from 3 days in FY 2015/16 to 2 hours in FY 2017/18 and time taken to clear and transport cargo from Mombasa, has reduced from 18-22 days in FY 2012/13 to 4-6 days in 2017/18. Fuel imports clearance time at the border has reduced from 3-6 days in FY 2012/13 to 8-14 hours in 2017/18. The turnaround trips of transporters increased from 3 rounds in FY 2013/14 to 8 rounds in 2018, thus more profitability for the transport sector. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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Women in Arua district, cheer President Museveni, during his Wealth Creation tours on May 22nd. The Government has over the past 30 years invested itself in initiatives that expand opportunities for especially women who have been victims of years of gender inequalities that limit their ability to fully participate in, and benefit from development programmes in Uganda. According to the March 2019 Gender Issues Report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development (MoGLSD), Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) and The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), although there are glaring gaps that need to be closed, there has been significant positive movements in key areas such as, increased school enrolment and retention for the girl-child, better political representation, rising levels of access/ownership of property and reducing gender-based violence. However, it was observed that with regard to unemployment rate, more women were becoming unemployed in 2016/17 compared to 2012/13. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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The Hoima power substation; the substation is part of the Nkenda- Fortportal-Hoima power transmission project financed by the government of Uganda, a grant from the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and a concessional loan from the French Development Agency (AFD). The project has improved the reliability and quality of supply of electricity in the western region of Uganda. The project is key to evacuating power from both existing and planned mini-hydro power projects in the Western Region districts of Bundibugyo, Bunyangabu, Kasese, Hoima and Masindi as well as power from the proposed Nzizi Thermal Power Station near the Nzizi Natural Gas & Oil Field, in the Kaiso-Tonya Area in Hoima District. Once Karuma HPP is completed this December, Uganda will have up to 1,767MW of power and to absorb this extra capacity, government, has already set a very noble goal to extend power to 30% of the population by 2020 and 80% by 2040. This goal is being supported by an equally ambitious free connections policy, targeting 300,000 new connections per year to Ugandan households. According to the Uganda National Household Survey (2016/17), 34% of Ugandans indicated that their lives had been improved by better transport services followed by improved electricity (27%), development projects (25%) and construction of new roads (25%). #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #InvestinUganda #UGat57

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Ugandan athletes Halimah Nakaayi (left) and Joshua Cheptegei (right) recently scooped gold at the IAAF World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar. Ms Nakaayi who scooped her win on October 2, is currently ranked the world’s 10th best by IAAF in the Women’s 800m category and 255th in Women’s Overall Ranking. Cheptegei, currently the world’s number 1 in the Men’s 5,000 category and No.3 in the Men’s 10,000m category is also ranked No.34 in the Men’s overall ranking in the world. Uganda has over the last 10 years, shined at several global and regional sporting events, including qualifying for the African Nations Cup, ending a 41-year wait. The Uganda Cranes made it to the final 16 and where we made it to the last 16. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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The MV Kyoga II ferry on Lake Kyoga. The $3.7 million ferry built by a Danish company Johs Gram- Hanssen-Western Marine Shipyard with funding from Uganda Road Fund, has a capacity of 16 vehicles and 120 passengers. It travels at 16.7 kilometres per hour, which is twice the speed of MV Kyoga I whose speed is 8.33 kilometres an hour and takes one hour and 10 minutes to cross the 9.1-kilometer lake stretch from Namasale in Amolatar district to Zengebe in Nakasongola. The Namasale-Zengebe ferries serve the neighbouring districts of Kaberamaido, Dokolo, Amolatar, Amuria and parts of Soroti. Ferries are a critical component of Uganda’s inland water transport. Nine (09) ferries at Kiyindi, Mbulamuti, Masindi Port, Laropi, Obongi, Kyoga 1, Kyoga 2 , Nakiwogo and Bisina were fully operational by the close o the FY 2018/19 and delivered the scheduled trips. Ministry of Works and Transport in 2018/19 received approvals for the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) reports for the planned Bukasa port from the Chief Government Valuer (CGV) and National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) respectively. Construction works of the access road was reported to be at 35% completion by end of FY2018/19. An Inland Water Transport(IWT) Bill, 2019 to provide a legislative framework to improve Inland Water Transport and to encourage Private Sector investment in order to promote safety, security and prevention of marine pollution to save lives and reduce injuries. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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An aerial view of the Kasese-Kikorongo Road under construction by Uganda National Roads Authority. The road is a key transit route for Uganda’s exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since Uganda participated in restoring peace in the country, Uganda’s exports to the country have averaged USD192.7 million per year. In 2018, the value of Uganda’s exports to the region hit a 5-year high of USD204.4 million! #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #1000reasonstovisituganda #UGat57

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An aerial view of Sipi Falls in Eastern Uganda. Visitors to the falls can take part in several activities that include abseiling, hiking, nature walks, visits to Arabica Coffee Plantations and birding. Uganda is truly the adventure capital of Africa- 18% of tourists who visit Uganda, participate in water activities and 15.3% of Uganda’s landmass is covered by water, presenting a huge opportunity for water-based tourism. Tourism in Uganda today directly and indirectly generates UGX8.36 trillion (7.7 percent of GDP). #VisitUganda #1000reasonstovisituganda #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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The 78km Gulu-Acholibur road, completed in 2018 at a cost of UGX164 billion. The road was fully financed by the Government of Uganda. Some of the roads fully funded by tax payer revenue, include Rushere-Nshwerenkye (11km and UGX28bn), Acholibur-Musingo (86km and UGX195bn), Mpigi-Kanoni (64km and UGX124 billion) Moroto-Nakapiririt (114km and UGX184bn). Government investments in northern Uganda and West-Nile following the restoration of peace in the region by the UPDF have opened up the region to brisk growth. Arua (West Nile), Lira (Lango), and Gulu (Acholi) have emerged as major hubs of economic activity and collectively, these districts make up roughly one-third of Northern Uganda’s economy according to the November 2017, Estimating District GDP in Uganda report by USAID. However, six of the ten poorest districts are in Northern Uganda; the region still needs increased and accelerated investment by government to bring it up to speed with the rest of the country. #57ReasonsAmProudToBeUgandan #UGat57

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The Deputy Speaker of Parliament of Uganda and MP for Omoro County, Rt Hon Jacob L. Oulanyah at the official opening ceremony of the 64th Session of the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, at Speke Report Munyonyo, on September 26th, 2019. Over 800 delegates from 53 Commonwealth countries attended the meeting. Parliament of Uganda has previously hosted other international conferences, such as the Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers (CSPOC) of the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Association (CPA) Africa Region 2009, Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Africa Region in 2010 and the 4th CPA Africa Youth Conference in 2018. Part of Uganda’s tourism strategy is to position herself as the “meetings capital of Africa” and targets to attract new 150,000 conference tourists per year from the EAC region to the events, festivals, meetings and conferences in Uganda. #VisitUganda #1000reasonstovisituganda

Muhereza Kyamutetera is the Executive Editor of CEO East Africa Magazine; strategic communications consultant, social-economic analyst and travel enthusiast based in Kampala.