Uganda strikes it rich.

Author:Omolo, Leo Odera
Position:Gold reserves

Uganda has the largest gold reserves in the world after Australia. But will they change the face of the backward region they lie in?

According to preliminary mineral surveys, the Karamoja region in north-eastern Uganda holds gold deposits second in world terms only to the gargantuan reserves of the Australian outback. This remarkable finding was revealed by the Permanent Secretary to the Ugandan Ministry of State for Karamoja, Mr George Ongom, at a workshop on, of all things, the role of the youth in community in Kotido town recently. Mr Ongom went on to say that the deposits could be mined for 50 years with an annual yield of 3 metric tonnes of gold.

He also said that the Karamoja region contained 17 other minerals, and that their exploitation could change the whole economic and social life of the area, considered to be the most under-developed in the country.

But while Mr Ongom was holding out this new hope for the area's development, he stressed that without a change in the mind-set of the local population concerning their more tangible assets, real development was far behind. While the Karamoja people have livestock and favourable soils, he said, the region was perpetually underdeveloped because local people do not consider the commercial value of livestock.

"This backward economy inhibits development as it does not permit the growth of the informal sector - the backbone of growth," he said, adding that for the community to develop, its people must be the masters and champions of the development cause, one that earns the country over $11m annually from the export of hides and skins. This represents about 10% of the country's total income from exports.

Briton rescues bank

Ugandan owned Sembule Investment Bank Ltd, was seized by the Bank of Uganda (BOU) on April 10 last year. BOU took over its management and seconded 52 year old Mr Julian Laing to reorganise SIBL in the interests of its customers.

At the time of its takeover, SIBL owed the Central Bank of Uganda Ushs 392m ($392,000). This has since been turned around to Ushs 462m ($462,000) in credit. A run on the bank has been reversed and depositors retained. Deposits have gone up by about 9% to Ushs 8bn from Ushs 7.3bn.

Mr Laing, who worked with Barclays Bank Uganda Ltd for three years up to 1989 as Chief Manager at its Kampala branch, returned to Uganda in February 1995. He was sent by a Belgian merchant bank, Banque Belgolaise, to take up an appointment as Chief Technical Adviser to...

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