China contributes to skills development in Uganda

Chinese companies operating in Uganda have been transferring work skills to the local employees, who demonstrated what they have learned through a competition. The Ugandan government also expresses gratitude to Chinese enterprises for investing in personnel training of local staff from where many Ugandans have achieved their career dreams.

KAMPALA, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) — Uganda employees working in Chinese enterprises are eager to exhibit their skill set in an annual national skills competition.

The competition held on Tuesday was in four categories, namely welding, carpentry, electrical and bundling.

Away from the competition, China and Chinese enterprises in Uganda are striving to skill youths in efforts to fast track the east African country’s economic growth.

Experts say Uganda is at the development stage, meaning that it must have an adequate skilled labor force to advance its development.

Gong Zhiwu, head of training at Sunmaker Oil and Gas Training Institute told Xinhua in an interview on Monday that for economic development to occur, there must be industrial development. He noted that for industrial development to occur, there must be skilled people, a gap that Uganda needs to close.

According to the government, the greatest need for skilled personnel will be when the country starts the commercial production of oil. Production of the country’s over 1.6 billion barrels of oil is expected to start by 2023, according to government projections.

Figures from the ministry of energy and mineral development show that over 161,000 jobs would be created in the sector as the construction of the refinery and crude oil pipeline starts.

Although it is a journey of a thousand steps, Uganda is taking the first steps with the aid of China.

“Skills enhancement is critical to the achievement of Uganda’s National Development objectives. Research indicates that the skills we acquire at school these days expire every five years, hence there is need for constant skilling, reskilling and upskilling,” said Janat Mukwaya, minister of gender, labor and social development said at the competition ceremony.

Mukwaya, in a speech read for her by Bernard Amuriat, assistant commissioner for labor, thanked the Chinese enterprises for investing in personnel training of local staff from where many Ugandans have achieved their career dreams.

Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese ambassador to Uganda said the skills gained are for a lifetime and are critical to the betterment of communities. He said Chinese enterprises are training more local talents.

“Talents are vital for industrial development, China has and will continue to jointly promote industrial development of Uganda. Industrial promotion is the first initiative of the eight major initiatives of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit held last September,” said Zheng.

“We encourage Chinese enterprises in Africa to integrate into the local communities and localize the operation of their business,” he added.

George William Bakwatana, 26 years old, is one of the beneficiaries of the Chinese skilling program. After gaining a 3G international certificate in welding, Bakwatana was employed by Sunmaker Oil and Gas Institute.

“They took me through a train of trainers program so that I can be able to deliver the skills I have to other people,” Bakwatana said.

“I have learnt from the Chinese that you have to make use of what is available to achieve what you want,” he noted.

Sunmaker itself is training several youths not only in the oil and gas sector but also in other areas. The institute targets to train over 4,000 Ugandan youths annually.

The government last year in January launched the construction of the China-aided Industrial Skills Training and Production Center.

According to the government, the 30-million-U.S. dollar center is a critical pillar in addressing the country’s lack of skilled manpower and technology it requires to fast track the industrialization process.

Besides the formal technical trainings, Chinese enterprises especially those engaged in infrastructure development are skilling thousands of youths through on job training.

Figures from the Chinese embassy here show that in the major infrastructural projects, over 80,000 local staff have been employed not only in construction work, but also in middle and top management levels.

China has financed the construction of key major infrastructure projects in Uganda like the Karuma and Isimba hydro power dams, Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, and Entebbe International Airport expansion, among others.

Experts argued that the skill set got from the Chinese experts at several construction sites would have a multiplier effect.

The youths can start up their own workshops or even get employed in other firms where their skills are needed.

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