Import Substitution, Productivity Acceleration, and Infrastructure Innovations: STI Team’s Successful Meeting with Innovators

In a significant step towards fostering innovation and driving economic growth, the Science, Technology, and Innovation – Secretariat (STI) team convened a productive meeting with two sets of ingenious innovators; the meeting identified aspects that have a potential of boosting local industries, increasing productivity, and reducing the reliance on imports. The two visionary innovators were Samuel Nyakana and Magara Abdu Tebusweke; Samuel is spearheading innovations in the fields of electrical systems and biomedical devices while Abdu is making of innovative leather products.

Amagara Leather Company’s Innovative Leather Products

Amagara Leather Company, under the leadership of youthful innovator Magara Abdu Tebusweke, is developing innovative leather products of everyday use including leather designer bags (ladies handbags, backpacks, men’s bags, etc), laptop leather holders, belts, wallets, sandles, bottle holders, ear rings, among other items. Specializing in tailor-made leather products, the company has demonstrated a deep commitment to creating high-quality, locally-produced leather goods and leather accessories; some of these have a life span covering over 70 years. The products of Amagara Leather Company have been appreciated by both the local market and export market. The innovator, Abdu, got the idea of making leather bags from his previous business of hawking second hand imported bags in Kampala and he is enthusiastic about growing his leather manufacturing business. He presented a request for STI support to further improve the product quality and production capacity through automation of his production process.

STI -Secretariat team displaying the locally made bags from Amagara Leather Company

Innovation of an Energy Transformation System and Fluid Pulse Machine

Samuel Nyakana Musiza, an Aeronautical Engineer, showcased two innovations which include a Synchronized Reluctance Variable Generator System for energy transformation and a Fluid Pulse Machine. The STI team lauded Samuel for his interest in innovation of energy and health devices that are useful in society promoting energy access and health service delivery. About the Synchronized Reluctance Variable Generator System prototype presented by Samuel, the meeting highlighted the need for Samuel to focus on enhancing power efficiency of his product. Samuel has already filed for a patent registration with URSB and ARIPO for his Synchronized Reluctance Variable Generator System. The STI team committed to conducting a physical assessment of the technology and analyze its potential for application.

Another notable innovation presented by Samuel Nyakana Musiza is the Fluid Pulse Machine, a multifunctional medical ventilation system, which is designed for patient care. He presented the system layout and the STI team encouraged the innovator to continue with the next phases of the Research and Development journey, recognizing the potential to positively impact healthcare on a large scale.

Empowering Local Leather Industry: Challenges and Opportunities

While applauding the leather innovations put forth by Amagara Leather Company, the STI team also identified key areas where support and intervention are needed. One notable challenge highlighted by the innovators is the lack of locally-produced accessories and tools, such as buckles and other small components. This gap in the supply chain has led to a heavy dependence on imported accesories of high value which is hindering the growth and sustainability of the local leather industry.

In response to this challenge, the STI-Secretariat team proposed a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, the team emphasized the importance of standardizing products and designs, which would facilitate mass production and automation of various stages of the production line. Furthermore, the team recognized the potential of supporting import substitution efforts by building capacity for local manufacture of the leather products accessories, thereby reducing reliance on imports and stimulating local production.

Magara Abdu Tebusweke, the driving force behind Amagara Leather Company, highlighted his aspiration to increase productivity and expand the volume of his products marketed locally and also exported. He expressed his desire for greater access to working capital and improved infrastructure to support the growth of his leather products manufacturing business. Furthermore, he voiced the need for both local and international outlets to showcase and sell the company’s innovative leather products.

A Path Forward: Collaboration and Progress

The STI team’s meeting with Amagara Leather Company has paved the way for a collaborative journey aimed at realizing the full potential of this innovative leather products manufacturing initiative. By addressing challenges related to local production of accessories, automation for improved production capacity, and market access, the team envisions a future where Ugandan made innovative leather products stand out on the local and global marketplace, realizing import substitution and contributing to driving the national economic growth.

As Uganda continues to make strides in the fields of Science, Technology, and Innovation, initiatives like the leather manufacturing, energy access systems and biomedical device solutions can be underscored as contributing to the nation’s agenda of creating a self-reliant and technologically advanced future, ultimately propelling Uganda to new heights as a hub of innovation and excellence.


Exploring ‘The Untapped Gold’ in the Cassava, Shea Butter, and Honey Value Chains through Strategic Innovation

Patrick Katagata Jr.,
Secretary – Strategic Scientific Advisory Council & Thinktank

Many people have thought many things about Africa—some true and good; others awfully false. It only depends on one’s direct experience with the continent or even their background and motive in their diverse narratives.  While people like Steve Kapena will raise hopes about the continent in songs such as: “All I need is right here in Africa”, others: especially racist foreigners; or internally, self-seeking actors especially uncouth politicians; etc., will present it as a dark and hopeless continent. By no means whatsoever is this article defensive, at least intentionally. Rather, it seeks to explore and illuminate the general obscurity with which Africa—home to my country, Uganda, has for far too long been cast.

Prior to being named soafter Roman Army General, Leo Africanus, for ‘defeating’ Carthaginian [Tunisian] army, present-day Africa was called Alkebulan, meaning ‘Mother of mankind ‘or ‘Garden of Eden’. Indeed, Africa’s abundancy points to Edenic Paradise, and when I consider the description accorded to Eden, I am tempted to think that this Eden said of old is actually Uganda. Despite this, Belgian Franciscan missionary in Congo, Placide Frans Tempels’ 1945 controversial book, “Bantu Philosophy”, unsuccessfully attempts to disdain Africa—of which Uganda is, as a monstrous jungle and her per people as possessive of impotent mindscompletely incapable of logical thought, living in caves and trees; dependent on wild honey and fruits, etc.!

But when I consider what, in his 1908 book, “My African Journey”, former British Premier, Sir Winston Churchill had earlier said of Uganda: “My journey is at an end; a tale is told… what message I bring back. It can be stated in three words, ‘Concentrate Upon Uganda.’…it ought in the course of time to become the most prosperous of all East and Central African possessions and perhaps the financial driving wheel of all this part of the world… Uganda is from end to end one beautiful garden, where the staple of the people grows almost without labour… It is the Pearl of Africa”, I am convinced that as a country, we need to embark on an honest journey of self-rediscovery and redefinition in order to reclaim our purpose and destiny.How, then, shall we contrive? Strategic innovation, without doubt, will be an inevitable tool.

Were Churchill’s thoughts just phony or truly representative of Uganda, even as far back as then? If true, do our current development status and trajectory reflect that? If not, what went wrong and what can be done to effectively correct it? I will dwell more on this because, a few human errors notwithstanding, not much has perilously changed to significantly negate Churchill’s observation. Has there been socio-economic stagnation especially in view of the global development scale? Absolutely, yes! Why?

The acclamation with which Churchill marveled at Uganda’s abundance and potential were not just phony, but real! Paradoxically, however, for such bounty, Uganda, rather quite justifiably, did not need to struggle to survive. For many years Ugandans could live effortlessly and conveniently on what God and nature graciously gifted them with.

However, with global interconnectedness—and in some respects, mutual interdependence, Uganda now realizes that it was not only risky to aim for basic survival thus far, but also, for desired internal socio-economic transformation and global competitiveness, it is inevitable that it must do business unusually. The aforesaid bounty provides a good starting place for exponential growth possibilities. Challenges and the desire to overcome them, is what spurs innovation. Except for economic stagnation and disease, Africa—generally, and Uganda in particular, has been devoid of life-threatening challenges, but this won’t be forever! In any case, the recent COVID-19 onslaught should be a timely wake-up call.

With strategic innovation and supportive resolute leadership, Uganda can still leapfrog from socio-economic stagnation and associated ills to coveted transformation. One way of achieving this aspiration will be—and the journey is already underway, in searching around for what resources nature gifted us withan abundance of highly valuable plants in the wild, conserving them and leveraging on crops such as Cassava and make the most of them. Nurturing strategic innovations will go a long way in bolstering socio-economic transformation.

Innovation, simply put, encompasses conceiving and acting upon a new idea to proffer from existing or ordinary product a novel and distinct technique of creatively, tenaciously, and effectively, in an acceptable manner, solve [a] specific individual or societal challenge[s]. Innovation, accompanied by STI’s Value Chain Approach to industry is a game-changer! Value Chain, when it is seen specifically from industry away from products, seeks to enhance collaborationdownstream, upstream, and sideways connection between stakeholders. Seen from products, the Value Chain Approach enhances easy understanding of industrialization priorities.

Stakeholders and STI Secretariat Staff identify the different Cassava Value Chains at a meeting recently

Precisely, the Value Chain Approach seeks to systemically explore and put to systemic and gainful utilization of other by-products and processes can be got from the same primary product, firms operating within a given industrial ecosystem in order to determine the quality, quantity, and form of their products, to explore benefits that may accrue from collaboration and interdependence, but also increase competitiveness in each firm’s unique products.

For instance, did you know that more than just for food [including tapioca, crisps, confectionary flour, etc.,], cassava has multiple other products and uses, such as: cassava-based soap; animal feeds and cassava briquettes from cassava peelings; activated carbon; cassava-based fertilizers; cyanide; cassava starch; industrial ethanol (rectified spirit); cassava cement, cassava-based glue; sweeteners; bio-degradable plastics; biofuel; sanitizer; mono sodium glutamate; and lab ethanol; etc.? The same is true for Shea Butter and Honey.

Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza speaking at the Cassava, Shea Butter and Honey Value-Chain Stakeholders’ Consultative Meeting.

Owing to such untapped Value Chain growth opportunities, as a country, we have embarked on an honest self-assessment, confront brutal facts, and resolve to reclaim lost opportunities. In a timely move, the STI Secretariat recently hosted a stakeholder consultative meeting for the cassava, shea butter, and honey value chains at the Méstil Hotel, Kampala. The aim was to fast-track the value chain, specifically for the aforesaid value chains. The goal was to improve the products of these Value Chains by mapping out each of these commodities. In her bid for National STI Strategy for Industrialization, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero, the line minister highlighted the importance of involving everyone in the scientific process, collecting data, and using it to solve problems. She emphasized the need to utilize knowledge, package it into tools, and then apply these tools to generate revenue.

She further clarified that the President’s focus has been to utilize science to drive the transformation of the country. His vision for the nation is one of socio-economic transformation, achieved through collaboration and problem-solving. The goal is to leverage science, technology, and innovation to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment, particularly in sectors where productivity has historically been low. By applying scientific principles to areas such as agriculture, Uganda aims to increase productivity and generate more revenue per unit acre and hour. The example of Russia, which sells refined products instead of crude oil, illustrates the potential for value addition through science. This mapping of wealth highlights the need for Uganda to adopt a similar approach to maximize the potential of its resources.

Similarly, in a bid to ensure a holistic innovation development and management agenda, STI also recently undertook high-level Market Creation Innovation training, seeking to understand and adopt a Market Approach to assess local, regional, and international demands for given innovations, identify competitors, and determine barriers to entry, inter-alia. This ultimately helps to avoid duplication and focus on value addition to enhance competitiveness. If one’sindividual’s or country’s innovations cannot stand competitiveness—at whatever level, they cannot possibly transform them.

If such bottlenecks such as relates to science fragmentation, funding, appropriate human capital development, regulatory and governance, packaging, organization and cooperation among stakeholders, mindset among others, are effectively solved, Uganda’s promise for revenues and other accruing benefits from the Cassava, Shea Butter, and Honey Value Chains, is magnanimous. If you are looking for opportunities around these Value Chains and more, I recommend you quickly get in touch with our Support Services. There is far more than is public in storewe simply won’t make noise about it. Sooner than later, the world will be amazed. You don’t want to miss being part of the unfolding wonder. Connect with us.



By Elijah Turyagumanwe

Elijah Turyagumanwe

Great opportunities often come wrapped in filth, and of course, a myriad people miss them. Have you, for instance, considered what fortunes, people who dare go for the filthy of things, make out domestic waste? In Africa, some of the creatures, citizens would consider lucrative is worms and caterpillars especially due their predatory nature and scary nature. At the sight of them, many an African’s instinct would be an impulsive flight. Only those who have luckily discovered the ‘golden’ silk in them, will harness the opportunity! Sericulture is the deliberate rearing of silk producing worms on a large or small scale.

Fixed in a prosperity dilemma and unquenchable hunger for socio-economic transformation, Uganda’s hope for the future largely lies in her ability to swiftly adopt global competitive trends Science, Technology, and Innovation currently present. The drivers, however, can best be actualized through a consolidated objective of coordination and/or bringing together all players with a common national agenda, which is well in consonance with the mandate of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Secretariat, that is, “To mobilize, coordinate, and provide oversight and policy guidance to scientists and stakeholders in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Local Governments, Academia, Research Institutions, and the Private Sector, along prioritized value chains to increase productivity, import substitution and export of knowledge-based products and services.”

Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza center, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu on the left, Remigio Achia MP Pian, on the right posing for group picture shortly after the sericulture stakeholders’ engagement at Méstil Hotel in Kampala recently.

While speaking during a Sericulture Stakeholders’ Meeting held at Kampala-based Méstil Hotel, recently, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, referred to a speech His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, The President of The Republic of Uganda, made while officiating at the of Makerere University’s Centenary Celebrations, in which while referring to original inhabitants of America and Australia, for their failure to adopt Science and Technology swallowed up by migrants, he emphatically warned, “Whoever fails to adopt science, technology, will cease to exist or be swallowed up ….” On her part, Hon. Dr. Musenero further reemphasized the need to rationalize and commercialized innovations for the country’s social-economic transformation.

Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, Seasoned Economist, Politician, and Senior Presidential Advisor on Economic Affairs, said the time is now for the country to intensify the sericulture industry as the global market continues to fall the short of silk producing fabric.

Harnessing Existing Opportunities

Endowed with a tropical climate, a tropical greencover and plenty of natural water from major water bodies like lake Victories and river Nile, cheap labor of young people averaging at 16.7% according to world bank data, hospitable settlements and a friendly political environment for any investment, Uganda’s sericulture industry is set for greater heights once fully embraced.

Despite being largely an agricultural economy, Uganda is yet to exhaust all commercially viable produces for a stable economic trajectory with sericulture as an example.

Interestingly, according to Muhammed Ali, the founder of Iran Agro Industries, the value chain process from egg to active silk-producing worms has a lifespan of only 6-8 weeks. Now, this might be short enough to assure us of steady supply, but might also be perilously short for ill-prepared players.

Global silk production research shows all combined approximately 35 to 40 countries worldwide are involved in the sericulture industry adding world production of raw silk is averaged at 80,000 tons per annum. It should be noted, however, that about 70% of globally produced raw silk is produced in China.

According to a certified data report published in 2022, over 50% of Uganda’s farming population still relies on subsistence farming, which leads to a shortfall in the supply of raw materials for the manufacturing industry. According to macroeconomic principles, this could impede a developing economy like Uganda from making a smooth transition from agriculture to manufacturing, and eventually to a service-based economy.

The good news is that Silk-worms are easily to rear and/or propagate. For instance, the white silk worms are fed on mulberry leaves from which they later construct habitats by producing silk from either ends in oval-like shapes. 

Text Box: Silk worm farmers display a hip of harvested silk before processing

Silk worm farming is projected to be more profitable than Coffee, Uganda’s biggest agricultural revenue earner, hence the call to focus intentionally on silk worm farming.  

Uganda is already producing valuable crafts from home-grown silk as the pictures pasted hereunder may help showcase. Through sericulture a magnitude of fabric products can be produced such as carpets, silk attires and silk portraits.

A display of some of Ugandan silk made products

Resolutions reached at from the said sericulture engagement included but were not limited to: establishing well-structured funding channels; the need to increase of human resource capacity at different levels; provision of land to accommodate more sericulture production by government; formation of a research center and utilization of universities data for research and development purposes; putting in place high quality measures at all sericulture value chain levels; and finally, developing stronger and more coordinated synergies.


Hon. Dr MMM Hosts Italian and Romanian Silk Processors in Uganda

On March 15, 2023, Hon. Dr. Musenero Monica Masanza, the Ugandan Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation -Secretariat, hosted a delegation of leading Italian and Romanian silk processors. The delegation arrived in Uganda to assess the country’s silk processing potential and explore possible partnership opportunities with the government to establish a modern processing factory worth millions of dollars.

Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero (extreme left) with Italian and Romanian delegates presenting silk cloth made from Uganda silk

During the meeting, the delegation handed over samples of Ugandan silk clothes processed in Italy, showcasing the country’s potential in silk production. The delegation invited the Hon. Minister MMM to visit their factories in Italy and Romania for a firsthand experience of their capacity, determination, and expertise in the silk processing industry.

The delegation noted that China has been their main supplier of silk yarn, importing over 7,000 metric tons of raw silk yarn per month. However, with the potential they have seen in Uganda, they have expressed interest in sourcing silk fabric from the country as there is a ready market for silk fabric in Europe. The delegation emphasized that they have the capacity to buy all the silk that will be produced in Uganda.

The delegation also noted that silk production is a delicate process that requires quality eggs, high experience, and costly processing units. As such, expert training from silk production to post-harvest handling and processing is needed to hit the international market with premium prices.

Delegates presenting silk cloth to Hon as they brainstorm on Silk production in Uganda

After meeting with the Minister, the delegation visited various sites of silk production in Uganda. However, due to their tight schedule, they could not visit all the sites. The Hon. Minister MMM asked the delegation to consider investing in cotton processing or linking up with their counterparts in cotton value addition.

In response, the delegation requested for samples of Ugandan cotton, which they will deliver to the Italian cotton cloth processing factory. Thanks to the Cotton Development Organisation, which has availed a sample and the necessary literature about Ugandan cotton, the delegation will receive the sample tomorrow morning before leaving the country.

This partnership presents an opportunity for Uganda to enhance its silk production and tap into the European market. The delegation’s interest in cotton processing is also a step towards the development of the cotton value chain in the country. With the necessary investments, training, and partnerships, Uganda is set to become a significant player in the global silk and cotton processing industry.