by Ronald Ssekandi
KAYUNGA, Uganda, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Working at Isimba Hydropower Plant construction site, Alyce Nakisita told Xinhua that her job is demanding and she has to meet tight deadlines set by her Chinese supervisors.
Nakisita, who has been working as a secretary here for the last two years, told Xinhua on Thursday that all this is preparing her for a better future because she has acquired the necessary skills in working in different environments where deadlines are a norm.
On Thursday, the Chinese-built Isimba Hydropower Plant was inaugurated by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on the Victoria Nile in the central part of the African country.
Addressing the inauguration, Museveni thanked the Chinese government for financing his country's transport and energy infrastructure projects, which are expected to put the country onto the fast track of development.
Nakisita is among the hundreds of Ugandan youths who have worked on Chinese financed infrastructure projects under the proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"This initiative is very good because it is set to improve our infrastructural development in terms of railways, factories, and roads. I believe it is going to create a lot of jobs and improve our economy," she said.
The BRI, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. The initiative comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Uganda and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation within the Framework of the BRI last September, following the 2018 Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
According to Zheng Zhuqiang, Chinese ambassador to Uganda, the embassy is working with its Ugandan counterparts to implement the BRI.
"We are trying our best to ensure that Uganda can effectively seize opportunities of obtaining benefits," Zheng said on Thursday at the commissioning of Isimba Power Plant.
Nakisita said that the BRI is critical in solving the unemployment problem faced by many youths in Uganda and across Africa.
At the peak of the construction of the Isimba Hydropower Plant, there were over 3,000 workers, of which 85 percent were Ugandans, according to China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE), the construction contractor of Isimba.
Several Ugandan engineers were brought to China to receive further training, while those who remained were also able to have hands on experience.
"These promising and qualified technical personnel would confidently play an important role in the future development of hydropower in the country," said Jiang Shouguo, CWE's vice president.
At the peak of the power crisis in 2014, Uganda's government resorted to using diesel generators to power the country's economy, which raised the cost of power which then forced some of the manufacturers to increase the price of their products and later rendered their products not competitive because of the high price.
Economists warned that the inadequate power supply was a key bottleneck to unlocking the country's economic potential.
Uganda's government then resolved to increase hydropower generation in a bid to increase power supply and also reduce its cost.
The construction of the 568-million-dollar power plant started in 2015, along the Nile River, after the east African country secured a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.
Another Chinese funded key green energy project is the 600 MW Karuma Hydropower Plant, also constructed along the Nile in northern Uganda.
Government data shows that once Isimba and Karuma power supplies to the national grid, the electric generation capacity will increase from 975 MW to 1,758 MW and the power tariffs will drop by 17.45 percent.
President Museveni is optimistic that once there is adequate and cheap electricity coupled with the enabling of government policies, Uganda's massive industrialization will kick off. The country has already created over 20 industrial parks in different parts of the country.
Museveni also said that once there is affordable electricity, farmers can also start adding value to their agricultural produce.