Op-Ed: Does Intellectual Capital Really Matter In Uganda?


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By Oweyegha-Afunaduula

If there is academic ranking of Universities, there is also intellectual capital ranking of universities and countries. If academic ranking matters so much in the world of academics, intellectual capital ranking of both universities and countries matters even more in the broader area of competitiveness, innovation, development and progress.

It matters today more than yesterday and more tomorrow than today. As Leif Edvinsson (2010) wrote, intellectual capital capital is much more about quality of education and human experience.

Human experience is driven by the idea that humanity is not just a target and tool of development, but is at the centre of development; that people are much more important factor of development and change for the better than money; and that people are much more than statistics and data, with plethora of dimensions that must be taken in account when evaluating change brought about by development: social, cultural, ethical, moral, spiritual, mental, physical, ecological, environmental, health, psychological, community, educational, nutritional, etc.

If the quality in the realities of human existence in these dimensions of wholeness of Man, Homo sapiens, has declined in the process of applying a development model, or at the end of a development process, then human survival has been harmed and distorted instead.

Intellectual capital of Universities represents the intangible assets (i.e., nonmonetary assets without physical substance) that are used for knowledge creation by knowledge workers and for performance promotion. Hence the idea of intellectual capital performance, or value added, to University.

But as Universities have been more and more worried about their academic ranking, they have tended to emphasize scholasticism and academicism, far less so intellectual capital of their academia.

They have nevertheless persisted in saying that they are committed to competitiveness and innovation even when they emphasize scholasticism and academicism, and their own numbers and numbers of students are rising almost supersonically. In away the mindset is that many are better than a few, but this is compromising quality, unfortunately.

In Uganda, for example, with one university, Makerere University before 1989, with a few thousand students, the country now has, according to the National Council of of Higher Education (NCHE), by 2021 Eleven Public Universities and some 42 Private Universities that are accredited, with a total of 192,346 registered students.

Makerere now boasts of nearly 40,000 registered students, some a accommodated in Halls of Residence in the university; many are non-residents. I will not explore how much and how this has compromised the quality of education and human experience.

That will be for another article another time. Suffice to say that universities are the back office rather than the front office off innovation and development (Leif Edvinsson, 2010)

In his influential book “National Intellectual Capital: A Comparison of 40 Countries, Leif Edvinsson (2010), states: “Simply building more Universities and getting more students into higher education will not create intellectual capital unless the economy can provide graduates with relevant jobs or the environment to set up innovative companies”.

I consider this statement critical as far as Uganda is concerned. There is now prolific output of graduates but there are no jobs, let alone relevant jobs for them. We are just producing more and more graduates whom we never planned for.

We cannot reason that it is because of the high rise population of Uganda. China with over 1 billion people does not have unemployment problem. And more and more Universities are being set up in Uganda to produce more; many unemployable.

When the President of Uganda was at one time overwhelmed by cries for jobs by graduates he simply retorted, “Come I have many jobs in the army, police and prisons”. Today he is more thrilled by huge numbers of Ugandan graduate youths streaming off to the Middle East to sustain a lucrative modern slave market, dominated by Ugandan “slave” hidden as “international workers”.

He has allowed many firms to spring up to handle the huge numbers of youths for whom there are no jobs at home. Unfortunately, the outflow of these youths manifests as if it is human trafficking, and is compounded by trafficking of organs and tissues, increasingly forcibly removed from the slaves.

However, some desperate youth are going out to sell their organs, especially the kidney, ostensibly to make ends for themselves and those who paid fees for them. Unfortunately Uganda Government has imposed heavy taxes on internet use, yet most new firms that could provide jobs are internet based and team-based. Actually these are increasingly the front office of innovation and development.

In a way Uganda is bleeding in terms of intellectual wealth. The World Bank cited by Leif Edvinsson, was right when it asserted that intellectual wealth can improve people’s lives as well as well as give them higher incomes. Unfortunately, in Uganda it is politicians who get huge incomes for enormous consumption and little work.

They have even plotted to get huge pensions, for as low as 5 years in Parliament, compared to a civil servant at the rank of Permanent Secretary who has worked honestly and with integrity for 40 years before retirement. This a case of exacerbated intellectual poverty institutionalized.

A discontented citizenry cannot be expected to produce. This is exacerbated by money bonanzas to a sect few partisan individuals and groups at the expense of community production, in the hope that national productivity will be up stepped. Previous human experience has shown this is an elephant-sized falsehood.

The intellectual capital of Uganda must be among the lowest today, and must be plummeting meteorically due to policies and practices that do not take in account intellectual capital enhancement. I have seen some interesting articles by academics at Makerere University Business School MUBS).

One is by Komukama, N. et. al. ( 2010) on ” Intellectual Capital and Financial Performance in Uganda’s Microfinance Institutions”. Another is by Kurutaro Nkundabanyanga, et. al. (2012) on ” Intellectual Intellectual Capital in Ugandan Service Firms as Mediator of Board Governance and Firm Performance”. While Intellectual capital can be of much academic interest, it should be more of practical interest across the University-public divide.

What is important is that Uganda takes intellectual capital seriously in all spheres of human endeavor, so that when another global ranking of countries is done, Ugandans high up on the scale, like Singapore, South Korea and China have done. They have supersonically raised their intellectual wealth , aided by the Cyber and computer age

By 2008, the top 10 countries in terms of intellectual wealth (intellectual capital) were, in this order: Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, US, Singapore, Iceland, Netherlands and Canada. Note that among these, only Singapore in position 6 was not a Western Country.

Singapore is an interesting case for one other reason: it used the Lifestyle Audit Technique to combat and defeat corruption, after which it made several fold strides in innovations, competitiveness, development and progress.

It is as if it is a Western country in South Eastern Asia, having overtaken all Western Countries in Intellectual capital by 2021. President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, however, rejected the Lifestyle Audit Technique of fighting corruption when the Inspector General of Government (IGG) presented it publicly. He presented no meaningful and effective alternative.

In the 2021 Intellectual Capital ranking only Sweden, of all the Western Countries survived in the top 4 heavyweights, but it still fell by 2 to occupy number 4. Both South Korea and China sprang from far down to occupy number 1 and number 2 respectively, while Singapore, which had occupied number 6 in 2008, occupied number 3.

Let’s hope that with corruption and the corrupt defeated, it may displace South Korea and China from the top. That will be a big feat for Singapore if it happens. So in 2O21, the intellectual capital ranking of countries showed South Korea at 77.8%, China at 71.2%, Singapore at 69.3%and Sweden at 67.0% as the top 4 countries of the world. That is where real progress took place.

Unfortunately, the Western Countries may fair badly this year following the Russian military invasion of Ukraine so early in 2022. Other Asian economic Tigers may overtake the Western Countries in terms of intellectual capital. For Africa the priorities seem to be different: power acquisition, power retention and primitive accumulation of wealth.

The leaders of Uganda, if they really want to lead the country into a Middle Income country of the 21st country, as they frequently say, should come to terms with the truism that the wealth and development of a country is no longer measured in terms of volume of money, goods and services, but intellectual capital.

That innovation and knowledge are the new measures of competitiveness, development, progress and prosperity. And priorities must change away from power acquisition, power retention and primitive accumulation of wealth.

For and My Country

The Writer is a Ugandan Scientist And Environmentalist

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