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How one China-funded training center prepares Ugandans for future careers

Updated: 2021-11-27 09:18 ( China Daily )
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KAMPALA-Tabitha Kisaakye, a Ugandan machinist undergoing a six-month training session, is upbeat. The skills he is acquiring from his Chinese instructors are critically important as his country pushes for industry-led economic growth.

Kisaakye is among a group of trainees enrolled at China-funded Uganda Industrial Research Institute, specifically at the institute's Namanve campus, a vocational training center.

The $30-million facility, seated on 15 acres (about 60,000 square meters) of land, is the product of close China-Africa ties.

In one of the ongoing training sessions, Zheng Zhimin, a Chinese tutor responsible for training of numerical control machine tools, provided the group of five trainees with hands-on experience. They each took turns operating the high-tech machinery as they listened to the instructor.

"We are changing from the conventional way of doing things to the more automated way. It is very easy to make more intricate parts, which you can take a long time figuring out on the conventional type of machines," said Kisaakye, an industrial engineering and management graduate.

Gerald Manzi, another trainee, said that the Chinese instructors have helped beef up their knowledge in machining.

"We had the knowledge but these people have come up with much explanations on things that are really technical, which I feel is really a good thing," Manzi said.

Peter Agumisiriza, a mechanical engineer and maintenance technician at the institute, said that after six months of training, he and his peers will pass on their skills to other trainees admitted to the institute.

Agumisiriza said the skills program is critical to the country because most of the graduates from university or other tertiary institutions do not have hands-on experience.

"The theory we get from universities cannot really take us anywhere. Production industries require someone who can design, develop and commission a project," he said.

"With the setup of this skills development center, we shall be able to prepare our graduates for industrial skills. This one will help to catalyze industrial development," Agumisiriza added.

Zheng, the Chinese instructor, noted that the skilling program will provide training to those who will be running the industrial sector in the future.

The training and production facility, constructed and financed by China, will not only provide skills to locals but also manufacture mechanical parts with modern technology, according to government sources.

The center has five manufacturing workshops and electronic, electrical and mechanical processing training buildings. Up to 960 people can undertake training at one time.

Uganda hopes to use the center as a production unit for automotive spare parts in a bid to bring down import costs, according to the government. Government figures show that the country spends $23 million annually on importing motor vehicles spare parts and $18 million on spares for motorcycles.

Charles Kwesiga, head of the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, described the facility as an initial step toward manufacturing quality products that meet international standards.

"It is a very important facility. It is the initial step of creating modern machining, manufacturing," Kwesiga said during the launch of the facility in January last year. "That way we can get in the market with competitive high quality products."


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