Leave No One Behind: What is the economic cost of excluding minorities?

We all lose when we exclude minorities, stakeholders say

Michel Maietta, Director of Research at IRIS

You are hurrying to work in Kampala and a truck suddenly gets a mechanical problem and blocks traffic. Will you get out of your car to ascertain what caused the traffic and how the situation can be remedied? Will you sit and wait for the problem to somehow go away; silently curse without moving a finger, or cancel the meeting you were dashing to?

That is the scenario Michel Maietta, the Director of Research at IRIS, France, posed to the audience listening to the panel on Leave no one behind: What is the economic cost of excluding minorities? at the Kampala Geopolitics Conference organized by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the French Embassy on 26–27 October 2018 at Makerere University.

Maietta argued that ignoring the cause of traffic jam on a Kampala road will slow down traffic and waste people’s time, a scenario akin to “ignoring minorities, which ends up slowing down development”.

The concept of “Leaving No One Behind” is a point of focus by the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 agenda, developed by United Nations. It recommends that everyone, especially those in situations of risk and vulnerability (such as women and children, people with disabilities, or victims of conflict, disaster and diseases), should be reached out to. Ignoring these categories of people, exposes them to socio-economic exclusion that subsequently affects their education, health and economic livelihoods.

Maietta said many people who are considered minorities are talented but their talents are not being tapped or even recognized and yet, “talent which come from human resource, are key for economic development”.

“…if vulnerable groups are ignored, they can trigger antagonistic factors to development.”

Maggie Kigozi, the president, Business and Professional Women, argued that since women are the majority, they can contribute a lot and better by doing businesses, but only if only the culture of patriarchy is erased.

“Profits from women’s businesses helps improve the family’s welfare because they care about family first, not bars,” Kigozi said.

Michel agreed with Kigozi and added that women are powerful and creative, and that obstacles to their development basing on cultural ideologies since time immemorial, has kept many of them from rising.

“Development requires that we go beyond gender and groups…talents are everywhere, even the farthest from you needs space for development,” he said.

Maxime Houinato, the Director, UN Women Uganda, said many women are not poor, but just vulnerable. He said a greater percentage of women are farmers, yet they do not have control over the land they use, as “the husband might decide to sell it [land] off anytime he decides to marry another wife”.

He stated that the practice of denying women land ownership needs to stop, because they are more responsible and can benefit society more if allowed to independently engage in economic activities.

“Why do you think parents always leave keys to younger girls and tell then to take care of the home as they go to do other errands even when they have older boys in the same home? It is because girls are responsible,” he said.

He added that the cost of leaving minorities behind is high, and that countries that rank higher for gender equality are economically strong.

“Gender discrimination costs the world 12 trillion USD and 16 % of global income is lost annually. In India, balancing distribution of fertilizers equally between women and men increases production by 30%. So gender equality is free money that Uganda is not tapping.”

While the temptation to speak for minorities and vulnerable groups are high, Nalule Safia Jjuuko, the national female legislator for persons with disabilities, said this should not always be the case.

She said it is important to give minorities a political voice because they have inherent human rights and needs, irrespective of their physical abilities or numbers.

“There is need for wide consultation of every minority group before policies are made and implemented,” Nalule said.

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Written by Word Oven