IF you missed this story last week, let’s go back a bit: ‘Japanese NGO complains about high taxes’.
The story says that this NGO, Ashinaga Uganda, “threatened to stop the importation of learning materials for children from Japan to Uganda, if the Government keeps imposing high taxes on the materials.”.
The Ashinaga Director, Yoshihiro Imamura, complained because this year they imported 400 schoolbags into Uganda and got charged Ushs17million in taxes for it.
Quick mathematics make that appear to be a tax of Ushs42,500 levied against each and every schoolbag.
I smiled when I read that because I’ve written on these very pages about a lady called Rose Nakitto, of Mulago, who makes schoolbags and rucksacks out of kitenge and other bits of cloth right here in Uganda. Her bags go for as little as Ushs35,000 each —> and the story is here again for your information: https://skaheru.com/2016/08/19/get-yourself-a-rose-nakitto-or-a-ricci-everyday-asap/.
In those articles about Rose Nakitto, I mentioned a Japanese business called ‘Ricci Everyday’ that does the EXACT OPPOSITE of this Ashinaga Uganda – they make bags IN Uganda and export them to Japan. Their bags are of a very good quality (they sell some in Uganda) and earn respectably large amounts of money for the Ugandan women who use their hands to make them.
So my sympathies for Ashinaga are zero for this particular element. According to their website they do quite a lot for orphans in different countries, which efforts started in Uganda.
Thank you, Ashinaga – don’t stop trying to do good.
But, in the process, let’s avoid the unhelpful bits and also look at ourselves as Ugandans and feel a little ashamed, while applauding the Uganda Revenue Authority for being so stringent with this tax collection.
They might have arguments backing them such as the need for a punitive tax to stop other countries using up our landfills instead of their own. Or that the Ushs17million will be used to set up factories for the manufacture of materials so that we export brand new schoolbags to export to Japan.
See, the Ashinaga explanation of what they are doing is that they collect used schoolbags from children in Japan and donate them to orphans here.
“The Japanese Ambassador to Uganda, Kazuaki Kameda, said bags in Japan were given to children as a congratulatory gift for admission into primary school,” reads the story.
That is a good tradition – and we must presume that those congratulatory gifts in Japan are brand new, ‘Made in Japan’ schoolbags and NOT second-hand ones imported from another country.
We already import second-hand cars made in Japan but mostly because we don’t manufacture them here (yet). But schoolbags? I won’t even go into what the possible costs are of collecting and loading and transporting these second-hand schoolbags is, compared to Rose Nakitto’s Ushs35,000.
And that’s why some of us have to feel shamed by this. Do we really lack 400 Ugandans who can’t buy schoolbags from Rose Nakitto and donate them to these orphans? At Ushs35,000 each, these schoolbags cost about as much as a higher-end buffet lunch or a couple of drinks at a snazzy Kampala ‘lounge’.
I know I can list 400 Ugandans whose daily fuel budget is the cost of this schoolbag – you know yourselves.
There must be 400 Ugandans, surely, who can each put a new schoolbag onto a boda-boda and send it to Nansana at an extra cost of Ushs10,000 – that’s the cost of a cheap bottle of whisky, a couple of cartons of water, a few kilos of sugar…
Let’s see – what would I choose between a programme called “the Japanese Schoolbags for Primary School Children in Uganda” in 2018 for 400 orphans in Uganda to receive second-hand bags across 365 days of the year and Ushs17million tax plus the opportunity to create a local schoolbag industry?