Uganda-Tanzania announce date for second joint business forum

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Five years after they met in Kampala for their inaugural business forum, neighbors and sibling rivals […]

Five years after they met in Kampala for their inaugural business forum, neighbors and sibling rivals Tanzania and Uganda, will once again sit around a table May 23-24th, in Dar es salaam, as they seek to further narrow the gap between intent and practice in their bilateral relations.

Kampala and Dodoma have made significant progress in recent years to ease bilateral trade with the balance of trade standing USD 186 million and USD 192 million in favour of Tanzania during 2023, according to Uganda officials. As a result of harmonising tariffs and tackling non-tariff barriers, Tanzanian rice has become a staple in Uganda while Ugandan sugar and milk now enter the Tanzanian market unimpeded, Stephen Asiimwe, the executive director at the PSFU, the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda, told 256BN.

Ambassador Richard Kabonero, the head of Regional Economic Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited the reduction from USD500 to USD 154 of a levy previously charged on Uganda registered, trucks transiting Tanzania, joint implementation of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project EACOP and Tanzania’s ongoing construction of an SGR line to Mwanza, as evidence of convergence. Recently, Tanzania which had not joined the One Network Area, a regional phone tariff reduction initiative pioneered by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, had also reduced regional interconnection tariffs, Kabonero added.

Despite progress, challenges persist. Tanzania continues to impose duty on confectionaries from Uganda. Isaiah Rwanyekiro, the ceo of Breathtaking Uganda, a firm promoting domestic and regional tourism, complained that Tanzania is yet to accept the national identity cards issued by EAC partner states, as travel documents. The ferry crossing from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar also treats Ugandans as foreigners, charging them USD35 instead of the USD14 paid by nationals for a crossing to the isles.  This is in stark contrast to Uganda, where EAC residents are admitted to conservation areas at the same tariffs as nationals.

Speaking May 9, during a media launch of the 2nd Uganda-Tanzania Business Forum in Kampala, officials hailed the event as “another win for commercial diplomacy,” which is intended to encourage a spirit of “win-win” in bilateral relations.

Delivering a keynote, John Mulimba, the junior minister responsible for regional affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described the forum as a collaborative initiative between the governments and private sector stakeholders that would build on the success of the inaugural gathering in 2019.

“It is a vital platform for promoting trade, investment, and partnership opportunities between Uganda and Tanzania,” Mulimba said.

The upcoming forum will cast the net wider, bringing the public and private sectors of the two countries together in a bid to promote cross-border by private investors.

“We are keen to highlight specific investment opportunities in Uganda, including agro-value addition, manufacturing, mineral value addition, tourism, and science and technology,” said Martin Muhangi, the director for Investment Promotion & Business Development at the Uganda Investment Authority UIA.

Addressing the media, Paul Kisesa Simuli, said cooperation between countries was a key lever to achieving economic development. “We believe that the Uganda Tanzania Business Forum will serve as a platform for enterprenuers and businesses to cone together and share ideas that will shape the future of our two countries,” Kisesa said adding that some of the concerns by Rwanyekiro would be discussed during the upcoming meeting in Dar es Salaam.

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