Uganda tells EU country still safe bet for European investmentThe two-forum in Kampala, was supposed to act as a catalyst for further and stronger EU-Uganda investment and trade initiatives.
The Uganda government has told the European Union (EU), its top multilateral donor, money disbursed from Brussels has gone into productive areas of the economy that have helped to lift the country’s investment profile.
President Yoweri Museveni said in an official opening speech read by Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda told the first Uganda-European Union Business Forum in Kampala, “Uganda, in partnership with Development Partners, including the European Union has made significant strides in laying a firm foundation for investments, industrialization and international trade. The road network has been greatly improved and one can travel from one border to another only on tarmac. We are also working on rehabilitating the metre gauge railway and advancing preparations for construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).”
However, the SGR remains in limbo after China Eximbank once again demanded recently further guarantees thta the Kenyan government would complete its section to the border with Uganda. No other financial backer, including the EU, has shown any interest in the project.
Uganda’s five year 578 million euro assistance package dubbed the National Indicative Programme and covering several socio-economic sectors ends in 2020. The package was agreed upon by the EU and the Uganda government in 2014 under the 11th European Development Fund. Targeted areas have been improving Good Governance, transport infrastructure, food security and agriculture. The EU has also provided emergency funds for humanitarian crises, especially the hosting of refugees in Uganda.
The two-day forum ending today, was attended by both participants from the public and private sectors. It was organized as a joint effort between the government, represented by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU). Officials said it was held in the context of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investments and Jobs.
Museveni said, “Hydro-electric power generation has increased significantly, currently close to 1,200MW. Government and in some cases the private sector, has also set up and continues to set up industrial parks. On the regulatory side, we have been steadfast in easing the process of investing and doing business in Uganda. A one-stop centre has been set up at the Uganda Investment Authority to ease the investment process while several One Stop Border Posts have also been established to facilitate international trade.”
Ambassador Attilio Pacifici and Head of Delegation of the European Union to Uganda said despite the coronavirus crisis that prevented some delegates from attending, a big number of delegates made it because of the urgency and the strong relationship between Uganda and EU.
“I want to specifically thank the Ministry of Health for putting special arrangements and allowing the conference to go forward despite the coronavirus scare,” he said.
He said although Uganda has made some impressive gains, the EU is still concerned about several factors that deterred European investors and slowed expansion of the private sector. These include an insufficient supply of skilled labour with the appropriate competencies, access to finance and business governance and corruption.
Dr. Elly Karuhanga, the PSFU chairman, said the forum will help Ugandan business people to network and connect with their counterparts from the EU which can enhance the chances of new investment partnerships.
The forum came two weeks after the new EU President Ursula von der Leyen took 19 commissioners and the bloc’s foreign affairs chief to meet the counterparts at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Von der Leyen wants to redefine the EU’s relations with Africa, including promotion of the green economy, digital transformation, supporting a better business environment and encouraging good governance.
She said, “Africa is the European Union’s natural partner and neighbour. Together we can build a more prosperous, more peaceful and more sustainable future for all.” She promised to give details of the new EU African policy within three months.