By Robert Ndawula
The convention was attended by VIP dignitaries including: Her Royal Highness Queen Sylvia Nagginda, The Nnabagereka of the Kingdom of Buganda, H.E. Prof. Joyce Kikafunda (Uganda’s High Commissioner to the U.K.) Lord Sheikh (Baron Sheikh of Cornhill in the City of London), Dr. Josephine Ojiambo (The Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat (Political)), Rt. Honourable Members of Parliament, Dr. Louis Kasekende (Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Uganda) and other distinguished guests.
The 5th annual Uganda-UK Convention (2015), was a truly remarkable successful event. The quality of presentations was outstanding and trying to make a resume of each paper will not do them all the justice deserved. Both Lord Sheikh and Dr. Kasekende provided delegates with some important views and figures in the financing and trade sectors as well as the potential that Uganda offers in these areas which are still to be embarked on for investment. “Trade instead of Aid” is something that we have long aspired to achieve for Uganda although, it is clear that the two are closely connected and ought to go hand in-hand.
Her Royal Highness, The Nnabagereka of Buganda, in her ground-breaking address stated. “If growth is to be meaningful and sustainable, then all the people should buy into it.”
She went on say; without providing specific roles for women in this important process (inclusion and acceptance), it will not be successful nor sustainable. It was befitting for the Nnabagereka to recognize the powerful role of women as the engines of our society.
The warm enthusiastic delegates were welcomed and received at the Convention–to put into perspective; some of the unrivaled attributes of warmth, openness and all-embracing culture that make Uganda a favourite destination for doing business, investment and tourism, was present. The Government of Uganda celebrates occasions such as this when we can all come together to work for the good of our country, solely on the basis of our being Ugandan, irrespective of our religious convictions, our tribal origins, our political affiliations, and anything else that superficially unduly sometimes divides us. The Conventions deserves commendation for putting Uganda before anything else. This is the formula for success.
Business and development do not happen in a vacuum or where conflict and instability are prevalent. It would appear that we could coin a catch phrase; “No Development and Business without Peace.” For the last 30 years, the NRM Government has worked hard to create a peaceful environment with functional structures, rule of law and stability. We should use the peace and stability we enjoy now to develop new ideas and foster development.
Delegates were enlightened on how they ought to gain greater access to the UK and the EU markets for Uganda exports. In case you did not know, Uganda happens to be the largest exporter of Organic produce from the African continent.
If we can partner with others and get them to invest in Uganda, not only will this lead to improvement in the quality of our Ugandan products (a fact which has in the past hampered trade), but our incomes will tremendously change. This is especially true for the EU market, where we are facing a threat of an embargo for our horti and flori-cultural produce with the EU citing phyto-sanitary conditions as a barrier.
Paying Taxes usually constitutes strong resistance from the masses, but it has been edifying to learn that we only need to embrace the system, understand it and explore the opportunities it offers including attractive exemptions. The richest people in the world are those who work with the system and pay their taxes. Therefore delegates were advised to take advantage of the exemptions offered by Doris Akol, the Commissioner General who stated: “Taxes are an abler for Business.”
Agri-business and food security would be a valuable addition to secure Uganda’s GDP. The sky is the limit in Uganda as it is blessed with such abundance of fertile soil and rich natural resources, which is unrivaled in the rest of Africa. The climate and fertility of this beautiful land given by God, needs to be used for the benefit of all Ugandans. We have not maximized this potential and have only began to explore the possibilities, with a few already on the ground setting good foundations in sectors such as: tourism, construction and small scale manufacturing. Prosperity is what we strive for and we cannot achieve a better life for all Ugandans unless we join hands. Indeed as was stated by Hon. Wafula Oguttu, the re-emergence of the cooperative movement is vital to maximize our potential in agriculture (for example).
Ugandans in the Diaspora have been formally recognized by the Government as a formidable force in the country’s development. What needs to be done is to ensure that the remittances and transfers that they regularly make to their families and loved ones are to be transformed into small investments, which will make their families become independent. This will transform their lives so that they will not have to rely on the handouts permanently but develop small cottage industries which will become strong, growing feasible business enterprises. These types of small cottage industries have eventually brought the Asian tiger into a reality. Start small and grow bigger. As Dennis Aguma stated, Uganda is the “most entrepreneurial country in the world!”
Regional integration is the other matter to which Uganda is seriously committed to. Let us focus on distribution and sale of our products in the neighbouring countries as we now have the EAC and the Customs Union and also in the wider region COMESA where our products are very much needed and can be sold. ‘Think Africa’ (as the buyer of the end product not the EU for example) and then make it happen. This should be a realistic course of action. Embrace an industrial revolution that will enable all industries to thrive and open trade and export within the continent. In the end the UK, the EU and other blocks in developed countries are making it more and more difficult for us Africans to export out our goods due to non-tariff barriers as well as taxes. Let us therefore focus on ourselves, our Uganda, then the EAC, the wider region as there is so much that can be done.
The Chairman of this Uganda Convention, Mr. Willy Mutenza was commended as a remarkable person who has a vision which works and is an example to us all as he is the brain behind gathering the forces and getting Ugandans in the UK to unite from different backgrounds to actively participate in the firm development of Uganda.
Looking forward to seeing you again next year at the Uganda Convention in UK on the 10th Sept 2016 at Troxy.
For God and my country!
Ambassador Mirjam Blaak Sow
Head of Mission
Uganda Embassy Brussels
317 Avenue Tervuren