The firms seek to invest in energy, infrastructure, IT and pharmaceutical industries
Kampala, Uganda | Ronald Musoke | Uganda’s ever growing position as an attractive investment destination for French companies came to the fore recently as a delegation of more than 30 companies under the umbrella organisation MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France) visited to explore more business opportunities in the country.
The two-day visit, starting June 15, was in response to an invitation extended by President Yoweri Museveni during a meeting with French investors in Paris, last September.
The delegation held discussions with President Museveni and the private sector on possible business ventures before leaving for Kigali, Rwanda.
Speaking at a cocktail held for the business executives at her residence in Kampala, Stephanie Rivoal, the French Ambassador to Uganda said it is time for the prospective investors to venture in the country’s various sectors including energy, infrastructure, Information and Communication Technology, engineering, communications, insurance, construction, infrastructure and pharmaceutical industries.
She said Uganda’s economy is dynamic and all indicators are green—a good colour for the economy of tomorrow, especially in the medium to long term.
“Uganda is a dynamic, growing country that is waiting for you to continue in this progress,” she said, adding that the country’s economy is projected to grow at 6.5% by 2021 as a result of the upcoming exploitation of the oil fields as per the International Monetary Fund projections.
Rivoal said the French companies should not shy away from investing in Uganda but should do so in the right way with proper due diligence, proper assessments of the risks and rewards by taking the necessary time to understand the context to listen to Ugandans.
The new development comes in as many years since the French companies started having interest to invest in the country especially following the discovery of oil and gas more than a decade ago.
So far, there are about 35 French companies established in the country in various sectors including oil and gas, infrastructure development, travel, insurance with a combined investment value of more than $1bn. In total, they employ about 18,000 people.
The total value of France –Uganda trade stands at € 60.71 million while France is the tenth largest supplier in Uganda with a 2% market share. French foreign direct investment is expected to increase substantially in the coming years as oil development work begins in earnest.
The French Development Agency (AFD) which has been in Uganda for close to 20 years has also more than doubled its interventions in Uganda over the last three years, concentrating on sustainable and equitable development projects in three main sectors ; infrastructure including water and sanitation, energy, environment and climate change as well as the private sector. In 2015, AFD committed over €73m and that figure rose to €121.5 in 2016.
Momar Nguer, the Chairman Medef’s Eastern Africa Business Council who also sits on Total’s executive committee said most of the members who came to Uganda had been impressed by President Museveni’s presentation during a breakfast meeting that Medef organized during his visit last September in Paris.
“We had questions for him and he was very impressive and eventually it was appealing for us,” Nguer said, “Most of the 35 members of MEDEF who visited Uganda did come because of that presentation.”
Nguer said MEDEF is a big association comprising thousands of French companies which conduct hundreds of missions with foreign governments whose delegations go to Paris to rightfully promote their countries but never in the history of MEDEF had he seen such a presentation from a head of state.
Museveni addressed over 50 investors at the Le Bristol Hotel in Paris and told them that if they invested in Uganda, not only would they have 40 million people to sell products to but also an extensive market in the East African Community and the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, which has a combined market of 150m and 700m, respectively.
Museveni told the business community in France that to facilitate investments, Uganda had fixed the basics like infrastructure, good road network, ample electricity and the country was now moving into building a modern railway system.
In her speech read by Amos Goloba, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary budget committee, Amelia Kyambadde, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives welcomed the French companies to invest in the country.