Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Nordic and East African countries have held the first ever business expo and conference aimed at opening up investment opportunities in the two world economic regions.
Organized by Ferrum Capital, Debridge, Uganda Embassy to the Nordic Countries and Uganda Urban Expo, the three day event was held at Marina Congress Center in Helsinki, Finland under the theme: “Unveiling the potential of Africa’s fastest-growing region: East Africa – the Nordic New Frontier”.
Present were business executives and high-level representatives from the East African countries who discussed concrete business opportunities with Finnish and Nordic business executives.
Main East African Keynote speakers at the event, among others were, Her Excellency Nimisha Madhvani, Uganda’s Ambassador to the Nordics, who is also a board member of the Uganda National Oil Company and Mr. Patrick Mweheire, the Chief Executive Officer of Stanbic Bank Uganda.
Other main keynote speakers included Professor Charles Kwesiga, the Director Uganda Industrial Research Institute and Joash Maangi, the Deputy Governor of Kisii County in Kenya.
Madhvani underscored the need to invest in areas that would boost the Uganda’s export sector. She cited areas in agriculture, ICT and health sectors that could have high returns on investment while contributing to the economic development of Uganda.
Markku Olli, the Regional manager for Finnvera, a Finnish state-owned financing company, revealed that they were running the African project through which export guarantees can be secured for East African products.
Jari Kaitera, Chairman of Ferrum Capital and an organizer for the event, said the East African region has developed into one of the world’s most exciting zones of economic growth given the approximately 140 million consumers and the growing middle class.
“The annual growth rate for Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda is at least around 5%. This is a good pace.” Kaitera said.
The World Bank report for the year 2018 lists, agriculture, health and pharmaceuticals, and construction and energy as growth industries in East Africa.
Kaitera noted that in addition to those areas, they were looking at attracting Nordic players from several sectors, including education, ICT, and packaging.
“Naturally, there are a lot of questions in the Nordics on operating in East Africa. What the opportunities are, where’s the largest growth potential, what risks are there, and many others. The mission of this event is to clarify and provide answers to these questions and showcase the success stories of Finnish companies and how they’ve found success in Africa.” Kaitera added.
He revealed that in order to get the Nordic businesses quickly established and going, they will be arranging East Africa trips and meetings for those interested in starting off fast.
“With its economic growth, East Africa right now has vast amounts of untapped business potential. In a lot of countries, the opportunities for co-operation and market development have gone unnoticed or have not manifested as concrete business activities.” Paul Jaaza, from Debridge, a partner organizing firm, noted.
He noted for example that the Nordic companies could invest in the Ugandan agricultural sector and help improve the quality of produce to be able to access more American and European Union markets.
“The companies in the region are looking for partners to raise the production quality to meet export standards. We hope and believe that the Nordics have the business acumen to rise to the challenge”, Jaaza said.
Also present was Ms. Elly Kamahungye, Uganda’s Deputy Ambassador to the Nordics, Mr. Robert Wasike Deputy head of mission and Ritva Reinikka, former World Bank’s director of the African business and human development in the Africa Region.