EU ready to cooperate
The European Union Ambassador to Uganda Attilio Pacifici reiterated the EU’s commitment to investing further in Uganda.
“This event marks a milestone in the economic relations between Uganda and the European Union,” he described the Forum.
He added that by taking part in the Forum, they were illustrating that the EU aims to “do business” and partner with Uganda differently as compared to the past.
The domestic and European companies have so far identified three main areas that they would work together to support business growth. The first one is skills and attitude. The second area is the high cost of capital.
Pacifici said the lengthy and complex procedures when applying for a loan in commercial banks makes access to finance challenging for the private sector.
The third issue is on economic governance and corruption. Despite several anti-corruption initiatives launched by government, according to various reports, corruption remains common in Uganda, he said.
“It is a major obstacle for better investment climate and sustainable private sector growth,” Pacifici said.
Pacifici concurred with Kyamabadde that public private partnerships, business incubators or industrial parks are critical in growing businesses and growing the economies.
Elly Karuhanga, the chairperson of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, said that trading with the EU is a blessing given the strength of its economy. The GDP of Europe was estimated at $18.8trillion in 2018 and is the world’s largest trading bloc. Also, the EU has a population of 741 million people – which means there is demand for goods and services.
Karuhanga said the EU remains the leading market for Ugandan largest exports including coffee ($290million) and several other major exports such as fish, flowers and cocoa.
“The opportunities available are immense,” he said. He added that what is required is collaboration to enhance company’s enterprising nature to take advantage of the opportunities in agriculture, tourism, oil and gas, manufacturing, ICT, construction, transport and logistics, financial services, education and health.
He said that the country’s aim going forward is to promote sustainable private sector investments between European and Ugandan business community and to create partnerships with the business community in Uganda.
President Yoweri Museveni said the Forum was being held in the context of the Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investments and Jobs.
He also said that fostering collaboration between the public and private actors and partnerships between Ugandan and European companies is critical.
He added that the government of Uganda in partnership with development partners including the European Union and its Member States has made significant strides in laying a firm foundation for investments, industrialization and international trade.
“By participating in this Forum, therefore, you are availing yourselves an opportunity to network and share ideas with each other with a view to harness the opportunities created by the firm foundation,” Museveni said.
Speaking about the investment climate in Uganda, Museveni said, the road network, power, peace and security and more are all in place to support business growth.
On the regulatory side, he said they have been steadfast in easing the process of investing and doing business in Uganda.
“A One Stop Investment Centre has been set up at the Uganda Investment Authority to ease the investment process while several One Stop Border Posts have been constructed to hasten international trade,” he said.
Meanwhile, Museveni said his administration has been keen on expanding export markets through trade negotiations at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, such as the recently concluded African Continental Free Trade Area; and fostered increased use of electronic platforms in international trade.
“It is, therefore, not surprising that between 2010 and 2018, Uganda alone accounted for 13% of total Foreign Direct Investment inflows into the eleven Eastern Africa countries; while merchandise exports have been growing at an annual average of 8.7% over the last five years. These, in themselves, are positive pointers to the outlook of the Ugandan economy,” he explained.
He said going forward, Uganda and the EU should promote technology transfer and collaboration, as well as financing to enable the private sector harness opportunities that exist on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea.
Other private sector players were equally moved by opportunities that the Forum would create but offered cordial advice to their colleagues in the trade. Patrick Bitature, the chairman of Simba Group said as business owners in Uganda look forward to more trading with the EU, they need to be flexible, be positive in terms of attitude and be professional, ethical while going about their work.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija applauded the European Union for being one of Uganda’s partners that have continued to provide grant financing in the areas of trade and investment.
“Today [at the Forum], we are signing three grant financing agreements worth 85.9 million Euros that will support various projects and programs in Uganda. Budget support is 32 million euros, green economy 45 million euros and technical support is 8.9 million euros,” Kasaija said in a speech.