By Julius Businge
Uganda, East Africa’s third largest economy has been urged to appropriately utilize its natural resources so as to better position itself among the poor but growing economies in Africa and the world in general.
Speaking at the opening of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) meeting held in Kampala on June 18, Peter Mihok, the chairman of the ICC said natural resources such as oil and gas are critical for any country to record high GDP growth rate and high per capita income.
“This has happened in many countries involved in the oil business,” Mihok said, adding local companies [especially Small and Medium Enterprises] need to be empowered to benefit from the sector and dearly contribute to the growth of the economy.
Uganda’s economy has been growing in the region of 5-6% per annum with per capita income of around US$ 547, lower than Kenya’s US$863, Tanzania’s US$608 and Rwanda’s US$619 according to the World Bank latest figures.
Mihok urged government to invest in projects aimed at skilling Ugandans so they can ably participate in sectors which are critical in spearheading growth.
Olive Kigongo, the president of UNCCI said Uganda was on course to attracting foreign direct investments. “Our chamber is committed to promoting this,” she said at the opening of the conference, adding exposing local businesses to foreign companies was critical in creating new markets and boosting their growth.
“SMEs are the engine of Uganda’s economy,” she said, adding they need collaboration, cooperation with other companies.
Amelia Kyambadde, Uganda’s minister of trade said businesses stand to benefit from the larger markets of EAC (with 149 million people), COMESA (489 million people) and others like SADAC where there are incentives for member countries.
“Our doors are always open for whoever is interested in doing business in these markets,” Kyambadde said at the meeting.
Maria Kiwanuka, the finance minister said government is focusing on investing in critical sectors where the private sector [which accounts for 80% of Uganda’s economy] cam benefit; roads, energy, agriculture and services sectors.
The meeting which was held under the theme: “global trade forum program” was the first of its kind to be held in Africa, apart from the one held in South Africa sometime back. It was attended by over 200 delegates from across the world.
The meeting was organized by the UNCCI whose membership is recorded at around 10, 000.