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Uganda needs to improve its negotiation skills

By Joan Akello

Foreign direct investment has increased over the years in Uganda and the East African region but civil society organizations say Uganda has not benefited much because of poor negotiation in various bilateral agreements.

In a half day workshop organized on Mar. 20, Southern and Eastern African Trade Information & Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) said that there is need to build the capacity of the negotiators that represent the country. This is why it organized a meeting on the EAC-US Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement (EAC-us TIPA) negotiations to raise awareness of the MPs on importance of the Investment Agreements on Uganda’s and EAC’s development and to debate on the issues in the EAC-US TIP negotiations and their implications on Uganda’s and EAC’s economy and people’s livelihoods.

Nathan Irumba, SEATINI CEO said that most FDIs are market, resource or efficiency seeking, explaining why there is an emerging scramble  for markets and signing of trade  agreements in Africa. Irumba says the interlocutors of the FDIs know what they want for instance there are two clear interests of the US- Security and trade, but what does Africa or Uganda want from the US?

“An agreement should benefit both parties, we must learn from the past bad AGOA experience so that we get technology, skills and employment,” Mathias Kassamba, Kakuuto County MP said.

Kasamba also member of the parliamentary East African Forum said that there is need to improve on Ugandans’ negotiation skills to ensure that the country’s interests are included in such agreements.

Buliisa MP Stephen Biraahwa Mukitale agrees that Uganda was a chief negotiator for African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) but has not benefited substantially from it.   Mukitale who also chairs the committee for national economysaid, “People unfortunately look at investors as messiahs but must know that capitalism has just metamorphosised from the industrial revolution when they came for slaves, then they came for colonies. Now markets and resources.”

Foreign investment can make positive contributions to Uganda and to the EAC economy in many ways, such as, inter alia, provision of modern technology and technological spillovers to local firms, contribution to capital funds and export earnings and increased employment.  In order for these potential benefits to be realized, a good balance has to be attained between the negative and positive effects of FDI.

During the 26TH -27TH APRIL 2012 regional meeting for MPs on the EAC-EU Economic partnership Agreement (EPAs) negotiations that was organized by SEATINI, Parliamentarians made it clear that only an enhanced and informed participation of both the EU and EAC MPs   can guarantee transparency and accountability in the EPA negotiations. Likewise, it is important that the participation of parliamentarians in the EAC-US TIP negotiations is enhanced in order to guarantee transparency and accountability in these negotiations.

SEATINI aims at empowering the MPs to play a more active role in these negotiations to ensure that the interests of the people, the country and region are protected and promoted.

For the EAC-US TIPA, SEATINI wants Parliament to call the negotiators from ministry of East African Affairs to demand for definition of investment, the scope of dispute settlements should not render the local courts as impotent and reconsider the article on national treatment of the US investors which may kill the local investments.

Mukitale advised SEATINI to sponsor a petition over this agreement. He also said,” let us be mindful. Let’s not scare investors but sort out what we want and give leverage in this globalization.”

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