Covid-19 Response plan: Interview with UIA Board Chairman
The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) carried out a survey on the impact of the COVID-19 on the investment environment in Uganda between April and May 2020.
UIA Board Chairman Dr. Emely Kugonza reveals the findings and the planned mitigation measures in the interview below.
QN: What were the findings in the survey?
ANS: The survey indicated that the biggest number of companies asked their workers to stay home, but supported them with some minimal allowances. UIA also found out that employers also decreased the number of working hours while fifty six percent of the respondents had temporarily closed business or production.
QN: What were the top most concerns of the investors?
ANS: The top most concerns for businesses was uncertainty and inability to service debts or loans.
QN: What were the hardest-hit sectors?
ANS: The hardest-hit sector included tourism and the travel industry, with a significant number of tourism establishments ultimately closing down. Due to the above challenges, the business community expressed inability to pay taxes, staff wages, utility costs, (power, rent, water and internet costs) and face business closure. It is imperative that Government intervenes to mitigate the negative impacts hence the survey.
QN: So what mitigation measures is UIA putting in place?
ANS: The Authority is developing bankable projects to ease access to affordable investment finance. The funds would mitigate the delays in the implementation of investments and resultant reduction in job creation caused by the COVID-19. In line with the requirement for maintaining social distance and the existing travel ban, UIA will harness the potential of new technologies through webinars, e-meetings, chart boards and Tele-conference systems to facilitate online meetings. We are working on digital transformation of promotional materials and project monitoring In addition, UIA will subscribe to data intelligence websites to access client prospection and identifying potential Foreign Direct Investments leads. The other mitigation measure is the setting up of Incubation Centres and Work Spaces for SMEs in the Industrial Parks.
QN: When are you opening One Stop Centres out of Kampala?
ANS: This is also another mitigation measure where the Authority is to establish four regional One Stop Centres starting with two this financial year. The centres to be located out of Kampala will take Government services closer to the business communities; lower the costs of doing business and enable faster investment uptake away from the urban areas, which will hasten the creation and sustainability of the upcoming cities.
Already potential and existing investors access government services relevant to investment from the comfort of their businesses, homes or host countries. Fourteen government agencies under one roof have been electronically integrated into a One Stop Centre portal eBiz. The Agencies rendering services right now are: UIA, URA, URSB, KCCA, UNBS, DCIC, UFZA, UMEME, NSWC, NEMA, MLHUD, NIRA (only online but not yet switched on); other partners are DTB Bank, Giant 100 that is promotion of high value investment in tourism and conservation, and most recently the Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE) which is handling employee grievances, employer coaching and mentoring.
We are envisaging establishment of Business Development Centres for investors to access up to date information and business advisory services to enable investors make informed investment decisions. The companies looking to diversify or seeking partnership or funding to stabilize or expand their business will be serviced at the regional centres.
QN: What new technologies are you developing to counter COVID-19?
ANS: The Authority is adopting Virtual reality (VR) solutions for site visits and marketing industrial parks, SME work spaces will be available for hire, showcasing the One Stop Center services and marketing Uganda as the preferred investment destination in Africa.
We are to develop an SME Online Portal that creates interaction between individuals, groups and clusters to build their capacity to adopt digital systems that range from payment system, digital marketing, online sales and customer relationship management.
The measures also include establishing a multilingual investor call center where investment advisory services will be accessed online.
We are also marketing Uganda as the preferred investment destination through creation of short video documentaries to build a positive image and upgrading of the UIA website.
QN: What is the progress in Industrial Park Development?
ANS: UIA is to establish four Science, Technology and Innovation Parks (STIPs). There are four sites proposed for the STIPs and each is proposed to sit on 500 acres. These will be developed in the districts of Kyankwanzi, Kamuli, Pakwach-Nebbi district border and Rubirizi. We have so far developed land for nine industrial parks out of the 27 UIA was tasked to develop.
We are also pursuing a strategy for Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the development of other industrial parks and to establish Industrial sheds for potential investors. In addition, Government under the NDP 111 is committed to acquire and develop all the industrial parks.
A proposal that provides a strategy for the construction and rehabilitation of road infrastructure in Koboko – Oraba industrial Park (180 acres), Nwoya Industrial and Business Park (500 acres), Kaweweta Industrial and Business Park (640 acres) has been submitted to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Others are Kabarole Industrial Business Park (500 acres) and Kasese Industrial Business Park (219 acres)
The proposal also includes road construction to bituminous level, power extension, bulk water extension and sewerage treatment plant and Solid Waste Management Systems.
QN: What did the commissioning of KIBP infrastructure project mean to Ugandans?
ANS: Kampala Industrial and Business Park (KIBP) at Namanve is history in the making and a game changer. There will be a beehive of activities in the park including easing of accessibility of land for investments, and new businesses for the communities around the park.
SMEs are to benefit from the creation of work spaces that are very critical for increased production, job and wealth creation four our people and increased import substitution.
QN: Any achievements?
ANS: One of them is the KIBP upgrade which was part of the 2016-2021 Strategic Plan to establish fully serviced industrial parks. We have had growth in FDI even from countries where we were ordinarily not attracting investors. UIA is very grateful to His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni for supporting UIA promotional activities that are making Uganda the best investment destination in Africa.
QN: How about challenges?
ANS: The biggest problem is underfunding of UIA but we also appreciate the limited nature of resources as it is in other developing countries. But we shall continue to be innovative since the Investment Code Act 2019 mandates UIA to generate resources. We are working on publishing the first ever “Investment Guide Handbook”. It is one of UIA resource mobilization tool we have developed. We therefore invite all investors and the corporate world to participate in it by providing information and booking space.