Presidential Investor Roundtable: Uganda’s key investment and business policy platform

By David Rupiny

By David Rupiny

In early 2000s, engagements with development partners, notably the World Bank and International Monetary Fund led the Government of Uganda to take proactive measures in identifying and addressing bottlenecks to private sector investment in the country.

President Yoweri Museveni launched a top-level Business Advisory Council called the Presidential Investor’ Roundtable (PIRT) on September 30, 2004 as a high level forum that brings together private sector and public sector players to brainstorm and advise the government on how to improve the Uganda’s investment and business climate.

It is a vehicle for Public-Private Dialogue, and acts as a business–government coordination mechanism. The PIRT processes and engagements are coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) with Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) as the Secretariat.

Six phases and counting …

The PIRT, now in its sixth phase, has, over the last 17 years focused on a number of key strategic areas:

Phase 1 (2004 to 2006): Agribusiness, Information and Communications Technology, Education, Infrastructure, and the Regulatory Environment.

Phase 2 (2007 to 2009):  Agriculture (Forestry, Biotechnology and Agro processing), Information Communication Technology (ICT/Business Processing Outsourcing), Business Climate, Mining and Petroleum, and Tourism;

Phase 3 (2009 to 2012): Agricultural Production and Value Addition, Competitiveness in Doing Business, Transport and Logistics, E-Government, Creative Industry, and Petroleum (Oil and Gas);

Phase 4 (2013 to 2015): Agriculture Development, Information and Communications Technology, and Oil and Gas; and

Phase 5 (2015 to 2017): Tourism, Competitiveness, Oil, Gas and Energy, Minerals and Mineral Beneficiation.

The current phase (2019 to 2021)

The current phase, ending this financial year, focuses on six thematic areas, namely Tourism, Competitiveness, Oil and Gas, Minerals and Mineral Beneficiation, Agriculture Value Addition, and Transport and Haulage.

Key achievements of PIRT

Some of the remarkable policy outcomes from the various PIRTs include the following:

Regulatory Environment (Competitiveness in Doing Business)

  • Formation of a PIRT Cabinet Implementation Committee chaired by the Prime Minister.
  • Establishment of the One Stop Centre at Uganda Investment Authority.
  • Construction of the Kampala Industrial and Business Park in Namanve.
  • Creation of the Credit Reference Bureau.
  • Enactment of several commercial laws i.e. Company, Free Zones, Capital Markets, Insolvency Act, Trade Marks, Partnerships, etc.
  • Liberalization of the Pension sector.
  • The Ministry of Public Service issuance of performance contracts to Top Level Management in Ministries.
  • Undertaking of a study to establish the Infrastructure Fund.
  • Realisation of autonomy of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
  • Computerization of the Land Registry.
  • Improvement in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business. In 2016 Uganda moved 13 places to 116 on account of key policy interventions generated through the PIRT franework.

Tourism

  • Establishment of E-visa application system.
  • Reduction of visa fees to 50 dollars from 100 dollars.
  • Hire of international public relations firms to market Uganda in strategic markets.
  • Infrastructure upgrade in some of the tourism circuits.
  • Capacity building of immigrations officers to ensure capture of timely tourism data.
  • Upgrading of the Jinja Hospitality training centre.

Agriculture and Agribusiness

  • Increase of levy in export of raw hides and skins from 0 to o.8%.
  • Putting in place the agricultural loan guarantee scheme in commercial banks.
  • Re-capitalization of Uganda Development Bank.
  • Extension of support to seed producers (Agro-Genetic Technology Ltd and Victoria Seeds Ltd).
  • Enactment of the Plant Protection and Variety Act.
  • Establishment of the Phosphate multi product development project in Sukuru, Tororo District.
  • Establishment of a high quality laboratory with seed testing technology at Namalere.
  • Elevating Kituuza farm in Mukono District into a fully-fledged National Coffee Research Institute (NaCORI). This has greatly enhanced research capacity in the coffee industry.
  • Government has established a high quality laboratory with seed testing technology at Namalere. This facility will facilitate identification of fake inferior seeds.
  • The Plant and Seed Act 2006 has been operationalized, initially, by constituting the National Seed Board. The National Variety Release Committee and the National Seed Certification Services Unit have been established and are functional.

Oil and Gas

  • Establishment of the Uganda Petroleum Institute in Kigumba, Kiryandongo District.
  • Enactment of the Petroleum laws and drafting of the Petroleum regulations.
  • Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development signed an MOU on the commercialization plan with licensed Oil companies.
  • Establishment of the Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
  • Selection of a lead Investor, RT Global Resources Consortium, to develop the oil refinery.
  • East African Community (EAC) partners worked on a feasibility study to assess the most economic route for the crude oil export pipeline. A decision was made on the Hoima–Tanga route for the East African Crude Oil Export Pipeline.
  • Opening of the second round of licensing for oil exploration which led to issuance of eight petroleum production licences in different exploration areas.
  • Development of standards for the oil and gas sectors – approved by the National Council for Standards. The standards cover petroleum exploration, development, production, refining and transportation.

Mining and Value Addition

  • Government revised the Extraction Industry Tax regime. The approved tax amendments were pronounced in the 2015/16 Budget.
  • Uganda Investment Authority’s readiness to allocate up to 100 acres of land to investors in the mining value addition sector for investment purposes in different parts of the country.
  • Increased investment and value addition – for example establishment of the state-of-the-art African Gold Refinery (AGR) in Entebbe.

Information Communication Technology (ICT)

  • Operationalization of the National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U).
  • Enactment of the Cyber Laws of Uganda.
  • Implementation of the National Identity Card Project.
  • Creation of the Intellectual Property Special Unit in the Uganda Police Force.
  • Formation of the Uganda ICT Association.
  • Uganda securing its own National Internet Protocol Address Infrastructure.
  • Significant reduction in cost of broadband internet through attraction of key players such as Seacom and TATA whose presence reduced the number of middlemen in the provision of internet services.

Transport and Logistics

  • Investment in the Standard Gauge Railway network.
  • Revision of exclusive rights agreements in the air service industry

Health Sector

  • Decongestion of Mulago Hospital; establishment of new national referral hospitals (Kiruddu and Kawempe).
  • Protection of the Pharmaceutical sector to support local production.

Covid-19 Policy Interventions

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PIRT has been instrumental in formulation of a raft of proposals to help mitigate adverse effects of the pandemic on investments and businesses. UIA, in concert with other stakeholders, pushed through a string of proposals which have since been embraced by the Government.

President Yoweri Museveni, while delivering the State of the Nation Address on June 6, 2020, announced the following measures to boost liquidity of the private sector in the wake of the pandemic, most of which drawn from proposals by UIA and other stakeholders under the PIRT framework. They are:

*Securing funding for the development of Kampala Industrial and Business Park at Namanve and for power transmission and substations for Mbale, Kapeeka, Bweyogerere, Kasese, Soroti, Luzira, Jinja and Mbarara industrial parks;

* Provision of additional 300 billion Uganda Shillings immediately to boost agricultural production and productivity for seedlings, fertilizers, irrigation, storage facilities and value addition. The target crops are coffee, cotton, tea, palm oil and other oil seeds, cassava, maize, cocoa and dairy, beef, and fish production;

* Capitalization of Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) with Ug Shs. 100 billion to enable Government to invest in strategic areas;

* Boosting funding to Namanve-based Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI), based in FY2020/21 to continue with innovation research and incubation of business start-ups.

Other measures are:

  • Allowing corporations including small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to delay payment of corporation tax or presumptive tax for taxes due between April and June 2020 and for tourism, manufacturing, horticulture and floriculture to defer until September 2020;
  • Deferring payment of Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) tax by those sectors which are most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic until September 2020;
  • Waiver of interest on tax arrears;
  • Support to water and electricity utilities in order to ensure continued supply of these essential services to consumers during the period April to June 2020;
  • Expediting payment of outstanding VAT refunds;
  • Payment of domestic arrears for goods and services supplied to Government by the private sector;
  • For those unable to pay their loans, Government through the Bank of Uganda, has already put in the Gazette the measures to support businesses; these include allowing extension of repayment periods, postponement of loan repayment for a limited period, relaxing the conditions for non-performing loans, reduction of reserve funds commercial banks are required to keep with Bank of Uganda and creating a special liquidity facility to rescue businesses that are not able to meet operational costs due to low demand or reduced production due to COVID-19.

From the few achievements cited above, it can be concluded that the Presidential Investor’ Roundtable (PIRT), coordinated by the Office of the Prime Minister with Secretariat at Uganda Investment Authority is a very significant policy arena which has contributed, and continues to contribute, to key investment and policy shifts in Uganda.

*David Rupiny is UIA’s Media Relations Officer