Prime Minister Rugunda woos UAE investors to invest in Uganda

By David Rupiny

Uganda’s Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, has made a direct appeal to potential investors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Middle East to come to invest and trade in Uganda.

Opening the fourth Uganda-UAE Business Convention, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rugunda said although investment and trade between Uganda and UAE is strong and growing, there is still much room for more growth.

The two-day Convention (October 21 – 22, 2020) is being held under the theme “Promotion of Trade and Attraction of Foreign Direct Investment to Support Inclusive Growth, Employment and Wealth Creation”.

The overall aim of the Convention, now in its fourth edition, is to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and promote Uganda’s exports to the UAE. It targets potential investors, project developers, the Ugandan Diaspora and government officials.

The Prime Minister appealed to potential Emirati investors to snap up investment and business opportunities in areas like agriculture, oil and gas, infrastructure development, pharmaceuticals, electronics, technical services, energy, construction, industrial parks and free zones, tourism and trade, amongst others.

Focusing on opportunities in the oil and gas sector, the Prime Minister appealed to potential Emirati investors to take up service investment and trade opportunities afforded by construction of the 1,400-kilometre East African Crude Oil Pipeline. He said Uganda is also looking for investors in the oil refinery.

The Prime Minister said all efforts are being made to build, promote and strengthen the relationship between Uganda and the UAE for the mutual benefit of both countries and transforming them into preferred investment and trade hotspots globally.

Rugunda said there is an urgent need to ensure that investment and trade bottlenecks between the two countries are sorted out quickly, adding that the Ugandan Government is committed to eliminating all kinds of bottlenecks that impede investment and trade through mutually beneficial agreements.

In addition to promoting investment and trade, Rugunda said the Convention should also be an arena for promoting social and cultural interaction between citizens of the two countries. He pointed out that and estimated 60,000 Ugandans live and work in the UAE, remitting 400 million dollars annually.

The Prime Minister urged the Emiratis to not only invest in and trade with Uganda, but also visit the country and enjoy its rich culture, nice weather, beautiful scenery, wildlife and mouthwatering cuisine.

Uganda’s State Minister for International Affairs, Henry Okello Oryem, appealed to potential Emirati investors to take advantage of Uganda’s favourable business climate to invest in Uganda, assuring them that the Government also has zero-tolerance for corrupt practices.

Uganda’s Ambassador to the UAE, Wanume Kibedi, said Uganda and the UAE have the potential of boosting investment and trade to greater heights because all the ingredients are there.

Uganda Investment Authority’s Director for Investment Promotion and Business Development, Sheila Karungi Mugyenzi, said although the Ugandan economy suffered some disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things are quickly picking up.

Said Mugyenzi: “The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many new and old investment projects. Government put in place a number of economic interventions to mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic. Potential investors are now picking interest again. We believe we shall have faster recovery because investor interest is picking up”.

According to Mugyenzi, Uganda, in addition to providing a highly liberal business environment which allows for free flow of capital and profits, also allows a foreigner to invest or trade as a sole proprietor, a shareholder or a partnerhip.

Mugyenzi said Uganda is developing 27 industrial and business parks in which there are provisions for free zones and special economic zones. She appealed to potential Emirati investors to take up these opportunities, adding that there are great incentives for investments in import-substitution and export-promotion industries.

The Executive Director of Uganda Export Promotion Board, Dr Elly Twineyo said trade between Uganda and the UAE is growing fast, noting that in 2019 Uganda enjoyed a positive trade balance with exports to the UAE at 1.2 billion dollars against 563 million dollars in imports.

Twineyo said arrangements are underway to export to the UAE fishes like Nile Perch and Tilapia, as well as fresh foods, fruits, coffee and tea, amongst other products.

The UAE’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in Uganda is at 400 million dollars and on an upward trajectory.

The Executive Director of Uganda Industrial Research Institute, Prof. Charles Kwesiga, called for increased involvement and participation of Ugandan Diaspora in the UAE in investment and trade in Uganda. The estimated 60,000 Ugandans in the UAE remits 400 million dollars annually.

A potential investor Joachim, participating from Sweden, appealed to the Ugandan authorities to improve the country’s infrastructure, financing mechanisms and market access noting that there is still a gap between producers in Africa and markets in Europe.