Rwenzori Investment Expo: A smashing success
The first ever Rwenzori Investment Expo, aimed at unlocking the region’s vast investment opportunities, took place on January 30 and 31 at the Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal, Kabarole District.
The Expo was convened by Operation Wealth Creation in conjunction with Uganda Investment Authority and Local Government Finance Commission.
Marked by an impressive attendance, the Expo attracted delegates from both near and far afield as Belgium, China, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Expo, held under the theme “Investment for Local Economic Development” unveiled number of investment opportunities like in agriculture, agro-processing, tourism, mining, oil and gas, fisheries, logistics, water transport, etc.
President Yoweri Museveni, who presided over the Expo as Chief Guest, said he was very happy that the people of Rwenzori were, as he put it, “waking up”, noting that “an industrial revolution is underway”.
President Museveni said the approach of linking agriculture with industry, services and information communication technology is a winner for Rwenzori region, and Uganda.
The President reiterated the need for proper diagnosis of societal needs in order to have social transformation and economic diversification.
President Museveni said the ultimate goal is to wipe out peasantry, acknowledging the remarkable transformation of Tooro, now a force in matooke (bananas) production and tourism.
Gen Salim Saleh, the Chief Coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation, in a speech read by his deputy, Lt. Gen Charles Angina, said the Expo is organized in line with the Presidential Initiative for Agro-Industrialization for Local Economic Development. The focus, he said, is poverty reduction and sustainable wealth creation.
The Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Sempijja, called for investments in coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas, wines, oil seeds, avocado, other fruits, horticulture, dairy, beef production, animal feeds, etc. He said the ministry will support investors in those areas.
Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col (Rtd) Tom Butiime, also Chair of the Council of Mountains of the Moon University, said the Expo gives the university a new profile as a centre of innovations and knowledge generation.
Fred Opolot, a Member of the Board of Directors of Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), told the Expo that the Authority will follow up on the outcomes of the two-day event in order to actualize the investment opportunities in the region.
Opolot encouraged the delegates to visit the UIA One Stop Centre and access investment services and/or get insights into the workings of the Centre. The OSC provides a number of services like licensing of investment projects, business registration, work permits, environmental impact assessments, land registration, etc.
The Ag. Director General of Uganda Investment Authority, Lawrence Byensi, briefed the delegates on investment opportunities in industrial parks in the region, particularly the Kasese Industrial and Business Park, where 17 companies are operating, including a bus assembling plant.
Byensi encouraged investors to take up spaces in industrial parks in the countryside, emphasizing that the government is promoting development of the country through industrialization.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Robert Kasande, said they are working with UIA and Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, to put in place an attractive mining system.
Kasande revealed that mining minerals like pozzolana do not require mining licensing but rather a location permit, which can be undertaken by local people. He said the geothermal energy in the region is not exploited for energy, agriculture (food drying) and tourism.
The Executive Director of Uganda Tourism Board, Lilian Ajaruva, said Rwenzori region has vast opportunities for tourism by both foreigners and Ugandans. For example, the region has 52 crater lakes, the biggest number is a given region in Africa.
The District Chairperson of Kabarole District, Richard Rwabuhinga, said the district is open for business, emphasizing that they are ready to work with, as he termed it, “serious investors”.
By close of the Expo, five deals had been sealed, with many others in the works. The five deals are:
1. Uganda Development Corporation and Mango Tree (a Chinese company) on water transport services on Lake Albert linking Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as linking Ugandan districts.
2. Uganda Development Corporation with Mpanga Tea Factory/Kabarole District Local Government – tea development.
3. Uganda Development Corporation with Mabale Tea Factory – tea development.
4. Uganda Development Corporation with East African Cocoa and Commodities Ltd. (a Tanzanian company)/Bundibugyo District Local Government – cocoa development.
5. Mountains of the Moon University with Belgian partners – construction of a hotel training institute with a five-star hotel wing.