UIA Acting DG shares response plan for the Covid-19 pandemic

By David Muwanga

Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is developing bankable projects for both local and foreign investors to ease access to affordable investment finance as one of the measures to prevent business closures due to the COVID-19, an official has said.

“Bankable projects would also help manufacturing firms that are to employ automated machinery while domestic investors are better placed to invest in the labour-intensive industry like the agri-sector for export and import substitution,” said Lawrence Byensi the acting director-general of Uganda Investment Authority during a presentation he made at e-conference organized by the authority.

The conference’s theme was: “Status of Investment during the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

He said UIA surveyed the impact of the COVID-19 on the investment environment in Uganda between April and May 2020.

The findings indicated that the biggest number of companies asked their workers to stay home, others decreased the number of working hours while fifty-six percent of the respondents had temporarily closed business or production.

“We found it imperative that Domestic Direct Investments (DDI) is enhanced through development funds,” he said.

The investors also expressed uncertainty about the future of businesses and the inability to service debts or loans.

The hardest-hit sectors included tourism and the travel industry, with a significant number of tourism establishments ultimately closing down. This was followed by the agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing sectors.

The business community complained of the inability to pay taxes, staff wages, utility costs, (power, rent, water, and internet costs) and face business closure (view survey findings).

“As a result of the challenges highlighted above the business community expressed its inability to pay taxes, staff wages, utility costs, (power, rent, water and internet costs) and face business closure,” Byensi said.

He said that the authority is to establish four regional one-stop centres starting with two this financial year.

These he added, will take Government service delivery closer to the business communities all over the country. “This will further lower the cost of doing business and enable faster investment uptake away from the urban areas, this will hasten the creation and sustainability of the upcoming cities,” he said.

It is also envisaged that Business Development Centers will be established to enable potential and existing investors to have access to relevant and up to date investment information as well as business advisory services to facilitate faster and informed investment decisions.

Therefore companies looking to diversify or seeking partnerships or funding to stabilize or expand their business will be serviced at the regional centers.

The other mitigation measure the authority is the setting up of Incubation Centers and Workspaces’ for SMEs in the Industrial Parks.

The centres will support SMEs to enhance their business skills, connect them to markets, and introduce them to ICT4Business.

The authority is also developing an interactive SME online portal for individuals, groups, and clusters to adopt digital systems that range from the payment system, digital marketing, online sales, and customer relationship management.

The portal will also provide an online business linkage that connects domestic investors to global supply chains, partnerships, service providers, for subcontracting and outsourcing opportunities.

The project also includes establishing a multilingual investor call center where investment advisory services will be accessed online.

Byensi explained that UIA will create short video documentaries that will be used to market the opportunities both locally and internationally.

He said the Authority is to establish four Science, Technology, and Innovation Parks (STIPs).

These include one in Kyankwanzi District to serve the Buganda sub-region, another in Kamuli district to serve the Busoga sub-region, one at the Pakwach-Nebbi district border to serve the West Nile sub-region and another in Rubirizi district to serve the Ankole sub-region.

He pointed out that the cost of setting up the business infrastructure is a major hindrance to investment. “Therefore Government through UIA is focused on establishing industrial spaces/parks through various models that include Public-Private Partnership (PPP), wholly private or government-owned and will be provided with all the utilities, roads, and interconnectivity infrastructure.

Byensi said a proposal for the development of five Industrial Parks under the Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Arrangement has been submitted to the finance ministry.

It provides a strategy for the construction and rehabilitation of road infrastructure into the five Industrial Parks. These include Koboko – Oraba industrial Park (180 acres) and Nwoya Industrial and Business Park (500 acres).

Others are Kaweweta Industrial and Business Park (640 acres), Kabarole Industrial Business Park (500 acres), and Kasese Industrial Business Park (219 acres).