By Ambassador Mirjam Blaak Sow
Uganda is a member of the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and a country with great economic potentials due its agreeable climate, fertile soils, mountains, rivers, lakes, forests and enough rainfall throughout the year and is therefore rightly known as the Pearl of Africa’s crown. Since President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who heads the NRM Government took power in 1986, there has been stability and peace, which are prerequisites for socio-economic sustainable development. The average economic growth has been approximately 6 % per annum over the last 10 years. The potential for trade and investment are inexhaustible but I would like to highlight five areas namely: Agriculture, Mining, ICT, Tourism and Infrastructure.
The Agricultural Sector has remained the most important sector in Uganda and is the largest source of export earnings; mainly coffee, flowers, tea and fish; averaging 53% per annum while employing 73% of the Ugandan population. Whereas in Europe one can have only one harvest per annum in Uganda one can have up to three harvests due to two rainfall peak seasons in most parts of the country. What Uganda is striving to achieve is to add value to its agricultural products before export. In order to attain this objective, we appeal to foreign businesses and investors to collaborate with us in developing our agro-based industries in the areas of packaging, processing, cooling, drying, extracting or any other type of processes that transforms/improves the product from the original raw commodity. In addition, technical skills, energy, improved quality, storage and capital would be crucial realizing this objective. The key sectors in this regard are in cotton ginning, tea processing, coffee hauling & processing, tobacco handling and processing, beverages, wheat products and the fast growing dairy sector, fruit processing, fruit drying, grain milling, meat processing, milk production and processing, leather tanning and fish processing. Fortunately the adage “Trade instead of Aid” is becoming a practical reality for Uganda. It is now, therefore, imperative that Uganda and the other African countries are taken as serious trade partners.
The mining sector is of great importance to Uganda’s economic growth especially since the discovery of Natural Gas and Petroleum. Reserves of crude petroleum were estimated to be 2.5 billion barrels in the Lake Albertine Basin and reserves of natural gas, 14 billion cubic meters. Uganda additionally has an incredible range of minerals including; cobalt, copper, cassiterite, cement, salt, wolframite, tungsten, gold, diamond and vermiculite for which mining licenses can be obtained.
ICT is increasingly becoming a necessity in all areas of economic development and almost all adults Ugandans have a mobile phone and access to mobile money (a system that enables transfer of cash via cellular phones), which is not established in most European countries. The opportunities in ICT are limitless especially since the Government is working towards a completely integrated e-government structure.
Infrastructural development is the backbone of any economy and therefore a key priority for Government. Uganda being a “land linked country” requires partners in building express highways and has embarked on the standard gauge railway from the west to the east of the country to link with Kenya to access the Mombasa harbour under the Northern Corridor development. In the same corridor, an oil-pipeline is also planned to be constructed in order to transport the oil to the sea ports once production starts. There are many possibilities for airport development, as many small airports require being tarmacked and new ones to be constructed. Uganda is developing 22 industrial parks in which small and medium size manufacturing plants can be established.
Tourism is a key driver of Uganda’s economy and represents a significant opportunity to the attainment of “Uganda Vision 2040”. The sector is Uganda’s largest services export, having provided direct contribution of currently over 1.2 Billion Euro and 2.8% of total employment in Uganda. More growth in the sector is expected over the next five years.
Uganda is naturally blessed with eight different eco-systems, which provide for the richest variety of flora and fauna on the African continent. Tourist and visitors alike enjoy visiting the 10 national parks with 1028 different bird species and abundant wildlife including the famous mountain gorillas, which constitute half of the world’s surviving primate population. The government of Uganda is focusing on unlocking the binding constraints in five priority areas namely: marketing and promotion, human resource development, product development, natural and cultural resource conservation and tourism management and regulation.
President Y.K. Museveni is of the view that Africa is the world’s next growth centre and Uganda in particular has much to offer because it is more gifted by nature than many other countries. I believe that in order to have the confidence to trade with Uganda or even invest in it, you have to visit the country because the experiences of smelling it, seeing it and tasting the food and interacting with the people is what gives you the trust to do business with us. Therefore you are invited to come to Uganda and enjoy the warm hospitality of the Ugandan people. “Karibuni” means welcome in Kiswahili!