Uganda’s Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has called upon businesspeople in Uganda and South Africa to scale up their business relationships arguing that this will only be the way both parties can benefit.
Rugunda, who was speaking during South Africa – Uganda Business Summit at Speke Resort Hotel Munyonyo, said there is a big trade imbalance which he thinks can be improved with increased trade, increased interactions and removing various irritants that will ensure that trade between the two countries continues smoothly.
Uganda is the 122nd largest export economy in the world and the 77th most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI).
Rugunda said that today, over 70 South African companies are registered and running top businesses in Uganda and are estimated to have total assets of over $3Billion.
“Foreign direct investments brought to Uganda from South Africa totalled $1.3billion in 2018 representing a market increase from $803million a year earlier and more than the 2016 figures of $626million.
“This rise in inflows has helped to grow the countries FDI stock to $13.3 Billion in 2018 which is equivalent to about 48% of the country’s GDP,” said Rugunda.
In 2017, Uganda exported US$2.79 Billion and imported US$5.84Billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of US$.3.05 Billion. In 2017 the GDP of Uganda was US$26 Billion and its GDP per capita was US$1.86k.
“Wealth created through trade is liberating and gives dignity to all those who are involved. Uganda businesses are looking for opportunities for growth through joint venture partnerships to increase exports to bigger markets.
“Given the size of the South African economy as one of the biggest economies in Africa, we are keen to ensure that favourable policies are put in place to continue the collaboration that we have established,” said Rugunda.
Rugunda said Uganda has plenty to export to South Africa that can quickly bring down the trade barrier and the unanimous opportunities that can be exploited by the South Africans.
“Uganda has a lot to export to South Africa and there are various investment opportunities in Uganda in various sectors especially Agriculture, agro-processing, tourism, infrastructural development, information and communication technology, mining and mineral processing, manufacturing and real estate and now oil and gas.
“I believe this summit will give Ugandans and South Africans an opportunity to explore the possibilities of partnership and enhance trade between the two countries,” Rugunda added.
He commended the work of the organizers (high commission of South Africa) for putting up forums of this kind saying they are key for deepening the business ties between the two countries.
“Uganda and South Africa enjoy excellent relations as per strategic partners in promoting trade and investment with deep-rooted historical and political ties.
“Bilateral relations between the two countries were strengthened with the establishment of South Africa – Uganda joint commission, which has facilitated and boosted by the economic benefits resulting from the same bilateral agreements that are already in place.
“Through these investments, South African businesses have significantly contributed to Uganda’s development through job creations, skills transfer, contribution to taxes and growth in various sectors of the economy,” he stressed.
The State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello Oryem, advised Ugandans to positively protect the image and the beauty of the country as well as exploiting the opportunities therein.
“Uganda is so naturally endowed, we should keep the beauty of the country but also exploit the business opportunities in it and not just leaving it to the foreign-based companies.
“Ugandans should learn to build lasting businesses that won’t die out a few years after they’ve passed away.
“The difference between the past and the present in Uganda is that the current government has tried so hard to ensure the environment is conducive to favour investment, load shedding has been cut down with power dams like Karuma, Isimba and other projects coming up,“ noted Oryem.
With the theme for the summit standing as ‘trade; the connector and driver of inclusive growth in Africa, the Chief Executive Officer, Stanbic Bank Patrick Mweheire said Ugandan companies can grow a lot more by forging partnerships with South African companies which have the potential to open other markets for Ugandan foods.
BY FRANK SEMATA