Uganda’s Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Sekandi has called upon Arab Countries mostly people from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to rush and grab the plenty of investment opportunities that the country beholds.
This was during the 5th Edition of the UAE – Uganda Trade and Investment Forum that was held at Sheraton Hotel and organized by the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce.
It attracted over 22 companies from UAE who came to look for trade and investment opportunities in Uganda.
Alex Onzima, a Minister of State in the Vice President’s office highlighted the need for trade performance between the two sister countries while representing the Vice President Sekandi.
“We believe that what Ugandans and Africans need to develop is Trade, foreign Investments and access to markets but not Aid.
“It is in that context that we consider that private sector is a key partner to government in leading the country to sustainable national development,” said Sekandi.
“Available statistics indicate that volume of trade between Uganda and UAE is on the rise.
“In 2018, Uganda imported goods and services from UAE worth $784million increasing at 20% per year for the last five years.
“UAE imported from Uganda goods and services worth $ 562 million growing at 90% per annum for the past five years,” said Sekandi.
He also highlighted the labour capacity exported to the UAE which he said has been increasing and has made a positive contribution to the country’s economic development and export earnings.
Sekandi commended the leadership and people of UAE for adopting the policy of tolerance as a way of life and diversity.
Werikhe Micheal Kafabusa, the State Minister for Trade noted that the cordial relationship between the two countries and investments to Uganda is aimed at improving production as well as transfer of technology and capacity building.
“This forum creates an opportunity to share the opportunities, challenges and strategic decisions. I want to note that Uganda and UAE enjoy a cordial relationship and diplomatic relations.
“In 2018, the UAE was among the top three countries exporting goods and services to Uganda i.e China in top place with over USD. 1 Billion, India in second place with over USD 900 Million and UAE in third place with over USD 784 Million making Uganda one of the top destinations for UAE’s exports.”
“In terms of trade, our exports to the UAE have grown from USD. 372 Million in 2016, USD. 444 Million In 2017 and USD. 562 Millions in 2018. Imports from the UAE have also increased from USD.413 million in 2016 to USD. 784 Million in 2018,” said Werikhe.
Werikhe noted that there is a trade deficit between the two countries in favour of UAE which he says needs to be addressed soon enough.
“We have noticed a trade deficit in favour of the UAE, this situation needs to be addressed and the Government is hopeful will work together to improve the situation.
“Also important to note, Uganda’s exports to UAE in 2018 were natural or cultured pearls which were valued at USD. 513 Millions, mineral fuels at USD. 19 Million, Fish at USD. 13 Million and others while major imports from UAE were mineral fuels valued at USD. 598 Million, Plastics at USD. 29 Million, Machinery and mechanical appliances at USD. 25 Million, electrical machinery at USD. 18 Million, vehicles at USD. 18 Million,” said Werikhe.
“Proposed strategies between Uganda and UAE include different steps and therefore I believe we should focus on discussions surrounding attracting investments to Uganda aimed at boosting production, convening trade fairs in UAE to facilitate Business to Business and facilitate transfer of technology.
“Boast bilateral arrangements aimed at granting differential treatment for our exports to UAE, capacity building or developmental assistance in quality assistance especially in cottages, SMEs and industries and private sector to private sector engagement through Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” added Werikhe.
Werikhe said that Uganda has attracted investments through provision of specific incentives across.
“Uganda is economically stable and holds various investment networks. We signed the African Continental Free Trade Area which makes the whole of Africa a single market destination with a population of over 1.2 Billion people.
“We believe once you position yourself in Uganda, you’ll be among the first to tap into a vast market or market access to the whole of Africa because it is also projected that in the next 20/30 years we will be over 2.5 Billion as a single market,” stressed Werikhe.
He advised the United Arab Emirates delegation to tap into the wide range of opportunities available as soon as possible. He said the country boasts of cheap and trainable labour as well as free zones
“We boost of the cheap and trainable labour force, it is still cheap and flexible in re-orienting it to acquire skills that can help in the investments that you may bring into Uganda. We have also put in place zones aimed at boosting production for exports.”
Among other Investment enabling factors mentioned included favourable tax laws, he said, “The Government has put in more emphasis in strategic measures that promote and support the conducive environment for doing business in Uganda such as strengthening the country’s infrastructure, electronic single window, Single window that facilitates trade and saves 30% of time and costs previously needed, One-stop business centre that facilitates investment in Uganda.”
About the vast opportunities in Uganda, the State Minister said, “There are various opportunities in Uganda including all sectors spanning the NDP II priorities, agriculture and Agri-business, tourism, oil and gas, energy, minerals infrastructure, ICT and more.
“Uganda is so stable, provision of security for both life and property is guaranteed and once you bring your investments in Uganda, you are free to move out after paying taxes if you feel you’re not satisfied. This is one of the countries in Africa where you can do business freely.
“I guarantee you that the decision to invest in Uganda is the best decision given the huge market preferences coupled with her strategic central location in the heart of Africa, infrastructural development and the sound legal regime that protects investments,” said Werikhe.
Speaking during the business forum, H.E Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, Chairman, Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) said, “Our mission to Uganda is as result from our on-going visits to the African continent as part of the Sharjah Chamber’s endeavours to reinforce its presence in the emerging African markets and to step up the volume of commercial, economic, and investment cooperation.”
He said the Sharjah Chamber pays great attention to advancing economic cooperation relations and opening new prospects between businessmen and companies in the Emirate of Sharjah and Uganda.
“At present, the UAE comes third among Uganda’s exporting countries with a value of US $ 1.270 billion, while Ugandan exports to the UAE amounted to the US $ 428 million.
This reflects the efforts exerted to bolster this economic trend and trade openness between the two sides by encouraging investment in both countries,” said Al Owais.
According to statistics from the Bank of Uganda, exports to the United Arab Emirates reached $528.3 million for the six months between April and September 2019.
This makes the UAE one of the top destinations for Uganda’s exports; including gold and fresh organic foods. However, there are many other untapped areas Ugandan businesses can exploit in this $184 billion market.
In 2018, the top three countries exporting goods and services to Uganda were China ($1 billion), India ($743 million), and The United Arab Emirates ($644 million).
HE Abdullah Sultan Al Owais called upon the Ugandan business community to take part the UAE general and specialized exhibitions held throughout the year at the Expo Centre Sharjah and to take advantage of the enormous investment opportunities.
Thanks to the Emirate’s economic diverse policy, and its attractive investment climate, through the provision of a distinguished package of leading services and competitive facilities for foreign investors and business communities.
BY FRANK SEMATA