Discusing Opportunities Uganda at the UK Convention - 2012
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  • 1. The panel Opportunities Uganda was moderated by Mr. Joel Kibazo. Baroness Chalker was the first panellist to address the delegates. She said that the opportunities in Uganda are there for the taking, but no one should delay at taking them, as many other African countries are also vying for investors. About 15 years ago, she did not think that a music school in Kampala was viable but now the capital has such a school teaching music, like the violin and various wind instruments. Baroness Chalker criticised the fact that too much time is spent talking about what might be done, rather than taking a decision and implementing it. She said agriculture is critical not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world. Population is increasing very fast in many countries of Africa. Unless value is added and the growth of agriculture is extended all over Uganda, the country will not keep up with its own needs, nor will there be sufficient food for the surrounding countries, despite there being good export markets right on Uganda’s borders. She said that people still have a very warm and positive attitude towards Uganda, but that the country must not let up in making the positive news well known way beyond East Africa. Whilst she believes that Uganda has the best economic opportunities, the country will not succeed if it is disorganised or silent. She was not referring to the excellent organisation at the convention; she meant getting outside the Diaspora, getting to other people who have sympathy for East Africa, which can be particularly done through tourism. She shared some thoughts on how tourists could be used to better the country by inviting them to Uganda to help build schools and centres. She ended by advising the delegates to “take every opportunity, take the decision and get on with it”. Next, Dr. Andrew Seguya gave a brief overview of the opportunities in the wildlife sector. He stated that Uganda occupies only 0.01% of the land mass of the world, but has 17% of all biodiversity, a very big percentage for such a small country. In terms of tourism, Uganda has 10% of its land mass classified as protected areas where a lot of this biodiversity abounds, and where 20% of all water bodies and 30% of all forest cover can be found. Tourism is the highest earning sector in Uganda, bringing in over 1 billion US Dollars in 2011. 80-90% of this was contributed by the protected areas. Gorillas alone brought in about 80% of this revenue. Dr. Seguya invited delegates to invest in tourism if they wanted to get some of the highest returns. He gave an example of a tourist paying 300 dollars per night for the use of a tent. He pointed out that there are investment opportunities in accommodation, for stop-over facilities in the national parks, around which different businesses can be built. There is also need for investment in helicopter tourism and hot air balloon rides, things that are not in existence on the ground at the moment. Dr. Seguya also mentioned birding as an important area for investment. There are 1067 bird species in Uganda in comparison to 700 species in Europe and 650 species in North
  • 2. America. Queen Elizabeth national park, which covers 2500 square kilometres, has 700 species of birds. There is a need for specialised birding equipment creating investment opportunities in this area. Mountain climbing needs to be invested in, as well as mountain climbing equipment/gear. Uganda has probably the only mountain in the world, Mt. Rwenzori, on which one can experience all four seasons. Sport fishing, walking safaris, night safaris all provide investment opportunities because they require specialised equipment that is not readily available in Uganda at the moment. Uganda has the biggest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Victoria, and the River Nile where tourist boats need to invested in, as well as boat accommodation. He also mentioned that the authority is aware that individuals may not have sufficient capital for investment, but that the funds for investment can be raised collectively. With the public private partnership law in the pipeline, the National Wildlife Authority will set up an investment vehicle where groups can put money together to be invested in an agreed project. Entrepreneurs with limited funds will thereby still be able to pool funds for an investment and earn returns on it. Mr. Kigozi said that the manufacturing sector in Uganda is basically a virgin area. Uganda imports 90% of its consumables, and produces the other 10%. 80% of raw materials that could be produced in Uganda are imported, so investors are needed to bridge the gap in both areas. Only 10% of the fruit is processed, and the rest is exported raw. Investors are needed to have 90% processed within the country before export. Of the 300,000 metric tonnes of oil consumed in Uganda, only 126,000 are produced within the country. Most of the items produced in the country are packaged but 50% of packaging materials are imported, which means only 50% is produced within the country, so there is a gap that can be filled in all these areas. Mr. Kigozi went on to say that Uganda has celebrated the oil/ petroleum discovery but he had not seen many investors looking at the numerous by-products of the oil as investment opportunities. He said that it was high time delegates paid attention to that sector and prepared to take advantage of it. 95% of all drugs used in Uganda are imported and these are simple drugs that can be manufactured within the country. He encouraged delegates to look at the 95% as a gap that they can fill and even export the excess drugs to other countries within the East African region, such as South Sudan and D.R Congo. Almost 100% of leather, hides and skins are exported raw, leaving a big gap in the market for the processing of these products. Shoes, bags, suitcases and other leather products must be produced in Uganda .There is a plastics industry in Uganda, but only 40% is produced within the country, a situation calling for more investment. Ambassador Kalibbala next outlined the investment opportunities in the housing sector. She stated that there is a deficit of about 3 million housing units. In this regard, the government of Uganda has put in place a number of projects which she hopes investors and members of the Diaspora present at the convention will get interested in. The first one is the building of housing for civil servants, starting with teachers and doctors. The pilot aims to redevelop the Mulago doctor’s village on about 60 acres of land and build a well planned residential area with commercial and recreational facilities to improve the wellbeing of doctors and nurses, enabling them to do their jobs more effectively. The same will be done for the teachers.
  • 3. The urbanisation rate in Uganda is very high. There will be about 5 million people in Kampala very soon. To decongest the capital, the ministry is planning the redevelopment of the slums, to accommodate all levels of income and will avail commercial premises for the people living there. Through the decongestion plan, there are hopes of starting new satellite towns, taking advantage of the new hydropower dam that will be constructed in Karuma. There needs to be houses, hotels and residential areas built around the area. There might be the need to put up a satellite town along the new road through Entebbe to Kampala, the southern bypass, to decongest Kampala, so that people in Wakiso can stay there instead of rushing to Kampala. This town will be called Ssisa town. There are plans to set up tourist cities like Buvuma Island, to look like the Seychelles to attract more tourists. She finally invited investors and the Diaspora to come and work with the government to make these plans for the redevelopment of Kampala and the setting up of satellite towns a reality. The government is looking at investors to provide bridging finance, funds for construction and production of affordable building materials, establishment of manufacturing factories for the production of tiles, marble, floor tiles, and glass to develop the real estate sector. Mrs. Jolly Kaguhangire of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) began her address by informing the delegates that the URA has undergone reform since 2005, in which the approach to tax collection was changed from a military approach to a more user friendly approach in order to facilitate trade and enhance voluntary compliance. The URA’s mandate is to collect revenues and non-tax revenues on behalf of the government. It had to reform, as the old approach did not help the organisation to excel in what it was doing and without trade, the organisation would not survive. Reform was achieved primarily through the use of technology and the modernisation of services. The URA now has e-services that were introduced in 2009, to ease the manner in which entrepreneurs can pay taxes, enabling them to do so at their convenience, from any location in the world. The authority also increased support and availability of information to ease payment of taxes. Mrs. Kaguhangire also mentioned that there are tax exemptions in specific areas. Starting in July this year, the government decided to support agro-processing, so importation of any new plant and machinery is tax free; exportation of finished goods (80% or more) is tax free; permanent employment of people with disabilities earns firms some exemptions; there is no tax on income received from investment in education and scientific research on capital expenditures is tax free. She concluded by saying that the services provided by URA are good like its 24 hr support, payment by mobile, and the services provided are integrated. The speaker of the House, Right Hon. Rebecca Kadaga spoke next and enumerated areas that do not require a lot of capital to invest in. She started with wildlife, mentioned attractions such as the climbing lions in Kanungu in the deep West, as well as the mountain gorillas. She particularly wanted to inform the delegates of a new type of tourism in Uganda based on the traditional life of the Ugandan people. She gave an
  • 4. example of a former colleague of hers who left parliament and currently runs a lodge, where tourists pay for the privilege of milking cows and digging in the garden, living the traditional African lifestyle. This is an investment that does not require a lot of funding. She suggested that this could be extended to include activities like pottery, giving them the rare experience of making pots in Africa, showing it is possible to do more without spending too much money. Right Hon. Kadaga also tried to interest the delegates in investment opportunities around Lake Bunyonyi, the second deepest lake in the world. Tourists pay for the privilege of using canoes on the lake and pay about £400per night to sleep in a simple wooden lodge. She also called the delegates' attention to religious tourism and said a lot more marketing was needed for the Uganda Martyrs. In Busoga, she said the government is looking to market the Hannington site in Kyando where Bishop Hannington was killed. Given that Bishop Hannington was sent to Uganda by the Church of England, people from the Church of England could visit the site as a pilgrimage. She mentioned that at the end of this year, there will be a Busoga tourism expo aimed at marketing all nine chiefdoms, as well as religious sites in the area as a starting point. She concluded by inviting delegates for the Busoga tourism expo in December promising that it will be very exciting. Next followed a commentary and question time. Subhash Thakrar, the chairman of the London Chamber of Commerce, Ugandan by birth, who has been involved in investing in India, suggested that the government produce a dedicated, certified list of opportunities on a website that people can look at, something that has been done in India. This can be certified by a leading accounting or law firm. He said that since western investors today have plenty of choice to invest in Asia and other countries in Africa, it was time for Uganda to show up the best opportunities available by selling them. Next, Baroness Chalker answered a query on the political climate and the viability of infrastructure in Uganda (roads, hospitals) so that investors can come to Uganda and invest confidently. Baroness Chalker agreed with the Chairman of the London chamber of Commerce, saying it is indeed necessary to have dedicated certified list of opportunities with the best opportunities highlighted. She added that this should be the job of the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and of every Ugandan High Commission and Embassy around the world. She also said there was a need to reform the working practices of the UIA and strengthen its staffing. She reported that she had been asked to help with this reform, together with some dedicated workshops, particularly in the area of information technology (ICT), in the area of agriculture and indeed also on the preparations for oil, gas and power development. Baroness Chalker mentioned that while it is wonderful in many ways that oil has been found, Uganda is not yet ready to make the most of this bonus coming out of the ground. Many more artisan workers and scientists are needed to make sure that oil and gas production and transportation is done properly and maximises the return to the Ugandan
  • 5. people. She assured the delegates that this is something that she has put right at the top of her agenda in the next six months. Dr. Seguya then answered a query on incentives in the tourism sector and progress on the East African single visa regime. He said that the East African parliament is looking at not only issuing a single East African visa, but also at selling East Africa as a single destination. He said they were working on the protection of the smaller states from the stronger ones. He gave an example of tour companies in Kenya being able to buy all the gorilla permits in Uganda with one cheque, thereby pushing all the other tour companies out of business. Dr. Seguya assured delegates that the framework for the single visa is currently being worked out and it will happen. As the last speaker of the session, Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament added that that there are still a number of issues that need to be agree on within the community, such as sovereignty and which type of passports will be issued. With regard to the political climate, the speaker assured delegates that elections are held every five years and to confirm that politicians from different parties co-exist, she mentioned Commissioner Dombo a member of the NRM, Hon. Balikuddembe, a member of the opposition, Hon. Allen, a former member of the Diaspora who returned home and contested as an independent candidate and Hon. Janet Karuhanga, independent MP for the youth. Right Hon. Kadaga told delegates that the government is equally concerned about the health situation and addressing it. The government has secured loans to redo all the major hospitals in the country. She concluded by telling the delegates that things are going to change as long as the government receives the support that it needs.