Discusing Opportunities Uganda at the UK Convention - 2012
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.