2022 Summit’s | Chairman’s Overview and Remarks

 2022 Summit’s | Chairman’s Overview and Remarks

I take great pleasure in thanking all those who spared their valuable time to attend the 12th Uganda-UK convention, despite all the difficult circumstances following the death of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, unfortunately, in line with UK Government mourning guidance for civil servants, both Uganda and UK government officials would not participate at the event.

Despite all that, the organising committee decided to continue with the event and I also thank those that couldn’t make it, for the tremendous support everyone gave, even in their absence.

We are happy that the annual event has grown from strength to strength, now becoming the only African focused trade and investment summit running for 12 consecutive years. He echoed and urged Ugandans to emulate his spirit of patriotism and invest not only time but also money for the good cause of giving back to Uganda. “We can’t wait for governments to put money in everything we do, their blessing and participation is enough”.

As the founder and chairman, I have received many accolades, awards and recognitions because of the convention and my work in the community and I was this year happy to be recognized by Director Citizenship & Immigration Control, presented to me by Maj. Gen. Apollo Kasiita-Gowa. It was the UK Convention with Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga that started lobbying the government via the parliament for the Dual Citizenship and a few other policies that impact Ugandans in the Diaspora. The government agreed not only for the dual-citizenship but also for the Directorate of Citizenship & Immigration Control to designate a staff at various major embassies and commissions.

This year, I also joined fellow Ugandan Asian brothers and sisters at a reception hosted by His Majesty, King Charles III at Buckingham Palace, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Resettlement of British Asians from Uganda in the United Kingdom.

At the summit’s deliberations I noted some key points that I wanted to share briefly in my remarks as follows: I noted from Lord Popat’s, (Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda) presentation that UKEF is financing up to £2bn to support projects in Uganda. Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and Uganda was £232 million to the end of Q1 2022 and according to the Office for National Statistics, UK investment in Uganda was valued at £214 million in 2020, an increase of nearly 49 per cent on 2019 levels. The UK recently launched trading framework for Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS), coming into force from 2023. Under the DCTS, over 99% of all goods exported from Uganda will be eligible for duty-free access to the UK, potentially saving over £600,000 of tariffs each year. Hon. Janet K. Museveni, the 1st Lady and Minister of Education & Sports invited investors to invest in various education and sports opportunities including: University education, Physical education and sports, Consultancies and Information and communication technology.
Nexus Green with the support of the UK Government through UK export finance, raised over 100 million Euros to be able to blanket Uganda with the solar irrigation systems to allow farmers to generate sustainable farming, create high value crops to be able to export to countries like the UK. One of the focused sectors was the oil and gas sector in Uganda. Investment in the sector is one of Uganda’s big projects onshore in the world, 6 billion barrels of oil reserves in place, which has been found, of which 1.6 currently could be recovered. There is an opportunity of an investment between $15 to $20 billion, which is going to come through the upstream, that is, getting the oil onto the ground; the midstream, transporting and refining the oil; but also, the downstream and also some of the facilities that we have seen like the Kabaale airport, the roads and several other projects. I was excited about comments by Richard Burge, Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry. He encouraged African governments and businesses to export value-added component within Africa, so that the money stays inside the country, in this case in Uganda, rather than being run by people who do relatively little but take most of the value elsewhere. He stressed the importance of skilling as it is a commodity in itself to sell. He said that Sustainability is part of environmental, social, and corporate governance. “Be careful what you promise, the world of sustainability, as ESG is now coming under a very robust scrutiny. Do not claim things that you are not delivering. And be very careful that when you claim sustainability in one angle, you will not be compromising your sustainability credentials by not being careful in other angles, so be ruthless in interrogating yourself, because somebody’s going to interrogate you for it.”
  • “Look at London as not just a marketplace for the UK, you should look at London as a place with which you can reach the rest of the world.”
  • “The power of the diaspora is not just about inverted commas, “Returning home”; it’s about staying in the wider world, and being both a representative of Uganda and an interpreter of Uganda to the rest of the world. It’s that bridging, because in the end, we’re in the 21st century business, it’s no longer about expanding into a country and taking your workforce into a country. It’s about partnering with that country. And that’s why the soft business skills and the soft education skills of Uganda are going to become more and more important, because that enables Uganda to be a partner in the world, and not a recipient of the world’s benefits.”

One of the speakers, Andrew A Blanch, MD, Alvan Blanch Development said that if we’re going to need to find opportunities for the youth in agriculture beyond cities, we need types of projects that can generate new industries in rural areas. Because the great thing about rural employment and enterprises is that they’re using local materials.

Amin Mawji OBE, Aga Khan Development Network emphasized that Ugandan diaspora real value, is not the financial capital. “The real value is in the knowledge capital. If we can get Ugandans who are outside of Uganda to bring their knowledge and their experience, that’s a huge asset that Uganda could do with. Aga Khan is building hospitals at the moment in Uganda and there is a huge shortage of high-quality medical practitioners. But we also know that some of the best medical practitioners in the world are Ugandans. If we can convince that group of people to come back to their country of birth, and work in Uganda, I tell you, it will be transformational.”

Some of the Convention’s supporters from its inception Perez Ochieng, Director, SACOMA Foods Innovation, reminded delegates that we think our most important asset in Uganda perhaps would be our natural resources, but on the other side of the world, they are growing their cultured coffee in laboratories, perhaps tasting even better than our natural coffee. The reality is, we have to understand where the world is going. What are the realities? Research and innovation and recommending that businesses need to conduct Research and Development (R&D) in collaboration with the academia and research institutions to improve the technologies required and proof the concepts prior to commercialisation and access to new markets. I encourage investors and Ugandans in the Diaspora to look in investing in real estate. Peace Kabuga, Ed Housing Finance Bank disclosed that Uganda has a housing deficit of 2.4 million houses, growing at a rate of 200,000 units a year and it is estimated that by 2030, the country’s housing deficit is expected to reach 3million units (CAHF 2019). This shows the potential in the housing sector. The convention’s advisory committee member Subhash Thakrar, Former Chairman of the London Chamber of Commerce acknowledged the stability and peace and pointed out that, “let us not forget that President Museveni has brought a huge amount of stability in Uganda over the last 25 years. And for investment and business people stability is very, very important. Every businessman here will agree with me that if you have that, it works”. He cited the potential for Uganda in the agriculture sector, logistics and education. Amin Mawji OBE has made a very strong point that you can only change an economy by generation. And today Uganda has got a very young generation. So, if you give it another 20 years, we need to produce the best of entrepreneurs, best business people, investors, professionals in Uganda by changing the education system. And where is the best world education? It is in the UK. So, this is the time for us to collaborate and work towards better education as well.
He asked “Why is it that the West is not yet ready and becoming a market for Uganda’s products? Why is it that we are having to struggle for that? And my solution and suggestion are that this is where Uganda government has to play a role by providing support, not just in the field of having this kind of conventions, but actually investing and helping the business men to promote their products to make sure that the agricultural packaging, processing are done in Uganda, so that the products can be marketed here.” Our sponsor Elizabeth Rossiello, Founder and CEO, AZA Finance disclosed that most people don’t know when they go around the world talking about Africa Tech that the MTN Innovation Centre in Kampala was established even earlier. And some of the best technical innovation in terms of bank integrations, mobile money and digital layers was happening quietly, discreetly in a very Ugandan way, right next to their louder neighbour. “That’s important, because you don’t want an easy regulator, because then you have an easy licence. You want a regulator that’s efficient, that’s communicative, and that’s fair. And we love working with the bank of Uganda. We talk about our secret, this Pearl of Africa, in the digital and financial space, being Uganda, and a lot of people say internationally in the investment community, “well, I thought Nigeria and Kenya were the only two FinTech hubs”. “There’s a huge opportunity in Uganda. Some of you might not know that some of the best software engineers and young digital nomads and digital pioneers are living in Kampala. And I think there’s a lot of them that have now exported themselves to Nairobi or Cape Town or even West Africa, because of that opportunity loss. So, we need to capture that”.
Moses Karl Sabiiti, Vice Chairman, Presidential Advisory committee Exports and industrial Development noted that they we’ve realised over time is that the UK should be our natural market to get into this market but we need to deal with a few challenges including standards and sanitary issues to reach a target to contribute to Uganda’s revenue in the next five years, to increase the revenue from exports by another $6 billion US dollars. Hudda Mahmood one of the Uganda’s top exporters and an exhibitor at the convention said that several areas identified as part of the $6 billion were fish, coffee, horticultural products, grains, cereals and pulses, beef and dairy. There are a few areas in the industrial development side, predominantly in the steel area that would be something for a possible future in terms of exports. Also, I noted from Amin Mawji OBE, Aga Khan Development Network that, there is a perception that a large part of the continent has business practices that are corrupt. Corruption has been a problem in many parts of the world. “Africa is not unique in this. There is corruption here in UK, if we’re honest, and certainly in America, so let’s not focus this as an African problem. My experience now of Africa is that increasingly, I’m finding companies and businesses that are very ethical, that want to implement good ethical standards and behave ethically. And we need to fix this perception that corruption is an issue. It is an issue everywhere. Let’s not hide from that. But to think that it’s the thing that should stop us investing would be a mistake. Uganda has a bright, young, growing population. The median age of Uganda is 16 years of age. Are we giving them the right education? My experience is that they’re not necessarily coming out with entrepreneurial skills, with managerial skills, or with skills that teach them how to be creative.
And that’s where the value added is. So, let’s try and refocus our education system to teach what we know is a very bright resource to become more entrepreneurial, and become more creative, because that’s where the value added is. So, I would focus on those two things, education, and perception.” In his presentation, Engineer Kibuuka stressed that General Salim Saleh, the chairman of Namunkekera Rural Industries Centre, said that “we cannot discuss exports that are at 80% to the UK, unless we focus on the farmer. Namunkekera Rural Industries Centre has exhibited a solution that gives the farmer sustainability, and investors in the United Kingdom are encouraged to come and duplicate what normal Namunkekera Rural Industries Centre has done.” We are happy that the Ugandan government has been totally committed and supporting the convention and thanked His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and 1st Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni for the moral support since the inception of the event in 2005 in London. I acknowledge Mr. Apollo Kasiita-Gowa and Mr. Amama Mbabazi who were the initial people who encouraged me to start the events and later His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who since then had been encouraging and supportive of the event.
Finally, this event could not be what it is without our partners, exhibitors and sponsors, such as; London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Aga Khan Development Network, Department for International Trade, Uganda Development Forum, PACEID, Uganda Investment Authority, Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Directorate of Citizenship & Immigration Control, Operation Wealth Creation, Uganda Tourism Board, Economic Policy Group (EPG), Uganda Development Bank, Private Sector Foundation Uganda, Uganda Export Promotion Board, MTN Homeland, Gridworks, AZA Finance, Lagan Dott Namanve Ltd, National Housing and Construction Company Limited (NHCC), Housing Finance Bank, SACOMA Foods and Global Innovation, Jakana Heights, Universal M Enterprises, Buildnet, Alvan Blanch Company Limited and many others. It is all about you, for you and by you, and it would not be what it is without you. I hope you enjoyed the day and had a productive experience. Once again, I thank everyone for their continued support for the UK-UG Convention and looking forward to being with you in the coming Conventions.

Thank you so much.


Willy Mutenza
Chairman – Founder, Uganda Convention-UK

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