5th Uganda Convention-UK closing remarks by Amb.Mirjam Blaak Sow

Her ROYAL HIGHNESS the Queen of Buganda, the Nnabagereka, our Host H.E. the High Commissioner Joyce Kikafunda, Lord Sheikh, The Deputy SG of the Commonwealth Dr. Odhiambo, Honourable Members of Parliament, Dr. Kasekende the Deputy Governor Distinguished Guests, Fellow High Commissioner and Ambassadors, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, especially, all fellow Ugandans present here today and all friends of Uganda, who have Uganda’s interests at heart,

It is a great honour and privilege for me to be given this opportunity to have the “last” word by way of closing remarks at the end of what I hope you will all agree with me has been a truly remarkable day and Convention. I am, more than anyone of you much aware of the more exciting item on the agenda, namely, the welcome reception and After Party, so I will endeavour to highlight the salient points and wise counsel that has been shared by an array of distinguished experts and presenters in the field of trade and business and I will also attempt to summarise the knowledge bestowed upon those of us who are still learning how to pull the ropes to the top of business success very briefly. Moreover, before we put on our dancing shoes and get going, it is also crucial that we spell out a clear way forward following this successful Convention. Thank you to all our able presenters and moderators thank you all for your active participation without which we would not have had the auspicious day it has been.

The quality of presentations was outstanding so much that trying to make a resume of each paper will not do justice to them. I had the intention of refraining from naming individual presenters and simply extol the knowledge they have imparted. But I make a few exceptions:

Both The Lord Sheikh and Dr. Kasekende provided us with some important views and figures in the financing and trade sectors as well as the potential that Uganda offers in these areas which are still to be embarked on for investment. As you know “Trade instead of Aid” is something that we have long aspired to as Uganda and it is clear that the two are closely connected and ought to go hand­in-hand.

I would like to thank Dr. Odhiambo for briefing us on the activities by the Commonwealth Secretariat in Uganda and explaining the intended programme for CHOGM.

Of course I would like to thank the Nnabagereka, Her Royal Highness for her powerful keynote address stating: “If growth is to be meaningful and sustainable all the people should buy into it.”

 

Without providing specifically a role for women in this important process it will not be successful. I am proud that the Nnabagereka has recognised the powerful role of women who are to use the words of H.E. the President are the engines of our society.

The warm enthusiastic welcome we received put in perspective, some of the unrivalled attributes of warmth, openness and all embracing culture that make Uganda a favourite destination for doing business, investment and tourism.. The Government of Uganda celebrates occasions such as this when we can all come together to work for the good of our country, solely on the basis of our being Ugandan, irrespective of our religious convictions, our tribal origins, our political affiliations, and anything else that superficially unduly sometimes divides us, thank you for putting Uganda before anything else. This is the formula for success.

Business and development do not happen in a vacuum or where conflict and instability are prevalent. It would appear that we could coin a catch phrase; “No Development and Business without Peace”. For the last 30 years, the NRM Government has worked hard to create a peaceful environment with functional structures, rule of law and stability. We should use the peace and stability we enjoy now to develop new ideas and foster development.

Furthermore Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have been enlightened on how we ought to gain greater access to the UK and the EU markets for Uganda exports. It is my hope that we all leave here today convinced that we can do more than our lovely “Owino market” in Mitcham. In case you did not know, Uganda happens to be the largest exporter of Organic produce from the African continent.

If we can partner with others and get them to invest in Uganda, not only will this lead to improvement in quality of our Ugandan products, a fact which has in the past hampered trade but our incomes will tremendously change. This is especially true for the EU market where we are facing a threat of an embargo for our horti-­‐ and floricultural produce citing phytosanitary conditions.

The global village the world has become means that we cannot shy away from engaging with financial markets. I am optimistic that several participants today are already considering venturing in this growing rainmaker.

Statistically, we have more youths than any other age group. They have a lot to offer as they are energetic, ambitious, full of dreams and if these qualities can be harnessed and directed in the right direction, a new Uganda will be reborn!.

For many of us, Taxes constitute a swear word but it has been edifying to learn today hear that we only need to embrace the system, understand it and explore the opportunities it offers. The richest people in the world are those who work with the system in paying their taxes. Therefore I advise to take advantage of the exemptions offered. Please be reminded of what the Commissioner General stated: “Taxes as an abler for Business”.

 

An insider’s views on how the UK views international development were a rare treat. This knowledge should be used to draw up strategies which, will succeed.

If we had some doubts, it is now clear that trade and investment in Uganda is favourably considered. Exploring the current timing should not be left to chance and I hope that some of the participants are already dreaming about their next move. Such as indicated by Emperor Chris Baywood Ibe who will soon be visiting Uganda and hopefully expand his business empire.

It has always been said that we are where we are because we are unaware of our potentials. I hope each one of us goes away from here feeling like we have finally received the key for unlocking that potential. We do not have to continue looking far, to the far East or the West as we had been conditioned to think. Solutions are closer to us, on our continent, in our East African region than it has never been before.

Success stories are inspiring and I hope that each one of us can identify an idea that will flourish and give us wings to fly. We all have the potential and should not despise who we are and what talents we have. The High Commissioner already stated it in her opening address that’s I is our wish that next year we need to include a session on the success stories from companies who ventured into Uganda.

The panel discussions brought out the best in us. It was heart warming to see that we all agree that putting Uganda before anything else is the way forward.

The discovery of Oil in our country does not have to be a curse like it has customary been said. There is more to the power sector than meets the eye so the opportunities shared should be a driving force for business minds to transform into success stories.

Challenges in business are meant to be over-come. One person can change a family’s destiny, and can carry the family torch on to spearhead success for future generations. This is the story of our resilient Ugandans who in the face of despair and death when they had to leave Uganda in the early 1970s. They never allowed the business and enterprising spirit in them to be extinguished. We have a lot to learn from them.

So where do we go from here?

Agri-business, Food security, Value addition The sky is the limit in Uganda. Uganda is blessed with such abundance of fertile soil and rich nature which is unrivalled in the rest of Africa. The climate and fertility of this beautiful land given by God, needs to be used for the benefit of all Ugandans. We have until now not maximized this potential. Prosperity is what we strive for and we cannot achieve a better life for all Ugandans unless we join hands. Indeed as was stated by Hon. Wafula Oguttu, the re-emergence of the cooperative movement is vital to maximise our potential in agriculture.

Ugandans in the Diaspora have been formally recognised by the Government as a formidable force in the country’s development and we thank you for the role you play. What we need to do is to ensure that the remittances and transfers that you all regularly make to your families and loved ones are to be transformed into small investments, which will make your families to be independent.

This will transform their lives so that they will not permanently have to rely on the handouts from you for life but will have their small cottage industry ongoing which should become feasible business enterprises. These types of small cottage industries have eventually brought the Asian tiger into a reality. Start small and grow bigger. As Dennis Aguma stated Uganda is the “most entrepreneurial country in the world!”.

Regional integration is the other matter to which Uganda is seriously committed. Let us focus on distribution and sale of our products in the neighbouring countries as we now have the EAC and the Customs Union and also in the wider region COMESA where our products are very much needed and can be sold. Think African then make it happen. In the end the UK, the EU and other blocks in developed countries are making it more and more difficult for us Africans to export out our goods due to non-tariff barriers as well as taxes. Let us therefore focus on ourselves, our Uganda, then the EAC, the wider region as there is so much that can be done.

Thank you, the Chair of this Uganda Convention, Mr. Willy Mutenza. You are a remarkable person who has a vision which works and is an example to us all as you are the brain behind gathering the forces and getting us to unite here today from different backgrounds. I would like to thank the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this Convention for the 5th time a great success. All this would not be possible if it wasn’t for all the generous sponsors. Thank you very much!

No it is time to put on your dancing shoes ! ….I wish you a wonderful evening full of music and enjoyment and lastly I ask you to clap for yourselves for your great participation today!

I declare this Convention closed. For God and my country.

 

Ambassador Mirjam Blaak Sow
Head of Mission
Uganda Embassy Brussels
317 Avenue Tervuren
1150-Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32-2-762 5825
Fax:+32-2-763 0438

 

 

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