Post: Outlining the UK’s export growth strategy – Lord Dolar Popat

Outlining the UK’s export growth strategy – Lord Dolar Popat

PRESENTATION: UK TRADE AND FDI – Outlining the UK’s export growth strategy

By Lord Dolar Popat, UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda and Rwanda


  • How can investment by the United Kingdom help improve skills in Uganda and what are the long term benefits?  What are the major constraints in terms of local skills UK companies have faced, and how have they overcome them?
  • What would UK companies like to see from both Uganda Government and the UK investors to improve local skills? Are there examples of successful government & private sector partnerships in terms of developing skills?
  • How can Diaspora SME’s tap into Trade and export financial products?
  • How has UK government helped to fight endemic corruption in Uganda?


Lord Dolar Popat started by acknowledging the presence of Hon. Amongi Betty Ongom (MP) Minister of Lands, Housing & Urban Development, H.E Amb. Julius Peter Moto , Uganda’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland; the     Members of Parliament and distinguished guests.

As a regular speaker, he expressed gratitude to be invited again to address the convention and noted that the Convention was growing from strength to strength year after and thanked specially the founder Willy Mutenza and his team for putting up such a successful event.

He has been a trade envoy since 2015, a job he is privileged to serve for three main reasons;

Love for east Africa, particularly Uganda the country he was born in;

  • The scale of economic potential for that is now Uganda and in the future, citing the presentation of the High Commission on the transformation taking place in Uganda and the economic growth it continues to achieve in recent years
  • He noted that it is in Uganda’s interest to work with the British parliament with its high standard and integrity to help Uganda build a better future.
  • He noted he is frequenting to Uganda taking trade missions and that he gave up a ministerial job to do this job as a trade envoy and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

Britain is taking a significant challenge of the 21st century leaving the European Union because as a country it needs to be more out looking for opportunities rather than being in a union of twenty-seven nations which made Britain more Insular in the last forty years. Britain needs to look out at its commonwealth connections and also becoming more global; hence, this is why trade envoys positions were created.

Britain is now facing a lot of challenges where it doesn’t have enough exports to pay for its imports and now, looking for more exports oriented countries and more global and also looking for more investments in Africa, Britain’s trade to Africa not long ago was about 30% and now it is less than 4% and this is one of the reasons Britain is leaving EU to become more global. Britain wishes also to see more SMEs which are the engine of Britain’s economy do more export, now only 10% of SMEs export compared to 30% in Germany.


Britain’s Prime Minister’s recent visit to Africa called for stronger partnership between UK and African and pledged over £billion investments to Africa of which Uganda is one of the fastest growing.


Further, he said that Britain needs to see Africa for what it is not for what Britain feels it is. Africa is a continent that has undergone incredible transformation with some of the fast growing economies in the world, a young urbanised population, greatest stability, growing democracy, less corruption and it is a home of the World’s natural resources and it is a new Africa, the next frontier when it comes to trade and investment, he said. Britain and European has been seeing Africa with a bended lens and now it needs to pay more attention, a continent that needs help, poor, with dictators, corrupt, that needs help from Britain to survive. It is no longer the case, Africa does not have a single dictator now, yes, Africa has challenges but it is still a young democracy, 60 years younger compared to Britain with over 800 years of democracy and is going through major constitution challenges itself.  Democracy needs to be given a chance to mature and with time things will get better and better for Africa.

Major UK PLC needs to be sold the idea to go to Africa and invest money to get good returns also encourage British exporters to export more on behalf of UK companies and it is the role of the trade envoys to persuade these British Companies to go to Uganda, a country with huge potential.

In November 2017, Lord Popat led a trade mission to Uganda with a trade delegation representing oil and gas sector, two of the companies represented are now waiting for a decision of which one of them will build part of the oil infrastructure with a contract worth over $2 billion, another company has been awarded the engineering of the longest heated pipeline in the whole world.


Also Colas Ltd is building the Kabaale, Hoima international airport with a $270 worth of a contract, the largest single loan to an African government loaned by export finance and this is to show the confidence which Britain has for Uganda. One of the greatest advantage for trading with Britain is the growing of the local content, not only growing the economy but also to up skilling the work force with a win-win approach is unique and it sets the UK apart from the competitor, UK wants to see more 80% of Uganda local content, building capacity and create jobs for the local companies.

There is a need for equally political will from both Uganda and United Kingdom and commended the new Uganda High commissioner Julius Motto as a commercial minded and working with the UK government making it happens.


Uganda still is hampered by challenges and is ranking poorly at under 130 in the ease of doing business index out of 180 countries. Uganda has improved over the recent years but it still needs to carry out a major reform for Uganda to get even get better.

He appreciated the presence of the Minister of Lands Hon Amongin as land is an important issue for people to build factories and business premises.


With regards to support that can be given to Uganda, Lord Popat, said that the UK High Commissioner in Uganda led by Peter West is one of the most commercially minded diplomats post and now work in Uganda, the new created department of international trade is dedicated to increasing trade presence around the world. The rule is to drive the UK government desire to increasing trade and exporting globally.


He introduced the Head of Department for International Trade at the  British High in Kampala  Eric Olanya (E-mail: That department for international trade help UK companies:

  • Conduct market research, programme arrangements contacts for companies Etc., this is chargeable service which requires commitment at a subscribed government rate.
  • Lobbying and support with the trade envoy by Lord Popat engaging the business fraternity in Uganda, meeting senior government officials including the president.
  • Help to navigate through UK export finance which is under the department for international trade and identify areas that needs direct lending opportunities, insurance guarantees or any other support. The moto for the department “no deal should fail for lack of finance”.
  • Arrange events for companies’ trade mission in October and November focused on oil and gas.


In the past Britain gave aid to Uganda and now the UK government is saying, Uganda does not need aid, Uganda needs trade to create jobs, raising the living standards of Ugandans. He cited the East Africa trade market which has built a £800m Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway which has reduced the freight of goods from Mombasa to various East African destinations and that was aid money but it was UK aid finance, it was built by a Germany company but UK had to comply to EU regulations which will be a different thing after BREXIT.


Finally, he is happy that the UK export finance to Uganda has now been increased from £50 to £600 million and now working with the Uganda High Commissioner in the UK and Eric Olanya Head of Department for International Trade at the British High in Kampala are working to increase it to £1 billion.


Finally, Lord Popat ended by saying that, for both countries, had reached an important crossroads. Choices – and improvements – had to be made on both sides. But he hoped everyone in the room could agree on, that both countries should be partners on the road ahead as they shared a tremendous history, and a lot of affection for each other’s countries; there both good for one another. But both countries should not simply rely on good will; but had to also take the necessary steps to help each other in the months and years ahead. He hoped that his speech had helped to outline what he thought was needed to make that a reality.

He thanked the people for listening, and hoped that they would have a fantastic and profitable day.

Lord Dolar Popat is British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda and Rwanda


John Doe
John Doe

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