H.E. President of Uganda called for the immediate banning of export hides and skins from Uganda in order to boost the local tannery industry. Speaking at the third meeting of the third phase of the Presidential Investors’ Roundtable Meeting, the President rapped the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for rampant corruption within the Ministry. He said that he is committed to rid of corruption and ensures that his new government tackles this issue in all sectors of business. In addition, he directed the new Prime Minister to ensure that a new Seed Board which would manage the collection and storage of seed and grain during seasons of bumper harvests, in order to safeguard against food price fluctuations during periods of drought, be established within the next two months in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The PIRT is an advisory body of 24 national and international corporate leaders, which was launched in 2004 identifying four priority areas for continued reforms; Agribusiness, Information Communication Technology (ICT), Infrastructure and improvements in the Regulatory Environment. The second phase dealt with Tourism, Mining/Petroleum, Agribusiness, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Business Climate as the priority sectors, while the strategic sectors for intervention in this third phase are Agricultural Production and Value Addition, Competitiveness in Doing Business, Transport & Logistics, E-Government & the Creative Industry as well as Petroleum.
The global and local investors have a mandate to advise government on how to make Uganda a competitive investment destination and increase its market share in international, regional, and local markets. In response to this advice, the Ugandan government has been steadfastly implementing reforms in various sectors and the PIRT meeting is testimony of how far the country has come in its efforts to make the private sector the engine of the country’s economic growth. Investors present requested the government to look into the high level of taxation that is causing banks and telecom companies to impute higher charges on their consumers.
Investors requested that the Ministry of ICT extends the backbone infrastructure to improve internet connectivity, enact a policy that will enhance the sharing of infrastructure (masts, ducts, etc) to enhance rural communication and institute stringent government measures to curb smuggling of counterfeit mobile phone handsets, in order to minimise loss of tax revenue.
Investors advised the Government to encourage private investment in universities that impart skills, and ensure that graduates of those universities are provided with some finance to enable them start their own enterprises. In addition to this, Government to set up an incentive regime to attract Ugandan professionals abroad, especially the qualified doctors, to return and operate the sophisticated equipment in the local hospitals and provide health services at affordable rates.
A Health fund for the health sector to be set up in order to provide credit at low interest rates for investors setting up hospitals, as well as a Zero-rate category of taxation instead of an Exempt category for the sector. With regards to the Tourism sector, it was stated that the ministry receives very little funding for the tourism industry compared to that of our neighbouring countries. Creative Industry Sector was one of the key sectors that could contribute to the nation’s economy and create jobs if well supported.
Some examples of progress made since the 2nd PIRT meeting held May 27, 2010:
Since the last PIRT meeting, Technical Working Group meetings have continued to meet and Government has undertaken deliberate efforts to implement recommendations made by the PIRT members in May 2010.
The following are some of the achievements
i. The composition of the NITA – Uganda Board was reviewed to avoid any conflict of interest between members and the private sector. It includes membership from the Ministry of ICT, Ministry of Finance, Kyambogo University and one member from the Private sector as stipulated in the NITA – U Act 2009.
ii. 3 Cyber Laws – Computer Misuse Act, Electronic Transactions Act and Electronic Signatures Act were passed by Parliament;
iii. Operationalising of NITA-Uganda beyond just the board has commenced – The Executive Director and 4 Heads of Department have been recruited;
iv. The Uganda Broadcasting Council and Uganda Communications Commission were successfully merged to enhance one stop licensing;
v. Enacted Commercial Laws;
a. Contracts Act;
b. Trademarks Act;
c. Capital Markets Authority Act;
vi. Public Private Partnership Policy was enacted;
vii. Uganda Registration Services Bureau was granted autonomy from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in July 2010. The Bureau has launched a website and automation of the register of companies and business names is ongoing;
viii. National Investment Policy for Aquaculture Parks in Uganda is being undertaken under the support of the International Development Research centre/Trust Africa;
ix. Bankable study for projects similar to the Saw Log Production Grant Scheme is being funded by the European Union for Commercial Aquaculture.