How impactful have business forums been to Uganda’s economy

by Nakalembe Hannah
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Business forums are platforms that bring together entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and industry experts to discuss trade and investment opportunities, share knowledge and build relationships. These forums provide a conducive environment for businesses to network, collaborate and explore new markets, ultimately driving economic growth and development.

Business forums attract foreign investors, leading to increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which can stimulate economic growth and create jobs, facilitate trade by connecting buyers and sellers, promoting exports, and enhancing economic cooperation between nations.

Business Forums also provide a platform for policymakers to engage with the private sector, ensuring policies support business growth and economic development, offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to build relationships, find partners, and explore new markets, and help countries diversify their economies by promoting new industries and sectors.

Since 2020, Uganda has hosted and attended various business and investment forums such as the first, second and third Uganda – EU business forum, Uganda-UAE Business Forum, South Sudan – Uganda Business Forum, Uganda – Somalia Investment and Business Summit, Uganda – South Africa Business Summit, and the most recent Uganda – Tanzania Business Forum which took place on the 23rd and 24th May 2024 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Notable among these forums is the Uganda – EU Business Forum since the European Union is the largest economy and single market, and one of the largest trading blocs in the world.

Held in Kampala in March 2024, the third Uganda – EU Business Forum focused on boosting trade and investment with the aim to attract European investment in Uganda and to increase trade, and notably, Ugandan exports to the EU.

The Forum focused on business opportunities in key sectors such as agribusiness, sustainable mining, enabling infrastructure and sustainable tourism, but also the key bottlenecks to trade and investment such as finance and business environment.

According to Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) Chairman, Humphery Nzeyi, since the first Uganda – EU Business Summit in 2020, there has been a market increase in trade between Uganda and the EU.

“When we began this summit, trade that Uganda was exporting to the EU was about 442 million euros. We are glad to report that by the end of 2022, that figure had grown 800 million euros,” said Nzeyi.

The 3rd Uganda-European Union Business Forum, which took place from March 5 to 7, 2024, culminated in the launch of eight projects worth over €200 million aimed at supporting small business owners, young female entrepreneurs, agribusinesses, and vital digital infrastructure projects in Uganda.

The “Investing in Young Women-Led Entrepreneurs Business in Africa” initiative launched on March 6 secured €40 million from 11 EU Member States, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and AEDFI, supporting young entrepreneurs, fostering job creation, and promoting business growth in 8 Sub-Saharan countries. Additionally, a €50 million investment from the EU and Belgium targets enhancing employability, particularly for vulnerable youth and women in Uganda. It aims to improve access to green and decent employment opportunities.

Additionally, in October 2023, Uganda hosted the annual four-day Business Forum with UAE aimed at attracting Foreign Direct Investment, promoting Uganda’s exports in UAE, promotion of tourism, attraction of technology transfers, projecting a positive image of Uganda, and mobilising the Ugandan Diaspora in the UAE for development.

The Business Forum signified Uganda’s excellent trade relations with the UAE which has led to rapid increase of UAE’s Foreign Direct Investment in Uganda.

The Foreign Direct Investment from UAE to Uganda increased from $300 Million in 2018 to approximately $3 Billion in 2023.

Uganda exported goods and services to the UAE worth US$ 562 Million in 2020, which increased to US$ 1 Billion in 2021.

Uganda imported goods and services from UAE worth US$ 495 Million in 2020, which increased to US$ 810 Million in 2021.

In January 2024, the Ugandan government announced that it had picked Alpha MBM Investments Llc from the UAE to be the lead developer and investor for the country’s 60,000-barrels-per-day oil refinery.

The substantial increase in Foreign Direct Investment signifies warm economic ties, fostering diplomatic and trade relations between Uganda and UAE.

The most recent Forum is the Uganda – Tanzania Business Forum which was launched by Uganda’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in charge of regional affairs in Kampala at the beginning of May. The Forum took place on the 23rd and 24th May 2024 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

During the Forum, Uganda and Tanzania reached a common ground to remove all Non-Trade Barriers (NTBs) that affect movement of goods and services across the East African Community (EAC).

“As Government, we pledge to continue working with the respective institutions and bilateral frameworks to remove barriers to trade, and fast track operationalization of the EAC Common Market and Customs Union Protocols on free movement of goods and services, and minimize restrictions to trade,” Mulimba said.

He added: “We pledge to implement the recommendations of the Dar es Salaam Declaration.”

According to the EAC Regional Meeting Committee report of 2023, the direct costs of NTBs in the EAC are estimated at $16.7 million, with the total trade impact being $94.9 million, resulting in a 58 percent reduction in trade.

The Ministers of two East African Community countries instructed government officials to take concrete and practical steps to promote trade and investment between the two nations, fostering sustained economic growth and development.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to addressing all obstacles hindering the ease of doing business in both countries and pledged to work together within their respective institutions and bilateral frameworks to remove trade barriers, expedite the implementation of the EAC Common Market and Customs Union Protocols, and achieve quota-free trade

In the same vein, during the business forum, Tanzania expressed interest to procure “Kayoola” electric vehicles manufactured from Uganda for the Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit (DART) project.

Uganda’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Monica Musenero said, “it is an honour for Uganda to introduce to Tanzania the Kayoola EVS – a manifestation of Uganda’s technological advancement to serve the African market with sustainable mobility solutions. We look forward to fostering synergies between our nations, the East African Community, and Africa as a whole.”

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