The South Sudan Uganda Business Forum was launched on 29th June in Kampala by the Foreign Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary, Mr Vincent Bagiire Waiswa.
The Business Times Uganda learnt that this launch happened on 19th and 20th July, hosted in Juba with both countries looking forward to exploiting opportunities presented by both.
In his remarks during the launch, Bagiire said Uganda plans to increase her trade volume with South Sudan from $400m to $1bn.
The launch was attended by Uganda’s Ambassador to South Sudan, Brig Gen Ronnie Balya and South Sudan’s envoy to Kampala, Simon Duku.
The main objective of this Joint Business Forum was to enhance bilateral trade between the two countries and share experiences; identify opportunities; create business networks; identify challenges and find appropriate ways of addressing these challenges.
Its focus was on solutions to business challenges and opportunities to boost trade and investment relations between private and public sector stakeholders.
The Forum took place under the theme: “Enhancing Bilateral Trade and Investment through Industrialization and Infrastructure Development.”
A cross-section of speakers from the private sector and Government made detailed presentations on contemporary topics that focused on how best to exploit investment opportunities and overcome bottlenecks to bilateral trade between Uganda and South Sudan.
Both Uganda and South Sudan belong to major Regional Organisations. South Sudan is also one of Uganda’s biggest trading partners with trade volumes amounting to over $400 million dollars and this Business Forum aimed at increasing trade volumes to one billion dollars annually.
Uganda’s leading exports to South Sudan include cereals, maize and wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oils, beer, soft drinks, iron, steel, cement and motor vehicle re-exports.
Analysts hope that the forum will go a long way in easing trade tensions and creating a new hope for business in South Sudan following restoration of peace in the country, whose absence once caused Ugandan businesses losses.
The Forum comes on the heels of compensation of business owners who suffered losses as a result of the conflict.
Many Ugandan traders lost property worth billions of shillings after South Sudan got marred in a deadly civil war in 2013.
Recently, the State Minister for Finance, Hon Henry Musasizi explained that out of the total claim for 33 companies (US$56 million), only US$29 million has been paid out to 10 companies.
According to the agenda of the forum, security discussions took centre stage as officials from both countries sought to allay any fears of members of the business community willing to plunge themselves into the trade.
It is something Gen Balya emphasised during the launch saying traders’ safety is guaranteed.
At least 1,500 Ugandans work in South Sudan in the construction industry and 1,200 Ugandan professionals work in the service industry in non-governmental organizations, ministries and industries. Uganda and South Sudan have a robust educational exchange, with over 100,000 students from South Sudan enrolled in Ugandan schools and universities, and numerous professionally trained educators from Uganda practising in schools in South Sudan.