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BIG STORY: Trade Ministry PS Ssali Leverages NAM Moment To Tell Why Investors Have To Prioritize Uganda

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The Trade Ministry Permanent Secretary Geraldine Ssali Busulwa was among those who delivered key note addresses at the Monday opening of the NAM Business Forum and Trade Exhibition in Kampala.

And the highly-travelled technocrat used the platform (that brought together potential investors from more than 100 countries) to highlight areas of potential effective investment in Uganda. She effectively used the opportunity to publicize areas into which investors can put money inside Uganda and instantly profit.

Ssali highlighted the different things that make Uganda tick as a lucrative investment destination. These include being home to a highly educated, energetic and employable youth population which accounts for 77% of Uganda’s 46m people.

She asserted that since other NAM countries must be having almost similar youth dividend, the NAM Youth Organisation should be leveraged upon to (through networking opportunities presented by technology advancements) deepen cooperation of the young people among the South-South countries and thereby harnessing employment creation.

That strategies like import substitution by way of accelerated industrialisation should be able to benefit from this abundant availability of these energetic and well schooled youths not just in Uganda but elsewhere under the NAM framework to which all African countries subscribe except one.

The Permanent Secretary also spoke about agriculture and the potential it has for those with big money seeking for where to profitably invest it. That, because it directly and indirectly employs 72% of Uganda’s 46m people and accounts for 24% of the country’s GDP, agriculture is one area with many effective investment opportunities.

Ssali explained that anyone can leverage the essentiality of this agricultural sector and successfully invest in the manufacturing of inputs (like improved seeds, fertilisers and pesticides) and predictably make good money within a very short time.

The other agriculture-related investment areas include logistics & cold storage facilities, farm machinery manufacturing & assembly, packaging and agro-processing equipment manufacturing. Gratefully, the availability of all these opportunities can easily be verified by anyone before making the decision to invest in what Ssali repeatedly and purposefully referred to as the Pearl of Africa.

The Permanent Secretary, whose Ministry is the GoU MDA with the last word on matters to do with trade and industry, also reflected on Uganda’s industrial potential and areas that can be capitalised upon for those seeking to invest. T

hat industry is one of the key high-impact sectors in the Ugandan economic intercourse: the other two being agriculture and services. The three’s respective contribution to Uganda’s GDP, as articulated to delegates by Ssali, is as follows: industry 27.4%, serviced 42% and agriculture 24.6%.

Because not less than 90% of the work under the three referenced sectors is currently being done by capital-constrained SMEs, Ssali told the audience at the NAM Business Forum and Trade Exhibition that there still remains a lot of potential for those with big money to come and roll off bankable projects whose possibilities are abundantly still very much available.

“This [SMEs dominating] provides low-hanging fruits for investment and the returns on investment in Uganda [in these three areas] are massive,” the PS elaborated.

Besides imploring loaded investors from Turkiye to consider investing in water transport on Lake Victoria as a matter of priority, Geraldine Ssali also made reference to the huge market for Ugandan coffee exports (among other products) that has lately become available in Morocco. This simply means that any investor coming to Uganda will invest in coffee production, processing and exportation and make quick and big money.

She also made reference to the opportunities that come from the effective and stable leadership Gen YK Museveni has offered for the last 38 years and continues to. She made reference to the deliberate effort towards regional integration as one of the things the Ugandan veteran leader has been very consistent about.

This consistency by President Museveni, Ssali explained, has ensured access to a huge market for Ugandan products and exports that has been made available under the EAC, COMESA and the African Continent Free Trade Area among others. The Ugandan government has equally been very deliberate when it comes to meeting its obligations imposed under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) arrangement and framework.

Still regionally, Ssali also spoke about the industry-related opportunities available at the regional level under the EAC framework. That the EAC regional GDP today stands at USD110bn of which only 9.7% is currently being contributed by industry-related activities.

This clearly means there is still huge potential to grow the contribution of the industry sector which is one of the many lucrative areas into which foreign investors coming to Uganda can safety and profitably put their money. She also revealed that industry-based employment in the region currently stands at mere 456,000 depicting great potential to do more.

All in all, EAC remains one part of the world with a lot of yet to be utilised potential provided that alternative and innovative investment financing options become well explored as opposed to continuing to rely on the international monetary and financial system that comes with unfavorable terms and conditions most of the time.

Geraldine Ssali also pointed out and illustrated how investors can make money by leveraging on the import substitution or replacement strategy which the GoU, under the able leadership of President Museveni, is continuing to undertake and be very deliberate about as part of the broader industrial development programme.

That as of 2022, Uganda lost lots of money through the following importation categories: pearls, precious stones and metals USD1.8m, petroleum & petroleum products USD977m, machinery & mechanical appliances USD596m, vehicles USD554m, electrical machinery & equipment USD405m, plastics USD385m, iron & steel USD360m, pharmaceutical products USD352m, cotton/textiles/apparels USD327m, animal/vegetable fats & oils USD289.8m and cereals USD264.5m.

All this hemorrhaging of the scarce foreign exchange (illustrated above) can be mitigated once loaded foreign investors come and invest here with the overall objective of making all these currently imported things locally available, Ssali elaborated.

The PS also made it clear that, just like China and India have done, there is a lot of trading-related progress that can be registered and accomplished once South-South countries do more while working towards diminishing tarrif-related barriers impeding trade among themselves. She also underscored the need to diversify agricultural production among South-South countries which also happen to be NAM members at the same time.

To drive the point home, Ssali made reference to the United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) findings to the effect that even the full realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals among developing countries can be accelerated once South-South countries engage in effective trade among themselves.

The PS emphasized that this is indeed achievable because there is simply so much potential among these South-South countries whose combined trade volume stood at USD600m as of 1995 before spectacularly growing to USD5.3trn as of 2022.

She also explained how there is a lot more that can be derived from effective cooperation among these countries which currently (combined) receive only 1% of the global foreign direct investments.

Ssali explained that it’s through coming together and being very deliberate about the same that the rest of the world will come to accept these South-South countries’ economies as stable, credible and serious when it comes to growing their respective growth in the investment and industrialisation spheres.

She demanded that the two NAM and G77+China Summits should be used as an opportunity to deepen common understanding and strengthening of synergies to enable South-South countries to effectively confront challenges currently constraining effective trade and deployment of investment resources.

In the same address, Ssali also celebrated the fact that NAM had managed to exist for 63 years, a period during which it has been used as an effective platform to collectively strengthen and accelerate decolonisation, formation of new independent states and democratisation of diplomacy and foreing relations.

She also appreciated the fact that the narrative within the NAM framework has over the years evolved to concentrate on how to improve welfare of those countries’ citizens through investments and trade relations.

The Kampala (2024) NAM Business Forum & Trade Exhibition, at whose opening session PS Ssali spoke, is running under the theme: “Deeper Cooperation in Trade, Tourism & Investment for Shared Global Affluence.” This theming was aimed at depicting the fact that trade has always been a strong driving force for economic development and shared global affluence.

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