By Anne Mugisa
The Chinese Government has given Uganda a US$8.2m (sh21.1bn) grant for infrastructure development.
The Uganda Government will decide its priorities for the funds, which Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka indicated will be in energy, roads, railways and “other critical areas.”
The grant, according to Kiwanuka, had been promised to President Yoweri Museveni by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa. BRICS is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Though Uganda is not a member of BRICS, President Yoweri Museveni had chance to address the summit in March and invited BRICS states to invest in the countries of the East Africa Community(EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) an the International Conference on the Great Lakes Organisation (ICGLR).
Museveni said that business with these African regional bodies would be good for them as well as BRICS states.
The grant agreements were signed at the Ministry of Finance in Kampala on Friday by Kiwanuka for the Uganda and the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, Zhao Yali.
According to Kiwanuka, China had made a number of promises to accelerate growth of the African continent including Uganda.
“I am glad today we are witnessing the fulfillment of one of those promises made at the forum of increasing aid to African countries.
“During the same meeting, the Chinese Government promised a further sh20bn also for development of African countries….,”
She said that China also said that it will increase assistance for promotion of food production, processing, storage and distribution.
“Uganda’s economy is largely agricultural based and therefore such efforts would increase our productivity and GDP. I would like to lobby the Chinese government to consider Uganda among the direct beneficiaries of this support.”
Kiwanuka also requested the Chinese government to consider it as beneficiaries for vocational and technical training facilities “that are to be constructed in Africa in fulfillment of the FOCAC promises”.
FOCAC is the Forum for China Africa Cooperation. She said that this will improve the quality of skills in Uganda’s labour force and the country’s competiveness in the region and globally.
Ambassador Zhao said that Uganda is a gifted country whose people have not utilised its potential. “We hope that with our cooperation we will have a more tenable result from it,” Zhao said.
He said that his country is willing to help Uganda develop its agricultural potential and its skilled labour force. “The grant is there. There money is there, but we have to find good projects to which to put it.”
According to him new technologies as well faster and better yielding crops will help Uganda’s agriculture. He said that Uganda has the conditions and is positioned to maintain itself as the regional food basket.
He is due to meet with the Minister of Agriculture over assistance to the sector and possible introduction of faster yielding crops like the Chinese millet whose yields are three times more than those of the local millet.
The envoy named other areas like fish farming, maize growing and value addition. “These days food security is a very important,” he said.
He also said that his government is also looking at proposals sent to it for establishment of vocational education institutions.
“The truth is you need more skilled people to grow your economy. There is the oil industry and others. It is good to give one fish but it better to teach them how to fish for themselves,”
Zhao pointed out that there are many Chinese companies in Uganda and at least 25 agriculture experts working in the country now who could help Uganda’s agricultural potential.
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Uganda gets $8.2m grant from China