By Louis Jadwong in London
Uganda must speed up decision making in the economic sector and make manpower development a priority if it is to take advantage of the many opportunities available in the country today.
These were some of the remarks by participants at the 2nd Ugandan UK Convention at the Proxy Arena in London over the weekend.
The Ugandan delegation to the convention was led by First Lady and Minister in charge of Karamoja affairs Janet Museveni, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka, agriculture minister Tress Bucyanayandi and Minister of State for Teso Christine Amongin Aporu among others.
One of the highlights of the convention was a presentation by the First Lady on developments in Karamoja, where she explained government programmes in the region.
"Uganda's development cannot be complete without the development of Karamoja," she stressed.
Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga promised to create a desk on the Foreign affairs committee to address complaints of Ugandans in the diaspora.
These include a dual citizenship application fee of US$300 for Ugandans in the diaspora. Others included allegations of harassment of the people in diaspora when they return to Uganda.
Independent politician Gerald Karuhanga stirred the convention by lashing out at the cancer of corruption.
"We have a massive problem with corruption in Uganda," Karuhanga charged. "How do we develop when we have all this corruption? We must address it ourselves and implore our government to change the situation," he said.
"We should not just remain spectators but demand accountability. Our country can only develop if we ask for accountability," he added. The day was crowned by a show by Ugandan musicians.
Former UK Minister of State for Overseas Development at the Foreign Offic Baroness Lynda Chalker, expressed the view that the discovery of oil, a good climate, tourism and agriculture are areas that will give Uganda a huge advantage over many African countries. She however noted that success will only be achieved if barriers to investment in the country are removed and, marketing of the country's potential is stepped up.
"I would like to see a little more focus put on reform in Uganda Investment Authority practices, which should include strengthen its staffing in areas of information technology, areas of agriculture and also preparation for oil, power and gas developments."
"Agriculture is critical not just for Africa, but the rest of the world. Unless we add value, and are ingenious, we will not keep up with Uganda's own needs," she warned.
Chalker challenged government to task the Uganda Investment Authority and Ugandan embassies and High Commissions across the world to play a leading role in marketing the country.
"People around the world still have a very warm and positive attitude to Uganda. You have to keep that going and don't let up on making the positive news well known."
"The Uganda Government should act fast as several neighboring countries offer the same products to the world. So take the crucial decisions quickly and get on with it. Uganda must not delay to take the opportunities you have."
Chalker has been a regular visitor to Uganda since she served as Minister of State for Overseas Development at the Foreign Office.
The UK convention was organized by William Mutenza. It is supposed to be a forum to interest Ugandans in the diaspora to invest at home and also show UK-based investors the opportunities available in the East African country.
The Diaspora Trade and Investment Expo was also held at the same time and venue.
Senior immigration officer Alenyo Marshall created a stir when he told Ugandans who hold British passports that they are not Ugandans.
Alenyo outlined the benefits of dual citizenship and announced that Ugandans in diaspora seeking citizenship will from next month be able to register in London after paying an application fee of $300, and also get national IDs.
Alenyo advised Ugandans seeking dual citizenship to lobby parliament if they want any changes to the immigration law, including the $300 application fee.
Speaker Kadaga and Baroness Chalker at the convention on Saturday
Chairman and founder of the UK convention Willy Mutenza
Some of the exhibitors at the Expo proud to dress Ugandan
Miss Uganda UK 2011-12 Shakira Nabakooza
Venue of the convention was Troxy Arena, East London.
Jubilee items were on sale at the expo held at the same time. Photos by Louis Jadwong