By Geoffrey Kulubya in Dallas Texas
Uganda’s State minister for economic monitoring, Henry Banyenzaki has announced government initiatives to reduce trade and investment licensing processes from 40 to four and will soon launch online applications for investments in Uganda.
“The cabinet is discussing these initiatives to ensure such procedures are implemented in the shortest time possible,” he said.
Addressing the Trade and Investment Forum at the 25th anniversary of the annual Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) convention in Dallas, Banyenzaki called for joint efforts by government and Ugandans in the Diaspora to get organized and work together so that Ugandans abroad become the country’s trade missions to attract investments.
The minister is part of a government delegation to UNAA’s silver jubilee celebrations under the theme “Harnessing the power of the Diaspora”. Vice president Edward Ssekandi is leading the delegation.
Others are health minister Ruhakana Rugunda, John Nasasira for ICT, State ministers of state for higher education Dr JC Muyingo, in vice president’s office Vincent Nyanzi, works and transport John Byabagambi, of northern Uganda Rebecca Otengo, foreign affairs Asuman Kiyingi and media centre boss Ofwono Opondo.
Kiyingi also launched a booklet titled “Home, the compendium of Diaspora: Investment & Business Opportunities” produced by Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) containing all information about investment processes and opportunities in Uganda.
Speaking on the topic “Setting the stage for harnessing the power of the Diaspora”, Banyenzaki said corruption is one of the key obstacles that must be gotten rid of through reducing bureaucracy.
“Why should one meet the president or a minister before getting an investment license? We want investors to apply online and get approval in one day, then we shall see who asks for a bribe,” he said, drawing applause from his listeners.
He went on to remind participants that he was an anti-corruption crusader himself.
One of the major challenges of the new generation of young leaders, he said, is to get rid of corruption just as Museveni’s leadership cleansed Uganda of Idi Amin’s negative image.
“Museveni has achieved a lot, but since he is not immortal he will have to leave and we the young leaders should tackle corruption,” he pledged.
He challenged Ugandan foreign missions to work with the Diaspora community to develop a database for all Ugandans to ease communication and mobilization of resources for investment.
The remittances from the Diaspora are estimated at US$800m and only second to direct foreign investment (DFI).
UNAA board of trustees’ chairperson Dr. Muniini Mulera called for replacement of braindrain with what he called a “brain transplant” involving taking back to Uganda and Africa experts now working in the Diaspora by paying them adequately.
“No expert will go to Uganda to work for US$500 a month. Let us ask the US government to divert foreign aid which is often stolen to resettling experts back home,” he said.
Bonyore MP Emmanuel Dombo (L) and Gulu University VC Prof Yeko P’mogi at the convention. PHOTO/Geoffrey Kulubya
Agreeing with what Mulera the point Mulera put across, Gulu University vice chancellor Prof. Nyeko P’mogi said there are more Ugandans in the Diaspora with PhDs and senior professors than those living in Uganda.
His take is that such highly educated Ugandans should return home and supervise research and do academic mentoring in public and private universities.
Dr. P’mogi further suggested that this wonderful cadre of learned Ugandans based in the Diaspora could also be utilized by establishing an online resource for supervising masters and PhD students back home.
Bunyore MP Emmanuel Dombo who represented the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, said parliament is ready to pass laws that will protect investors in Uganda and those in the Diaspora from being ripped off.
Kampala central division MP, Muhammad Nsereko, also in attendance, proposed that new investments should be targeted in virgin areas like water and sand which exist in abundance in the great-lakes region and only rivaled by the US and Canada.
On his part, deputy head of mission at the Ugandan embassy in Washington DC, Alfred Nnam said the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) will end in September 2015 and needs to mobilize the Diaspora and members of the East African Community countries to lobby the US to renew the AGOA arrangement.
However, an international business consultant, Dennis Matanda cautioned delegates not to treat AGOA as a treaty but as a US program from which African governments have to take the initiative to make better.
He said the question was no longer about opening up the US market but on whether Uganda has the capacity to supply enough quantities, for instance, ‘Can Uganda supply enough corn to feed only cows in a single small American state of Iowa?
Welcoming the delegates, UNAA president Francis Ssennoga appealed them to develop partnerships that will ensure the transfer of knowledge and resources to improve the lives of Ugandans back home.
Senior Investment Executive UIA, John Musajjakawa and the director Financial markets, Bank of Uganda Charles Akol Malinga and Simon Rutega described the investment opportunities in Uganda and how Ugandans in the Diaspora can profitably exploit the newly introduced Diaspora bond.
Musajjakawa cautioned against sending money home for consumption instead of investment.