Over 30 companies from the Chinese province of Hunan are pitching for investment opportunities in Uganda.
George Piwang Jalobo, a board member at Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) said that the coming of the investors from is the beginning of a bigger business negotiation.
“Hunan Province is known for its successful science and technology innovation yet it shares so many characteristics with Uganda. And a government level collaboration will be more productive for Uganda since we are transforming our universities into innovation hubs of the 21st century. This way we can import skills development," he said.
Jalobo said such partnership is timely as the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda is set to meet the Chinese delegation and is in charge of the implementation of the Omaswa Report, which is geared towards policy reforms.
He advised the delegation of investors to request Rugunda to scale up partnership between governments.
“This way the partnership will be a holistically productive investment because through the Omaswa Report the government is going to make a direct impact on the community by changing universities from teaching centres to innovation hubs where they create enterprises and jobs and different public universities in different regions will have impact on their catchment areas.”
He added that a partnership with government, if effected, can open doors for different government agencies as they can be factored in a bigger way with respect to the government’s set framework and terms of reference with Hunan province and the country can reap bigger.
“And as UIA we will be there to advise on investment,"
"I would like to have a value chain investment where the impact percolates to Uganda and trickles down to all Ugandans in terms of skills development and urbanization countrywide beyond Kampala city.
"If investors come on an individual basis there will be no value addition for Uganda because whatever profits made will be extracted from Uganda,” explained Jalobo.
All this depends on how we transform our higher education to produce the skilled work force that will work with these companies, said the UIA official.
“That’s the advantage of transforming our higher education to innovation universities who now produce skilled graduates ready to create jobs.
"And with the petroleum industry, this is more than timely for we should have started producing skilled work force yesterday but it’s not too late to start now as it’s the same Chinese who said ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step'.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Elly Karuhanga, the chairman of the Chamber of Mines and Minerals said: “Uganda’s economy provides a much wider potential and choice of investment opportunities because it is still young.”
Karuhanga was interesting the Chinese investors in the mineral and petroleum sector at Munyonyo Common Wealth Hotel. “There are opportunities for each and every of one you in this sector but you will also be part of creating 15,000 jobs.”
He said Uganda also has a diversified geological set up and will also be the fourth biggest producer of oil in Africa when production begins. “Our country has over 30 types of minerals which the world needs but we need to add value which requires finance.”
He was sure to mention that they will not pay taxes on mining equipment, adding that "government will build huge tankers on Lake Victoria that will bring in refined oil in Uganda"”
Xu Xiang Ping, the Hunan Principal Director-General said that the Province has a population of 66 million yet it seats on a total area of 211,800 square km and this accounts for 2.2% of China with over 50 ethnic groups and it has a link to Uganda’s needs.
“When the Ugandan Ambassador to Beijing introduced Uganda to Hunan, we took interest because we realized Uganda is a good place for investment especially that it has stable politics and located in the heart of Africa and the industries in Hunan can fully match the demand of Uganda.”
The province is vigorously promoting scientific development; its socio-economic development demonstrates good momentum and its economic strength has been upgraded to a new level.
“In 2015, the provincial GDP [Gross Domestic Product] reached 2.9 trillion yuan which is a year-on-year increase of 8.6%. Our science and education strength is growing; 18-nation engineering (technology) research centres and 31 state-recognized enterprise technology centres,” said Ping.
It is understood Hunan is China’s major food production base with a stable grain out of over 30% billion kilograms per year. “Since ancient times it has been a known land of fish and rice.”
Commenting on job creation, Ping said Uganda needs to promote industrialization and urbanization to develop the manufacturing industry which would develop the economy while improving the standards of living of the people.