A competitive campaign is no less than the chamber deserves, given its importance in the economy
By Olive Kigongo
It’s a good practice that a New Year comes with both a reflection of ending year but importantly with a progressive plan of how the New Year will associate with new achievements.
As business community to whom it is incumbent to increase business growth that will trigger income per capita from the staggering $500 to at least $1000, it is important we realise that competitive strength is not attained through individuals or micro enterprises but strong institutions coordinating strong partnerships. Strong institution are not a given. They are built by focused and patriotic society. They must have the agenda of serving national goals but not individual preferences or serving a section of clusters.
My experience of serving as the president of Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (UNCCI) has made me learn that actually countries that have surpassed us are not necessarily resource endowed than us [Uganda] but only better us in upholding on the principal of constructive energy and have the politeness of building on existing achievements than self-destruction to begin afresh again and again.
As a people it seems we spend a lot on negative energy than constructive energy; an attitude that we inevitably must change if we are to builds institutions beyond individuals who come and go.
Last year UNCCI witnessed a wash of all sorts of comments; constructive and deconstructive. However, being a Ugandan institution the onus to uplift and leverage on its brand is a responsibility of all of us especially the private sector. Chambers World over are brands that market a country’s economic activities therefore should be supported to attract investments.
A competitive campaign is no less than the chamber deserves, given its importance in the economy, but it need not degenerate into name calling and mudslinging. We are as keen to see the process carried out to its logical conclusion in an atmosphere of cordiality and mutual respect. We hope this can happen in the New Year.
In the meantime, UNCCI may not have achieved it all neither appeased them all but work must go on, if only because the business of business will not wait.
Every day there are shop floors to be opened, transactions to be consummated, taxes to be paid, relationships to be nurtured and salaries to be paid. It’s not bickering and counter accusations that will transform Uganda into middle income status.
It is from this perspective that the centrality of the UNCCI, in easing the doing of business in this country should be understood.
Over the years the chamber has built a reputation regionally and internationally as the first port of call for people wanting to do business in Uganda. The UNCCI’s profile which has been carefully nurtured and jealously guarded has proved to be the gift that keeps giving. The contacts UNCCI has made over the years have helped our businessmen and ladies link up with international partners, attracting much needed investment into the country. Through agreements with other chambers too some of our businesses have found their activities eased in the relevant countries.
Locally we continue to be the principal voice of the business community, intermediating between our members, government and other business entities, helping shape policy, arbitrating disputes and providing counsel and assistance to our membership. It is true a lot of our work is done under the radar but it is important, even critical work never the less.
Thankfully the bad press our electoral process kicked up, while causing some concern among our stakeholders, has merely scratched the UNCCI’s otherwise stellar reputation. This is testament to the solid work – unappreciated in some circles, officials of UNCCI have put in recent years.
However given the current hard times – rising inflation, a falling shilling and a general liquidity squeeze, we are going through and the numerous challenges that still beg for solutions – increasing joblessness, high cost of doing business, unfair competition, this is not the time for chest thumping or back patting.
As we await the resolution of the impasse on our electoral process, we at UNCCI are refocusing our attention to better serve the membership. In our minds we are clear that when we go about chasing our personal ambitions, at the end of the day UNCCI’s viability is the ultimate goal.
The point is, despite the upheavals of the last few months, UNCCI remains open for business and in the famous words of former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki “Kazi Iendele” (Let the work Continue).
May I once again wish our members and Ugandans in general a happy and prosperous New Year.
Author is the president of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry