Ever since 1866, the King’s Day has been observed in honour of the Belgian monarch with celebrations. In Uganda, Thursday’s event was the third edition.
Hugo Verbist addressing the people during the event
DIPLOMACY BELGIUM TRADE TIES
The Belgian envoy to Uganda and South Sudan Hugo Verbist has lauded the relation between Uganda and Belgium saying its results are quite impressive.
He said since the opening of the Belgian Embassy in Kampala on November 1998, Uganda has become one of the 14 development partners of his country worldwide.
“It is actually the 5th most important one, with the emphasis on health and education and an ongoing programme of about 16 million Euros (about sh64b). We have also further increased our investments in the country as well as the trade between our two countries, in both ways,” said Verbist.
He was speaking during the celebration of Belgium King’s Day on Thursday. The event attracted members of the diplomatic community, Government officials, leaders from various sectors of society including religious and cultural, and representatives of the Civil Society and the media.
Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye Uganda’s Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation was the guest of honour at the reception.
Ever since 1866, the King’s Day has been observed in honour of the Belgian monarch with celebrations. In Uganda, Thursday’s event was the third edition. The ambassador described it as “’a golden edition’ – because we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Belgian Embassy in Kampala.
Belgium has majorly invested in education in Uganda and according to the envoy, this helps young people to find their place in society, to provide an income for themselves.
“It gives them the opportunity to give their children a better future, with more opportunities than they had themselves. It gives them a sense of belonging, and most importantly, it gives them hope. Hope for a better tomorrow,” he explained
“Belgium might not be the biggest actor in Uganda in terms of sheer volume and financing, but our strength is our expertise. Being small never stopped a pepper from seasoning a whole dish,” he said.
He explained that for this, other countries or partners, such as Ireland in Karamoja and the European Union in the refugee settlements in West Nile, are working closely together with ENABEL to implement their skill development programmes.
He underlined the importance of education, including vocational education, in empowering people.
“Human capital is indeed the most valuable capital that a country can have, much more than oil, much more than gold,” he said.
He voiced concerns about Uganda’s fast-paced population growth pointing out that if not addressed “any progress made economically or in service delivery risks to be made undone”.
He decried the high rate of teenage pregnancies in the country as well as gender-based violence pointing out that the need to address them “is not only for the benefit of the women but to the benefit of the society as a whole”.
He quoted a World Bank study that has estimated that ending child marriage in Uganda could generate up to 2.7 billion USD in annual benefits by 2030.
At the same event, the Belgian Week in Kampala, an annual event was launched.
An official statement from the embassy which New Vision obtained a copy of indicates that Belgium decided in 2003 to select Uganda as one of only 18 partners’ countries globally, for direct bilateral co-operation.
“This resulted in the signing in January 2005 of a first 4-year comprehensive indicative cooperation programme. It focused on support to the health and education sectors, with the bilateral projects being implemented in co-management arrangement between the Ugandan partners and Enabel, the Belgian development agency,” read part of the release.
In the economic and diplomatic fields too, Uganda remains a priority partner for our country.
Diplomatically because of the important role it plays in the Great Lakes Region and its progressive approach in receiving thousands of refugees from neighbouring countries confronted with crisis and instability.
Economically because Uganda is developing fast and will undoubtedly witness increased economic growth in the coming years. Some Belgian investors didn’t want to miss this opportunity and massively invested in the transport and the construction sectors just to mention a few.
In fact, Belgium can also be regarded as a key trading partner with Uganda, in terms of mainly chemical product exports, that in turn sees Uganda export fishery and agricultural products to Belgium.