EDITORâ€”Parliament is in a tag-of-war with the foreign affairs ministry over sh17b the ministry needs to build a market for Ugandan traders in Juba. Whatever reasons Parliament has, this money should not be passed. To begin with, this is the wrong minist
Two, constructing a market in Juba will not render us more competitive than Kenyans, the main players in the market. It is high time we started doing things the proper and professional way, or lose out.
All the trouble Ugandans have gone through in Juba has its genesis in our informality and lone-ranger way of doing things. And what makes Kenyans tick?
In the case of Southern Sudan, when it became clear that peace was on the horizon, following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan Peopleâ€™s Liberation Movement (SPLM) the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), spearheaded the â€˜Opportunity Jubaâ€™ exercise. All intending businesses, individual or corporate, registered and organised under KAM.
The Kenya Commercial Bank came in next and opened a branch in Juba. Support services (transport, insurance, medical cover, camping tents) were all registered under KAM. All manufacturers and their distributors, regardless of location, were given Export Processing Zone (EPZ) export terms of trade, all demanded by KAM.
Diplomatic and consular matters relating to travel and residence had a coordinating focal person in KAM. And they went, pitched and conquered. In come Ugandans, in our usual â€˜Park-Yardâ€™ style.
How will a Ugandan carrying a few cartons of Royco from Kikuubo, with all costs and profits loaded onto his purchasing price, compete with a Kenyan who sources the same product ex-factory, under EPZ terms, with an export credit line, and all other aids to smoothen his trade?
Outcompeted, Ugandans did what we know bestâ€”ferry in juju men to ward off Kenyan competition! The juju men were chased out. Trump card? Government to build a market in Juba! It wonâ€™t work!
This is the time to learn and do things professionally, or keep losing out even where we as a country invested heavily as we did in the SPLA/M. There was a similar scenario in Rwanda, where the RPF war was literally a Ugandan war, but after the liberation, who got the juicy spoils?
At the time I registered my â€˜ex-officioâ€™ membership 10 years ago, there were 1,241 Kenyans working in Rwanda, all professionals, in different sectorsâ€”private, government, NGOs, UN, name it. And Ugandans? They were running makeshift garages in Gatsata, 'tonninyira' in Nyamirambo and Kicukiro!
Ask the ambassador who would lose his mobile phones to his countrymen during Ugandan national day celebrations at his residence! We shouldered the ANC struggle more than Kenya did. But who reaps? Kenyans need no visas to South Africa, despite their business rivalry bordering on hostility with South African companies in the East African Community.
Uganda opened her doors wide open to South African capital, but we have no visa waiver to South Africa! Fellows at the Directorate of External Trade of MTTI, UEPB, UMA, PSF, Chamber of Commerce, this is what branding is all about. This is what we mean when we talk of carving a niche. This is the meaning of positioning.
As Ugandans, we have carved out our own niche in the perception of our neighbouring markets! We canâ€™t keep exporting witchdoctors and hawkers and think that building another â€˜Mbizzinnyaâ€™ or â€˜Park Yardâ€™ in Juba is the solution. Not even the billions squandered on CNN or Whitaker!! Let us learn the basics, shape up or ship out!
Amon B. Mbekiza
Market in Juba wonâ€™t help much