Belt & Road Initiative brings tangible results to Uganda

Apr 26, 2019

Uganda is one of the important countries and stakeholder of the BRI, reaping tangible and substantial results from the five connectivities.


By Chen Huixin

From Thursday, onward to Saturday, April 27, the Second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation is being held in Beijing, China.

It will be attended by 37 heads of state and government and more than 5,000 other representatives, including political heavyweights, business experts, and think tanks from over 150 countries and 90 international organisations around the world.

The theme of the second BRF is "Belt and road co-operation, shaping a brighter shared future". The forum is expected to be a vital platform to lead to a global consensus on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that supports multilateral co-operation and deepen mutual benefit and shared aspiration. From Uganda, Hon. Frank K. Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance, is attending the thematic session on Infrastructure Connectivity.

Africa, the continent that Uganda finds itself in was one of the key hubs along the ancient Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road which connected China and the rest of the world for centuries in trade and people-to-people exchanges, among others.

The BRI, which was initiated by Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, around six years ago, is a revitalisation of the ancient Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road.

The BRI, featured in its principle of consultation and co-operation for shared benefits, emphasising policy connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, financial connectivity, and people-to-people exchange/connectivity, commonly known as the "Five Connectivities" has become more and more relevant and welcomed in an increasingly globalised world, bringing about tangible results to the world at large.

Uganda is one of the important countries and stakeholder of the BRI, reaping tangible and substantial results from the five connectivities.

On the front of policy connectivity, like the overwhelming majority of African countries, Uganda and China signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation within the framework of the BRI, jointly witnessed by President Xi Jinping and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, during the latter's visit to China last September to attend the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC).

The summit, which was attended by 40 heads of states, 10 prime ministers and other representatives of all the FOCAC members, also emphasised the BRI co-operation.

All these and other developments, serve as the strategic and policy foundation for the BRI co-operation between China and Africa and in particular, China and Uganda.

On the front of infrastructure connectivity, one outstanding and tangible fruit would be the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, Uganda's gateway to the world. With the launch of the expressway last year, the commuting time between the Kampala, the capital city of Uganda and Entebbe International Airport, the most important international airport in the country, has been cut from more than two hours to just about 30 minutes! With Uganda Airlines commencing service again after 18 years, I am sure more and more people will benefit substantially from the expressway.

That, of course, is not the sole example. One may recall that around one month ago, Isimba Hydropower Plant was jointly commissioned by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Zheng Zhuqiang, the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda.

The Isimba HPP, a major project in the China-Uganda co-operation, added 183 megawatts to the national grid, an increase of 18.6% to her previous generating capacity. And we simply will not stop at that.

The Karuma HPP, with its designed capacity of the 600 megawatts, is already in its final stages of construction. When completed, it will add 51.4% to the already increased power supply, effectively providing more electricity and lowering tariffs for the industrialisation drive as well as the ordinary citizens of Uganda.

Together, the two dams, both of which are mostly funded by China, are expected to lower the electricity tariff to less than five US cents per kilowatt hour.

On the front of trade connectivity, which emphasises trade facilitation and industrial co-operation, the fruits are also out there to be seen. China leads in foreign direct investment to Uganda. There are six industrial parks in Uganda by Chinese entrepreneurs; namely Shandong Industrial Park in Luzira, Tiantang Industrial Park in Mukono, Liaoshen Industrial Park in Kapeeka, Uganda-China (Guangdong) Free Zone of International Co-operation in Sukulu, Mbale Industrial Park and Kehong Agricultural Industrial Park in Luweero.

Chinese investment, ranking as the top direct foreign investment source for Uganda, has made a great contribution to the industrialisation drive and created more than 80,000 local employment opportunities.

The Goodwill Tile Factory located in Liaoshen Industrial Park in Kapeeka employs about 2,000 Ugandans and rewrites the record that Uganda cannot make tiles by itself.

All its products are proudly labelled "Made in Uganda". Since the production started, the price of tiles in Uganda has dropped by 25%. The company helps to save Uganda foreign exchange worth $35m in import substitution and fetches about $10m in exports annually.

On the front of financial connectivity, needless to say, all infrastructure and trade connectivities mentioned above would not be possible without the joint financial resources from China and Uganda.

Another case in point is the expansion and upgrading of Entebbe International Airport, which has received financial support of $200m concessional loans from China. After completion of the first phase, the cargo centre of the airport will have the capacity to handle up to 150,000 metric tonnes of goods, more than double the previous 69,000 metric tonnes.

On the front of people-to-people exchange and connectivity, Ugandans also benefited broadly from the various kind of China's foreign training and education opportunities under BRI. Since 2016, over 1,200 Ugandans have attended China-aided training courses and seminars in China. For the last few years, the Chinese government has sponsored over 250 Ugandan students to study in China for diplomas through Chinese government scholarships and other scholarship programmes.

The China-Aided Industrial Skills Training and Production Centre is under construction with a $30m grant and the centre, situated on a 15-acre plot in Namanve Industrial Park. It will introduce modern manufacturing methods and practices in Uganda for youth skills development.

All these tangible and substantial results have been achieved following the BRI principle of consultation and co-operation for shared benefits. Of course, it is work in process, and there is room for improvement, strengthening, and consolidation.

Hence we have the second BRF for International Co-operation, with its theme rightly pointing to "Belt and Road Co-operation, Shaping a Brighter Shared Future". Yes, together, we can do more. Together, we can create an even brighter shared future under the framework of BRI and beyond.

The writer is the Charge' d'Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Uganda



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