By Olive Kigongo
For the last two months of presidential and parliamentary campaigns, political temperatures have risen to uncomfortable levels.
As a leader in the business community, I have been forced to explain in bothersome detail of what is presumably obvious.
Both the international and local media have posed a chorus question of “What are the main concerns for Ugandan businesses during election season?” In human evolution self-destruction is abnormal and self-building a mandatory responsibility of all.
Back to the common question, like any other positive thinking Ugandan, the core interest of the business community is security and political stability. However, long term business engagements take this concern much deeper into analysis of the capacity of the character and stability of the political aspirants, the pile of experience and existing mechanism for political stability and lastly the predictability of stability.
The answer to the question, “What are the main concerns of Ugandan businesses during election season?” is therefore ‘security’.
From the demand side, the business community wants to see security for human beings and their properties. Without life, there is no consumer and, therefore, no business.
Again security is critical for business transaction and mobility of goods and services to ensure that the economy does not drop into scarcity of sensitive goods and services that could cause economic breakdown tilting the focus of political choices.
We need security for all business entities like Banks, shops, stores, factories, vehicles to mention but a few. These facilities are the most vulnerable because of the perceived value they hold. They are the first targets for those intending to amass out of such electoral violence.
We need security for trade aiding infrastructure especially roads, airport, ship ports, motor parks, fuel stations in order to link one region to another. This perspective alerts Ugandans to view this country more as a whole than political constituents. Paralysis in one area affects others.
It is obvious – at least to us at the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI), without security nothing can happen. We cannot ferry our goods in, out or around the country; we cannot transfer funds and for fear of the uncertainty we cannot plan very far into the future. The repercussions are obvious a break down in the economy, massive layoffs and debilitating shortages of goods.
The country’s political and economic environment has been consistently improving and stable since 1986. Under the leadership of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Uganda has been able to be a political stabilising force in the region, which has provided a secure environment for business to thrive. Security of investment is also guaranteed under the Constitution of Uganda and the Investment Code 1991, as well as the major international investment related agreements / treaties to which Uganda is signatory.
Over the last 30 years, we have dug ourselves out of a very deep hole. The younger ones may not have been around or able to recall but they should keep in mind that it takes longer to build than it is to breakdown anything.
We are on the verge of achieving take off towards economic transformation but even this can be nipped in the bud if there is no security.
We at the UNCCI wish Uganda a fruitful polling day. We also pray that whatever the result the calm should be maintained if only because this is our country and for the majority of us the only country we have.
The writer is the president of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry