KAMPALA - The three-day visit of the Democratic Republic of Congo President, Felix Tshilombo Tshisekedi to Uganda starting on Friday, November 08 is expected to boost trade relations between the two countries.
DR Congo total exports for 2018 stood at $533m, with formal trade standing at $221m whereas informal trade stands at $312m, greater than the value of formal trade exports. However, Uganda thinks there was great potential to boost these trade relations, thus the urgent need to sit on a round table to iron out any barriers to the growth of this trade.
During Tshisekedi’s visit, business communities from both countries will meet on Saturday, November 9 under what has been termed as the Uganda-DRC Joint Business Forum at Speke Resort Munyonyo and share experiences, identify potential opportunities, create business networks and identify challenges impending business and chart a way forward.
The launch will be presided over by the two presidents, Tshisekedi and Yoweri Museveni the host and is expected to attract over 200 participants from both Uganda and DRC and will provide a platform to the business community to ‘share experiences, identify opportunities for trade and investment, build networks, share views on how to address any challenges that may be encountered and showcase and exhibit their products and services’.
Speaking at the media launch at the ministry of foreign affairs in Kampala on Tuesday, the minister Sam Kutesa said that the two leaders will discuss various issues ranging from business, security, health, among others.
“Uganda attaches great importance to bilateral relations with DR Congo, which are both fraternal and excellent, evidenced by the high-level exchange of visits by ministers and senior government officials and heads of states,” he said.
The media launch was attended by, among others, the charge de affairs of the embassy of Congo, Jules Ngalu Kalala, state ministers, Michael Welikhe Kafabusa (Trade, Industry and Cooperatives), Evelyn Anite (state for investment and privatization) and Patrick Mugoya, the permanent secretary ministry of foreign affairs, Gideon Badagawa, the Executive Director, Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and members of the business community in Uganda.
He said launching the business forum was not the only reason why Tshisekedi will be in Uganda. “We shall have other meetings touching on security, infrastructure, energy, roads, health, cooperation in Agriculture and several others,” he said, adding that the outcome of these meetings would be made public.
“In the past, the two countries have concluded a number of cooperation frameworks, they include cooperation to contain the Ebola disease and in peace and security, energy, mineral development, social-economic infrastructure, trade, and investment and others,” he explained.
Kutesa said that through a Joint Permanent Commission (JPC), which he said was a vibrant framework for cooperation; the two countries have held a number of meetings and agreed on a number of areas for cooperation.
“We are pleased with the progress made so far in the implementation of our decisions, we are determined to implement all decisions because it is within our interests to do so,” he added.
He said Uganda in the past held a Joint Permanent Commission before the elections in DRC and hoped that although there were new ministers on board, the commitments made will remain.
“During the visit, we are looking to strengthen trade and investment between our two countries in an environment which will create peace and stability. The DRC is a key and strategic trade partner of Uganda, it has a huge market and we have a long border both on land and on the Lakes”, he said.
He said both countries are members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which he said has itself a framework for trading between nations and recently concluded the Continental Free Trade Area.
Welikhe said that the Business Forum aimed at enabling business persons to explore business opportunities within each of the two countries.
The total trade between Uganda and DRC as of 2018 stood at $513.6m, which he said was so low compared to the vast potential of trade between the two countries.
He explained that Uganda exports by 2018, $474.1m whereas it imports $39.5m worth of goods and services. “It is important that we overcome the existing challenges in terms of infrastructure both at the border and within our countries, we need to work on the power and ICT connectivity along the border communities, non-tariff barriers and other challenges to facilitate trade between the two countries”, he said.
Anite said that there was excitement in the investor community and they expressed readiness and preparedness to exploit the opportunity of having access to 87.7m population in DRC. She said Uganda has many surplus products and hoped manufacturers will be able to sell surplus products.
Jules Ngalu Kalala charge de affairs embassy of DRC said the business forum was a long-awaited issue between the two nations for their mutual cooperation.
He said DRC has nine neighboring countries with Uganda, which he said they share a long border and have people of the same culture.
He said DRC has a number of potential human resources and is open to any opportunity for trade, adding that the Congolese community is committed to participating in the forum and business cooperation.