President Yoweri Museveni is wearing a smiling face towards a team of prominent businessmen whom he commended for starting the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA).
The men bringing a beaming face to him include the late James Mulwana and his colleagues including Abdi Alam, Prof. Sir. Gordon Wavamunno, Ow’ekitiibwa Kaddu Kiberu, Madhvani Family and Sugar Corporation of Uganda (SCOUL) among others.
“I wish to recognize the founding members of the Uganda
Manufacturers Association. These are visionary leaders who have
facilitated the growth of industry in Uganda” he said in a speech read for him by bootyful Vice President Maj. Jessica Alupo who represented him at the 29th Uganda International Trade Fair organized by UMA at Lugogo.
The battle-hardened general, who hardly spends a day without drinking his favorite Kashera, recalled attending the inaugural UMA trade fair held at the Lugogo Indoor Stadium where he said it was a modest beginning ignited by a visionary team.
“What has remained consistent is their persistent ambition and resilience to see it come to pass” he said.
Museveni recalled that at the beginning, there were only 26 exhibitors but the numbers have gradually swelled to now 1000 exhibitors who turned up this year.
“This is no small feat. As the saying goes, “It’s not about where you start but where you end up” he said adding that, the country has witnessed what he termed as evolution of our industrial sector through the lens of these visionary leaders who should be appreciated.
The head of state said when he assumed power in 1986,
Uganda was reeling from years of political and economic turbulence and his efforts to kick start the industrialization process as a top priority nearly flopped due to prevailing insecurity.
He said the subsequent introduction of the Privatization Policy was instrumental in stimulating private sector growth.
“From a position of net importation, Uganda has since transformed and embraced sophisticated value chains integration across various economic sectors” he said.
The president however, noted that this growth has been as a result of a deliberate effort by government to address the fundamental drivers of competitiveness.
He named some of the key priority areas that boost enterprise development as political stability and security of persons and their property.
Museveni said that his leadership continues to ensure stability noting that no nation can thrive in chaos. He said government has progressively and successfully tackled civil unrest in all corners of the country, adding that the UPDF has played a pivotal role not only domestically but also in regional peace keeping missions.
Museveni added that the NRM leadership since inception has been working tooth and nail to ensure that it boosts the energy sector to propel Uganda’s production capacity.
“We all realize that availability of electricity most especially for production is the lifeline of modern industries. Recognizing this, we undertook massive hydroelectric power projects like the Isimba and Karuma power dams, which increased Uganda’s electricity generation capacity” he said adding that from a mere 60MW in the early 1990s, the country’s national grid now boasts of over 1,346.62MW as of 2021.
He said Ugandan industries now enjoy affordable electricity due to a drop in the prices [around USD 0.05 per kWh] making it more competitive in the East African region.
ACCESS TO CREDIT/MARKET
Museveni said that in recognition of the challenges Uganda’s SMEs face in accessing affordable long-term credit, government, in recent years, has rolled out multiple financing schemes in collaboration with Uganda Development Bank and international banks, tailored especially for SMEs. He cited the partnership with the AfrExim Bank which he said was a strategic move to open doors for Ugandan businesses to the broader African market.
“Access to market remains a fundamental aspect of growth of our industrial capacity and the NRM leadership will continue to ensure that we spread word about standardization and value addition to enable product demand, boost revenue and ensure profitability” he said adding that Uganda’s growth story is not merely about production but also equally about finding markets for our products.
Hence, he said, Uganda became a signatory to the EAC offering our manufacturers a market of over 170 million people and other continental arrangements such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which he said has the potential to offer Ugandan products a continental market.
“Domestically, we have made significant strides with our GDP growing by an average of 4.5% annually in the last five years up to 2021, reflecting a robust domestic market. Additionally, our active diplomatic engagements have facilitated trade agreements with countries and regions outside of Africa ensuring that Ugandan products access global markets” he said.
He commended a partnership between UMA and the Science,
Technology, and Innovation Secretariat, an entity tasked with championing innovations, saying this harmonious collaboration between the Public and Private sectors is a milestone that has for long been anticipated.
“Furthermore, I am beginning to see more collaboration between UMA and Ministry of Trade Industry and Cooperatives and even other ministries. I think this strong bond will lift the Manufacturers to new heights” he said.
PARISH DEVELOPMENT MODEL
The president added that in a bid to uplift grassroots supply chains especially within manufacturing and agro-processing, government unveiled the Parish Development Model. He said through this initiative, government aims to boost the grassroots supply chain that feeds into larger manufacturing processes.
He said since 70% of Uganda’s population is engaged in agriculture, with the Parish Model, government envisions a strategic linkage between the grassroots producers of raw materials to the bigger manufacturing entities facilitated by UMA.
“Our primary objective is to ensure that growth isn’t limited to urban centers or large-scale industries. By promoting these connections, we anticipate an upliftment in household incomes, a significant reduction in poverty rates and the creation of numerous employment opportunities” he said noting that with such initiatives, he is confident that Uganda will soon attain its goal of middle-income status. This year’s trade fair was attended by 1018 exhibitors from within and outside Uganda and that Museveni asked them to choose Uganda for investment due to prevailing peace and security alongside other incentives for investment.