Exclusive Interview with His Excellency Maurice Peter Kagimu Kiwanuka Uganda’s Ambassador to Switzerland
The Promota: Can you give us a brief biographical background and current duties?
Maurice: I am Maurice Peter Kagimu Kiwanuka, 50 years old, married, with 3 kids. I am a son to the former Chief Justice the late Ben Kiwanuka, murdered by Amin and his regime.
I am Uganda’s Ambassador to Switzerland and Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and Other International Organisations. I am based in Geneva. Formerly, I was the Minister of State for Economic Monitoring, ofﬁce of the President, and an ex-ofﬁcio Member of Parliament. Before that, I was a Member of Parliament for Bukomansimbi constituency in Masaka District from 2002 to 2006. In 1994, I represented my constituency in the Constituent Assembly that drafted Uganda’s current Constitution.
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Makerere University, Kampala, and a Bachelor of Philosophy degree of Urbaniana University, Rome.
I worked in Bank of Uganda as a Banking Ofﬁcer in the foreign exchange section and in National Housing and Construction Corporation as an Administrative Ofﬁcer in charge of ofﬁce administration and group employees, who were so many in this Housing Corporation.
I was at one time an Importer of hardware from Dubai and an Importer of motorcycles and motor vehicle spares from Japan.
What is the role of the Mission in Geneva and how has it promoted trade between Uganda and multinational organizations abundant in Geneva?
Maurice: Brieﬂy, we handle multilateral diplomacy in Human rights and trade among others. In multilateralism, countries negotiate together. In human rights, all countries come together to ensure that all of them respect human rights and the rule of law.
In trade, in the world trade organization, countries group together according to regions like the LDCs (the least developed countries), ACP (Africa, the Caribbean and Paciﬁ c countries), AG (the African group) among others, to ﬁght for common interests. Uganda belongs to the 3 groups.
Currently, we are ﬁghting for Market access to the Western markets which seem to be very closed. Though they seem to open up, regulations like the phyto sanitary standards, carbon prints, among others make it look like someone giving you with one hand and taking away with the other.
We are now ﬁghting to see that in the ministerial conference in December, (for 10 years the world has failed to implement what they agreed upon in the Doha round) they give LDCs an early harvest (a special package) they agreed upon in HongKong in 2005. In the package were items like DFQF (duty free quota free) market access, services waiver, remove the cotton subsidies given to western farmers among others. However, this is still a very uphill task.
There are also other organizations like Unctad, EIF etc…which give technical support to countries.
WTO is now opening up to support infrastructure development by assisting regions to acquire world bank loans to put up regional infrastructures.
We also do bilateral relations with the government of Switzerland. Currently, we are in the process of re-drafting the investment treaty between Uganda and Switzerland which was last signed in 1971 and which expired in 1976 ! This is a very important treaty on which investors insist because it protects their investments.
So far, more than half of Uganda’s coffee is sold in Switzerland though now our government insists on promoting value addition. So far, a company called Masaba has started selling processed coffee. There are also several Swiss companies in Uganda like Roko.
Swiss companies deal more in pharmaceuticals. For Nestle, we have tried to lure them though not with much success. But we are luring some German companies and recently German businessmen visited Uganda to explore investment opportunities.
Do you think Diasporas have a role to play in Uganda’s development ?
Maurice: Oh my God ! a lot! In fact that’s why I want to come and talk. at next year’s Convention in the UK. Our proverb says : obwavu lwoya lwa mu nyindo, olwejja wekka mu nyindo and Nkoba za mbogo, zejja zokka mu bunnya and omugg’oguli omwa munno tegutta ngo etc….
Many people think that that there is an uncle in Europe who loves us very much and who will come to develop our country. This is very wrong, people come to make dividends and siphon them away ! Take the example of Barclays bank. For how long have they been in Uganda? But look at their poor structures. They would be owning 20 workers houses!
The diaspora sends a lot of money to Uganda : about $1bn a year but it is mainly in real estate and recurrent expenditure for relatives. Its impact is not felt. This is because it is not channeled into production. This is my point and that’s why I want to come and give a talk, to sensitize our people so that even the conventions can have an impact. They have been taking place in the US for long but with little impact apart from housing companies going there to advertise houses for the diaspora to buy!
We have to organize ourselves and invest together. It is high time the elite entered production like for example through large scale mechanized farming. The peasants can no longer feed us plus the region. They are not credit worthy. They cannot qualify for a billion loan. The elite should stop looking at farming as a domain for the uneducated and failures. In the West, farmers are billionaires and educated. All the food is going to Southern Sudan and Kenya. This is a huge opportunity to make money but we need to be organized ﬁrst. Everybody who gets money only thinks of building a house ! I will develop these points when given a chance to talk.
The mobile telephone companies are siphoning out a lot of dollars. Actually they are the ones which keep the exchange rate high because each buys almost US $ 30million a month to take out and they are about 6 ! Imagine !
Putting up a mobile telephone company requires US $ 100 million. This is a tenth of what the diaspora sends home. If we team up we can do a lot and save our country’s foreign exchange for further development. The sky is the limit. We need to set up a credible company run by serious and credible managers from companies recommended by companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers etc…. This is because, with such companies involved, people can entrust you with their money and besides, one is sure they know what they are doing. These can do great wonders.
Do you think missions in Europe have done enough to mobilise Ugandans in the Diaspora?
Maurice: No, not all. There is plenty we can do. People in the diaspora usually just criticize government, forgetting that problems are opportunities. If we are organized, we can set up a powerful garbage collection company which can do a good job similar to that done in Europe. We can go into a joint venture with an experienced European company because we need expert management.
Do you buy into the new idea that each mission should have a dedicated ofﬁcer dealing with Diaspora issues, especially guidance and investment support?
Maurice: Deﬁnitely, but we have to do something ﬁrst. Government will just beg us to do that.
What is your opinion on initiatives like the Ugandan UK Convention ?
Maurice: This is a wonderful idea but we should do performance evaluation. Since the last convention what has been achieved? We should set up charters, set goals, make performance evaluations etc….so that it does not become a social gathering. I am yet to see the impact of the US Convention which has been there for many years.
The remittance sent back home by Diasporas is close to a $billion a year. As a former Minister for Economic planning, do you buy into the notion that if Diasporas are empowered, they can even multiply the money they send back home? This includes setting up incentives and policies that are conducive for Diaspora investment.
Maurice: Deﬁnitely. The incentives are already there like tax holidays, but they are enjoyed by foreigners. I think before we ask for more favourable policies, let’s use the already available ones. You see, people ask God for blessings without exploiting ﬁrst those he has already given them !
What do you think about new schemes, like Diaspora bond ?
Maurice: Very wonderful. They can be an addition to what I’ve explained above.
Do you support the idea of setting up a Diaspora Ministry with representative in the parliament to lobby for Diaspora affairs?
Maurice: Deﬁnitely, but we have to do something ﬁrst. It will be automatic. If we lobby for it ﬁrst it will be like one making way for an ugly princess ! He has to invest a lot in shouting !
Any word of wisdom to the Diasporas?
We can neither become rich individually nor develop our country without coming together to invest together. We should stop thinking of working for our families alone, the ‘nnaasiwa mukange’ business ! -‘only me’ business. P
Contacts: The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uganda Rue Antoine Carteret, 6bis, 1202 Geneva, 1st Floor Tel: +41 22 339 88 10 Fax: +41 22 340 70 30
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