The Promota Magazine

Lord Sheikh urges Uganda to do more to attract UK investors

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Uganda is at cross roads with respect to the sort of foreign investor it should attract. Europe and Britain in particular has historical ties with Uganda and makes it a natural choice as an investment partner. But is Britain, or Europe sufficiently interested in Uganda as an investment destination?

China, the new kid on the block, has substantial cash reserves, is ready to splash out on shiny new building and roads in Africa in return for rights to Africa’s resources. Moreover, China doesn’t ask those awkward questions about human rights and corruption in the same way that the West does. But I understand that something about the Chinese is making Museveni nervous. I suspect it is the “unknown quantity” that is the Chinese agenda.

With that in mind, Museveni is keen to attract the Ugandan Asian Diaspora back to Uganda. These are sons and daughters of Uganda and should have sufficient interest in the economic growth and development of their mother country.

One such Ugandan Asian is Lord Sheikh whom I had the opportunity to meet in June 2013 at the invitation of Willy Mutenza, Chairman of Ugandan Convention in the UK. Willy had just returned from Uganda and whilst in Uganda he was tasked to hand deliver a message to Lord Sheikh about investment opportunities in Uganda.

We met Lord and Lady Sheikh at the House of Lords and spoke over cream tea. Lord and Lady Sheikh are impeccable hosts with fond memories of Uganda and still speak fluent Swahili after several years in the Diaspora. Lord Sheikh was born in Mbale, a point he was quick to mention,  as well as the beauty of Sipi falls.

The conversation centered on investment in Uganda. What should Uganda do in order to attract British based companies to invest in Uganda including those owned by Ugandan Asians?

Lord Sheikh acknowledged the work Museveni has done to stabilize Uganda and in particular praised Museveni for dealing with the HIV epidemic in an open manner that allowed the country to reduce the incidence of HIV and AIDS where Uganda’s peers had failed.

He further cited the high literacy levels in Uganda, the fact that English is widely spoken. He said that there is a good range of qualified managers as attractive qualities to would-be investors. Lord Sheikh added that this commonality of language with Britain is a big asset, however Uganda needs to “sell it” to potential investors.

He however lamented the fact that Uganda is not doing enough to promote itself. He cited Uganda’s tourism as an example, saying that it has the potential to attract investment and generate jobs for local people, but that it is not capitalizing on this, leave the whole job to patriotic people like Mutenza who are just doing it out of love for their country.

He advised that Uganda should organize a regular trade mission from the UK to Uganda to show potential investors what Uganda has to offer, in addition to regular publications to provide information and/or statistics on tourism, infrastructure, energy sector and the precise sectors that offer investment opportunities as well as areas of growth.

Lord Sheikh also shared his concerns that Arab countries in particular are not investing in Uganda’s agriculture and yet there are ample opportunities for them to do so.  On agriculture generally, Lord Sheikh said that very little Ugandan tea, coffee and flowers make it to the Arab and European markets in sufficient quantities.

Does Uganda have what it takes to rise up and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there? The future investment statistics and results will speak for themselves.


by Ida Horner

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