FLASHBACK: PANEL DISCUSSION: DIASPORA QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH UGANDAN PARLIAMENTARIANS
- Moderated by Geoffrey Semaganda, the panel includes:
- Norah Bigirwa – Buliisa District Women MP
- Roy Katali – Jinja Municipality Woman MP
- Sarah Najjuma – Woman MP, Nakaseke District
- Jennifer Egunyu Nantume – Bavuma District
- Lawrence Bategeka – Hoima Municipality
- Ibrahim Ssemujju, Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs
- Delegate Patricia Tushabe living in Brussels asked the following question – In Uganda currently there was no competition law and policy resulting in a monopoly in the market by a handful of large farms. In 2004 a bill was established and reviewed in 2007 but it was never adopted, would it be adopted to curb uncompetitive practises and if it had what was the progress?
- Delegate Yusuf Almij from London stated the following: A long list of items was banned for import into Uganda which he understood e.g. fridges but one item confused him. This was used computers which were at one point carrying 0% duty which he believed was good. From 0% duty it went to a total ban and he wanted to know what went wrong? He believed that computers needed to be looked at differently.
- Delegate Shemi had a question for Hon. Ibrahim Ssemujju who wasn’t present but the question was still posed to the panel – Shemi stated that Investment was underpinned by a secure and viable legal and judicial system for dispute resolution as well as to curb exploitation of workers. After hearing about fake and abusive investors could the panel assure him and the audience that they should have trust and confidence in a reliable system that could resolve these disputes after investing in Uganda?
- Another delegate stated his confusion on the variation of how things worked in business in Uganda. He had met people inside and outside the parliament but there had been no clarity for an individual looking to invest in Uganda. He stated not everyone was global and a corporate. He is married to a Ugandan lady but went through hell to get to a certain point in business. He had worked in boat building for 35 years allied to agriculture and construction but the awkwardness he experienced to get in the door was insane. He believed Uganda had it all but she allowed outside investors to mess Uganda around but there was no help for individuals as he had been going through difficulties to enter Uganda – he wanted to pays tax in Uganda not UK and make a difference but this could not be done through the grief and stone walls.
- Delegate Juliette Ssentongo stated the following: Some here had British status and were being invited to invest in Uganda but landing in Uganda was terrible as some don’t know their immigration status, some don’t want dual citizenship in a country that they were born in and she didn’t neither understand the increase in visa fees nor know what they were paying for. She wanted to know what government was doing about this?
- Delegate Peter Macco had a question for Patrick Asiimwe the NRM Chair for Ugandans in the Diaspora: What plans they had for Ugandans in the Diaspora to invest in Uganda with the help of the government by removing the hurdles that they were currently going through?
- The Moderator reminded the panel about the rules of the discussion and kindly requested them to introduce themselves before answering the delegates’ questions.
- Lawrence Bategeka stated that he accepted the problems raised were present but in response to the raised concerns he stressed that the time was now to invest in Uganda. The Hon. explained the starting of the signing of the oil production agreements which would lead to Uganda in the next 3 to 4 years witnessing capital inflows of over 20 billion dollars from this production. Hon stated that if it was not you who would take advantage of this capital inflow then who would? He said in the last 8 years during the exploration era, capital inflows to Uganda was 3 billion and the economy was booming. He said that there was a commercial court but again time was needed to develop institutions but the time was now for implementation.
- Jennifer Egunyu Nantume responded to delegate Shemi’s question by advising Ugandans and investors that the first thing to do when dealing in land matters was to avoid fake brokers. The Ministry of Lands had been now computerised. Hon stated that in the Land Commission in Kampala one could purchase land in Ntugamo securely and safely by verification. Hon. also requested Ugandans in the Diaspora to have a positive outlook of Uganda outside of Uganda and the need for the Ugandans outside of Uganda to request assistance from NGOs to help fill the gap in supplies. She identified that education in Uganda needed improving as in developed countries a child studies from young courses that were relevant for their future which wasn’t the case in Uganda.
- Sarah Najjuma stated in response to the monopoly question which discouraged investments that the Ministry of Trade was reviewing the trade and business regulations that included the competition and consumer protection policy and bill to protect trade and consumers allied to the trade licensing bill aimed at bringing trade orders. On that note Hon. requested for the investments in Uganda as Uganda was an open investment place. She advised for people to start small and then grow big. She urged the audience to love Uganda, market Uganda work as a team.
- Andrew Ajja the Dean of Independence in Parliament responded to the issue of banned computers. Initially Hon. saw it as a mishap but then said we needed to focus on the type of computers that came in as some types were obsolete, therefore, the age limit of the computer was important. The Hon. Further continued that the oil was about to come out of ground therefore there was need to look at the trickledown effect of this oil. He urged companies to invest in the by-products of oil as not all would find employment in this sector. He called for the likes of M&S and IKEA to take advantage of this opportunity. He encouraged people to stop blaming government on not being investment friendly, he also called for real investors to do serious investments as opposed to selling sugar on a small scale.
- Mr Patrick Asiimwe a barrister and a lawyer from the UK who specialised in criminal, immigration and family law and was the NRM UK chapter chairman addressed the question on what plans the government had for Ugandans in the Diaspora to invest in Uganda with the help of the government. Mr Asiimwe said that NRM was seeking to streamline all chapters around the world to one system/register so that initiatives like elections and SACCOs could take place. He said a streamlined league could tackle problems better. In response to the issue of the judicial system in Uganda he said that it exists otherwise Rt. Dr. Besigye wouldn’t be in the UK. Mr Asiimwe disliked the comparisons of Uganda to Spain and Britain as in the case of Britain they were 500 years old since independence from the Romans with a parliament that was established in 1688. He finished by saying that the rule of law exists and over time it will smoothen.
- Norah Bigirwa stated that countries that had progressed had put a lot into research and had done a lot of innovation. She said government had set aside money for those with innovative ideas to improve the country. Hon. called on Ugandans in the UK to take advantage of this scheme. Hon. said a lot had been done in the oil sector and there was an open window for Ugandans to take advantage of. Hon. finished by urging friends of Uganda and Ugandans in the Diaspora to invest in research so that we would know what we need for Uganda to be a country that everyone appreciates and a country admired by many.
- Lawrence Bategeka stated that he was also the vice chair of the Parliamentary Committee on the Economy. He finished by advising to come and invest in Uganda because the returns were very high. One little mistake the Diaspora made was to send money home for real estate which was stock instead of investing in inflows which were businesses Hon. added. He said that with regards to business with the public sector we had moved from the central tender board days to the PPDA system which once strengthened would ensure fair competition for businesses. Hon. finished with stating that for the private sector, it was a free market, therefore, overtime with capabilities and exposure, one would be able to beat competition as the institutions were in place.