Tuesday January 19 2016

We believe accusation is healthy in a democratic space - Rubanda

Traders attend to customers in downtown

Traders attend to customers in downtown Kampala. The UNCCI ensures that members take advantage of business opportunities locally, regionally and globally. File photo 

By Ismail Musa Ladu

How relevant is Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, considering that there are other (private) organisations that are doing more or less what you are doing?
Existence of other private organisations is something that we consider healthy. We are working hand in hand with them since most of them are members of the chamber. UNCCI, being an umbrella body, coordinates interests and aspirations of all those other bodies, especially on matters of policy and international trade issues.

What is your take on the accusations of mismanaging the chamber?
We believe accusation is healthy in a democratic space like the one we operate in at the chamber. But, I think, it will be far better if criticisms are sensible and rational premised and levied by authentic people - real and up to-date members.
I have never understood the basis under which such accusations are levelled. If we must be judged or condemned, then it must be done prudently and fairly.
Look at where the President of the chamber (Olive Kigongo) found it, and see where it is. The chamber’s milestone can be traced. This is something basic that should be done before levelling accusation.
Some people like comparing our chamber with those in advanced economies. These people forget that they are talking about different economies with different challenges and historical connotations.

Some critics claim that you are crowding out new ideas from penetrating the chambers, given that the current leadership hasn’t changed in years?
New ideas are relative, or if you like, a neutral concept. I refer to it as a concept because everybody would like to think that they have a brain that oozes nothing but new ideas. That is perfectly right.
But in reality, new ideas can be constructive or destructive. Here (at UNCCI) we have ways and procedures on how ideas are generated, debated and assented to. We try to soberly balance the interest of all our members.

What is the major point of departure with many of your critics?
Naturally, critics will always be there. However, we are opposed to those who want to use the chamber to drive their own individual interests at the expense of the institutional goals.

What have you done over the years that your critics never seem to appreciate?
We have set up the chamber from being a mere desk to an institution that even those who shunned it are now finding it attractive. We have widened the chamber’s footsteps across all districts in the country.
We have grown membership to more than 15,000 members, acquired properties for the chamber (four buildings) in Kampala, all generating income streams for the institution. We have opened up business linkages and collaborations with other international chambers, culminating into more than 70 bilateral arrangements.

What do you have in stock for your members?
Our strategic focus for 2016-2020 is about implementing tripartite trade opportunities and strengthening zonal as well as district chamber networks.

Are you facing any challenges as a chamber?
Balancing interests of the business community such as multilaterals, corporate companies and the medium size, let alone the informal sector is a tall order especially in the competitive world where the law of survival for the fittest applies.
Global innovations are also outpacing the rate at which local businesses are embracing technology.

How do you intend to cope with the challenges?
We must be on our toes and up our game. We shouldn’t be left behind. We are living in very competitive times.