Sunday October 28 2012

‘We didn’t go to Somalia for business’

Sam Kutesa

Sam Kutesa 

By Richard Wanambwa

1.What achievements have we registered as a country in the foreign missions?
Well, our foreign missions, which are now about 28, are engaged in the usual diplomacy but more importantly, they are engaged in commercial diplomacy. Our missions abroad have been given charters and their success is measured on how much investment they have attracted to Uganda, how many tourists have been able to come to Uganda as a result of their activities and the amount of trade there is in the country they are stationed and Uganda.
Uganda also has participated in the pacification of countries around us and as a result, this has opened it to big trade opportunities. There is a lot of trade between Uganda and Rwanda, more trade than it used to be before. There is a lot of trade between Uganda and South Sudan, between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. All these are partly because of our involvement in pacifying these countries but also in our integration policy of the region.

2.There is a belief that we are good at creating stability in the region but fail to grab the business opportunities that come with or after it. What is your comment?
Our primary intention, for example in going to Somalia, was not to do business. It was our pan-African role in ensuring that Somalia ceases to be a failed state and it is to the credit of Uganda and subsequently Amisom that we now see peace and stability taking place in Somalia.
It is true that we assisted the SPLM and they took over South Sudan but now other people appear to be doing more business than us and that is largely because they still have parastatals. If you take the case of Kenya; Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) goes to South Sudan and you see KCB posters because the government can say now you move there. But here we are encouraging the private sector and a number of businesses are setting up in South Sudan.
Private people are now investing in Rwanda in properties, hotels and so we may not be seen as Uganda because we don’t have a flagship parastatal, but indeed the trade between our country and all these neighbours has increased.

3.What is the future of Uganda’s missions given that some are in a very sorry state as reported by the Auditor General?
Yes, some of our missions are in a very sorry state and they need financing. We have embarked on repairing buildings and accommodation and I must say we now have support from the Treasury to use none tax revenue to repair our properties in London, New York, and Washington. We are working on our properties in Kenya; we worked on our properties in Tanzania. We need more money and any support we get will be extremely welcome.

4.Are these embassies and missions still relevant to the country given that we run different initiatives such as the lobbyist groups instead of empowering our missions to market the country?
The missions are relevant and we do both. Actually both of them are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they support each other. We need missions to constantly deal with the country within which they are established as well as the government. This is the way it works: If you are a High Commissioner in London, to be able to meet the Foreign Secretary, you have to write letters through the usual channels; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then make your point. Lobbyist have a different way, they can meet people since that is the business they do. So in a way, their roles are complimentary.

5.How are we positioning ourselves to market Uganda in the next 50 years?
We are now undertaking a review of our foreign policy. Other powers have emerged as critical in the world for purposes of trade, security and even their role in the United Nations and Security Council.
So we are positioning ourselves in three major strategies; one, our policy on the continent is economic integration; regional federation where possible in East Africa; economic integration with Comesa, Tripartite arrangement between Sadac and Comesa. But beyond that, we are looking at countries like China, Brazil and India and reposition ourselves because there is a shift in the economies of the world and we must position ourselves to take advantage of all this.

6.You have been around for some time and you qualify to be referred to as a senior statesman. President Museveni and some of you are about to retire, but what kind of a leader do you envisage for Uganda after him?
I think before we talk about what kind of leaders we want, we should talk about what kind of country we are looking forward to. I believe, personally, that there is need to look for and focus on real issues that will be affecting our country in the next 50 years. The next major issue in our country is going to be food security. We are now feeding 31 million people and in the next 50 years, we will be over 100 million people. How are we going to feed these people? We must think deeply about it and therefore, we must make investments that ensure that we can feed ourselves because if we don’t, we will have to import food and the import bill will be greater than the fuel bill or any other bill.
We should also look at unemployment; in order to deal with it, we have to deal with the investment we make in agriculture, infrastructure, education and training to ensure that we have skilled people who will be employed in the new economy.
So, I think, more than what kind of leader we need, we need a new partnership between the government, business, labour and civil society to address the real issues, a completely new partnership - a new partnership that will focus squarely on the problems that we will be confronting us as a country irrespective of whoever comes to power.

7.There is a belief amongst the population that there is un-coordinated movement in government and that there are many centres of power. For example, there is an indication that the Prime Minister and the President are not in talking terms. How true are these statements?
I don’t think that there has been a fall out and I think that dealing in rumour doesn’t help and what we need is more discipline, cohesion and to be acting together. And I don’t think there is any major fall out; particularly in the NRM. The important thing is to make sure that there is cohesion and I think there is need to build the party structure and make them effective at the grassroots and at the district level. Then the other important thing is supervision to ensure service delivery. I don’t see a major crisis myself and if there is a crisis, there are structures and procedures of handling it and I am sure it will be handled if one arises.