Wednesday January 8 2014

Uganda’s envoys should market our Vision 2040

By Amama Mbabazi

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs organises biennial ambassadors’ conferences to take stock of planned achievements and the way forward. The recent conference that took place on Monday was themed on the Role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Socio-economic Transformation of Uganda in line with Vision 2040.

The government is focused on ensuring that there is a coordinated effort to transform Uganda into a prosperous country within 30 years. It might be noted that Uganda’s vision of achieving socio-economic transformation is based on the premise that the country has a number of opportunities that are under-exploited. The strategic opportunities include oil and gas, tourism, minerals, human resources, Information and Communications Technology, our strategic geographical location, water resources, huge agricultural potential, etc. We, therefore, need to harness them and to do this, the role of infrastructure, as well as peace and security, cannot be overemphasised.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is Uganda’s gateway to the international community and a one-stop-centre for Ugandans who wish to deal with other countries. I, therefore, expect it to market and articulate Uganda’s national interests in the international arena – this should focus on facilitating our strategic objectives as laid out in the Vision 2040 blueprint. I expect the leadership of the ministry to set strategic targets to be achieved by Uganda’s Missions abroad.

The government expects all our ambassadors and high commissioners to market, promote and popularise Uganda’s aspirations as contained in Vision 2040. They should be able to interpret Vision 2040 for prospective investors and tourists, and mobilise external resources from development partners and Ugandans in the Diaspora.

The implementation of Vision 2040 will no doubt require both human and financial resources. In view of the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordinating and promoting commercial and economic diplomacy, it is important that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development reconsider its classification of foreign affairs as a consumptive sector per se. In today’s globalising world, foreign affairs is an absolutely essential function for production and economic participation in the global arena. I, therefore, support the efforts the ministry is undertaking to move from the public administration sector to an appropriate productive sector.

Government is committed to ensuring Vision 2040 happens, but we are aware of a number of challenges that we need to jointly surmount. For example, there are negative elements in the Diaspora who are increasingly propagating falsehoods aimed at projecting the President and the NRM leadership as Uganda’s problem. Such detractors wrongfully distort both the real progress Uganda is making, and also tarnish the image of Uganda in the international community.

This subjective propaganda should be challenged by simple presentation of facts on the principles and values that guide the progress that Uganda has made and continues to make. It is the responsibility of all our representatives abroad, to systematically carry out vigorous and strategic image-building programmes in their countries of accreditation to ensure that the image of Uganda is protected and promoted.

The mobilisation of the Diaspora to invest, beyond remittances, is also important. Government is committed to providing a peaceful environment. There is utmost need to consistently provide this assurance to investors, including Ugandans in Diaspora and tourists so that they can gain confidence in the country.

The issues of regional peace and security will remain central to the attainment of Vision 2040 for, without these, development may be elusive. You are all aware today, because of the conflict in South Sudan and the eastern DRC, Uganda has lost a lot of business. The two countries have been the two major destinations of Uganda’s merchandise. This state of affairs best explains the importance of peace and security for sustainable development.
Together we should work and share information, jointly review the progress made and lay new strategies to overcome emerging challenges.

Mr Mbabazi is Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda.