KAMPALA- The government has cancelled several leases it had granted to both local and foreign investors in Namanve and Soroti industrial parks, and immediately announced repossessing the “idle land.”
Sources close to State House told Daily Monitor that the cancellation of the leases on idle land followed a presidential directive to speed up job creation and weed out “speculators” who had acquired the land for investment through “godfathers” and at the expense of “serious investors”.
After he received intelligence brief on the speculators in Namanve and Soroti industrial parks, the President reportedly directed Investment and Privatisation minister Evelyn Anite, to take action on investors whose leases had expired or had fenced off empty land at Namanve and other areas.
The minister accordingly, instructed Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to take action on investors who have been keeping government land idle for five years without any developments on it.
In In a letter dated April 21, titled: “Land withdrawn from non-performing companies at Kampala Industrial and Business Park (KIBK), and Soroti Industrial and Business Park (SIBP), Mr Lawrence Byensi, writing on behalf of the UIA executive director, informed the minister that the UIA board cancelled leases on 58.48 acres in Namanve and an additional 6.46 acres in Soroti.
“The Uganda Investment Authority board at its meeting held on 20th February 2017 and 30th March 2017 withdrew land from non-performing companies whose leases had expired at KIBK and Soroti Industrial Park,” Mr Byensi’s letter reads in part.
Authorities at UIA told Daily Monitor at the weekend that the investment land in question has either been allocated to new investors or are in the process of being given to what Ms Anite called “serious investors.”
Ms Anite at the weekend confirmed the move and said more than 200 new investors had applied for land in Namanve Industrial Park.
“How can a serious investor hold 15 acres for five years without any developments on it when Ugandans want jobs? As government, we want to do business with serious investors; not speculators,” Ms Anite said.
“I have already instructed UIA to cancel investment leases for those people who have failed to develop the land in Namanve and withdraw land from unserious investors. This is Kisanja hakuna mchezo (era of no-compromise), we want to create jobs for our people.”
“I am told some investors have godfathers and that’s why the hold land for speculation.
This is going to change,” Ms Anite said, adding: “If you cannot develop the land in three or five years, that land should be given to another investor. For us as government, we have done our part; we have provided water, electricity, roads and other incentives.
The investor must also do their part. Our target is to create 200,000 jobs in Namanve [industrial park] alone but this can only be done when we have serious investors.”
The new government policy [introduced by UIA board] with the backing of the line minister, requires investors to develop the land allocated to them within 18 months with initial three years to complete the construction. The minister explained that “even if they appeal to godfathers, there is no turning back on the government position.”
“The land we have recovered from those unserious investors is going to be allocated to new investors. Our target is to see 200,000 jobs [created] in Namanve. There are investors who are willing to create these jobs yet they don’t have the land,” Ms Anite said.
Some of the companies listed as non-performing include Multiple Hauliers with 15 acres, Property Services Limited 10 acres, Iran Uganda Limited 6.3 acres, JN Agritech International 6 acres, Great Lakes Iron and Steel 5 acres and Experience Uganda Limited 5 acres.
Others are Delight Industries (U) Limited 4 acres, Faw Construction Limited 3.08 acres, Apem Investments Limited 2.1 acres, MK Publishers Limited 2 acres, Vambeco Enterprises Limited 2 acres, Associated Freight Logistics 2 acres, Teso Oils, Fats and Alcohol (TOFA) 1.282 acres, Savannah Commodities Co. Limited 1.18acres.
Some of the companies attempted to appeal to the Ministry of Finance to have their leases renewed but without any success since they had failed to develop land within the stipulated leases period. One of such companies is Iran Uganda Limited.
In a letter to Investment and Privatisation Minister, Ms Anite, the Finance Minister Mr Matia Kasaija, and Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi; Mr Wycliffe Mulindwa, the company director, on April 18, 2017, complained that UIA did not provide “basic infrastructure” such as good roads, extension of power and water, work on the drainage since the area is swampy. Some of the affected investors have petitioned the minister over the government decision.
But Ms Anite explained that when investors petitioned her on the issue of premium charged by UIA on each acre of land, the President accordingly waived the $8,000 premium to fast-track investments and job creation in the country. She also indicated that water, electricity and roads were fixed and that the government is in the process of tarmacking the roads within the Kampala Industrial and Business Park under the proposed Shs500b infrastructure project.
A total of 291 companies were allocated 2,200 acres of land in Kampala Industrial and Business Park, but only 21 of the companies are fully operational and more than 11,000 jobs have since been created. Some investors are constructing and others are chasing paper work. An additional 20,000 jobs in indirect short-term contracts or technical jobs have been created during the construction phase.
When Ms Anite as the Minister for Investment and Privatisation visited the industrial park in August last year, she found some beneficiaries, including government agencies, had just started construction work.
Some had fenced empty sites, while others had not done anything about their industrial plots. Some of the investment plots had been turned into crop gardens and free grazing zones.