One woman is readily remembered as the early face of the country’s struggle to make Uganda an investment destination, writes Brian Magoba
It takes some effort believing that Dr Maggie Kigozi is another “typical” muganda—courtesy of Irish blood on her paternal side, or that she was ever famous for anything other than being the Executive Director and face of the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).
Not only is she a bonafide member of the Ngeye clan born on July 5, 1950 in Fort Portal , she also represented Uganda at international sports events, was Uganda’s national junior tennis champion between 1968-71, a champion motorcycle rider like her Blick brothers, and a physician to Members of Parliament between 1968-1994.
After 1994, she worked in relative anonymity as the Marketing Director for Crown Beverages. But, fame was her fate, and five years later, she became the cheerleader of UIA’s effort to transform Uganda into a leading investment destination.
The face of UIA
Pundits doubted her qualifications and experience were equal to the task of promoting and facilitating an entire nation’s private sector investments. She quickly silenced them by becoming a fixture at investment conferences wherever they were held, personally touting the most favourable aspects of Uganda’s investment climate.
Positive results naturally followed, with UIA winning the prestigious Corporate Location Prize for the best investment promotion agency in Africa and the Middle East in 2001.
Some of her other jobs as the Focal Point Officer for the Africa Asia Business Forum , and Patron of the Ugandan Diaspora Network with its “Home is Best” Diaspora Summits gave her extra involvement with especially Indian and Chinese investors, and Uganda investors based abroad.
Partly due to her efforts attracting them, UIA’s annual reports kept showing improvements in Foreign Direct Investments (FDI’s) and jobs they created. FDI’s totaling Shs30t came to Uganda, growing from $200m(about Shs500b) in 2000 to $845m (over Shs2t) by 2010. Projections grew from 48,098 jobs in 2006 when Uganda was declared Africa’s seventh fastest growing economy, to 55,690 jobs in 2007.
What reads like a minor success is still worth celebrating in Uganda where unemployment statistics provide much mileage to both social commentators and lip-service politicians.
As UIA’s most visible deal-broker, it was Dr Kigozi that critics accused of bunching briefcase companies with bona fide investors. The extent of her involvement in UIA’s offer of land to investors aroused much debate. The 2006 sale of the land Shimoni Demonstration School formerly occupied for Shs3.6b to Saudi investor, Prince Sheikh Alwaleed bin Talal, particularly soured her public image. Opinions ranged from her playing real-estate agent during the transfer of ownership from Sudhir Ruparelia, to always effecting such government directives before considering their non-economic cost.
But, departing from her usual compliance with orders on the land-for-industries scheme, in March 2007 she opposed the giveaway of land in Mabira to Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (SCOUL), citing environmental and eco-tourism reasons.
The UIA’s project to establish 22 industrial parks countrywide also met with friction, the most infamous one being the Kampala Industrial and Business Park (KIBP) at Namanve. Accused of stalling the project, she maintained the only snag was infrastructure development and not procrastination on her side.
In 2010, Parliament’s Committee on Commissions and Statutory Enterprises questioned her about awarding an Shs88b contract to build the Kampala Industrial Business Park at Namanve to Spencon Services Limited, a firm then being investigated for doing a shoddy job as a sub-contractor during construction of the Kampala Northern Bypass Highway.
Posterity will celebrate her either as midwife of the national blunders of 2007 that the Mabira and Shimoni sagas were, or as a visionary who soldiered on despite constant criticism to bring much-needed industrial investment to her country.
Life after UIA
After she voluntarily retired from UIA on June 17, 2011, Dr Kigozi became a consultant for the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). Focusing on its Africa Investment Promotion Agency Network (AfrIPANet), her work involves promoting and facilitating mostly foreign direct investments into Africa.
There she continues to contribute to Uganda’s quest to become a first choice for investors , and her link with the Uganda Export Promotion Board gives her good standing as an investment ambassador, both in deed and in name.
She also advocates the protection of intellectual property rights as a resource person for the World Intellectual Property Rights Office (WIPO) and the Uganda Performing Rights Society (UPRS), two of the several organisations supporting the campaign for police, legal practitioners and the public to help enforce the 2006 Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act.
Speaking to senior police officers at a UPRS-organised workshop on February 22, at the National Theatre, she exhorted them thus; “ Aside from rewarding hardworking artistes, Uganda can earn Shs9b in taxes and distribution annually if piracy didn’t exist. Help us get it so we can better our situation as a nation”.
• Born to Engineer George William Blick and Molly Blick.
• Married Engineer Engineer Daniel Serwano Kigozi in the 1990s (RIP).
• Attended Aga Khan Primary School, Gayaza High School, Kololo Secondary School.
• 1974 Graduate, degree of Bachelro of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) from Makerere University’s School of Medicine.
• Voted Most Professional Woman in the New Vision’s 2007 Annual Reader’s Survey.
• Founder :Uganda Investment Authority Women Entrepreneurs Network.
• Associate Professor of Economics, Makerere University
• Secretary of the Presidential Investors Round Table
Patron: Nile Diaspora International Film Festival.
• Ex-Chief Commissioner and currently Chief Scout of the Uganda National Scouts Council (NSC)