Its now a new dawn at Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) as the investment agency ushers in a new team of leaders both at board and executive level with the appointment of Mr Robert Mukiza, who takes up the position of director general, being the latest.
In a May 2 letter, President Museveni instructed Finance Minister Matia Kasaija to execute the appointment of Mr Mukiza, who he said had passed the interview but “I had told you to freeze the appointment until the issue of Ms Kaguhangire is resolved”.
“I have decided to authorise you to go ahead with the appointment,” the President wrote.
Mr Mukiza had earlier been recommended for appointment by the UIA board in 2019 but the process was halted by the President due to unresolved issues concerning former executive director Jolly Kaguhangire.
Ms Kaguhangire was in 2018 interdicted by the UIA board following a number of allegations, which included gross insubordination, incompetence, concealment, and misinformation and lying to the board, defiance and illegal recruitment of staff, among others.
She has since been cleared by the Inspector General of Government but her reported efforts to get back to UIA through the President, who she is said to have met at State House, have not been successful.
Mr Mukiza replaces Mr Lawrence Byensi, who has been activing UIA director general since 2019.
He is among a number of the new appointments in which Mr Morrison Rwakakamba, who has been a member of the UIA, will replace Mr Emily Kugonza as the new chairman.
The board also has new appointments among them Journalist Angello Izama and Ms Beatrice Mpairwe, the Bullisa District Woman MP, who replaces Mr Fred Opolot, who has since joined to Parliament.
Early this year, UIA also controversially appointed Mr Paul Kyalimpa as deputy director general, who had reportedly pulled out in favour of Mr Kasaija in the Buyanja County MP race in return for a promise of a job.
Mr Rwakakamba at the weekend told Daily Monitor Mr Mukiza brings a lot of experience to UIA given his qualifications, exposure and understanding of local, regional and global business.
UIA’s new strategic direction
Since 2018, there has been talk of restructuring. In fact, Finance and Investment State Minister Evelyn Anite in 2019, said the new board would prioritise restructuring UIA to realign it with the current demands.
However, Mr Rwakakamba did not clearly commit to the restructuring plan, noting they would pursue continuous improvement through retooling and supporting staff to serve investor needs.
He also highlighted among other areas of focus, implementation of Cabinet resolution to setup 25 industrial parks across the country, sensitise Ugandans on investor incentive and recruit and transform traders into manufacturers.
In its strategic proposals, the UIA board, for which they hope to secure funding from government, will undertake feasibility studies for bankable projects within industrial parks instead of waiting for investors to apply.
This, Mr Rwakakamba said, will attract more investors to the parks and curtail bureaucracies in the investment process.
Views from the expert
However some experts have said UIA will have to overcome structural challenges if the new leadership is to make an impact.
Mr Yusuf Serunkuma, a researcher and a PhD Graduate Fellow from the Makerere Institute of Social Research, said the challenges before UIA were not technical but rather structural, which mostly are an extension of “political appointments”.
“Even if the appointee were Harvard or Yale trained, you will reproduce the same problem because the malfunction, the inefficiency is the way the system is designed. Poor performance is political. If the President wants UIA to perform well, it will, if he doesn’t, it won’t,” he said.
Dr Fred Muhumuza, the Makerere University Economics lecturer, said that whereas the appointment would strengthen the mandate of UIA, there is a lot of politics, which would affect delivery of documented plans.
“Halting an appointment by the President speaks to the political undertones. By default the appointed person will deal directly with the President meaning the institutional challenges within UIA will continue,” he said.
However, Dr Maggie Kigozi, the UIA former executive director, said that whereas UIA has had challenges, it has been performing well and will continue to do so.
“UIA has actually been performing well, if you look at the figures. They have been attracting investors and they continue to date. One of the big problems that has been, is the lack of reporting and communication,” she said.
According to UIA’s annual report for 2019/20, it registered -8 per cent drop in planned foreign direct investments against a targeted 20 per cent growth.
At least 256 investment projects were licenced with an investment portfolio of $872m and 28,000 planned jobs during the year. UIA attributed the drop to Covid-19, which adversely affected key investment source countries such as China, India and the European Union.
Mr Rwakakamba says during the year, the One Stop Centre, which houses activities such as online Tax identification Numbers application, license application among others was critical.
“We have seen increased inquiries for the last quarter during Covid-19 from 22,000 to 34,000. Not just inquiries but transactions online so our investment in online services has vindicated us during covid-19. We have also seen new investors set up investments in industrial parks despite Covid-19 restrictions. The real economy in terms of manufacturing still remained steady,” he said. UIA, Rwakakamba says, is hedging on increased dissemination of the Covid -19 vaccine throughout the world to open up investment.