What you need to know:
- I want to see all the big UK companies return to Uganda and provide confidence to the market to follow.
I was forced to leave Uganda 50 years ago and welcomed the opportunity recently to mark this anniversary at Buckingham Palace with His Majesty King Charles, where my fellow Uganda Asians British community sang the Uganda national anthem together in celebration of what Uganda has become and the deep and abiding partnership with the UK. I have since had another opportunity to mark this anniversary with President Museveni, where I was deeply honoured to receive an award for my service to the country of my birth.
The UK and Uganda have huge family ties, as does the UK with countries across East Africa. I am proud of my Ugandan heritage but also proud of how the UK continues to embrace diversity, with the huge welcome given to myself. That acceptance has led to the first UK Prime Minister of East African origin and a Cabinet of people with family ties across this great continent.
Now is the time for UK-Africa relationships to deepen and prosper.
In the UK, I sponsored myself through night school and became a successful businessman, later entering politics becoming a minister at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and later at the Department of Transport. But I gave this up to become the prime minister’s trade envoy to Uganda in 2016. As trade envoy, I have worked with businesses and governments in the two countries I love, to bring mutual prosperity and delivered over £1b in UK Government supported investments.
As a businessman, I know the deals that have not materialised and the missed opportunities. I walked into a UK supermarket last week and saw jackfruit on sale for £49 (Shs220,000) from a neighbouring country. That market should be delivering profit for Ugandan farmers and I hope it soon will, through direct cargo flights from Entebbe to London on Uganda Airlines.
I want to see all the big UK companies return to Uganda and provide confidence to the market to follow. I have UK businesses lining up to invest and trade with Uganda, but they require a pace of delivery that Uganda needs to be able to support.
There are three things I have done this month in Uganda, which will help business. Firstly, I continued to progress the Memorandum if Understandings signed with the Government of Uganda into contracts to support agricultural exports, energy access and roads. Secondly, I promoted the new UK Developing Countries Trading Scheme which means that over 99 percent of all goods exported from Uganda will be eligible in early 2023 for duty free access to the UK with simpler and more flexible rules of origin. Lastly, I launched the solution to the complexity of working with a bureaucracy as complex as the UK Government. The UK Growth Gateway in Uganda (http://growthgateway.campaign.gov.uk) is a new one-stop shop for accessing trade and investment information and support from the UK. As a free service, it offers advisory support from sector experts and will share high-potential UK and Uganda opportunities. The Growth Gateway has already supported a coffee trade mission to Uganda and has identified over 50 deals across the continent.
The private sector is the jewel in the crown of Uganda. As a government minister, I knew that sometimes I needed to get out of the private sector’s way to see it thrive, focusing on only creating the infrastructure and environment necessary to facilitate trade and investment.
The new UK Growth Gateway will do this by cutting through the bureaucracy that businesses have had to tackle. I look forward to seeing the UK-Uganda trading relationship thriving on my return early next year.
Lord Dolar Popat is the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda