Diplomatic visits should translate into business

President Museveni (C) pays homage to Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the Mausoleum in Hanoi on November 24, 2022 during a three-day visit to Vietnam. PHOTO/HANDOUT

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Business
  • Our view: A country like Vietnam has managed to beat all kinds of stereotypes to join a prosperous path that Uganda should try to emulate. 

The view that several of Ugandan generations have of Vietnam was fully formed by Hollywood.  Following the 20-year war which ended in 1975 with 58, 220 US army soldiers dead, the American film industry went on the offensive. 

So many theatrical films of the war were released. Almost all of them emphasized American superiority on the battlefield.  However, the proxy cold war is regarded as a disaster in the world’s most powerful and richest economy. 

Last week, President Museveni’s first state visit to Vietnam must have brought back some of those memories created by Hollywood. Forget the images and videos of the president attending public events without a mask, he was there for serious business. 

Vietnam and Uganda enjoy modest bilateral relations established in February 1973, although both are yet to open an embassy in each other’s capital.  Uganda’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, oversees Kampala’s diplomatic interests in Vietnam.

Trade between both countries hit $14m (about Shs52b) in 2021, with Vietnam exporting mainly textile-garments, spare parts, among others, while Uganda imported coffee, timber and animal feeds.

Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producing and exporting country after Brazil and followed by Colombia.

President Museveni’s visit came on the heels of recent trade agreements with the UK and China.  The President also loudly argues for the prosperity of East and Africa as a whole so often. 

Now, all this goodwill and aspirations need to be translated into the business decisions that investors and government make.  A country like Vietnam has managed to beat all kinds of stereotypes to join a prosperous path that Uganda should try to emulate. 

There are so many similarities since the Asian country is largely dependent on agriculture. Tourism, science and technology are not too far behind.  A developing country with a lower-middle-income economy, Vietnam is nonetheless one of the fastest growing economies of the 21st Century, with GDP predicted to rival developed nations by 2050.

Their nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is estimated to be $408.947b (39th in the world) which puts GDP per capita at $4,122 (139th). 

Uganda’s GDP per capita is a meagre $1,060 (172nd). There are so many salient and realistic economic lessons from Vietnam even if you ignore the figures.  The country decided to invest in areas where they have a comparative advantage which helped lower the unemployment rate. 

This year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found the unemployment rate in Vietnam to be 2.4 percent. It’s time to smell the coffee.  

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