As rightly described by our own President Museveni, the ongoing Dubai 2020 Expo is an avenue for the world to meet and talk about prosperity.
The President promised that we would not be spectators in that space. Indeed, the Director General of the Uganda Investment Authority, Robert Mukiza, announced that investment deals worth $300m (Shs1 trillion)had already been cut and were just waiting to be finalised.
By the end of the expo, in six months’ time, the country is looking at $4b (Shs14 trillion)worth of investments and possibly thousands of jobs as a result. This is comforting and even exciting, if the contracts are concluded and all these deals can translate into investment.
In that regard, we will have fulfilled the President’s call for active country participation. Originally scheduled to take place from October 2020 to April 2021, the expo plans were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
When it finally kicked off in October 2021, it was to a lot of criticism back home. No doubt the expo team had good intentions. However, we could have done more consultation and therefore, represented the country better.
This is an opportunity to reflect on our country approach in terms of showcasing our opportunities. Many in-country spectators and participants appear to have been surprised by the expo displays, choice of products, methods of promotion and even customer care, or the lack of it, at the Uganda station.
This feedback points to a glaring gap in our national planning structures. A strategy should have been developed after consulting several stakeholders and getting buy-in and ideas from industry players, technocrats, business and other key sectors.
Decisions arising out of this consultative process would not only be easier to implement, the actors would know exactly how to get value for money, going into the global expo. As things stand, there are many actors who feel we could have done better, taken a different approach or used a different strategy. Even with the best of intentions, once there are gaps in coordination between the government and the sector players, there will be gaps in implementation as key questions and concerns may go unanswered even at the end stage when we have inked the deals on investment.
Planning teams should be inclusive and well-coordinated and communication should be in place to keep the stakeholders abreast with the developments as well as seeking to close information gaps that can quickly be exploited in this digital age. The Dubai expo and others like it are rare opportunities that we should seek to maximise with all the people and tools at our disposal.