Some fifteen companies from the Arab state of Qatar participated in the Uganda-Qatar business summit that was held in Kampala on September 10, 2019.
Organised by the Qatar Development Bank, the event offered Uganda’s business community an opportunity to tie-up some deals with the rich Arab state.
According to Francis Ntangaaza, one of the people who co-organised the event, the Qatari investers were interested in investing in a wide range of sectors. Uganda’s strong agri-business sector was a major attraction for the Arab guests.
Ntangaaza however cautioned Ugandans against rushing to conclude what he called unrealistic deals or promises with foreign investors.
Ntangaaza said that making unrealistic promises such as supplying food stuff to a foreign company, not only hurts the reputation of the individual company but also soils the reputation of the country where investors start to doubt the credentials of the entire business community of Uganda.
Ntangaaza cited an example last year in which a Ugandan company pledged to supply 40 metric tones of Watermelons per month to a foreign juice-making factory but failed to deliver.
“Now, this creates a bad image for Uganda as a country because someone may not want to introduce themselves as a Ugandan since they are already branded as unserious people in that market. So you rather say no to the potential business partner. It’s better that one asks for an off take agreement and prepare to start supplying when they are ready,” Ntangaaza advised.
During the same event, the Executive Director of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) Gideon Badagawa urged Ugandans to first pursue markets before engaging in production.
Appreciating the government’s role in creating an enabling environment for business, Badagawa said the challenge now is for the private sector to embrace strategic partnerships, enhance skills and ensure value addition to maximize opportunities.
“In the private sector, we have always emphasized market-driven production away from product driven marketing. Find out what a market requires by volumes, standards and so on.”
He hailed the opportunities availed by the Qatar-Uganda business forum as a fantastic opportunity that would open up Uganda’s products to the the Middle East and specifically Qatar as a state.
“I think this is a very big opportunity for the private sector in Uganda,” he added.
Uganda’s Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi who officiated the forum, assured Qatar’s business community of Uganda’s fertile investment environment which he said offers them a vast market of over 400 million people thanks to the numerous trade arrangements with the region.
Opening the two-day Uganda-Qatar business summit in Kampala on September 10, 2019, Ssekandi reminded both Ugandans and Qatari investors of the fast growing population of over 400 million people in the COMESA region which he said has not been supplied well with goods and services.
Ssekandi confirms that investing in Uganda serves as a centre point to the rest of Africa’s market hence the need for people from Qatar to do business with and in Uganda.
“Uganda is a prime investment destination in Africa due to predictable and stable environment, a fully liberalized economy, natural resources, security for investment, first arrival privileges in form of tax exemptions,” said Ssekandi.
Turning to Uganda’s business community, Ssekandi reminded them that the country needs to increase her exports of fish, horticulture products, coffee, tobacco, tourism services among others.
Abdul-Aziz Nasser Al-Khalifa, the Chief Executive Officer Qatar Development bank said that the start of the business partnership strengthens the long-standing ties between the two countries.
“Commercial relations are of great importance in promoting dialogue between nations and the mission comes in handy to choice international business partners for a country”- Abdulaziz Nasser Al Khalifa
Uganda’s Ambassador to Qatar, Simon Ajiku moaned the unfavourable trade imbalance between Uganda and Qatar. He said the visit offered Uganda an opportunity to Ugandan companies to reduce the growing deficit. He noted for example that Qatar’s exports to Uganda stood at US$16.6 million compared to Uganda’s US$8.6m.
“Certainly this is a trade imbalance but given that we have this engagement as a beginning process. We are looking at improving on that imbalance; It may look unfavourable now basically because the State of Qatar is still advanced however we have things that they would need as well, I believe, that we have a convergence of our interests,”Ajiku noted.