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Odrek Rwabwogo: Eulogy for the late Mzee Ernest Kakwaano

By Odrek Rwabwogo

Chairperson, Exports & Industrial Advisory Committee.

The passing on of Mzee Ernest Kakwaano, 80, on Easter Sunday reminded us again of the sunset of a generation that stood for Uganda when few would; and even more poignantly, how much needs to be done to keep their example of humanness and patriotism alive as our country’s economy and politics continue to shift back and forth. The English language has no verb for the common adjective we use in everyday speech – the word ‘resilient’. If it had, I would perhaps use the verb ‘resele’ to describe this generation that we are fast losing!

Kakwaano became my friend in 1994, a couple of years after he left the Coffee Marketing Board (CMB) back into the private sector. The private sector is where he had horned his skills as an entrepreneur in Kenya in the 1970s, running a Japanese motor vehicle franchise in Nairobi. When we met, he had been dropped from CMB, removed from the property he occupied with his family, and shoved out of the limelight. It was the days of liberalization of the economy, and the end of marketing boards for commodities. It was also the peak of the IMF/World Bank Structural adjustment programs that emphasized getting the government out of social services in return for technical and financial support from the West.

Why I am reminded of this word ‘resilience’, for which I prefer the verb ‘resele’ if it ever appeared in the English lexicon, is that Kakwaano and a number of people like him, who would have had a sense of entitlement for the work they did in exile for the Movement such as saving lives, publicity, treating the wounded, rescuing families of those being persecuted, hiding rebel fighters in transit, etc.; they remained resilient and humble in the face of what often looked humiliating treatment. Kakwaano would have had a ‘legitimate right’ of sorts given he used his car business along with Alice, his wife’s time, to fund some of the NRM external wing activities. He, along with others, genuinely believed he should have been ‘perennially rewarded’ than many newcomers into the system. And in Kakwaano’s calm demeanor, through it all, lies the answer to some of today’s NRM problems. In Kakwaano’s death and his having remained silent about some of his misgivings, we understand the irony of growth and the need to keep certain principles alive. Growth brings change and often that very change can sweep us away. We are called to remain principled as leaders.

When the Movement was still small, the original organ of the National Resistance Council (NRC) of 38 people and even the expanded one in 1989, there were two principles that many of us admired then, when we were in high school. One was the idea of constructive criticism which stipulated that one could contend against the reigning view with good facts, and present a compelling case against a leading position, all in the confines of comradeship, without fear of being misunderstood or losing their job. Constructive criticism saved the young organization from corrupt elements and liars within as they were exposed internally. This method also gave meaning and significance to the value of the Movement’s ideology even to those who were opposed to it at the time. This is why the Movement largely won over people with the power of argument not money or use of intimidation and brute force.

The second idea was collective decision-making by consensus without subjecting key decisions to a vote. A vote would be the last resort if something was deeply controversial and endlessly divisive with a possibility that the public could misconstrue it. That is how many of us young then supported the arrest of Col. Kiiza Besigye, Maj. Gen. David Ssejusa, Gen. Henry Tumukunde, and many other army officers when they dabbled in politics. We understood well that the 1966 crisis that introduced Idi Amin into Uganda’s politics was the genesis of much trouble the country went through. That kind of consensus was an underlying generally accepted way to approach controversial public issues so that our country could heal from the past. And even when consensus failed and a vote was taken, there would be steps taken to heal the side that would have lost the argument and bring them back. The main idea was to convince people to see the correctness of a particular line of thinking and not political posturing. Those who opposed a particular stand in a meeting would be given all the time to speak plainly without fear and if they didn’t convince the majority, they (the minority) would never step out of the room and speak ill of what had been collectively decided on.

These two tools in our work methods were slowly abandoned after 2001 and even worse after 2005 with the pressure to return to party politics. To expand our support base, we dropped or perhaps I could say, watered down, the key values that partly gave us the initial support from intellectuals, workers, and peasants. These groups had been the bulwark of defense against infiltration. The reason the death of Kakwaano reminds me of all this is that the ones who loved the Movement most when these principles were shaken, decided to go silent in respect of the founding principles. The newcomers with limited teaching and awareness, took over and often confused leadership with the titles and positions they came to occupy. They weren’t schooled in these principles and were in a hurry to get to the top. They didn’t understand that leadership is not a job. It is having a burden on how to move society forward. In the watering down of some of these principles and more, we now see results in the quality and depth of leadership in the public sector. Yes, Expansion is good but principles are greater at keeping that expansion within a prescribed growth trajectory that retains values for an organization’s future. If you sacrifice principles at the expense of growth, an organization will struggle to cope with changes in the economy, demographics, and the much-needed thinking on how to organize for tomorrow. I believe that we can remain democratic and still enforce discipline and a standard of leadership for the young people who have joined the Movement over the years.

While I look back reminiscing over the old days, I recognize that every season has its good side and a bad one. There is no neutrality in life. I see that we will not be able to return to the past. We have to build afresh with humility, which is what Mzee Kakwaano’s example reminds us all. In 1994 when I took an evening job at his industrial graphics company, I understood him as a man of few words but a large warm heart. We would work with him on stories to very late in the night for a newspaper he founded called, the Market Place. He would edit the paper with us before it went to press. At about 1 am, he would take us out for a drink and a warm meal in the small corner restaurants of Entebbe town.

There I would pester him with questions about his life, family, work, and how he ended up in exile, and what motivated him as a businessman after losing a job in government. He was always open and we remained friends till he passed on.

While I am saddened by the fact of my not being able to see him on his deathbed given the heavy pressures now placed on our days at work, I have no sense of guilt or shame with him. This is because last year, he made it to a coveted list of mentorship awards that President Museveni gives to those in advanced age who have served our country well. We were able to speak about him among his friends in his hearing and he got to know us younger people and how much we recognize his work for the Movement and the country. On that February day at Sheraton last year, I unburdened myself of any guilty feelings about these old people by saying thank you to them publicly. In one year, three have left us and gone in peace. They include Honorables Henry Kyemba and Cecila Ogwal, now joined by Ernest Kakwaano. They were all on the honor roll for the year 2023.

God keep your soul in peace Mzee Kakwaano.

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Ugandan Government Partners with IPS and International Experts for Green Hydrogen-Based Fertilizer Production

In a strategic move to promote sustainable agriculture and reduce import reliance, the Ugandan government has signed a Joint Development Agreement with Industrial
Promotion Services (Kenya) Limited (IPS) for a green hydrogen-based fertilizer plant.

The plant will be strategically located at Karuma, Kiryandongo District, within the Bunyoro sub-
region, to leverage its proximity to the 600 MW Karuma Hydropower Plant.

The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), representing the Government of Uganda, has committed a minimum 100 MW supply from Karuma HPP to develop this innovative project.
Energy Minister Dr Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu signed on behalf of the government.

“Uganda is embracing green technology to transform its agricultural sector and become a
regional sustainability leader,” said Dr Nankabirwa. “This project will not only reduce
dependency on imported fertilizers and empower farmers but also catalyse Uganda’s green
hydrogen economy, fostering innovation in mobility, power generation, oxygen production,
and other key sectors.”

The project, facilitated by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial
Development (PACEID), aims to boost domestic fertilizer production, improve food security,
and create economic opportunities for farmers.

IPS, part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), will lead the project
alongside Westgass Internasjol AS, a Norwegian green energy specialist, and Maire Tecnimont
S.p.A, an Italian multinational renowned for fertilizer plant engineering.

This venture enjoys the vital support of the British and Norwegian governments, global champions of green initiatives. Financial backing is anticipated from British International
Investment (BII) and Norfund, Norway’s development finance institution.

“IPS is dedicated to climate-positive development,” said Galeb Gulam, CEO of IPS. “This project is a game-changer for Ugandan agriculture, demonstrating our commitment to low- carbon economic solutions.”

Odrek Rwabwogo, PACEID chairman, emphasized the project’s support of Uganda’s export goals. “This initiative will harness resources and technology to make a decisive impact on our
agricultural sector and national export ambitions,” he said.

This collaborative effort envisions a future of resilient, sustainable agriculture with lasting
benefits for Ugandan farmers and the economy. It demonstrates the Ugandan government’s
strong commitment to import substitution and enhanced food security.

“Our sustainable approach will create jobs, decrease fertilizer imports, and address national
food and income security. This partnership exemplifies Uganda’s focus on ecological
responsibility and economic success,” added Kinar Kent, CEO of Westgass.

Westgas is the international project development arm of Westgass Hydrogen, a green energy company focused on accelerating the transition from fossil fuels in Europe and emerging markets. The Company enables customers to run carbon-neutral businesses by 2030, supplying affordable and secure green hydrogen and green ammonia, leveraging on its experience, expertise and network in the energy sector.

Westgass is collaborating on this project with Norfund, the Norwegian Investment Fund for developing countries. Norfund’s committed portfolio totals 3.1 billion USD in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, and Central America. Norfund has four investment areas: Renewable Energy, Financial Inclusion, Scalable Enterprises and Green Infrastructure.

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Uganda, South Sudan to harmonize standards to enhance cross border trade

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) together with the South Sudan National Bureau of Standards (SSNBS) are set to harmonise sampling, test methods and certification processes to enhance bi-lateral trade between Uganda and South Sudan. The resolution is one of the many reached at, during a meeting between the two National Standards Bodies held on 11th January 2024, in Nimule.

The engagement led by both the UNBS Ag. Executive Director Mr. Nangalama Daniel Richard Makayi and the SSNBS Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Hon. Dr. Kuorwel Kuai Kuorwel, came after a recent standoff between Uganda and South Sudan over maize exports from Uganda, which saw a Joint Ugandan Delegation led by the Senior Presidential Advisor and Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) Mr. Odrek Rwabwogo travel to Elegu-Nimule, in 2023 to negotiate release of impounded Ugandan Trucks with maize grain and flour in South Sudan.

Since then, UNBS embarked on batch sampling and laboratory analysis of maize grain and flour   exports to S. Sudan in designated sampling yards in Central (Afrokai in Matugga), Eastern (Uhuru Parking, Mbale) and Northern Uganda (Layibi in Gulu), utilising the UNBS Central and regional testing laboratories. Since this intervention, 346 out of the 367 samples representing 94.2% of the total maize flour samples analysed, complied with the standard requirements and were from 23 companies certified by UNBS.

The two National Standards Bodies have thus agreed that;

  • All products covered by Compulsory Standards including cereals and cereal products  (mainly maize flour) must be certified by UNBS prior to being exported to South Sudan from Uganda.
  • A Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) certificate from competent authorities in Uganda MUST accompany other products exported to South Sudan like fruits and vegetables, dairy products like fresh milk and yorghurt, chicken and chicken products, fish and fish products.
  • A technical team from the two standards bodies to be set up to harmonise sampling, test methods and certification processes, among other resolutions.

UNBS has since urged all manufacturers and traders intending to export goods to South Sudan to ensure that they undergo the UNBS Certification process and obtain a certification permit and a SPS certificate from a competent authority where applicable, for the smooth flow of their goods and services to South Sudan.

UNBS is tasked with enforcing standards to protect the health and safety of consumers and the environment against dangerous and sub-standard products as well as, ensuring fairness in trade and strengthening the economy of Uganda by assuring the quality of locally manufactured products to enhance the competitiveness of exports in regional and international markets.

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Uganda Expands Trade Horizons, Launches New Hubs and Forges Stronger Ties with Serbia and the Balkans for Enhanced Agricultural Export and Processing

Africa in 2019 just before COVID-19 induced lockdowns exported USD421bn and received USD31b in development assistance and USD40bn in FDI. Uganda lies somewhere small in these figures and it shows you how much exports dwarf aid only if we can focus. This export level is still so small for a group of human beings (Africans) who constitute 17% of the world population. Even worse the concentration of these exports is just simply commodities – minerals, oil and agricultural products that are unprocessed. This is why we keep awake driving export growth for Uganda and we will go anywhere, meet every criticism and work with joy; for we are called in our time to fix some things not to lament.

This is why I thank the partnership we have developed with Serbia and the Balkans to ensure that processing of coffee, handling of fresh fruits and vegetables and other products is done at the entebbe free zones area and make it easier to ship in bulk. The Hon. Ivica Dacic, foreign minister for Serbia and its former PM, came to the free zones to inaugurate the start of the hub at entebbe and called on the free zones authority. I thank Bratislav Stoiljkovic, our trade representative who is opening a third Uganda connect trade hub to make our products known and accessible from Uganda. Mr. Mark Pursey, our Trade Representative in UK will too be opening a hub in London this year as we prepare for the Africa- UK summit.

These efforts make our country come out of woodworks on trade and export matters. We are way behind in how nations compete and are instead locked in shallow peripheral political conflicts instead of focusing on what builds us as a country. PACIED target is 25 trade hubs across the world in the next ten years. This will attract technology and skills, capital investments and develop better supply chains for our products.

In the last decade exports of agricultural products that are of high value have grown only one percentage points yet the continent grows at 3% of GDP and her population at 2.5%! If this doesn’t shock people into reality, what will in terms of what needs to be done to keep Africa stable and growing?

So yesterday we articulated Uganda’s trade policy to the Serbian government delegation as:
1) We will offer tax and infrastructure incentives in return for removal of taxes on Ugandan products into Serbia and the Balkans.
2) We will insist on assembly and manufacturing of agricultural equipment such as coffee machines and processing of juices instead of export raw products to them.
3) We will help with the logistics and supply chain improvements, packaging and packing materials in return for them to process portions of the products here.
4) We will appoint an Honorary consul who will drive trade and not the ones who drink champagne and sell hardware to our country. We will be intentional on growing this trade relationship by signing a new bilateral agreement this year to capture these elements.

Thank you.

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MDAs Commit Support to PACEID’s TradeXchange Digital Platform for Exports

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) on Wednesday, December 6, 2023 convened several ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) to discuss the TradeXchange, a digital export transformation platform being developed by Technology Associates at their offices along Yusuf Lule Road, Plot 23 in Kampala. The MDAs overwhelmingly pledged full support to the TradeXchange Platform that is key for Digitalization and growth of Uganda’s exports.

The orientation meeting with the MDAs was facilitated by PACEID so that Technology Associates could provide an update on the progress made thus far and to share a detailed plan, including the objectives, schedule, methodology and tool to be used during the Needs Assessment and requirements Gathering phase for stakeholder feedback and buy-in.

The key stakeholders in the meeting included officials from Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), National Information Technology Authority Uganda (NITA-U), Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Hortifresh (FFV) Association Uganda and Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (MTIC).

Technology Associates Chairman Girisch Nair explaining how TradeXchange works

TradeXchange seeks to help exporters simplify trade processes and navigate complex procedures and regulations. Through this platform, Ugandan businesses will be able to connect with buyers and sellers worldwide, find competitive pricing and product opportunities, and submit and track electronic trade documents. All of these processes are streamlined using technology, resulting in time and cost savings for businesses turning to export.

The platform is intended to make a significant impact on the export industry in Uganda, as it tackles some of the most common barriers that local businesses face in the international market.

During the meeting, Technology Associates Chairman Girisch Nair highlighted TradeXchange’s potential to transform the entire Ugandan export industry, boosting the country’s export performance, and ultimately contributing to the country’s economic growth. He further emphasized the importance of support from MDAs in this process. “We need to come together as a nation to use TradeXchange to harness great technologies and move exports forward. This is very important as we embark on this project” stated Girisch Nair. He appreciated PACEID led by Chairman Odrek Rwabwogo for current strategies already being implemented to incentivize export-oriented businesses and initiatives.

PACEID’s Matthew Bagonza expressed gratitude to MDAs for their support on the project

Matthew Bagonza, PACEID Head of Administration/Operations expressed gratitude towards the MDAs and the private sector stakeholders for responding to the invitations to attend the orientation workshop. He asked NITA-U to provide guidance during this journey so as to avoid making mistakes. “We hope to establish an advanced sustainable national digital platform and ecosystem to manage Uganda’s trade activities across borders.”

Bagonza informed the meeting that Rwabwogo was unable to attend because he is currently out of the country on a similar cause making a case for Uganda’s exports. “Chairman is passionate about trade and exports in particular. He wants to improve our export earnings and is urging exporters to embrace the use of technology”.

Uganda has a target of USD 6bn in the next five years as export revenues across key products in selected markets.

PACEID Executive Committee member Mahmood Hudda

PACEID Executive Committee Member Mahmood Hudda presented the Digitalization Master Strategy to the MDAs stating that its implementation will not only be crucial for Ugandan SMEs but also for larger exporters looking to expand their market reach. ”The collaboration between PACEID, Technology Associates and MDAs will be vital to ensure that TradeXchange fulfills its potential as a driver of economic growth for the Ugandan business community.”

Dr. Paul Mwambu, Commissioner- Crop Inspection and Certification at MAAIF welcomed the initiative noting that the engagement was good and timely adding that the ministry is looking forward to working with PACEID and Technology Associates to make TradeXchange a reality. “This platform will certainly improve our market access. Traceability will be better because we shall have actual data. This digitization process makes so much sense and speaks to all the challenges we are facing in export. I applaud Technology Associates and PACEID. MAAIF fully endorses what you have put on ground”.

Dr. Paul Mwambu, Commissioner-Crop Inspection and Certification at MAAIF

He however cautioned that there must be due diligence. “This will help to know the key importers and exporters and what has been traded. Such information is required for us to make informed decisions regarding trade.”

Dr. Mwambu urged members to embrace the digital era as it reduces risks of forgery involving paper work saying that since going digital with E-phyto, interceptions have reduced by 97%.

Andreas Nocolaides, CEO- Great Lakes Coffee Uganda Ltd suggested that the developers of TradeXchange be sensitive when it comes to data collection as the data belongs to the farmers. “This is an amazing opportunity to have uniformity for brand Uganda. Transparency will transform our economy.” he expressed.

Andreas Nicolaides, Great Lakes Coffee Uganda Ltd CEO and Founder

Godson Mwesigye, Ag. Assistant Commissioner, Uganda Revenue Authority- Customs pledged the tax body’s full support and requested that PACEID coordinates this project to ensure traders are abiding by the laws. “The integrity of our business people (exporters) must be checked. URA is here to fully support this project.”

NITA-U Director Collin Babirukamu reaffirmed their support and commitment to seeing platforms like TradeXchange succeed. “This TradeXchange project is a move in the right direction and it resonates with our E-single window. It will definitely help with export verification.”

Godson Mwesigye, Ag. Assistant Commissioner- URA-Customs

Samuel Kawalya, Senior Trade Information Executive at Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB) emphasized the importance of the TradeXchange platform. “Companies do business but countries trade. We are ready to work together to ensure the country continues to do sustainable trade and also change the mentality of our business people and have a good reputation out there.”

The insights gathered during this workshop will be instrumental in guiding the project through its next phase as Technology Associates expressed its commitment to helping Ugandan exporters succeed in the international market.

L-R: Maria Bisamaza from PACEID, Atwine Loyce from Fresh Cuts Uganda Ltd and Andreas Nicolaides from Great Lakes Coffee Uganda Ltd

Other members in the meeting were; Mwanje John and Caroline Nankinga (both from MAAIF), Atwine Loyce from Fresh Cuts Uganda Ltd, Nsamba Taufeeq, Augustine Ssekyondwa (both from NITA-U), Steve Huges from Uganda Agribusiness Alliance, Maria Bisamaza, Allan Agaba, Jonathan Kaweesa, Joshua Magambo, Rowland Nkahebwa, Victor Mugasa (all from PACEID), Ajesh Sasi, S. Kaleeswaran, A. Balachandran, Naveen Kumar, Henry Tumusiime, Douglas Onyango, Suresh Thirumalaisany, Kwaiwia Humphrey and Resper Nyivuru (all from Technology Associates).

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Uganda secures customs-free storage space for exports at Serbia’s second biggest Airport

Uganda has signed an agreement with the airport of Nis, some 200 kilometers south of Belgrade the capital of Serbia, to handle cargo from Uganda into the Balkans and Eastern Europe. The airport named after the third century Roman emperor Constantine the Great who was born in the region of Nis, receives 150 large size cargo trucks daily with transit goods to Greece, Albania, Macedonia and other Balkan nations of south-Central Europe. The airport also handles large volumes of tourism passengers in the region during summer in Western Europe.

Nis Constantine the Great Airport is the second largest and second busiest airport in Serbia, after Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport.

PACEID Chair Odrek Rwabwogo (C) witnessed the signing of the agreement between Bratislav Stoiljkovic (L) and Mihaldjo Zdravkovic (R), the Managing Director Nis Constantine the Great Airport

The agreement was brokered by Uganda’s Trade Representative in the region, Mr. Bratislav Stoiljkovic. Bratislav believes that securing this space is a step closer to getting Uganda’s value-added products into Serbia and the entire Balkan region through a fully integrated logistics value-chain. H.E President Yoweri Museveni opened a trade hub (Uganda Connect) in Belgrade the capital of Serbia in July this year. The hub has generated demand for visits to Uganda and orders to source products from Uganda. Uganda Connect is a facility promoting Ugandan exports in Serbia and the European market.

Serbian investors including Kafica Moja, one of the largest coffee sellers in hotels and supermarkets in Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro, will be processing and exporting roasted coffee from Uganda to the Balkan region. The company was invited by President Museveni when he visited Serbia to open a trade summit in July 2023.

Odrek Rwabwogo and Uganda’s Trade Representative in Serbia outside Nis Constantine the Great Airport

The agreement signed on Saturday 4, October 2023, at the airport with the Managing director of the Nis Constantine the Great Airport Facility Mr. Mihaldjo Zdravkovic, gives Uganda exporters more than 750 square meters of storage and shipment space for the shipment to the onward seaports of the neighbouring Thessaloniki in Greece, Duress in Albania and Varna in Bulgaria, all in a sailing range of less than 300kms from southern Serbia. The port of Nis receives and clears all cargo from Asia and Africa into the Balkans. A number of Serbian companies in July confirmed orders for Ugandan vanilla, coffee, banana flour, cocoa, flowers, nuts and dried fruits amounting to USD200m.

The agreement signing on Saturday was witnessed by Odrek Rwabwogo, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID).

PACEID Chair Odrek Rwabwogo speaking to Serbian press after witnessing the signing of the agreement on Saturday 4, November 2023

Rwabwogo was in Belgrade, Serbia to meet the trade minister, Mr. Tomislav Momirovic to press for tax free entry of Ugandan products and services into Serbia as agreed between Presidents Museveni and Aleksandar Vucic of Serbia in July 2023. He was also in Belgrade to check on the preparations for the visit of President Vucic to Uganda in January 2024.

“This storage and shipment base for Uganda gives us much better access to a GDP market of over USD100bn of the Balkans. It will lessen storage and shipment costs once we connect it to Entebbe and Mombasa or by air out of Entebbe. Ugandan companies can now use this as testing ground for holding and conveying cargo in the region and beyond”. Rwabwogo said at the signing ceremony.

Bratislav Stoiljkovic speaks to Serbian media after signing the agreement

Ugandan exporters have applauded the move and expressed their gratitude to Bratislav and Rwabwogo for their dedication to promoting Uganda’s exports through new markets, infrastructure development, adherence to international standards, and improved export financing which are vital for unlocking the country’s export potential.

Dr. James Kanyijje, Managing Director KK Foods Limited has welcomed this achievement saying it’s a key requirement in order to trade in international markets. “It means a lot, it’s part of all requirements for better business after capital. Now, with cold storage, it is possible to increase our exports in the Balkans. President Museveni promised to support local exporting companies, now is the time.”

Uganda has secured more than 750 square meters of storage and shipment space at Nis Airport in Serbia

The Simons Uga Limited CEO Simon Musisi says, “With this opportunity of accessing free storage space at Nis Airport, our Ugandan vanilla exports into the Balkans (a region of over 200M people) shall greatly increase and a positive effect on returns on exports is to be registered. This will grow our sales throughout Eastern Europe and our farmers will be able to receive fair prices on their vanilla. We Thank PACEID under the leadership of Chairman Odrek Rwabwogo for this great achievement”.

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Intra-African Trade Fair a significant step towards realizing the potential of the AfCFTA

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) Chairman, Odrek Rwabwogo, will lead a Ugandan delegation of private sector exporters to Cairo, Egypt for the 3rd Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2023).

Organized by the African Export-Import Bank (Afrexim bank) in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, the event will run from 9th-15th November, 2023 under the theme ‘The AfCFTA Marketplace’.

PACEID Chairman Odrek Rwabwogo

The trade fair will provide a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people with a GDP of over US$3.5 trillion created under the African Continental Free Trade Area. It will also facilitate networking opportunities and discussions on how to capitalize on the AfCFTA agreement.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is a significant initiative aiming to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments. Currently, intra-African commerce accounts for only 16% of the total African trade. The IATF aims to boost this percentage by providing a platform for businesses across the continent to connect, showcase their products and services, and explore investment opportunities.

The AfCFTA agreement, which entered into force earlier this year, seeks to create a single market for goods and services within Africa, leading to increased trade and economic development. With the participation of 54 out of the 55 African Union member states (43 parties and another 11 signatories), it is considered the largest free trade agreement in terms of participating countries since the creation of the World Trade Organization.

PACEID recognizes the immense potential that the AfCFTA holds for African businesses and by participating in the trade fair, the committee aims to help local businesses expand their footprint and tap into new markets. PACEID, working with exporters, development partners and the Government of Uganda will showcase at Africa’s Marketplace in Cairo.

“The Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development is gearing up to participate in the Intra-African Trade Fair. By showcasing Ugandan products and providing valuable information, the committee hopes to contribute to the growth of exports in Uganda and on the continent at large. We encourage Ugandans businesses to register and take advantage of this unique opportunity to position themselves for success in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.” Matthew Bagonza, PACEID Executive Committee Member notes.

Matthew Bagonza, PACEID Executive Committee Member

Ugandan exporters will set up exhibition booths at the trade fair, where they will showcase a wide array of products from various industries; agricultural goods and manufactured products. They will also be educated about the benefits of exporting and how to navigate the AfCFTA agreement.

PACEID is working closely with relevant government agencies and trade associations to ensure a successful and impactful participation in the trade fair. This participation is a significant step towards realizing the potential of the AfCFTA and promoting economic prosperity across Africa.

During the seven-day event, attendees will participate in a number of activities; exhibition, investment forum, fashion/entertainment, B2B/B2G platform, Egypt Culture Day, Africa Automotive Show, AU Youth Start-up Programme and Diaspora Day among others.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is a significant initiative aiming to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments. Currently, intra-African commerce accounts for only 16% of the total African trade. The IATF aims to boost this percentage by providing a platform for businesses across the continent to connect, showcase their products and services, and explore investment opportunities.

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STATEMENT ON AGOA BAN FROM THE OFFICE OF ODREK RWABWOGO, CHAIR OF UGANDA’S PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON EXPORTS AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT (PACEID)

We are disappointed by the unfortunate decision by the United States (U.S.) to end the participation of Uganda in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade programme.

The reason given by U.S. President Biden was, ultimately, because Uganda’s democratically elected parliament passed an Act of which he and his colleagues in the U.S. Democratic party disapproved. 

It mattered not that the law in question – the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) – is popular amongst Ugandans. There are numerous public opinion polls conducted by reputable western opinion research companies that are testament to that fact. However, it was not popular with President Biden and his colleagues. Therefore, it seems they have decided Ugandans should be punished.

It is difficult to see for whose benefit the Biden administration took this decision, if not their own domestic voter base in advance of the upcoming 2024 election. Certainly, no Ugandan – whatever their sexual preference – will benefit. While Ugandan trade with the U.S. through AGOA was insubstantial, growth of our exports to the U.S. and other partners was an important pillar of our economic strategy going forward. Ugandan farmers and small business owners will suffer. 

But more than that, it sends a message to all Ugandans – indeed all Africans – that their already slim prospects for economic prosperity are contingent on whether they vote in line with the values of whoever happens to hold high office in the U.S., not their own. They will not find this acceptable. Nor should they.

It is worth noting that democracy is backsliding across Africa while instability is on the rise. Uganda is an increasingly rare example of an African economy that shares Western values of democracy and rule of law. Like most African countries, we also believe in and seek to uphold our own traditional African values – and public support for AHA stands testament to that. 

The AGOA programme was established in order to promote economic growth, good governance and free markets in Africa. It is a policy of great generosity and foresight by those who created it to bind Africa and the U.S. in partnership and respect. It was not established as a stick to beat the populace of African countries who vote in a way that offends the social sensibilities of the developed West. Yet that is how it is being used now. 

We note that the decision made this week is a recommendation to Congress – and not yet passed into law. We therefore remain, as always, ready to discuss this decision with our American partners and allies – and hope that they have the generosity to listen. 

Odrek Rwabwogo 

CHAIRPERSON 

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON EXPORTS AND INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT (PACEID)

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PACEID’s interventions are steadily placing Uganda on the global exports map

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) has been instrumental in driving the growth of the country’s export revenue. Since its inception, March 16, 2022, its strategic initiatives and effective decision making have helped our nation expand its presence in international markets, leading to a significant increase in export volumes.

The committee is tasked with improving Uganda’s foreign earnings to USD 6BN in the next five years and USD 100BN in 2062 from the prioritized thirteen (13) key products; Coffee, Tea, Fruits & Vegetables, Beef, Dairy, Vanilla, Grains, Sugar, Fish, Banana Flour, Flowers, Tourism, Cement and Steel. 

Under the stewardship of Chairman Odrek Rwabwogo, who doubles as the Special Presidential Advisor-Special Duties (SPA-SD), PACEID advises President Museveni on the strategic and systematic interventions aimed at accelerating exports growth and industrial development for national transformation.

PACEID Chairman Odrek Rwabwogo discusses Uganda’s export with a business expert from UAE

PACEID, which aims to increase the competitiveness of Ugandan products and diversify Uganda’s export base, has enabled Ugandan companies to reach new markets and enhance their visibility on the global exports map.

Business Unusual

Under this module of disrupting the usual style of operation, as a new approach to export markets, PACEID in partnership with various stakeholders has rolled out a succession of trade, investment and tourism summits hosted in various countries within the East African region, rest of Africa and the world to identify off-takers of the 13 priority exports. The committee does not just look for new markets, but rather do it aggressively, intentional with every member mentally invested to ensure that these markets are fulfilled. So far, PACEID has organized close to ten of such trade missions in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Uganda exported USD 267.19 million worth of goods as of two years ago, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. South Sudan in July 2022, UK in September 2022, US in December 2022 and South Africa in February 2023 are some of the other markets where PACEID made a strong case for Uganda’s exports and appointed a Trade Representative (TR) in each of those. Some Ugandans might be thinking of this as a waste of money but fact is that these TRs are not paid a single shilling. They are selected for their independent personalities, passion and interest in promoting Uganda’s products and services but most importantly, they believe in the vision Chairman Rwabwogo has for Uganda’s exports and economy in general.

At these summits, exporters and trade experts partake in panel discussions, exhibitions and B2B sessions where participants from the public and private sectors network, share opportunities and identify strategies to position Ugandan products and services internationally and attract potential investors to Uganda. TRs provide technical expertise to help Uganda penetrate new regional and international export markets.

Uganda’s Trade Representatives during a forum at State House-Entebbe in March 2023

Unlike before, PACEID is playing a crucial role in lobbying for favorable trade agreements and policies. By engaging with government bodies and negotiating at international forums, the committee has successfully advocated for reducing trade barriers that have been hindering the free movement of Ugandan products, ultimately providing a conducive environment for our exporters to thrive.

PACEID, together with Uganda’s Trade Representative in Serbia, Mr. Bratislav Stoiljkovic, went a step further at the recent mission and set up a Uganda Trade Hub ‘Uganda Connect’ in Serbian capital Belgrade. The Hub, located in state-of-the-art central neighborhood Belgrade Waterfront, features a Ugandan coffee shop and market place for our fresh fruits and vegetables that Serbians cannot seem to get enough of and is an information centre for many who did not know about Uganda and its great tourist destination sites.

Yes, Serbia might be an emerging market economy in the upper-middle income range but what makes it strategic is that it is a gateway to the eleven countries in the Balkan region (south Eastern Europe) with a combined GDP of 100 Billion Euros. Serbia, because of its weather (mostly winter), consumes coffee worth 1billion Euros thanks to their extensive coffee consumption culture.

Uganda Connect hub in Serbia is the first of similar outlets that will be opened in several export markets to accelerate entry of Uganda’s products in key markets in the region and beyond.

Last month, Mr. Clive Hunter from the UK Trade Representative office was in Uganda for two weeks on a fact-finding mission engaging key public and private stakeholders along the value chain, doing buyer assessment on the different export companies to establish their capacity to supply the key commodities identified by the buyers such as macadamia, cashew nuts, ground nuts, fruits and herbs and their capacity to meet the quality requirements for the UK market, home to some of the world’s largest retailers in the world.

Clive Hunter from UK Trade Representative’s office was in Kampala recently assessing farmers’ capacity to export to the UK

Through PACEID, Uganda has been able to establish itself as a reliable supplier of various commodities such as coffee, tea, and horticulture produce. Through trainings in partnership with United Nations Development Program (UNDP), exporters have been able to improve the quality and standards of Ugandan products, making them more attractive to international buyers. This has in turn, slowly but steadily, boosted the confidence of international buyers in Ugandan products, leading to increased demand and exports.

By providing guidance and support to local industries, PACEID has facilitated the development of export-oriented sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and services that are enabling Uganda to establish itself as a competitive player in the international market.

The committee works closely with various stakeholders, including government agencies, businesses, and development partners, to identify export opportunities, address barriers, and develop policies that promote trade and industrial growth.

PACEID has also been instrumental in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into Uganda by encouraging the establishment of export-oriented industries, leading to increased production and exports.

Overall, PACEID’s initiatives and strategies have been vital in putting Uganda on the global export map. The committee’s efforts have helped to enhance Uganda’s export competitiveness, attract investment, and promote market diversification, thereby contributing to the country’s economic growth and development.

“We are creating a new pathway for Uganda’s trade by going on the market from the farm through one shipper into supermarkets of another country. Uganda hasn’t been able to do this in the past because of issues of standards, certifications, quantities and funding. This is a new way and we should not make mistakes because this will cost us jobs and tarnish our country’s image. We are encouraging consortiums or clusters of coffee, dairy, tourism, beef, fruits and vegetables and those who can come together to strengthen supply, quantities and deal with sustainability issues. If we don’t act together, each of these companies is too small to do anything on the market.” says PACEID Chairman Rwabwogo.

One of the key achievements of the committee has been its focus on identifying emerging opportunities and promoting the export of high-value products. Through extensive market research and analysis, the committee has identified niche sectors where our nation has a comparative advantage and encouraged businesses to explore these untapped markets. This strategic approach has not only diversified our export portfolio but also helped us reduce our reliance on traditional sectors.

President yoweri Museveni with Trade Representatives

Chairman Rwabwogo has time and again labored to explain that exports can’t happen unless you have infrastructure because improving infrastructure is crucial for enhancing international trade and boosting economic growth. It is upon this background that PACEID has a strong partner in Uganda Airlines which has done tremendously by opening direct routes to new markets that Uganda is looking to take advantage of. In the past two weeks alone, Jennifer Bamuturaki and her team launched the Entebbe-Mumbai where the national carrier will be flying to India thrice a week, a move that is highly appreciated by exporters. Uganda Airlines also launched the Entebbe-Lagos route which opens doors for Ugandan products into the Nigerian market whose GDP is expected to hit USD 489.80 billion by the end of 2023, according to Trading Economics global macro model and analysts’ expectations.  

For this, PACIED is pleased that its message on developing of export infrastructure, routes, standards/compliance and markets is catching on. Uganda has a wealth of products and talent that deserve global recognition. PACEID is proud to partner with local businesses/private sector to promote Uganda’s exports and unlock new opportunities in international markets.

Let’s showcase the best of Uganda to the world.

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Uganda’s Vanilla Industry Booms as a Profitable Export

Uganda is known for its rich agricultural landscape, producing some of the finest coffee, tea, and cocoa beans on the continent. What many people aren’t aware of, however, is that Uganda is also a leading exporter of vanilla.

Uganda is currently exporting over 400MT of vanilla a year which is more than 50% production increment in a period of 5years.

Vanilla exports have shot up

According to Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), Uganda exported 89.038 Tons of cured vanilla worth USD 8.33 million (30.5 billion shillings) by March, 2023.

Ugandan vanilla is a unique and highly sought-after product, simmering with natural flavors and fragrance that is exclusive from other vanilla products in the world. It’s been described as “exquisite,” “delicious,” and “distinctive” by those who have had the pleasure of tasting it. It is for this matter that Ugandan vanilla exporters signed huge deals to export the product to Serbia during the opening of the Uganda Connect trade hub in Belgrade in July this year.

Simon Musisi-CEO of The Simons Uga Limited with some of his processed products

Simon Musisi, Chief Executive Officer of The Simons Uga Limited dealing in premium quality vanilla is one of those who signed deals. He is a processor and exporter of vanilla beans, powder and vanilla pure extracts. “Vanilla processing requires a production team of persons who are trained and experts in that field in order to achieve a higher vanillin and good quality vanilla that can match the global standards of the international food industry.” he says. His major export market is USA and Europe.

The major markets for Uganda’s Vanilla include; USA, Indonesia, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, Mauritius, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Denmark, Check Republic, Switzerland and Republic of Korea.

One of the unique qualities of Ugandan vanilla is its hand-picked, thanks to farmers harvesting plants only when they reach maturity, using traditional and time-honored techniques to guarantee the quality of their crops. This dedication to quality ensures that the product is of high value to consumers who seek natural and unique products, which gives Uganda a competitive edge in the global market.

Uganda, the second-largest exporter of vanilla in Africa behind Madagascar, has various suitable growing conditions for vanilla, making it possible to produce a substantial and consistent quantity of vanilla beans every year. The country has two vanilla seasons, the June-July harvest and December-January harvest. The districts of Kayunga, Mukono, Mpigi, Jinja, Kmauli, Bundibugyo, Luwero and Kasese are the biggest vanilla growing regions in Uganda. Vanilla production of vanilla in Uganda is picking up, and farmers are working tirelessly to meet the growing demand for this natural and delectable ingredient.

Vanilla is a significant source of income for many small-scale farmers in Uganda. It provides a valuable opportunity for economic growth and stability in communities across the country. Musisi provides employment to thousands of people during the two seasons of vanilla harvesting. “We directly work with more than 2000 farmers and over 10,000 farmers through general suppliers.”

Simon Musisi, CEO of The Simons Uga Limited is a vanilla exporter

Vanilla production is an ideal business for farmers in Uganda because it requires a relatively small amount of land and can be grown alongside other crops. This makes it an affordable crop for small-scale farmers who may not have access to a lot of land.

When it comes standards, Musisi says he does not compromise on quality as he always exports the best that meets regional and international standards. “Vanilla is a raw material for the food industry, quality is a major requirement. Therefore, global food standards are mandatory. This is a major challenge that we have tackled through training our farmers and general suppliers to consider good agricultural practices. For example, farmers should not use pesticides on their vanilla farms or intercropping their vanilla gardens with crops that require pesticides, the farmers must harvest their vanilla after maturity and on proper harvest dates,” he emphasizes.

It is because of practices like these that Ugandan vanilla offers unique and exceptional taste and is highly valued in the global market. Uganda’s vanilla industry has transformed into a profitable export, driving economic growth and providing opportunities for local farmers. However, stakeholders must address challenges related to sustainability and market volatility to ensure the long-term growth and success of the industry.

Vanilla is one of the thirteen priority sectors the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID) under the leadership of its Chairman, Odrek Rwabwogo, is working with to grow Uganda’s exports revenue to USD6B and beyond by 2028.

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