Interview with Mr. Byensi Lawrence Ag. ED, Uganda Investment Authority
Dr Sebbowa Frank, former ED, has recently left Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). What does this change mean for UIA, the investors and the 5 year strategic plan?
In the UIA’s Strategic Plan 2016 – 21, the Board of Directors have set an ambitious but feasible target of creating 1,000,000 new jobs by 2021. We are targeting investment opportunities in: Agriculture/Agribusiness & Agro-processing; Tourism; Minerals/Oil & Gas; and Science, Technology & Innovations (STI) including ICT. It will also focus on the development and enhancement of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The Plan is orientated to brand and market Uganda as profitable for investments, business and as the land of entrepreneurial and innovative people. This is going to call for the UIA team to think out of the box. We need to be innovative in our investment promotion and facilitation if we are going to be able to attract quality investment that creates the targeted jobs.
A key strategic pillar of the UIA Strategic Plan 2016 – 2021 is the development of Business, Science, Technology and Industrial Parks to spur industrialization, for the creation of jobs, attraction of new investments in hi-tech and technology firms and high skills transfer into Uganda. This will greatly improve Uganda’s productivity and expand Uganda’s exports base.
The departure of Eng. Dr. Sebbowa, the former ED will not affect our focus on implementing the Strategic Plan 2016-21.
As the Ag. ED what should the investors look forward to in terms of your priorities for UIA going forward?
As far as investment opportunities are concerned, agriculture remains the major economic backbone of Uganda. There are many Government programmes geared at increasing productivity, for instance Operation Wealth Creation project. As these bear fruit, there is a big need to add value to the increased output. UIA is focused on attracting investment in agro processing for export and packaging. Packaging is a very integral sector to competiveness in exports. Uganda has a very long list of exportable agro products.
Almost every month Uganda is being acclaimed for its tourism potential and with increased visibility of the country we envisage more tourism interest. There is a lot of viable investment potential in the creation of new tourism products, good affordable accommodation and all the other businesses that surround tourism i.e. crafts, culture (lifestyle experience, theaters, drama, food, etc.).
The other priority sectors UIA continues to focus on are adding value to minerals and ICT. All these are sectors detailed for focus in Uganda’s National Development Plan. Government has even gone ahead to provide sector specific incentives in these areas in order to attract investment. UIA will be marketing these sectors to both local and foreign investors in the coming year.
What will be the focus of UIA in 2017? What developments and/or events should investors look forward to in 2017?
Globally the FDI outlook is a bit gloomy, 2017 looks promising because the investment climate is continuously improving. There is renewed focus and interest in the oil sector so the spin off businesses from the sector will be viable areas of investment e.g. Logistics, food supply, waste management, etc. In addition, UIA is looking to attract more value adding investments in sustainable investments. Quality investments that do not only add value to Uganda’s resources but investments that create quality jobs for the Ugandans. In that way, this will contribute to Uganda’s attainment of a middle income economy in the very near future hence achievement of some of the global sustainable development goals of which Uganda is working to achieve.
Investment, however, will only come to a location if the investment climate is enabling. In the coming year, we look forward to the pronouncement on a number of policy interventions as advised by the private sector to H.E the President during the Presidential Investor Roundtable (PIRT) which will be concluding its two years in 2017. These are interventions in tourism, oil/gas and mining, as well as the business environment generally. The presence of Government services online is going to make a big difference in terms of reduced time and cost of doing business for both the potential investor and the Government Agencies offering the registration, licensing and regulatory services. Our One Stop Centre for investors can now be accessed digitally through www.ebiz.go.ug which brings together all the key relevant Government Agencies so that one can access these without leaving where they are located. This should be able to improve Uganda’s business ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Report.
Finally, talk to investors about the PIRT initiative and what to expect in 2017.
The Presidential Investors’ Round Table (PIRT), which is chaired by H.E the President, is a high level forum that brings together a select group of both foreign and local investors to advise Government on how to improve the investment climate in the country. PIRT is used as a vehicle for Public Private Dialogue. It acts as a business – government coordination mechanism. Since its launch in 2004, PIRT phases are run on a two year basis and have focused on selected strategic thematic areas ranging from: agribusiness, ICT, education, infrastructure, the regulatory environment, oil / gas and mining, tourism, transport and logistics, the creative industry, to e-Government. Currently PIRT phase 5 was started from 2015 to 2017. It was launched on 19th August 2015 and focuses on four thematic areas namely: energy and petroleum (oil and gas), minerals and mineral beneficiation, tourism and Uganda`s competitiveness and ease of doing Business.
In 2017, each area will continue to be handled by a Technical Working Group of private and public sector members, headed by a Chairman nominated by H.E the President. UIA comprises the Secretariat Team which carries out sector specific research, document reviews, initiates meetings, and advises the respective Chair persons, links private sector and Government.
The Office of the Rt. Hon Prime Minister coordinates the whole process and follows up on implementation of agreed policy actions. The work of PIRT also helps Development Partners especially World Bank`s private sector development and investment climate programmes. PIRT are also undertaken in various African Countries including; Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania.