By John V Sserwaniko
On April 1st, Jolly Kaguhangire Kamugira took office as the Executive Director Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), a body charged with policy advisory roles, attraction and retention of credible investors to Uganda.
On expiry of her first 100 days on the job, Kaguhangire addressed reporters on the progress made so far. At inception in April, she promised to boost investor confidence by eliminating bureaucracy and revitalizing the one stop center (OSC) for business registration and licensing. She also promised collaboration with relevant government MDAs to collectively rebrand Uganda’s suitability as an investment destination.
Since then, according to her own report card, a lot has been achieved including synergizing with Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and Uganda Export Promotions Board (UEPB) to carry out joint promotion activities for Uganda. Today the three agencies develop joint promotion materials about Uganda for audiences abroad and thereby eliminating wasteful duplication of roles.
In line with her pledge to expedite the construction of Industrial Parks, Kaguhangire disclosed that at least seven (7) major contracts relating to industrial parks’ infrastructural improvements have so far been signed in the last 100 days between UIA and other entities.
The benefiting industrial parks include: Mbarara SME Park, Soroti and Namanve (routine mantainance). The other contracts relate to routine mantainance of the infrastructure, extension of power lines and opening of selected roads. On Namanve, discussions commenced with the Exim Bank of India which is willing to avail over Shs200bn to fund all major road works.
WHAT HAS SHE DONE?
In the last 100 days, Kaguhangire-led UIA coordinated the President’s Qatar trip where the big man marketed Uganda’s investment opportunities during the high level meetings including one with Amir of Qatar.
UIA has held follow up meetings and more is expected between 15th and 20th July when the Qataris Chamber of Commerce and Business Association delegation will come to Uganda. Kaguhangire says the Qataris are mostly interested in areas like real estate, Energy (taking up projects like Bujagali which WB abandoned) and agro-processing.
Museveni believes the ongoing isolation by its Gulf neighbors has made the Qataris desperate for trading partners elsewhere, something Kaguhangire is already capitalizing on. UIA held Uganda business seminar in Japan out of which two major Japanese investors have so far followed up expressing interest to invest in Uganda.
Partnership with UNDP has resulted into Prof Lin coming on board as a consultant to guide on sustainable management of industrial parks. Engagements have intensified with a number of diplomatic missions in Kampala namely American, Norwegian, French, Chinese and Indian embassies.
The new UIA leadership has also signed MoUs cementing collaborative partnerships with Interstate Trade Center Ltd (for capacity building of women entrepreneurs), Irish Aid (to develop monitoring & aftercare strategy), Leading Edge Ltd (online magazine) of the UK to intensify online publicity of promotional materials developed by UIA and DFID/UK government (to develop Uganda’s investment policy and capacity building programs for UIA staff).
UIA online presence is being strengthening through the ongoing reconstruction of UIA website and other online platforms. Kaguhangire also commissioned investor census to establish the actual number of investors and whether they haven’t diverted from licensing conditions. This information will inform future decision making at UIA and for government.
A consultant has also been contracted to diagnose UIA institutional needs. The consultant’s report could guide subsequent staff restructuring exercise at UIA. Kaguhangire says, because of funding challenges, she currently has only 55 members of staff against the optimum staff requirement of 150.
“We shall be reorganizing staff to achieve our target of creating 1m jobs by 2021 [this translates into a target of creating 50,000 jobs per quarter as compared to mere 20,000 Kaguhangire says was created in the last quarter]. Reorganization will help us ensure staff competences match the work one does. Targets will be set for individual staff members and that will lead us far because funding and staff welfare is also going to improve,” the new ED explained.
Ideally UIA annually requires Shs13bn for staff salaries, Shs10bn for promotional activities/trips and publicity marketing Uganda abroad and close to Shs20bn to operationalize the Industrial Parks. The ED noted that funding is still very low but she is hopeful that with increased demonstrated relevancy, her supervisors at the Finance Ministry will find money to fund the Agency better. She insisted increased UIA funding is well merited because 2,000 of the top tax payers are companies that are attracted and licensed through UIA’s efforts.
“We deserve the money because the investors we bring and license annually pay over Shs6tn in taxes to this government,” bragged another UIA official who didn’t want to be named after the major media event.
On the Twed building where UIA is headquartered, an additional floor has been taken up to operationalize the one stop center (OSC) to carry out licensing and related activities in a more corporate environment. Kaguhangire said, as she took journalists around, that: “This will reduce waiting hours for the investors because all the necessary services such as land registration, immigration and business registration are under one roof.”
The OSC will handle issuance of investment licenses, URSB’ services, URA tax registration and payment, work permits by immigration, KCCA-related requirements and NEMA queries to do with Environmental Impact Assessment. In the 100 days, Kaguhangire’s UIA has also attracted and licensed 76 new investment projects worth $246m.
They are estimated to create 19,378 new jobs. The Investment Code, under which UIA was established in 1993, is up for amendment and the bill is already before Parliament having been recently tabled there by line Minister Evelyn Anite.
To eliminate corruption, which the World Economic Forum report highlighted as a major affront to doing business in Uganda, the new UIA management has re-activated the free hotline (0800100770) on which investors can report extortionists. It’s manned by UPDF soldiers. Kaguhangire explained that middle men, claiming it’s hard to see the President, line Ministers or even the UIA ED, are currently the biggest manifestation of this corruption.
She said they lure investors to go through them and ask hefty commissions after the project has been licensed and the desired incentives secured. The ED said that as a result of the ongoing improvements at UIA, Ernest & Young in their latest Attractiveness Program Report placed Uganda at number 6 out of the 25 African countries that were assessed for their suitability as investment destinations.
PS SERWADDA’S LAND: Kaguhangire was also prompted by reporters to explain how Ps Joseph Serwadda’s Ndeeba-based Victory Christian Center Church was allocated 4 acres of prime land in Namanve, without any known track record of doing business.
She referred the matter to UIA Director for Investment facilitation Lawrence Byensi who disclosed that the anomalous allocation was revoked and land reverted to UIA to be allocated to more deserving business entities.
In broad terms, Kaguhangire revealed that many titles were recently cancelled in the Namanve Park resulting into 52.48 acres of land being rescued from sham investors to whom it had dubiously been allocated for speculative purposes. She said land had been allocated to support investment in strategic areas like agro-processing and solar panels-making but government was let down.
She added another 49.5 acres will be rescued from 30 unserious companies when the notice of revocation expires in the next three months. She didn’t disclose companies on that list.
TOP TAX PAYERS: In a related development, the agency also shared the list of businesses that pay the highest tax to the government of Uganda. To their credit, these are companies that enter the Ugandan market and begin doing business after being attracted and licensed by UIA. The list is as follows: