Last week President Museveni opened a water factory at Bweyogerere owned by Vero Food Industries Ltd. Vero is owned and managed by Ugandans led by a young man called Emmanuel Katongole. Mr. Katongole is one local investor in whom Uganda must have a lot of pride. Besides Vero, he is the managing Director of Quality Chemicals Ltd. which manufactures anti- AIDS drugs as well as represents international manufacturers of a variety of animal drugs. He is therefore responsible for providing employment to many Ugandans, both men and women, as well as paying taxes to the government. Besides Mr. Katongole, there are some Ugandan investors such as Sudhir, Mulwana and Wavamunnno whom Uganda must be proud of. We thank them all. We urge the government to encourage more Ugandans into their ranks.
It is not possible, not even ethical to delve into the affairs of private companies. When we see these companies trading from year to year we assume that they are doing well and we salute them. However, the local investors silently suffer from some government policies or lack of them.
We have pointed out before that our government through the Uganda Investment Authority does not regard investment by local Ugandans as something they should go out of their way to attract. However, despite this, many local investors carry on their business. That is why we should hail them and that is why we would ask our government to have a special place for them.
There are many advantages to be realized by the country if we had more local investors than foreign ones. To begin with, local investors would give employment to their Ugandan brothers and sisters who would in turn support their numerous relatives. But many foreign investors import labour even for the jobs which Ugandans can do.
Secondly, if their operations are profitable, the profits remain in the country and make further investments possible. Foreign investors have to remit the profits they make to their shareholders abroad.
Thirdly, there is a belief that foreign investors bring foreign exchange into the country. This belief is false because many foreign investors borrow their capital from our local banks thereby denying the country the foreign exchange we so badly need. Besides, there seems not to be any regulation to force the foreigners to bring foreign money into the country. One should remember Tristar Apparel Company which came here as a foreign investor to make garments for export. It ended up consuming taxpayers’ money to capitalize and prop it up. In the end it collapsed and the monies advanced to it were never recovered yet its owners got away scot-free like a goat which has just broken a pot. Even the local girls whose recruitment to work for it attracted so much fanfare were mercilessly abandoned.
It is a good thing for the government to attract foreign investors into the country. It would be even better if our government encouraged local investors through favourable legislation and monetary benefits. We think that our government should adopt a policy of identifying sectors which would be specifically reserved for the local investor. For example, as we now have more than twenty investors in the field of bottling what they call “mineral water”, any further expansion in this field should be restricted to local investors. Similarly, investment in agricultural production should be left to Ugandans because agriculture is not just a business but a way of life for the majority of Ugandans. Foreign investments in this area should be limited to food processing, packaging and marketing. The local farmer should be assisted to improve and increase production by our government in a more sophisticated way than these simplistic and ineffective NAADS programmes. Foreigners should not be allowed to invest in simple projects which do not require much money such as baking or butcheries. They should be required to bring into the country a reasonable amount of money as seed capital.
Indeed, our president should participate actively in encouraging investors by opening their factories and saying good words praising their efforts. Moreover, since the president has a minister responsible for industry, the minister should be seen to be playing a more active role than currently. Surely our president should be spared for higher activities than opening factories, dispensaries or even agricultural shows.
by John Ssebaana Kizito