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Gov’t, Sudhir Sh147bn Convention Centre on course – PM Nabbanja

The government is financing the convention centre as a joint venture with Mr Ruparelia. The project, whose MoU was signed last year in February, is tagged to a cost of $40m (about Shs147b).

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, businessman Sudhir Ruparelia, and Finance minister Matia Kasaija at the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, on Kampala February 19, 2022. Photos/courtesy

Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja has re-affirmed that the joint venture between government and businessman Sudhir Ruparelia to construct a Shs147b Convention Centre is on course despite contrary reports from ‘naysayers’.

The government is financing the convention centre as a joint venture with Mr Ruparelia. The project, whose MoU was signed last year in February, is tagged to a cost of $40m (about Shs147b).

The multi-billion convention centre at Speke Resort Munyonyo is set to host the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit will be held in early January 2024.

The Ministry of Finance says it has finalised the budget and presented a supplementary request to Parliament of Shs86.4 billion to co-invest in the project as a Public-Private Partnership.

MPs on the Budget Committee appreciated the foresight of the project and have indicated the request will be approved.

The Convention Centre is supposed to be fully functional by January next year in time for the NAM Summit. Once completed, the centre will have a 3,500-seat ultra-modern auditorium, a suspended restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria and smaller conference rooms or sideline meetings during the summit.

During an NRM caucus closed-door meeting chaired by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, some MPs asked why the government was entering a joint venture and not constructing their own.

However, several MPs reasoned that the government lacks the capacity to build facilities of such magnitude and the timelines at which it constructs its own structures such as Parliament’s Chambers and Finance House cannot meet the timelines for the summits.

It was also noted that the Conventional Centre will be vital in future summits of international magnitude that the government will host.

NAM comprises 120 countries that are not aligned to any of the rival eastern and western power blocs and it was founded during the Asian-Africa meeting in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. The G77 is a coalition of UN countries from the global south to advance their collective economic interest.

Preparation for hosting the two summits has been in works since 2019, when Uganda was endorsed for the chairmanship of NAM from 2022- 2025, and the government is hedging on them to salvage its image on the international fora.

While the government approved the convention centre project, in earnest insiders say it remains a polarising subject owing to the experience of Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo to accommodate Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) in 2007.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja convened an executive meeting to discuss the project. The meeting was attended by Sudhir himself and officials from the Ministries of Finance and Works led by their respective permanent secretaries.

Dr Sudhir has a track record of meeting construction deadlines at the same time delivering world-class facilities.

It is not the first time he will deliver a successful Public Private Partnership project as in 2007, he was able to deliver the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort that hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM).

The centre has gone on to host several high-profile meetings over the years.

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