First-ever Uganda-Europe convention launched, stakeholders urged to harness potential for devt

Guests and officials in a group after the launch of the Uganda-Europe Convention on Thursday, November 09, 2023

Kampala, (UG): Stakeholders from both Europe and Uganda behind the upcoming Uganda-Europe Convention have called for the harnessing of the potential if both parties are to realise the goals of the partnership established.

This came during the launch of the first-ever Uganda Europe Convention (UEC) which took place on Thursday, November 9, 2023, at the President’s Office, Conference Hall.

At the event, the Chief Guest was the 3rd Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Rukia Nakadama who was represented by Lands Minister, Hon. Judith Nabakooba.

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In her remarks read by Nabakooba, Hon Nakadama appreciated the head of diaspora affairs in the President’s office, Ambassador Abbey Walusimbi for spearheading the collaborative initiative and acknowledged Europe as an organic partner which marks a significant moment and efforts to foster collaboration, opening new markets, innovation, wealth & job creation, labour externalisation, affordable housing, public-private partnership, industrialisation, blue economy, among others.

Lands Minister, Hon. Judith Nabakooba who represented the Chief Guest Hon Rukia Nakadama addressing the guests at the event

She called the discussions vital, urging participants to share insights about the vast investment opportunities in Uganda and Europe, adding that by enhancing entrepreneurship, we make tangible strides toward achieving a prosperous future.

On behalf of the government, Ms Nakadama said the NRM is committed to supporting development plans.

Some of the guests who attended the launch of the Uganda-Europe Convention

On his part, the Minister for Defence & Veteran Affairs, Hon Vincent Ssempijja labelled the UEC, as a wonderful initiative, which seeks to position Uganda into a stream of things.

On the essence of statehood, Mr Sempijja noted that the Commander-In-Chief of Armed Forces, H.E. Gen. (Rtd) President Museveni, is a pan-africanist, and Uganda highly values her relations with willing partners. 

He added that the European bloc has been supporting Uganda’s development, defence systems, through an assortment of logistics and training programs, which has ensured tranquility and boosted international trade. This convergence of interests has been the backbone of partnerships.

“For this to continue, we need to see the opening of new markets to stimulate domestic production. We need to work tirelessly to attract more investors,” he said.

The Minister of State for ICT, Hon Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo speaking at the same event said ICT encompasses dynamic & vibrant undeniable enablers for the socio-economic growth of Uganda & Europe, and therefore said that there is a pressing need for further investment, through collaborative efforts with European tech giants.

“Uganda remains dedicated to fostering an environment that safeguards and offers incentives to investors,” she noted, before applauding the European Fin-tech international partners, which currently support and offer opportunities to youth, in fields of education, trade, innovation, security, and defence, among others.

ICT State Minister, Hon Joyce Ssebugwawo speaking at the launch of the Uganda-Europe Convention

Representatives from the European Union stated that they’re aligned to skilling the youth while mobilizing quality investments and enhancing trade between Uganda and the European Union. They assured that they will enhance progress toward diversifying the economy, growing the tourism sector, and creating new jobs in various industries.

They also asserted that the UEC has a unique capacity for fresh ideas, untamed creativity and boundless energy. This potential is the driving energy of progress and development between Uganda and Europe.

Ambassador of Sudan to Uganda, H.E. Ahmad Ibrahim, commended His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni for according reception to the Sudanese community, following the turmoils in their home country. He revealed that Sudan is the second market for Ugandan coffee after Europe.

Mr Ahmad also appreciated Ambassador Walusimbi, for coining the UEC, where different states will benefit from experiences and views.

Head of Anti-Corruption Unit, Brig. Gen. Isoke Henry reckoned the need to identify and deal with corrupt officials in the process of setting up and extending businesses.

“In 2022, the European Union imported goods worth 778 million euros from Uganda. The strong economic engagement is, however, undermined by the existing vice of corruption in the country,” remarked Brig Isoke.

He added that investors have lost money through fictitious claims, but highlighted the goodwill by the government to fight corruption, through his docket and other agencies.

The Senior Presidential Advisor on Industry and former Trade Minister, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde, mentioned that the convention will be a source of partnerships & economic synergies.

She triggered diaspora interests in doing business in Uganda and Europe, especially in the housing sector and implored the Ugandan diaspora community to form or join saving groups, in a bid to avoid unscrupulous relatives, who misuse their earnings. 

Hon Amelia Kyambadde speaks at the launch of the Uganda-Europe Convention on Thursday

In his remarks, Senior Presidential Advisor on Diaspora Affairs, Ambassador Abbey Walusimbi, welcomed the attendees, affirming that it’s a testament to His Excellency President Museveni’s exemplary leadership, unwavering commitment to Uganda’s economic prosperity, and visionary approach to international partnerships.

The UEC will bolster entrepreneurship and innovation, serving as a platform to amplify Uganda’s presence on the global stage and creating a myriad of opportunities for the ‘Bazzukulu’, especially in labour externalisation and value addition, among others.

“As representatives from the State House Investors Protection Unit, we reiterate the commitment to coordinate MDAs, to support instant matters of investors. We liaise with other agencies to expeditiously attend to matters of investors.”

Head of Diaspora Affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Ambassador Johnny Muhindo, said the UEC will galvanise the Diaspora, as a formidable contributor to Uganda’s economic growth.

“We’ve to do Diaspora mapping to identify, locate & also know or establish transferable skills to be used in transformation. We also need a mechanism to track the inflow of money.”

He disclosed that his office is in touch with IOM to formulate a Diaspora policy saying; “Let’s get together & contribute ideas that can inform the formulation of Diaspora policy. We should use our labour force as stick power, train & skill them & ensure that foreign states can’t do without them.”

Mr Muhindo also called upon the government to pay deliberate attention to Diaspora issues, by coming closer to the Ugandans living overseas, for them to espouse the spirit of patriotism.

Socialite Judith Heard was one of the prominent guests at the launch of the Uganda-Europe Convention

Visionary Founder of UEC, Mr Juuko Paul Kingsley, said the convention on December 5, 2023,/in Malaga, Spain, is a Private affirmative action to bridge the gap between government, the European continent, the Diaspora community, and those back home. He appealed to the government to engage with European counterparts, to loosen up access, especially for entrepreneurs and innovators.

The Chairperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), Mr. Baker Akantambira, pointed out that he’s coordinating all accredited labour recruitment agencies, and they’re excited to get business partners in Europe. “We’ve to secure good jobs to bring the Diaspora equation into practice.”

Chief of External Labour Powerhouse, Usher Owere, stressed that because the UEC is a full package with wider opportunities, there is a need to streamline labour externalisation, by bringing together recruiters, trainers, and migrant workers. “Labour export is one of the remedies of unemployment. The focus must be on rebranding it to become more vibrant, bringing regulators to work together, to streamline the way externalisation of labour is treated in the country.” 

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He commended Ambassador Walusimbi and recruitment companies for the work done. “Work out a system, how do we rebrand & modify. We must go back to the drawing board, that’s the dream of the President. Let’s come out, stop the blame game, work together and secure jobs for Ugandans.”

Ultimately, the UEC was officially launched by the Senior Presidential Advisor on Industry, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde, who appreciated the organisers for offering this huge opportunity to the youth. “My role is to declare the convention launched, the first of its kind but will diversify to other countries. Ambassador Abbey Walusimbi is a gem & aggressive.”

The launch was also attended by Mr. Sofian Dahmani (Program Officer Green Transition & Private Sector at EU), H. E. Mrs. Yuliia V. Zagurska (Consul of the Republic Of Uganda in Ukraine), Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi (Security Minister), Hon. Muluri Mukasa (Minister of Public Service), Mohammed Bagonza (State House Diaspora Unit), Mr. Steven Kaheru (State House Investors Protection Unit), Ambassador Philip Ochen Odida (Foreign Affairs Ministry).

Other attendees included; Sandra Ndyomugyenyi, Carol Kembabazi, Harriet (State House officials), Irene Kaggwa (UCC ED), Solomon Kavuma (Acting Director Financial Markets at BOU), Victoria Vanny Nabiteeko (Senior Program Assistant at IOM Uganda), Mr. Cleopas Ndorere (Commissioner In charge of External Trade at Trade Ministry), Hadijah Namutebi (Senior Police Commissioner), Bishop Isaiah Mbuga (Coordinator of Obutaka Development Forum), Sheikh Ramathan Mulindwa (District Khadi of Luwero), Ms. Judith Heard (Uganda fashion model), Uganda Airlines, UTB, URA, Post Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, DFCU Bank, Centenary Bank, ABSA Bank, Migrant Workers Voice, Kyeeyo Initiative, among others.

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