Uganda has signed an additional three grant financing agreements worth €85.9 million ($97.5 million) with the European Union.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said the EU grants will support three projects and programmes that are meant to improve the standards of Uganda’s products, and see the country qualify for and sustain its exports to Europe.
Mr Kasaija said the bulk of the cash — about €45 million ($50 million) — will fund the inclusive green economy uptake programme, which involves developing innovative products and projects that reduce environmental risks — a key benchmark for gaining access to the EU market.
The green economy uptake programme covers climate-smart agriculture, green cities, eco-tourism, scaling of renewable energy investments that target off-grid and reduction of waste projects, as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for households and industry, according to EU ambassador Attilio Pacifici, who signed on behalf of the bloc.
The signing took place at the end of the first Uganda-Europe Business Forum held at Speke Resort Munyonyo, in Kampala on March 9-10.
Besides the grant financing agreements that will benefit Uganda in the short to medium-term, the country is also expected to record foreign direct investments worth €646 million ($733.3 million) that EU firms “are planning to invest over the next five years” according to Mr Pacifici.
However, the envoy cautioned that the EU firms need will need the right skills, ease of access to finance, better governance and zero corruption.
Other areas the grants will cover include budget and technical support programmes.
The Uganda-Europe Business Forum is a joint initiative organised in line with the Africa-Europe alliance for sustainable investments and jobs, with the EU partnering with the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) as well as the government.
PSFU Chairman Elly Karuhanga said the forum attracted 750 firms but European participants from France, Italy, Germany and Spain were blocked from attending the event due to concerned about coronavirus.
In a survey conducted ahead of the forum, 107 investors from the EU in Uganda said they have invested about $535 million – which represents one-third of EU investments in Uganda, estimated at $1.7 billion as of 2017.
Uganda is keen on attracting capital and investments to improve its trade volumes especially exports to the EU, a key trade partner. In 2018, trade between Uganda and the EU was worth €989 million ($1.106 billion).
While closing the forum, Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said Africa’s 1.2 billion population guarantees access to one of the biggest markets.
President Museveni cited Uganda’s market of 42 million people; the EAC’s market of 200 million and other regional markets like the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa as well as the newly created African Continental Free Trade Area. He added that EU investors should not be worried about corruption, but rather should establish businesses.
“Corruption is a software issue. If a company comes and people ask for bribes, we can pick them up and send them to Luzira prison,” he said.