Ugandans are lazy, Museveni tells South African investors

Friday March 03 2023
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a press conference after a meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on February 28, 2023. PHOTO | GUILLEM SARTORIO | AFP


Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has told the South African business community that the citizens he has led for nearly three decades are lazy. He was speaking while pitching trade opportunities in Uganda.

Museveni, who was in a meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, said a friendly environment in Uganda makes it unnecessary for one to work hard.

"... we at the equator ... we have two rainy seasons — that is why these Ugandans are lazy...  because life is very easy for them. You don't have to work very hard. Even a fool can survive in Uganda," Mr Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, told a powerful business and ministerial team.

The meeting was aired on SABC TV, a South African public broadcaster.

President Museveni's comments were followed by verbal expressions of wonder by his hosts, including President Ramaphosa.

No statistical proof


In his foreign and local engagements, Museveni has consistently, without statistical proof, accused Ugandans of being lazy in front of their business competitors.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Ugandans rank highest among the most entrepreneurial people in the world.

Ugandans have also emerged leaders in several disciplines at the regional and international levels, including in firms owned by South African companies.

President Museveni, 78, visited South Africa to strengthen trade and ties between the two countries. The trade volumes between them have been dropping, with more than 34 giant South African firms leaving Uganda due to insufficient market opportunities. Only 36 South African firms remain in the East African country.

Irrigation in Uganda

President Museveni used the same platform to ask South African investors to consider Uganda's agro-based industry. President Ramaphosa responded, saying he is interested in investing in irrigation in Uganda.

Uganda is South Africa’s 15th largest trading partner in Africa and the second largest in East Africa, according to South African government figures.

Between 2017 and 2021, the trade volume between the two countries reached a peak of $162 million.

South Africa’s exports to Uganda amounted to $169 million in 2018, while its imports from Uganda increased from $6.8 million in 2017 to $17.5 million in 2020.

DR Congo conflict

On the issue of insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, President Museveni said Uganda suggested using militias to protect the people, something the Congolese government opposed.

"In Eastern DRC, we intervened with our army but there is what we can't do. It can only be done by the locals — to build an army, to build a militia force. They fear a militia force. When we say build a militia force, they say it will turn against us," President Museveni said.

"How will a militia turn against you? The militias are defending themselves against terrorists. Why would they be against you unless you've got something evil you are doing?"

He said he and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi discussed whether to work with them, as freedom fighters, or work with colonialists.

In 2021, Uganda sent over 4,000 troops to eastern DRC to fight Ugandan rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces, who have camped in the region for decades.