Somalia’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will be in Uganda next week for a two-day State visit, in a trip seen to drum up regional support and bolster business ties as he enters the third month of his presidency.
According to sources at Uganda’s Foreign Affairs ministry, the Somalia leader will hold bilateral talks with his host, President Yoweri Museveni, on security, investment, trade, and regional cooperation.
Uganda is crucial to Mogadishu’s internal security, as it is one of five troop-contributing countries to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis), which is currently building the country’s security capacity.
President Mohamud’s predecessor Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo made a state visit to Uganda in 2018, and also attended Mr Museveni’s inauguration for a sixth term in May last year.
Presidents Museveni and Mohamud are expected to preside at a joint Uganda-Somalia investment and business summit in Kampala on August 9 and 10. About 300 delegates are expected to attend.
Ugandan ambassador to Somalia, Prof Sam Tulya-Muhika, said the summit would provide a platform for public and private sector players from the two countries to engage on how to ease the cost of doing business and harness existing and future opportunities.
“The summit will strengthen bilateral cooperation in trade and investment between the two fraternal countries and support potential investors and the respective business communities with the required conducive business environment,” he said.
Mr Mohamud’s state visit comes after Kenya, where he and President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to iron out their diplomatic relations that had thawed over maritime and trade disputes. President Mohamud also lifted a ban on miraa imports from Kenya and permitted Kenya Airways to start scheduled flights to Mogadishu, frozen for the past five years.
Last month, Somalia formally requested the East African Community (EAC) to consider its application as the eighth partner. President Mohamud was the special guest at the EAC summit in Arusha, Tanzania.
EAC member states are Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and the latest entrant, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kenya and Burundi also contribute troops to Atmis. The others are Ethiopia and Djibouti.
Uganda was the first to deploy troops in Somalia in 2007 and still has the largest contingent. It also hosts the Somali community, mainly refugees, students, and businesspeople.
The two countries are linked by direct flights between Mogadishu and Entebbe via Uganda Airlines. Trade between the two countries has been meagre on account of Somalia’s insecurity, but with relative stability returning, there is optimism for increased business.
In 2020, for example, Uganda exported goods worth $676,000 to Somalia, while imports from Mogadishu were worth $75,700.
The main exports to Somalia are mostly aircraft parts, rolled tobacco, and beer. According to ambassador Tulya-Muhika, Uganda also hopes to export its milk, sugar, confectionery, edible vegetables, ICT, and environmental services.
Since coming to office, President Mohamud has been on a whistle-stop tour of East and the Horn of Africa capitals in pursuit of an obvious outward foreign policy. He has been to Djibouti, Eritrea and Kenya.
He also went to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, international partners that have heavily funded projects in Somalia. He also visited Egypt last week.
President Mohamud is also expected to visit Ethiopia.