Uganda on Thursday signed an agreement to exempt diplomats from visas to Vietnam, signalling intent to relate better with the east Asian country.
The two countries signed the deal as President Yoweri Museveni toured Hanoi, becoming the first Ugandan head of state to make an official trip to Vietnam.
Jeje Odongo, the Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated that the agreement exempts Ugandan diplomatic and service passport holders from visas, allowing the two sides to organise official events or meetings on schedule.
“On our ongoing visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, we have signed three MOUs with Vietnam: diplomatic and service passport visa exemption, diplomatic and political cooperation (and) education and scientific cooperation,” Gen Odongo indicated on Thursday.
The Vietnamese News Agency, however, labelled the deal on visas and political relations as an ‘agreement’ and the rest of the deals as MoUs, which means they could be subject to further discussions and formal agreements.
Frank Tumwebaze, the Ugandan Minister for Agriculture, indicated he had signed an MoU with the College of Agricultural Sciences of Vietnam representing their ministry of agriculture.
“The MoU covers areas of tech transfer, research support and capacity building,” he said.
It is the arrangement on visas which could bring immediate benefits by easing official business between Kampala and Hanoi, which have 50 years of diplomatic relations but have no resident embassies between them. The nearest Vietnamese embassy to Kampala is in Dar es Salaam and the Vietnamese ambassador to Tanzania is also accredited to Uganda.
The two sides, however, have defied this indirect diplomatic attachment, growing their trade annually to $14.3 million in 2021, a rise of 39.8 percent from the previous year, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The trade favours Vietnam but there have been Ugandan investments in Vietnam as well worth about $90,000, targeting spare parts for motorbikes. Vietnam’s investments in Uganda are about $35.5 million.
President Museveni is in Hanoi for a three-day visit from Wednesday. He held talks with the country’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and later the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.