A business based magazine that brings you the latest authoritative and usable business news, appealing stories & impactful blogs from Uganda, the EAC region and beyond.

DTB plants UGX90m in Kasonke Forest Reserve

Diamond Trust Bank Uganda has entered a partnership with the National Forestry Authority to restore degraded parts of Kasonke Central Forest Reserve.

The restoration project, which involves the planting of over 20,000 indigenous trees on 34 hectares, is to cost a total of UGX89.7, hence contributing to Uganda’s Vision of 2040, which targets increasing forest cover to 24% of the total land cover like it was in 1990.

Kasonke Central Forest Reserve, known for its high biodiversity value, faces threats of degradation mainly from encroachment.

Speaking at the signing event, Godfrey Sebaana, the DTB Uganda CEO, said; “We all have a responsibility to preserve the environment for today and for the future generations.”

Ssebaana said the initiative also marks the launch of DTB’s environmental sustainability campaign, dubbed the DTB Green Initiative, whose goal is to plant at least one million trees by 2030. “It is important for us to be involved and engaged in preserving our environment so as to improve the quality of life in communities where we operate and to mitigate climate change. The best way to defend against the effects of climate change is to prevent it rather than treat the symptoms, hence ensuring a fool-proof plan for many generations to come,” Ssebaana added.

Stuart Maniraguha, the NFA Acting Executive Director, welcomed DTB’s partnership for a noble cause.

He said Kasonke forest is of high biodiversity and also works as a catchment for both the stream and lake, which the people of Bulayi and Sanji villages depend on for both domestic and production.

He highlighted the fact that environmental management or conservation is basically the sustainable use of forest resources, which are under threat hence the need for restoration.

Beyond tree planting, the project also encompasses a broader vision of enhancing biodiversity and fostering community development. The DTB partnership, officials said, would empower adjacent communities through education and participation in afforestation and reforestation programs.

Community-based groups will receive training in tree nursery management, sustainable resource utilization techniques, and forest conservation, basically being equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for sustainable living.

Uganda has a total of 64 central forest reserves under the stewardship of the NFA, which play a critical role in biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, and sustainable resource management.

These reserves are essential for protecting Uganda's rich natural heritage and supporting the livelihoods of local communities dependent on forest resources but face degradation and depletion due to human pressures.

By restoring the severely degraded forests, initiatives like the one DTB has rolled out plus the others by companies such as MTN Uganda, help to safeguard biodiversity, ensuring that ecosystems remain resilient and capable of supporting a wide range of plant and animal life.

These partnerships have been welcomed by many stakeholders are a significant step towards environmental restoration and sustainable development for the benefit of this and the next generations.

MTN gives Nawansega hospital UGX58m injection

MTN Uganda, through its philanthropic arm, MTN Foundation, has reaffirmed its commitment to improving healthcare access in Uganda with a significant donation valued at more than UGX58 million to Nawansega Health Centre III in Luuka District, in Eastern Uganda.

The donation includes essential medical equipment such as a CBC 3-part machine, a centrifuge machine, delivery and programming costs, solar lighting, 15 hospital beds and 15 mattresses, a medical refrigerator, and a microscope, aimed at bolstering healthcare services in the region.

The CBC 3-part machine is a critical equipment for hospitals and modern laboratories and is a rapid and cost-effective tool for assessing a patient's overall blood health. It provides valuable information to healthcare providers for diagnosing and monitoring a wide range of conditions, from infections and anemia to leukemia and other blood disorders.

The hand-over ceremony, held at Nawansega Health Centre III, was attended by community leaders, health practitioners, and representatives from MTN Uganda, marking a pivotal moment in MTN Foundation’s Access to Health Care Initiative. This initiative focuses on enhancing maternal and neonatal health countrywide.

Rt Rev. Patrick Wakula, the Bishop of Busoga Central Diocese and the chief guest, urged residents to utilize the health facility for all health-related issues, including counseling services. “Let us work together to eliminate diseases in our communities and learn to seek healthcare services at our health facilities,” he said.

While handing over the equipment, Dorcas Muhwezi, the General Manager for Customer Experience at MTN Uganda, said they firmly believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected world, including access to quality healthcare.

“This belief is the driving force behind our Access to Health Care Initiative, which we proudly launched in 2018 to help our government improve maternal and neonatal health in our communities,” she said.

Nawansega Health Centre III, a private not for profit facility, supporting more than 4,200 people, thus joins a growing list of 45 other beneficiaries under this initiative, which has seen MTN Foundation invest UGX 1 billion since its inception.

Some of the health centres that have benefitted from this initiative include Kimaka Health Centre III in Jinja City, Kagote Health Centre III in Fort Portal City, Ajia Health Centre III in Arua District, Kyayi Health Centre III in Gomba District, and Kaabong Mission Health Centre III in Kaabong District.

Each centre has received critical equipment and support aimed at enhancing the quality of care provided to their communities.

Muhwezi emphasized that the new support is closely aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, which aims to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births and end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years by 2030.

“We extend our sincere appreciation to the management of MTN Uganda for their support, which will significantly enhance healthcare in our nearby communities,” said Kenneth Kulata, In-Charge of Nawansega Health Centre III.

Located in the Busoga sub-region, Luuka District is a new district that was carved out of the larger Iganga District in 2005 and became operational as a separate district in 2010. Access to quality healthcare and education remains a challenge in most areas.

Kulata noted that whereas the facility serves the whole sub-county of Nawansega, it still faces challenges, including inadequate staffing, the absence of an ambulance, and a lack of clean piped water.

Stanbic Business Incubator gets new boss

Stanbic Holdings Uganda Ltd has announced the appointment of Catherine Poran as the Chief Executive Officer of Stanbic Business Incubator.

Poran replaces Tony Otoa who joined the State-owned Uganda National Oil Company as Corporate Affairs Manager in April, after six years in the driving seat.

The Stanbic Business Incubator is part of Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited (SUHL) and a sister company to Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited and SBG Securities Limited, which are all subsidiaries of the Standard Bank Group of South Africa.

A Ugandan national, Poran has been the Head of Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank Mozambique.

The company said in a press release that Poran is a seasoned banker boasting of a 20-year career in the Standard Bank Group, including 15 years with Stanbic Bank Uganda.

Francis Karuhanga, the Chief Executive of Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited (SUHL), said he was “thrilled” to have Catherine at the helm of Stanbic Business Incubator, which she has served as a Board Member since its incorporation and has been a part of the value creation and journey mapping.

“Her appointment as CEO is a natural progression, and we are confident that she will leverage her skills, knowledge, and expertise to actualize the company’s vision,” he added.

Poran welcomed her new role saying she was “honoured to have the opportunity to lead Stanbic Business Incubator and contribute to the growth of Ugandan businesses.”

She added: “I look forward to working with our stakeholders and partners to drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development in line with our purpose of driving Uganda’s growth. My vision is to further establish Stanbic Business Incubator as a leading hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in Uganda, and I am committed to working tirelessly to achieve this goal.”

A versatile and seasoned lawyer and banking executive, Poran is credited for being a partnership-driven professional backed by decades of experience in volatile and complex environments.

She holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School, Heriot Watt University, UK, a Master of Laws from Buckingham University, and a Bachelor of Laws from Buckingham University.

Over the last six years, the Stanbic Business Incubator has played a vital role in fostering a conducive environment for entrepreneurial growth in Uganda, offering both tangible resources and intangible support to help startups thrive.

Poran joins the company at an important time barely two months after they flagged off two innovative programs aimed at supporting businesses to access finance and fostering economic growth within Uganda’s dynamic SME sector.

The Stanbic Accelerator Program (SAP) and the Supplier Development Program (SDP) aim at equipping SMEs with the essential skills, knowledge, and resources needed to thrive in today’s competitive business landscape.

The company is leveraging on partnerships with MTN Uganda, the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), National Social Security Fund (NSSF), GIZ, Petroleum Authority of Uganda, among others to impact more than 3,000 businesses every year.

The Supplier Development Program is particularly exciting as it is in alignment with Uganda’s fledgling oil and gas sector and is expected to demystify opportunities and empower SMES to participate actively in the nascent industries.

Turkish, Chinese investors in trouble over wetlands

The Standards Utilities and Wildlife Court has sentenced Kerim Ray, a Turkish investor and Director of Yamani Construction Limited, to pay a fine of UGX200 million, following his conviction for degrading a wetland in Mukono District.

Ray, through his company had been charged with encroaching upon and depositing murram in Lwajjalli wetland. He was also ordered to restore the Lwajjali Wetland in Mukono within 30 days, under the supervision of the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

The court, presided over by Chief Magistrate Gladys Kamasanyu, found Kerim Ray guilty of violating environmental laws and sentenced him to a fine of UGX150 million and in default, five years in prison for the first count.

He was ordered to pay UGX50 million for depositing murram in the wetland, and in default, serve two years in prison for the second count. The sentence on money is cumulative while the jail term is to run concurrently.

The case against Kerim Ray stemmed from an inspection report that found that his company had started clearing vegetation and back filling murram in the wetland area. Kerim Ray was in particular convicted following his plea of guilty of failure to comply with the conditions stipulated in the Certificate of Approval of a project brief of environmental social impact assessment, contrary to the National Environmental Act.

The court heard that on June 30, 2024, at Gongobe village, Seeta Goma division, Mukono District, Kerim Ray failed to comply with the conditions of the environment and social impact assessment certificate number 18516 issued to Yaman Construction Limited by extending beyond the area authorized in the certificate of approval.

It was the Prosecution's case that on the same day, the convicts deposited murram into a section of Lwajjali Wetland system measuring 0.8 acres without authorization from the environment agency.

While sentencing Kerim Ray, Gladys Kamasanyu considered the fact that the convict pleaded guilty to the offenses and spared him the maximum penalty of paying UGX2.6 billion in fines or serving 26 years in jail. The magistrate reasoned that Kerim Ray did not waste the court's time and resources and therefore earned himself a lenient sentence.

He was jointly convicted with a Ugandan national, Eric Avunalo, who was sentenced to a caution after he pleaded that he did not know that the area where he was backfilling with murram was out of the approved area since he was acting on the instructions of his employer.

The court observed that wetlands are very important in people's lives since they filter solid waste, drain water, and are home to aquatic life. Their destruction is therefore linked to numerous consequences, including floods which Kamasanyu said have recently locked up Kampala City whenever it rains.

"Uganda has suffered the consequences of destroying wetlands such as floods even in the heart of the city, there is plenty of evidence, people have lost lives and property," said Kamasanyu, adding that that wetlands reduce the effects of flooding, they retain waste, reduce the speed of the floor of water, and hence restore water while releasing it slowly.

"Wetlands are also habitats for fish and wildlife and other microorganisms even those we don't see with our eyes," added Kamasanyu.

The court further observed that Kerim Ray should be helped to reform and respect the laws of Uganda in case he has a future project to run. He was advised that he has a right to appeal within 14 days.

Meanwhile, the same Court has remanded seven Chinese to Luzira Prison on charges of disturbing a wetland by drilling.

The Court heard that Liang Cheng Wu , Ui Wen Hu, Lian Cheng Xiang, Hu Dong Xu ,Ge Xing Liang , Wang Peichuan and others still at large on July 8th, 2024 at Kamuwunga village Magezi Kizungu Parish Lukaya Town Council Kalungu district, disturbed Lwera wetland by drilling it in a manner that is likely to destroy it.

Prosecution's Judith Nyamwiza told the Court that the inquiries in the matter were incomplete and it would take two weeks to finalize them. She prayed for a shorter adjournment to organize the sureties. They were accordingly remanded until July 30th for fixing for hearing and for the bail application.

Uganda Airlines starts flights to Zambia, Zimbabwe

Effective this September, Uganda Airlines will start flying to two more African countries, following the announcement of flights to Harare in Zimbabwe and Lusaka in Zambia, thus bringing the airline’s total routes to 16.

CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki told journalists at a briefing today that in addition to three weekly flights to Lagos, the airline would also fly to the Nigerian capital Abuja effective September 12, with two flights a week on the Airbus A330-800 aircraft.

Established in 1991 as a replacement for Lagos, Abuja not only serves as the capital city of Africa’s most populous country but also as a diplomatic hub, hosting numerous embassies and international organizations.

The city is a melting pot of Nigeria's diverse ethnic groups and cultures. It offers a blend of traditional Nigerian culture alongside modern urban lifestyles, making it a unique cultural mosaic within the country. This contributes to its cosmopolitan atmosphere and global significance.

Flights to Lusaka and Harare will start on September 25, scheduled for Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays on the Bombardier CRJ-900 aircraft.

Also set to launch flights to London Gatwick by end of year, Bamuturaki said adding the new routes is part of the airline’s strategy to bridge geographical gaps and connect East to West, North to South Africa, in line with their vision to become one of the continent’s biggest carriers.

Lusaka, Zambia’s commercial hub, controls 75% air traffic and is served by 14 airlines to 16 destinations, mostly within the African continent in addition to Asia.

Harare International Airport, officially known as Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport since 2017, is the largest and busiest airport in Zimbabwe, serving as the primary gateway for international and domestic flights into the country.

Harare, the country’s economic, political, and cultural center, is serviced by various airlines, connecting the country to major cities across Africa, as well as international destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Zimbabwe serves as a transit route and trade hub for Southern Africa, thanks to its strategic location and infrastructure connections that facilitate trade flows between countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, thus enhancing regional economic integration.

“The new services also mark the second phase of our network development and attest to our mission to bring affordable air travel to Ugandans for business and leisure. They also lay the groundwork for the final phase, during which we shall expand our footprint to points in Europe and Asia,” said Bamuturaki.

Uganda Airlines currently operates two Airbus A330-800N widebodies and wet-leases one A320-200 from South Africa, while its regional fleet comprises three Bombardier CRJ900LRs.

The airline already flies to Kinshasa (DR Congo), Mogadishu (Somalia), Mombasa and Nairobi (Kenya), Mumbai (India), Bujumbura (Burundi), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Johannesburg (South Africa), Juba (South Sudan), Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), and Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean.

With the addition of the new routes on the continent, officials believe that the five-year airline would bridge West Africa and Southern Africa hence bring convenience to travelers across the continent with direct flights and seamless connectivity for business, trade, tourism, and socio-cultural linkages.

Analysts insist that African airlines should do more to extend flights across the continent as air travel helps to facilitate trade and economic activities by connecting markets, businesses, and industries across the continent.

This connectivity, they argue, is an important enabler of regional economic integration efforts such as those promoted by regional economic bodies such as the African Union (AU) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

IMF projects modest global growth amid persistent inflation

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected modest global economic growth over the next two years, driven by various regional dynamics, but cautioned about numerous risks that could derail this path.

In its latest update to the global economic outlook released on Tuesday, the IMF highlighted that while the United States is experiencing a slowdown, Europe appears to be bottoming out, and China is seeing a surge in consumption and exports. However, the momentum in combating inflation is waning, which might delay interest rate cuts and maintain the pressure of a strong dollar on developing economies.

The IMF maintained its forecast for real global GDP growth in 2024 at 3.2 percent, unchanged from its April prediction, and slightly increased its 2025 forecast by 0.1 percentage point to 3.3 percent.

Despite these updates, the growth levels are still insufficient to alleviate concerns of prolonged economic stagnation, a scenario IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has likened to the "cool 20s."

The forecast for growth in sub-Saharan Africa is revised downward, mainly as a result of a 0.2 percentage point downward revision to the growth outlook in Nigeria amid weaker than expected activity in the first quarter of this year.

Generally, the updated forecasts indicate some regional shifts among major economies. The IMF cut its 2024 growth forecast for the United States by 0.1 percentage point to 2.6 percent, citing slower-than-expected consumption in the first quarter.

The 2025 growth forecast for the U.S. remained unchanged at 1.9 percent, reflecting a slowdown driven by a weaker labor market and reduced spending in response to tighter monetary policy.

IMF Chief Economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas noted in a blog post accompanying the report that growth in major advanced economies has become more synchronized as output gaps have narrowed. He pointed out that signs of a slowdown are increasingly evident in the United States, while Europe is showing signs of recovery.

These varying regional dynamics underscore the complexity of the global economic landscape and the challenges in navigating the path to sustained growth. 

“As the eight decades since Bretton Woods have shown, constructive multilateral cooperation remains the only way to ensure a safe and prosperous economy for all,” he said.

The report also shows that Inflation is expected to remain higher in emerging market and developing economies (and to drop more slowly) than in advanced economies. However, partly thanks to falling energy prices, inflation is already close to pre-pandemic levels for the median emerging market and developing economy.

Uganda boosts diplomatic, trade ties with France

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, has hailed the cooperation between Uganda and France in the areas of trade, investment and diplomatic relations as a formidable uniting factor that ought to be fostered for further growth.

“We are looking forward to increasing the trade volumes between our two countries and the European Union in general. We hope that the newly established chamber will also contribute to reduction of the balance of trade which stood at US$57 million in favor of France, according to 2023/2024 figures,” said Tayebwa.

Tayebwa made the remarks while speaking at an event to commemorate Bastille Day, held at the residence of the French Ambassador to Uganda on July 12.

The Bastille Day is a French national anniversary celebrated every 14 July to commemorate the 1789 storming of the Bastille, a major event of the French revolution.

According to Tayebwa, the recent establishment of the French Chamber of Commerce in Uganda on 04 July 2024, will galvanise the operations and impact of French companies in the country.

He called for more investment by French companies in the areas of agro-industrialisation and agribusiness, mineral beneficiation of oil and gas, and tourism development.

“Uganda is ready to continue improving the investment environment to attract strategic investors and ensure good return on their investment. French companies in Uganda numbering over 40, are today reputed to employ around 3,000 Ugandans and directly contributing strongly to revenue through taxation,” Tayebwa said.

He also commended France’s key role in maintaining peace and security as a member of the United Nations Security Council, and called for its support for the African position at the Council.

“Uganda believes that Africa should have a bigger voice on the Security Council. In this regard, Uganda would welcome France’s positive voice and support for the African position in the framework of the ongoing discussions on the reform of the UN Security Council,” he said.

The French Ambassador to Uganda, Xavier Sticker, highlighted the impact of investments by French companies in Uganda, noting that their turnover currently exceeds 2 per cent of Uganda’s GDP in sectors like energy, infrastructure, logistics, transport, engineering and agriculture.

“In 2023, they invested US$1.6 billion which is 53 per cent of the total foreign direct investment in Uganda. Over the next three years, they plan to invest US$4.1 billion (Shs16 trillion), according to the results of a survey by France’s foreign trade advisers in Uganda,” Sticker said.

He also noted support worth more than €800 million from French Development Agency (AFD) in sectors like water and energy, including planned delivery in December 2024, of a major water treatment plant and network that will supply water to a million Ugandans from the border with Tanzania to Mbarara.

The French Ambassador lauded the Uganda-France partnership for peace and stability in East Africa. “This is illustrated in particular by the cooperation between the UPDF and the French forces stationed in Djibouti, in support of peace operations in Somalia and the Democratic of Congo. France also supports Uganda’s generous refugee policy and also provides food aid to Karamoja and West Nile,” said Sticker.

Mixed reactions as Bank of Uganda goes for gold

The Bank of Uganda (BoU) says it is set to start buying gold from the local market, amid concern over the ramifications on the economy given the country’s unregulated or non-transparent market environment.

The objective of the initiative dubbed, Domestic Gold Purchase Program, is to support the government's value-addition efforts in regard to the country’s mineral resources, mitigate the country's reliance on imports of raw gold, and lift household incomes.

According to the BoU's state of the economy report for 2024, the gold purchase plan is designed to build the country's foreign reserves and minimize risks associated with reserve investments.

“This initiative is expected to support the government’s ongoing value addition to the minerals and Import Substitution Strategy by reducing the imports of raw gold into the country. By purchasing gold directly from the artisanal miners, the BoU will also be supporting the livelihoods of artisanal and small-scale miners, and this has positive spill-over effects on other sectors of the economy in line with the Central Bank’s mission of supporting the governments socio-economic transformation,” the report reads in part.

It adds; “With the BOU plan to purchase gold locally from the artisanal miners to complement existing measures to accumulate international reserves, imports of raw gold are expected to reduce, contributing to the reduction in total imports, in turn leading to a decrease in both trade deficit and current account deficit.”

According to the BoU, the importation of raw gold has been a substantial drain on the country's finances. The latest figures indicate that Uganda loses approximately $200 million annually from the import of raw gold.

Speaking at the ‘Gold in Banking Conference’ held in Kampala on July 11, various stakeholders were cautiously positive about the development saying it was a welcome move.

Kepher Kuchana, the Director the Government Analytical Laboratory at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, who represented his Minister Kahinda Otafiire, urged BoU to adopt a framework to curb illicit gold markets and to ensure buy-in from all the stakeholders. James Byaruhanga, an artisanal miner from Mubende, expressed optimism about the program, describing it a “game-changer.” “For years, we have struggled to find stable markets for our gold. The BOU’s initiative is a game-changer for us. It not only guarantees a fair price for our hard work but also recognizes the importance of our contribution to the economy."

It is not yet clear when the Domestic Gold Purchase Program would kick off officially or how it would be regulated, but some experts say it should be handled with care as it may come with some ramifications for the economy.

One of the BoU’s key functions is to manages Uganda's foreign exchange reserves – held in hard currencies, gold and other assets - and to intervene in the foreign exchange market to stabilize the exchange rate and ensure orderly market conditions.

Gold reserves act as a hedge against inflation and as a financial cover during geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainty. Gold is considered a low-risk asset compared to other investments. Central banks often use gold to manage risks associated with fluctuations in currency values and interest rates.

Holding a substantial amount of gold reserves could enhance a central bank's credibility and inspire confidence among investors and the public regarding the stability of the country's financial system. Also, Central banks may strategically acquire gold as part of a long-term plan to strengthen their economic position globally or to influence international financial markets.

However, some Central banks avoid getting involved in buying gold locally due to con-cerns over market stability, regulatory compliance and logistical challenges, and the need for internationally recognized standards of security and authenticity of the com-modity. For example, local gold purchases could be vulnerable to manipulation or insid-er trading, and more so given our unregulated or non-transparent market environment

Also, for the Central bank as a bulk purchaser of gold, buying large quantities of gold locally could distort local prices and disrupt the market, potentially leading to volatility or speculation.

In recent years, Uganda has emerged as one of the continent’s leading gold refiners and exporters. However, pressure has been mounting on gold producers in regard to rampant tax evasion, prompting URA to caution airlines operating in Uganda not to accept any gold shipments from Uganda unless the exporters have proof of settling their tax obligations.

Last year, Parliament passed the Mining and Minerals Export Levy on Refined Gold Regulations 2023 that provided for an export levy of 5% on the value of refined gold for export as well as a 10% tax on unrefined gold. It is not yet clear how BoU’s proposed Domestic Gold Purchase Program would impact URA’s revenue collection efforts.

‘Uncle Money’ wins MTN’s cheer-leader money

Team Uncle Money has been declared winners of MTN’s official Uganda Cranes Cheerleaders competition dubbed ‘Tulage faaya.’

Jackson Ssewanyana, popularly known as ‘Uncle Money’ and his team beat off stiff competition from nine teams to win the top prize with 44,464 votes followed by Team Dressers (38,286 votes) and Kamodo (25,234 votes).

Over the years, Ssewanyana, with his characteristic dress code in national colours, has gained fame for his energetic and enthusiastic cheering during sports events, particularly during matches involving the Ugandan national football team.

His charismatic personality and style has endeared him to millions of Ugandans thus earning him the nickname ‘Uncle Money.’

The top three winning teams won a cash prize of UGX5 million each as well as the opportunity to lead Uganda’s cheering efforts for the Uganda Cranes at their upcoming AFCON home and away qualifiers.

Additionally, the teams will be granted renewable one-year cheer-leading contracts for both the Uganda Cranes and the women’s national football team, the Crested Cranes. They will also receive performance allowances and facilitation based on briefs commissioned by MTN Uganda.

Speaking at the award ceremony on Friday, FUFA and MTN Uganda officials highlighted the significance of the campaign aimed at galvanizing football fans and fostering a spirited and united support system for the Uganda Cranes, the national football team.

The Uganda Cranes are due to play South Africa (away) and Republic of Congo at Namboole in September, before facing South Sudan at Namboole and South Sudan in Juba during the October international break.

Uganda will then host South Africa at Namboole before playing Congo away in November.

“With MTN, the biggest sponsors of Ugandan football, at the forefront, fans can look forward to exciting times. FUFA values both fans and MTN as key stakeholders in the sport. The great times are back at Namboole with fans once again heavily involved. We thank MTN for this unique campaign and their unwavering support,” he said.

Somdev Sen, the Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Uganda, congratulated the winners, adding that MTN Uganda remains committed to supporting the Uganda Cranes and Ugandan football at large.

In total, MTN's Tulage Faaya campaign received over 160,000 votes, showcasing the incredible support and enthusiasm of Uganda Cranes fans.

MTN Uganda, the country's leading telecommunications company with a presence in every district of the country, has injected billions into Ugandan sports as part of its corporate social investment programmes..

Spiro unveils UGX3.8 million electric motorcycle

Spiro, a leading electric motorbike manufacturer and clean energy provider in Africa, has launched its electric motorcycles on the Ugandan market.

The company, whose mission is to replace petrol-powered vehicles with affordable electric alternatives, unveiled their state-of-the-art machines to President Yoweri Museveni at Kyankwanzi yesterday.

With its headquarters in Mombasa, Kenya, the company is said to have the largest electric two-wheeler fleet in Africa with over 15,000 bikes deployed in both West Africa and East Africa.

A press release from State House said the delegation from Spiro was led by Odrek Rwabwogo, the chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID).

President Museveni commended Spiro for the new technology, stating that, “This is good news. The electric bikes are better than our traditional ones which require [petrol],” stressing Uganda’s dedication to adopting environmentally friendly alternatives.

Officials informed the President that 500 of their electric bikes are already operational in Kampala, with 150 of them sold in the first week. “The price of an electric bike is $1,000 (about UGX3.8 million), which is significantly cheaper than the traditional diesel-powered bodas, which cost $1,480. This is about 30% cheaper,” said Rosa Malango, the Chairperson of the Tumaini Africa Knowledge Centre (TAKC).

The bikes also have a battery range of approximately 80 kilometres and come with convenient charging stations across Kampala and Ugandans have welcomed the new technology and are quickly adapting to it, according to Malango.

“Each bike and battery is equipped with a GPS tracker and a specific identification number, enhancing security and enabling efficient tracking in case of accidents or crimes,” she added.

Gaurav Anand, head of Spiro in Uganda, said they have plans to partner with the Ugandan government to deploy over 140,000 electric two-wheelers and 3,000 charge-and-swap stations across the country by 2028.

He said Spiro expects to have about 35 battery-swapping stations in Kampala by the end of the year, noting that the company is set to revolutionise Uganda’s transportation landscape. “The company also plans to launch electric tuk-tuks next year, further expanding its impact,” he noted.

“We are pleased to bring the latest technology and products to the country. Each bike is equipped with a GPS tracker, allowing us to work with enforcement agencies to enhance security. We look forward to continued cooperation with the Ugandan government in various sectors, including the cotton industry and beef value-addition.”

He also expressed the company’s interest in establishing a textile factory in Northern Uganda, specifically in Lira District. “This factory will focus on ginning, weaving, knitting, and spinning cotton, thus contributing to Uganda’s industrial development,” he said.

Founded in 2022, Spiro has revolutionized urban travel, offsetting over 6,500 tons of CO2 emissions annually, amid global anxiety about climate change, which is forcing countries to embark on energy transition measures.

Experts say that shifting to green energy sources can substantially mitigate the devastating effects of climate change. Spiro motorcycles have therefore been embraced across the continent, and the company has entered partnerships with several companies, including asset financing as well as transport companies such as Mogo to scale up the affordability and accessibility of its motorcycles.

Company officials said that with collaborative efforts and technological advancements, Spiro, formerly M-Auto, is not merely envisioning a greener future for Africa but also actively working towards making it a reality.

Consolidate cross-border collaboration, regional bankers told

Stakeholders in the banking industry in the East African Region have been urged to find ways of working together more closely in a bid to strengthen their regional economies.

Speaking at the recently concluded East African Banking School (EABS) Conference that was hosted by the Uganda Institute of Banking and Financial Services (UIBFS), various speakers stressed the importance of collaboration by financial services providers if the region is to register sustainable development.

Dr. Tumubweine Twinemanzi, the Executive Director Supervision at the Bank of Uganda, who represented his boss, Dr. Michael Atingi-Ego, the Deputy Governor, highlighted the significance of the conference as a strategic gathering aimed at shaping the future landscape of banking and financial services in East Africa.

In her welcome remarks, Goretti Masadde, the CEO of UIBFS, cited the recent successful partnerships such as the MOU they signed with Women in Finance Rwanda to offer credit and microfinance training.

The event brought together leaders, experts, and innovators in the banking industry with the aim of fostering collaboration, sharing insights, and driving the growth and sustainability of the financial services sector in East Africa.

Masadde extended her appreciation to its partners and sponsors, which included the Kenya Institute of Bankers, the Tanzania Institute of Bankers, Bank of Uganda, NCBA Bank and Diamond Trust Bank, among others.

Fabian Kasi, the president of the Council, highlighted the significance of Uganda hosting the EABS Conference for the seventh time, saying it underscored our commitment to advancing the banking and finance sector in East Africa.

Michael Mugabi, the Board Chairman of UIBFS, said hosting this conference is a testament to Uganda’s emergence as a hub for financial innovation and leadership.

Peter Kimbowa, the Board Chairman of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), made a presentation titled; ‘Financial Inclusion: The Role of Pension Funds in Developing Sustainable Economies’ in which he emphasized the need for all financial sector players to collaborate in increasing the value of generational wealth in the region.

Gathering professionals from banking and financial services sectors regionally and beyond, the event provided a dynamic arena for networking, knowledge exchange, and professional growth.

The discussions tackled pressing topics such as Ethics and Integrity in banking, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices, and the evolving opportunities within the Oil and Gas sectors.

The conference was largely described as successful as it not only showcased Uganda's strides in financial thought leadership and innovation but also provided a fertile ground for collaboration and advancement in the banking sector across East Africa.

Indeed, as the discussions and partnerships that were forged during the event ripple across the region, the vision of building sustainable regional economies through unified banking efforts is promising.

Huawei to set up Digital Village Prototype in Butaleja

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has held a meeting with a delegation from Huawei Technologies, at which the company announced plans to establish the country’s first Digital Village Prototype.

Hover Gao, the Huawei Technologies president Sub-Saharan Africa Region, who led the delegation to meet the President at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi, said the project, which is to be set up in Butaleja District, aims to demonstrate the transformative power of digital infrastructure in rural communities, introducing ‘smart’ classrooms, learning centers, remote diagnosis, as well as smart solar power systems at no cost to the Ugandan government.

“Huawei is committed to accelerating Uganda’s digital transformation. As a testament to this commitment, we are prepared to fully fund a pilot smart village project that leverages our cutting-edge technologies,” a statement from State House quoted Gao as saying.

He further pointed out that the initiative aligns with Uganda’s national strategy for rural development, showcasing Huawei’s dedication to supporting these areas.

The ‘digital village" prototype refers to a concept where modern digital technologies are implemented in rural or remote areas to improve living standards, infrastructure, and connectivity. It basically aims to bridge the digital divide by providing access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) to communities that traditionally have limited connectivity and access to digital services.

The prototype, which has been successfully launched in some African countries, represents an innovative approach to leveraging digital technologies for social and economic development in underserved communities, aiming to create sustainable and inclusive growth opportunities.

Butaleja District, located in Eastern Uganda, is home to some of Uganda’s poorest communities, facing challenges such as limited access to quality healthcare, education, clean water, and electricity.

In response, President Museveni expressed strong support for the project. “Please go ahead with the project, and I will come myself to commission the smart village,” he said.

Sooma Mukyala Fouziya, the Public Relations Manager of Huawei Technologies Uganda, emphasised the project’s potential to contribute to the Parish Development Model (PDM) by promoting digital transformation and sustainable growth through ICT.

“This Smart Classroom will provide students with better education opportunities, improve self-learning capabilities, and enhance information sharing and communication among residents,” said Fouziya.

She also noted that the initiative will establish a Remote Diagnosis System to connect village health centres with national and regional hospitals, thus improving medical conditions in rural areas.

Furthermore, she said that the project will supply Green Residential Smart PVs to ensure stable and continuous power for residents.

She also outlined Huawei’s ‘One Country, One Network, One Cloud, One Platform’ strategy, aiming to inspire further investment and collaboration towards a smarter and more connected Uganda.

“By providing a tangible example of the benefits of a unified digital ecosystem, we hope to inspire further investment and collaboration,” she added. “This project will serve as a blueprint for future smart village initiatives across the country, showcasing the potential of technology to transform lives and drive sustainable development, while minimising the financial burden on the government.”

Based in China, Huawei operates on a global scale, with a significant presence in markets across Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. This extensive reach enables them to cater to diverse customer needs and tap into various regional opportunities.

The company, which is also implementing several cutting-edge technologies in the country, began its operations in Uganda in 2001 and currently employs dozens of Ugandans.

Planning Authority warns on surging population

The National Planning Authority has expressed concern about Uganda’s population, which has surged by 11.3 million since the last census.

According to the preliminary results of the 2024 National Census released by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), recently, Uganda’s population has reached a significant milestone of 45.9 million, a notable increase from the 34.8 million reported in the 2014 census.

According to the preliminary released by UBOS, 50.5% of the population comprises children aged 0–17 years, while 5% are elderly individuals aged 60 and above. This implies that the majority of Uganda’s population comprises of mostly dependents.

This demographic shift is stirring discussions about the implications for the nation’s future and the urgent need for effective management of resources.

Joseph Muvawala, the Executive Director of the National Planning Authority (NPA), describes the census numbers as “worrying” and more so given the rampant misappropriation of public resources.

“There is no need to worry about the increase of 11 million people,” Muvawala stated in a phone interview. “The bigger issue at hand is the mismanagement of government resources, which complicates national budgeting efforts.”

The NPA serves as a central institution in Uganda's development landscape, providing strategic direction, coordination, and oversight to ensure sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development across the country.

For example, the NPA is responsible for formulating long-term and medium-term national development plans (NDPs). These plans outline the country's development priorities, strategies, and goals over specified periods, typically five years.

Muvawala joins a chorus of growing concerns over corruption and its impact on national development and the prospects for the country’s future. He says addressing corruption is paramount for effective governance and resource management. “It’s high time we tackle corruption head-on,” he stresses. “We must ensure that resources are used efficiently to meet the needs of our growing population.”

Uganda still has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, with an average of around five children per woman – higher than the African average of 4.4 children and the global average of about 2.5 children per woman.

Globally, fertility rates are registering a declining trend as countries undergo economic development and societal changes. The factors contributing to this decline include increased access to education and employment opportunities for women, urbanization, greater availability of health services and family planning services, and cultural shifts towards smaller family sizes.

Of course, President Yoweri Museveni, who officially launched the preliminary census results, himself long-term advocate of a bigger population, expressed surprise at the population figures. “I had anticipated that our population might be around 48 or 49 million,” Museveni said. “It was surprising to learn that it is actually just below 46 million.”

However, as the planning experts argue, Uganda is grappling with the new demographic challenges and the focus is shifting towards how best to manage the increased population and ensure that government resources are allocated and utilized effectively.

The significant rise in population underscores the need for robust and transparent budgeting processes to support sustainable development and address the challenges posed by both natural growth and the influx of refugees.

The NPA’s call for better management of resources and for a stronger stance against corruption highlights a critical juncture for Uganda’s future generation. As the country moves forward, the effectiveness of these measures will be crucial in shaping the nation’s trajectory for a better future for its posterity.

Insurance industry premiums top UGX1.6 trillion

The Ugandan insurance sector displayed remarkable resilience and growth in 2023, with Gross Written Premiums (GWP) increasing by 11.3% to reach UGX1.6 trillion year-on-year. This performance, highlighted by the new Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) report, highlights the sector's strength and strategic advancement.

According to IRA, the non-life insurance segment recorded GWP of UGX932 billion, up from UGX 898 billion in 2022, reflecting a 3.79% growth. Life insurance, however, saw a more substantial rise, with premiums climbing from UGX 501.6 billion in 2022 to UGX611.4 billion in 2023, marking a significant 22% growth.

This increase underscores a growing awareness among Ugandans about the importance of long-term financial security, according to Ibrahim Kaddunabbi Lubega, the IRA CEO. “This growth demonstrates the resilience of our industry and the increasing recognition of insurance’s value among Ugandans,” he said.

Health Membership Organizations (HMOs), offering facility-based medical insurance, experienced substantial growth, with premiums rising from UGX 38.2 billion in 2022 to UGX 56.3 billion in 2023, a 47% increase. This surge highlights the expanding demand for health insurance coverage. Additionally, microinsurance, essential for providing financial protection to vulnerable populations, grew by about 16%, generating UGX707 million in 2023, up from UGX 611 million the previous year.

On the other hand, non-life insurance accounted for 58% of the total market premiums, a slight decrease from 62% in 2022. Life insurance's market share increased to 38% from about 35%. The faster growth in life insurance indicates a positive trend among middle-income Ugandans towards prioritizing long-term financial security.

Kaddunabbi said efficient claims payment remains a priority for the industry, fostering trust and satisfaction among policyholders. In 2023, gross claims paid across life, non-life, and HMOs totaled UGX820 billion, accounting for 51% of the total GWP. This marks a significant increase from UGX618.71 billion paid in 2022.

“The primary reason for insurance is to provide assurance that losses will be compensated. Efficient claims payment builds trust and confidence in the sector, leading to increased premiums and industry growth,” noted Kaddunabbi.

According to Sunday Protazio, the director for strategy and market development, brokers played a vital role in the distribution of insurance products, collecting UGX541.22 billion in premiums in 2023, a 19.34% increase from UGX 453.51 billion in 2022. He said brokers accounted for almost 34% of the total premiums, underscoring their critical role in providing expert risk management advice.

“Bancassurance also showed strong growth, with premiums collected through this channel increasing by almost 26% to UGX 179 billion in 2023,” he said.

Kaddunabbi said several factors contributed to the sector’s positive growth, including enhanced distribution channels, increased digital engagement, improved claims payment, and a growing middle class. He said the stable macroeconomic environment, with inflation contained at an average rate of 3.2%, also provided a favorable backdrop for the industry.

Strategic investments and innovative products defined the market in 2023, in addition to significant public awareness campaigns that have shifted public perception positively about insurance. “It is rare to open a newspaper or switch on the radio without encountering messages about insurance. This increased visibility is positively impacting the sector,” Kaddunabbi remarked.

He expressed optimism for continued growth over the medium to long term. With expected public sector investments, innovations like Marine Insurance, and enhanced public trust, the sector is projected to maintain a growth rate above 10%.

“With continued effort and collaboration, as well as public investment in areas that drive insurance uptake, we will achieve great things,” he said.

EU, Enabel boost refugees with vocational skills

More than 5,000 youth in refugee communities in the West Nile Region have been passed out after receiving vocational skills aimed at boosting their self-employment opportunities and household incomes.

The training, which covered a wide range of vocational skills including motorcycle repair, tailoring, and metal welding, among others, was sponsored by the European Union and implemented by Enabel, the Belgian Development Agency.

Speaking at the passing out of the trainees over the weekend, Simon Edeku, the Principal Officer for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) at the Ministry of Education and Sports, underscored the need for mindset change and the fostering of an environment where refugees can gain skills that not only benefit them but also contribute to the broader community.

"For us to move forward, we must focus on inclusive development and a shift in how we view and approach green job opportunities," he said.

Charles Okot, the project coordinator, detailed the scope of the skills training initiative, which aimed at providing refugees with the technical expertise needed to secure employment or start their own enterprises.

"Our goal was to equip refugees with practical skills that would enable them to create a livelihood for themselves and contribute positively to their communities," Okot explained.

The beneficiaries, including Kolongwa Alice and Wani Johnson, highlighted the challenges that they still face after acquiring the skills. Kolongwa, a refugee who was trained in tailoring, shared her struggle with inadequate capital for purchasing materials and tools.

"I have the skills, but without the resources to buy the necessary inputs, it is difficult to start a business or even to provide services effectively," she said.

Similarly, Wani Johnson, who was trained in motorcycle repair, pointed out the lack of sufficient toolkits and a limited market for his services. "We need more support in terms of equipment and access to customers who need our services. Without these, it is hard to sustain a business," he said.

These concerns reflect the broader issues faced by refugees in the labor market, and which require further support to overcome. While the skilling program has laid a foundation for economic empowerment, there is a clear need for ongoing support from both the Government and private sector to address these gaps.

Officials called for the creation of more opportunities for refugees so as to ensure that these initiatives lead to sustainable outcomes. They urged the Government, along with international partners and the private sector, to build on the successes of the skilling program by expanding access to resources, providing financial support for startups, and creating market linkages for refugee entrepreneurs.

This comprehensive approach is essential for translating vocational training into viable career paths for refugees, thereby addressing the unemployment challenge and fostering a more inclusive economy.

The West Nile region is home to more than 500,000 refugees from South Sudan, living in dozens of refugee settlements in the four districts of Adjumani, Arua, Koboko and Yumbe.

By embracing inclusive development and addressing the practical challenges faced by refugees, Uganda can pave the way for sustainable solutions that benefit both refugees and the broader community.

Museveni sets up outfit to fight URA corruption

President Yoweri Museveni has set up a new unit at State House, aimed at keeping an eye on Uganda Revenue Authority and curb corruption in the tax administration system.

The unit, dubbed, State House Revenue and Strategic Operations Unit, is to be headed by David Kalemera, according to a July 5 press release.

“The creation of the unit will help the Government close revenue leakages and boost tax collection,” the press release said.

Not much is known about Kalemera’s civil service credentials but the press release said he has also been appointed Senior Presidential Advisor.

Whether or not the State House Revenue and Strategic Operations Unit would succeed is another matter, but faced with declining donor aid and pressure to reduce public debt, President Museveni’s government is under immense pressure to seal leakages and bolster its revenue mobilization efforts.

Apart from rampant corruption within Commissioner General Musinguzi Rujoki's URA, the country also faces challenges with tax policy implementation as well as compliance and enforcement, leading to tax evasion and avoidance practices across the various sectors, which lead to hefty leakages in the tax system.

Uganda's tax to GDP ratio - the total tax revenue collected by the government as a percentage of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - currently stands at about 14%, lower than Rwanda’s 17% and Kenya’s 19%.

For example, in a December 2022 report to Parliament, the Office of the Auditor General faulted URA for failure to collect gold tax worth UGX340bn from gold exporters, despite the players in the industry reaping almost UGX7 trillion from gold trade.

Additionally, Uganda suffers from the chronic abuse of the tax exemption system, with reports showing that revenue foregone due to tax exemptions continues to rise. For example, in FY 2018/2019, the government estimated revenue foregone from tax exemptions to be approximately $400 million.

To finance the UGX72 trillion budget for the new financial year, URA was handed a record UGX 32 trillion revenue target, though the chances of hitting last year’s target are also slim.

Barely two months ago, Kampala city traders closed their shops in protest against URA’s new tax collection tool dubbed EFRIS, which forced President Museveni to intervene and stop URA’s hefty penalties for non-compliance.

Kalemera’s new unit joins a plethora of outfits both at State House and elsewhere that have been set up to fight corruption in the country, but without much success.

Whether he will succeed where others are failing is what remains to be seen.

MTN pays UGX40bn NSSF dividends as Fund surpasses targets

The National Social Security (NSSF) says it ended the financial year 2023/2024 on a good note having surpassed the targets.

The Fund’s Managing Director, Patrick Ayota, MD, NSSF Uganda said the preliminary analysis shows that performance on the key indicators will surpass its annual targets. “We have commenced on our annual audit. We will update NSSF members at the end of that exercise,” he said in a statement.

The Fund’s assets according to Ayota now stand at UGX 21.6 trillion. “Recall that our target for June 2025 was 20 trillion. We reached that target in January 2024, 18 months ahead of the target. I want to thank the entire NSSF family for the hard work they have put in to grow the Fund,” he said. The Fund's membership stands at about 2.2 million members.

He explained that NSSF investment approach, diversification strategy and strategic asset allocation have given our members much value.

“The fixed income portfolio stands at 79.1% of total assets, and the equity and real estate portfolios stand at 13.8% and 7.1% respectively. Our membership stands at about 2.2 million members.” The Fund reportedly earned a UGX 39.8 billion in dividends for the year ended December 31, 2023, arising from our investment including that in MTN Uganda.

Ayota said the payment is the largest the Fund has earned from a listed company in the East African region this year.

“This brings the total gross dividend earned from MTN Uganda over the last three years to UGX 80.6 billion. Previously, the Fund earned UGX 9.3 billion and UGX 31.5 billion dividends for the years 2021 and 2022 respectively. As you will hear from MTN, the dividend yield, which is a measure of stock return, has been one of the best in this region,” he revealed.

“Not only is MTN Uganda the best performer across our equity portfolio this year, but the company has also been consistent in delivering positive growth since the IPO. MTN presents a long-term growth opportunity for us, given its consistently impressive business and financial performance over the years,” Ayota added.

Sylvia Mulinge, CEO MTN Uganda, said NSSF Uganda is to date is its largest institutional shareholder. NSSF Uganda is the largest indigenous shareholder in MTN Uganda with an 11.7% shareholding.

“It is with great pleasure today that we at MTN Uganda come to celebrate the return on investment to our shareholders. And we are privileged to serve the many Ugandans who have a stake in the Fund” said Mulinge.

She said MTN Uganda has continued to perform positively and has consistently returned an attractive dividend to its shareholders. “In June, the 7th dividend payment of UGX 6.4 totaling UGX 143 billion was credited to all registered shareholders on their mobile money wallets and nominated bank accounts,” she said.

The performance, according to Mulinge, is in addition to the two interim dividends paid out the previous year in September of UGX 6.0 per share and UGX 5.6 per share in December totaling UGX 259.8 billion. Mulinge noted that the total dividend paid out for the Financial Year 2023 signals a 13.2% increase in payment for its shareholders from the previous year.

She further noted that since the IPO in December 2021, the total dividend paid to shareholders has totaled UGX 864.4 billion. “I note that these dividend payments have grown in tandem with the company's performance.

She presented a cheque of UGX 39.8 billion to the Fund in what she said was a testament to the belief NSSF had in the firm when it invested UGX 360 billion in the Initial Public Offering and an additional UGX 90.9 billion in the recently concluded secondary offer for sale of ordinary shares in MTN Uganda.

“On that note regarding the Offer, we are pleased with the outcome that registered a 230% subscription. The oversubscription signaled an appreciation of the Company's strategy and continued positive performance evolution” she said.

“The offer also provided an opportunity to all Ugandan retail and professional investors, including MTN Uganda's loyal customers, to own a stake in the Company. We take this opportunity to thank all our 20,636 shareholders and over 200 smaller pension funds and SACCOs representing millions of Ugandans for choosing MTN Uganda and investing with us.”

NCBA Bank commits millions to central forests restoration

NCBA Bank Uganda, in collaboration with the National Forestry Authority (NFA), has embarked on the restoration of degraded forests across the country.

The programme kicked off yesterday when NCBA Bank staff traveled to Masaka District to kick-start the rehabilitation of the degraded sections of the Jubiya Forest Reserve along the shores of Lake Victoria.

Officials said the move is part of an initiative that aims to plant 20,000 trees annually, in support of the Government’s objectives of restoring Uganda’s forest cover as outlined in the National Development Plan III, which targets a 24% forest cover by 2040.

Mark Muyobo, the NCBA Bank Uganda CEO, said the activity in Masaka District is part of the NCBA Group’s ambitious goal of planting ten million trees across the continent by 2030.

“In May 2024, NCBA and NFA signed an MoU committing to plant 20,000 trees per annum in Uganda as part of our sustainability program and in alignment with the government’s National Development Plan III,” said Muyobo.

This initiative, to which the Bank is committing UGX45 million, would target strategic partnerships, direct financial support, and comprehensive monitoring and evaluation.

“At NCBA Bank Uganda, we recognize the importance of tree planting in fighting climate change and protecting ecosystems. Our efforts provide lasting benefits such as carbon capture, employee participation, and community support,” Muyobo noted.

The initial efforts in Masaka District are just the beginning of a nationwide campaign to restore degraded forests, according to Muyobo.

Measuring almost 36 square kilometers (4,600 hectares), Jubiya Central Forest Reserve entirely lies along the shores of L. Victoria, thus playing a critical catchment function for the lake. But due to human pressures, the ecologically sensitive forest has been severely degraded, which has put several plants, insects and animals that are indigenous to it on the brink of extinction.

Aldon Walukampa, Corporate Communication Officer at NFA, emphasized the multifaceted benefits of the forest’s restoration. “We are here to restore degraded forests, enhance biodiversity, and combat climate change. This will go a long way in providing many ecological benefits in a holistic manner. Today, we are planting not just trees, but also hope and a sustainable future,” Walukampa said.

The effort garnered strong support from local leaders, including Andrew Battemyetto Lukyamuzi, the Masaka District Chairman, who pledged to collaborate closely with NCBA Bank and NFA to restore forests in Masaka and beyond.

“Our forests have been attacked by individuals who burn charcoal, which harms the environment. This must come to an end. I welcome NCBA Bank and NFA for this milestone. Thank you very much,” Lukyamuzi concluded.

Forests play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance, supporting biodiversity, and mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration. The degradation of forests, often due to activities such as charcoal burning, has far-reaching implications for the environment and local communities.

Restoring these forests will not only enhance biodiversity but also provide numerous ecological benefits, including improved air quality, water conservation, and soil protection. Furthermore, the initiative promotes community involvement and awareness, encouraging sustainable practices and fostering a sense of responsibility towards the environment.

Aviation sector soars above pre-COVID numbers

Uganda’s aviation sector put up a resilient fight in 2023, registering a goodly comeback from the pandemic fall, which saw the global aviation industry bleed profusely.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the international aviation portal handled more than 1.9 million passengers in 2023, higher than the pre-pandemic level of 1.8 million. Vianney Luggya, the CAA publicist, told this publication that the resurgence in passenger numbers is expected to continue, bolstered by Uganda Airlines and the introduction of new operators like Sudan's BADR Airlines, which began operations in November 2023.

The airport currently hosts about 16 airlines, offering international scheduled passenger or combined passenger and cargo services, while four airlines are currently offering international scheduled cargo/freighter services. Furthermore, the number of licensed air operators in Uganda increased as well from 24 to 26, with more expected in the current year.

“Traffic is also expected to be boosted by the coming on board of a new operator, BADR Airlines of the Sudan, which commenced operations to Entebbe with fifth 15 freedom traffic rights on November 6, 2023,” noted Luggya. Uganda Airlines, the airport’s flagship carrier, has played a key role in the buoyancy of Uganda’s aviation industry and that’s likely to get even better following an agreement with US aircraft maker Boeing.

Uganda Airlines currently operates two Airbus A330-800N widebodies and wet-leases one A320-200 from Global Aviation Operations on a six-month contract ending October 2024, while its regional fleet comprises three Bombardier CRJ900LRs.

However, in April this year, President Yoweri Museveni announced on X that a Boeing team led by its regional President Kujit Ghata-Aura had visited Uganda and met him at State House Entebbe to discuss plans to increase the Uganda Airlines fleet for both cargo and passenger aircraft. Following the visit, reports emerged that Uganda Airlines intends to add two cargo planes - a B737-800 and a B777, and two B787 passenger aircraft.

Dennis Matanda, a Ugandan residing in the US, who is also the link between the Government and Boeing, emphasizes the strategic importance of partnering with the aircraft maker.

"The US market represents a significant economic opportunity for Uganda, especially now that we can no longer benefit from the African Growth and Opportunities Act," he explains, adding that aircraft are therefore crucial for intra-regional-Africa air transport and integration. Matanda believes that the new aircraft would not only enhance Uganda's transportation infrastructure but also solidifify its role in global trade.

Luggya says they are greatly optimistic about the future of the aviation industry in the country. He notes that the Government’s comprehensive 20-year National Civil Aviation Master Plan, covering Entebbe International Airport and other aerodromes, is significantly propelling the industry towards greater heights. Major infrastructure developments include the nearing completion of a new 20,000 square meter terminal building, which will connect to the existing terminal.

The overall project is 90% complete, with the new terminal expected to enhance capacity from 2 million to at least 3.5 million passengers annually. Other key completions include resurfacing of runways and aprons, construction of a new cargo center, and the expansion of apron areas.

But perhaps one of the standout achievements was the adoption of technology bolster safety and operational reliability. The adoption of advanced navigation systems and modernized air traffic control mechanisms contributed to smoother and more secure flight operations, ensuring passenger safety while at the same time positioning Uganda as a leader in aviation safety within the region.

According to Luggya, the enactment of the Civil Aviation Authority (Amendment) Act 2024 brought Uganda in line with international aviation standards. The Act provides inspectors with unrestricted access to aviation facilities and enables recognition of third-party State agreements, thus enhancing the regulatory framework.

“Uganda's aviation safety systems received a vote of confidence with a 72.17% score in the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP-CMA) by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), surpassing both regional and global averages,” he observes.

Significant progress was also recorded in the development of upcountry aerodromes, including runway repairs at Kisoro Airfield, construction of taxiways and car parks at Arua Airport, and feasibility studies for upgrades at Arua, Gulu, Pakuba, Kidepo, Kasese, and Kisoro. Apart from final touches being made on the new international airport in Hoima, a partnership with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry for another international airport near Kidepo National Park has also been endorsed.

Evidently, the buoyant aviation sector has played a pivotal role in driving economic growth and fostering employment opportunities in 2023. According to Luggya, the airport handled 60,072 metric tonnes in 2023, composed of fresh produce, especially fish, flowers, vegetables and fruits, which are consumed by markets in Netherlands, Belgium and the Middle East, among others.

Cargo operations shifted to the new state-of-the art cargo center, which has capacity to handle 100,000 metric tonnes annually. Also, the expansion of airport infrastructure and increased air traffic stimulated economic activity in related sectors such as tourism, hospitality, and trade.

Climate Change Crisis: Is Government really serious?

On June 13, Hon. Matia Kasaija, the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, delivered the budget speech for the financial year 2024/25 under the theme; ‘Full Monetisation of Uganda’s Economy through Commercial Agriculture, Industrialisation, Expanding and Broadening Services, Digital Transformation and Market Access.’

It is worth noting that this year’s budget is the fifth and the last one in regard to the implementation of the Third National Development Plan 2020/2021 – 2024/2025 (NDPIII).

According to Hon. Kasaija, the Government hopes that the same budget would set the foundation for expanding Uganda’s GDP tenfold - from about USD50 billion in FY2022/23 to USD 500 billion by 2040. A great dream indeed, one could say.

Mr. Kasaija however admitted that there are many risks to Uganda’s growth prospects that require urgent mitigation, most notable of which is climate change. He confirmed that climate change is one of the biggest threats to the country’s growth and development agenda, as it has diminished agricultural production and imperiled infrastructure development.

Furthermore, he stated that the Government is working hard and fast to minimize these risks through implementing strict climate change adaptation measures, exploring cheaper climate finance options, and getting frugal, which we certainly don’t believe, given that in our view the Government is too big, too corrupt and too extravagant to confront a crisis like the climate catastrophe.

Some of the climate change mitigation measures mentioned included the intention of the Government to restore 42,450 hectares of degraded wetlands along the Awoja, Kandekye-Ruhorobero, Nchwera, Chambura, Kiruruma, Naigombwa, Kibimba, Tochi, Aswa, Sezibwa, Mayanja, Muzizi, Mpanga and Lumbuye water systems; the allocation of UGX516 billion in the financial year 2024/25 budget for climate change mitigation activities, natural resources protection and preservation, environmental protection and water resources management.

The Government further promised to enhance ‘green financing’ to ensure adequate climate adaptation and related mitigation. This will be done by further capitalising Uganda Development Bank (UDB) with an additional UGX55 billion.

Of course, these promises might tempt one to think of a government that is committed to combating climate change, environmental protection and preservation until we ‘stumble’ upon its intention to provide a whopping UGX920 billion for the oil and gas (climate wrecking fossil fuels) in FY2024/25.

This, compared to the UGX516 billion (reduced from UGX2.2 trillion in FY2023/2024) allocation to climate change, environment, natural resources and water, leaves one wondering about the seriousness of our government towards the battle against climate change and its effects.

The problem here is that, besides underfunding, the efforts towards fighting climate change and its effects are negatived by the heavy funding being allocated to the oil and gas sector, the undisputed global leader in pollution and environmental destruction, while the natural resources sector––on which the economy of Uganda, our own, and our children’s future depend, gets reduced funding!

Flashback, in the previous budget for the FY 2023/2024, the government had committed and allocated UGX2.2 trillion for food security, irrigation, climate change mitigation, value chain development, agricultural research and disease control, among others.

Additionally, it had promised development of small scale solar-powered irrigation schemes to address climate change and ensure food security. Furthermore, it had promised to prioritise environmental conservation, restoration and protection of degraded water catchment areas and forest cover.

It is yet to present a report on how it performed on those commitments. Evidently, the new Financial Year’s budget delivers mere mosquito kicks against the climate crisis. It kicks those concerned about the environment in the teeth since it invests more money in the causes of the climate crisis than the solutions and mitigation measures.

For example, as explained above, the Government has slashed the climate budget by more than half from UGX2.2 trillion in last year’s budget to just UGX516 billion in this Financial Year (2024/2025).

Nature demands that we must do more for the environment. Unfortunately, the Government is not giving a good example.

**The writer is the Executive Director of Environment Shield, a civic organization specializing in climate, natural resources and environmental justice.

Stanbic unveils unit trust investment option

Stanbic Uganda Holdings Ltd, the mother company of SBG Securities Ltd, has unveiled its unit trust, aimed at enabling individuals and companies to pool their money to create a large fund that generates daily income.

Speaking at the official launch at the Kampala Serena Hotel, officials said that the Stanbic Unit Trust was registered by the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and is managed by professionals who shall invest the funds in a wide range of securities for the benefit of the holders.

Grace Semakula, the SBG Securities CEO, said they were all set to navigate the investment environment, diversifying portfolios across treasury bills, bonds, fixed deposits, and shares to minimize risk and maximize returns for the investors.

He said an investor including individuals, SACCO, company, etc, needs just UGX100,000 to start investing in the Stanbic Unit Trust, which has Stanbic Bank Uganda as its custodian and KCB Bank Uganda Limited as its trustee.

The custodian ensures the safekeeping and efficient management of assets held by the trust fund. In other words, even if the unit trust closes shop for various reasons, the funds remain safe in the custody of the custodian.

On the other hand, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the unit holders, including the fair distribution of income (such as dividends or interest) that may be generated from the unit trust's assets.

“Our platforms provide a customized experience for your investment journey by enabling you to track, make top ups and access your investments simply,” Semakula added.

“We have a rich depth of expertise in the investment industry amassed over the years which guides asset allocation and ensures superior returns on your investments.”

Unlike treasury bonds that pay interest only twice a year and force an investor to incur a heavy penalty if the money is withdrawn before maturity, a unit trust pays interest on a daily basis and there are no penalties for withdrawal of funds at any time.

Semakula said an investor can open a Stanbic Unit Trust account in one day and start investing immediately using mobile money or bank transfers.

The Stanbic Unit Trust now joins UAP Old Mutual, ICEA Uganda, Sanlam Uganda, Stanlib Uganda, Crested Capital Uganda, and Xeno Investment; which are currently the officially registered unit trust fund managers in the country.

Unit trusts have continued to gain popularity in recent years. According to the CMA, the total number of unit trusts accounts stood at 66,188 by end of June 2023 while the total value of assets held by Ugandan unit trust funds topped $530 million (about UGX2 trillion) by end of June 2023.

Additionally, the average interest rate paid on unit trust savings was between 10% -13% per year, which makes investing in unit trusts much more profitable than merely keeping money on a bank account.

However, financial advisors say that while unit trusts offer many advantages, they also come with some potential disadvantages as a particular unit trust may underperform compared to peers due to poor investment choices or the high management fees that it forces investors to incur.

Semakula said their unit trust aims to generate superior returns on investments given their understanding and experience in the investment markets to ensure that Ugandans achieve their investment goals.

Stanbic Holdings Uganda Ltd, is a subsidiary of the South Africa-based Standard Bank Group, Africa's biggest bank by assets.

New MTN’s Zimba initiative to boost small businesses

MTN MoMo has launched a new initiative designed to empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across Uganda.

The ‘Zimba Business with MoMo’ campaign officially kicked off at Nakawa market yesterday, where representatives of the traders’ community were introduced to the various services that can significantly enhance their business operations.

The campaign aims to reposition MTN MoMo as a trusted business partner and solutions provider, moving beyond the traditional view of MoMo merchants as just payment processors, basically recognizing the critical role that small and medium scale enterprises play in driving Uganda's economy.

While commending small and medium enterprises for being the key drivers of Uganda’s economy, Jemima Kariuki, the Chief Product Officer at MTN MoMo, said the company is showcasing its commitment to supporting small businesses by offering tailored financial solutions that address their unique challenges.

“By positioning MTN MoMo as a reliable and flexible business partner, we aim to enable business growth and financial inclusion for all," she said.

The officials explained that the campaign is anchored on four main pillars, tailored to meet the diverse needs of small business owners.

Firstly, business owners can seamlessly receive payments to their MoMo wallets, which will enable them to consolidate their earnings and give their customers a cashless payment option.

Secondly, it enables the business owner to make payments to suppliers on time, manage petty cash, and settle bills effortlessly.

For example, a small shop owner can pay for new stock directly from the MoMo wallet without having to make physical cash transactions.

Thirdly, it provides business owners with the opportunity to save money and access quick merchant loans with higher limits through the Wezimbe Business Loans and XtraStock.

This feature is particularly beneficial for micro-merchants who struggle to obtain financing from traditional financial institutions.

For example, a boda-boda rider can secure a loan to purchase an additional motorcycle, thereby increasing his revenue potential.

Lastly, business owners can earn additional revenue by assisting their customers with various MoMo transactions. Each time a business owner helps a customer pay a bill or complete other payments through MoMo, they earn a commission.

This not only provides an extra income stream but also fosters a closer relationship between the business owner and their customers. For example, a salon owner can offer a MoMo service to clients, earning a commission on each transaction while providing added convenience.

The ‘Zimba’ campaign, which was warmly welcomed by the Nakawa business community, is part of the company’s Ambition 2025, which aims to drive financial inclusion and economic empowerment on the African continent.

Minister cautions entrepreneurs on informality

Entrepreneurs have been urged to formalize their business ventures if they are to benefit from financial services providers and expand their businesses.

Speaking at the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) symposium in Kampala recently, David Bahati, the minister for Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, identified informality as one of the critical barriers hindering MSME growth, in addition to lack of capital and inadequate innovation.

“Not formalizing is actually a significant barrier to business growth. I therefore, urge businesses to embrace formal registration to unlock growth opportunities and regulatory benefits,” he said, adding that the misconceptions surrounding formalization, particularly the fear of taxes, should not deter entrepreneurs from registering their businesses formally.

The symposium, held under theme; ‘Breaking Barriers for MSME Acceleration,’ was organized by the Nation Media Group in collaboration with the Federation of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, and gathered over 400 MSMEs for an interaction between different stakeholders, including regulators, tax administrators, financiers, and market operators.

Many entrepreneurs are reluctant to formalize their businesses because of the expenses involved including registration fees, legal costs, and compliance requirements. Others choose informality to avoid or minimize regulatory oversight, especially in industries with complex or burdensome regulatory frameworks.

The various speakers highlighted the urgent need to support MSMEs given the important role they play in driving sustainable development.

Okot Benson Otema, the head of retail banking at Diamond Trust Bank, one of the sponsors of the symposium, echoed Bahati’s call for entrepreneurs to formalize their businesses.

He highlighted the disadvantages of informal business structures, which he said are seen as high-risk businesses by financial institutions, leading to high costs of capital.

"One of the reasons why businesses don’t benefit from banks is because they are so informal. Banks consider many factors in pricing the loan, and informality is one of the biggest ones. No one can trust an informal customer,” he said.

Bahati called on MSMEs to adopt strategic financial practices and leverage on quality certification to enhance competitiveness in local, regional and international markets.

Sylvia Kirabo, the Principal Public Relations Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), encouraged MSMEs, particularly in small-scale manufacturing, to obtain the UNBS quality mark (Q mark) to enhance market competitiveness.

Kirabo outlined the straightforward certification process facilitated by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), stressing that formal business registration is a prerequisite for obtaining the Q mark.

"When you get that quality mark, the market for your goods expands because you supply to all the big supermarkets and can even explore export opportunities," she said, adding that there this significant growth and market penetration potential associated with quality certification.

Susan Nsibirwa, the Monitor Publications Managing Director, said the event was intended to be a call to action for all stakeholders to collectively strive to provide MSMEs with the necessary tools and solutions to support their growth.

Optimism amidst Turkey coffee exports surge

Ugandan coffee exporters have found a new market in Turkey as coffee producers worldwide brace themselves for new European Union regulations that bar coffee products that are sourced from countries that degrade the environment.

According to figures from Uganda’s Embassy in Turkey, coffee exports to the country have grown from a modest 2,000 bags in 2019 to 44,000 bags currently.

Julius Mwijutsya, the officer in charge of Economic and Commercial Diplomacy at the Uganda Embassy in Ankara, said Ugandan coffee has gained popularity in Turkey due to its excellent intrinsic characteristics. “In particular, there is a strong demand for Robusta coffees, especially Screen 18 and Screen 15, which Uganda can supply,” he said.

He added that the potential revenue gains are substantial, with estimates suggesting that the value of Uganda’s coffee exports to Turkey could top USD 1.5 billion (UGX5.5 trillion) by 2025.

Historically, the European Union (EU) remains the biggest consumer of Ugandan coffee, accounting for almost 70% of our coffee exports. EU countries such as Germany, Spain, Belgium and Italy are the leading consumers of both Robusta and Arabica coffees from Uganda.

However, the EU has set stringent European Union Deforestation-free Regulations (EUDR), a “legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation” with the objective of reducing Europe’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global biodiversity loss.

The regulations are due to take effect on January 1, 2025 and could potentially hit the exports of many countries, including Uganda.

The regulations state that importers within the EU would be required to trace the coffee on the market “back to the plot of land where it was produced” and the products found to have been grown on formerly forested land would be blocked.

This is forcing coffee exporters to look to new markets such as China, United Arab Emirates and non-EU member States like Turkey and Russia.

"Turkey offers a significant opportunity for Ugandan coffee exporters, with its large population and growing economy making it an attractive market," Mwijutsya said, adding that given Turkey’s economic potential and Uganda’s goal to expand its coffee exports, they had concentrated on establishing a strong presence in the Turkish market and the efforts are yielding impressive results.

The Uganda Embassy in Ankara has been actively promoting Ugandan coffee in Turkey through various activities such as participation in the Coffex International Coffee Exhibition in Istanbul, which has helped to raise awareness about Ugandan coffee and its unique characteristics.

characteristics. With the support of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mwijutsya said Ugandan coffee can establish a strong presence in the Turkish market and contribute to Uganda’s economic growth.

Uganda’s robusta coffee is highly competitive on the global market thanks to its strong flavor, which make it a favourite for various coffee blenders and instant coffee producers. Globally, coffee exports in 2024 are expected to rise by 8.4 million bags to 119.92 million bags, primarily due to increased shipments from Brazil, Colombia and Ethiopia.

Kidepo National Park to get posh airport, hotels

The Government of Uganda has reached an agreement with the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a UAE group of investors, to construct Kidepo International Airport and the establishment of high-end tourist hotels in the Kidepo National Park in Karamoja.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who witnessed the event, expressed happiness that Uganda and the Gulf countries have strengthened relations, adding that there is a lot of potential for investment between Uganda and the Gulf countries, which should be explored.

A statement from State House indicated that the MOU was signed by government officials from the Ministry of Works and Transport, Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and Uganda Wildlife Authority on behalf of the Government, and top officials of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Abdallah Sultan Al Owais, the Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the President that the construction of the airport would commence not later than August this year.

Abdalla Hassan Alshamsi, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Uganda, also attended the event.

The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) is a prominent business organization in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), specifically based in the emirate of Sharjah, and plays an active role in promoting international investments and fostering economic partnerships beyond the UAE.

Located in the remote Karamoja region, Kidepo Valley National Park boasts a diverse array of wildlife, including several species not found in other Ugandan parks, such as the cheetah, aardwolf, and kudu. It is home to over 77 mammal species and around 475 bird species.

Compared to other national parks in Uganda, Kidepo has over the years been receiving very few visitors due to its remote location, but that is bound to change with the coming of an international airport and hotel facilities, which would open it up to tourists to explore its cultural richness, stunning landscapes, wildlife diversity, as well as opportunities for authentic and adventurous travel experiences.

The region is also well-endowed with a diversity of minerals including gold, limestone, marble, as well as gypsum and vermiculite, among others.

The coming of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry is yet another indicator of how Uganda is continuing to attract investment from the UAE, with several companies setting up a diverse range of investments in various sectors.

These include; DP World, Al Ghurair Group, Emirates Airlines, Emaar Properties, and Dubai Islamic Bank, among others.

Recently, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Maktoum Bin Jumah Al Maktoum, a prominent member of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) royal family and head of the Alpha MBM Investments, was in Uganda to prospect for deal to construct a $4 billion oil refinery in the oil region and the setting up of a multi-million-dollar cargo freight business, among other investments.

An international airport in Karamoja has the potential to open up travel to the remote regions in neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and the Turkana region of Kenya.

Uganda Airlines boss cautions suppliers on quality

Local suppliers have been urged to adhere to international quality standards if they are to benefit from the business opportunities available at the Uganda Airlines Corporation.

Jennifer Bamuturaki, the Uganda Airlines chief executive officer, was responding to complaints from local suppliers that the corporation was mainly sourcing from foreigners at the expense of the local producers and suppliers.

Speaking to a cross section of local suppliers at the Supplier Forum held under the theme; "Harnessing Supply Opportunities to Drive Procurement Excellence," Bamuturaki said aviation is a highly regulated industry, and no airline can compromise on the requisite international standards for any reason.

"We are constrained by inconsistency and lack of sustainability and compliance to international standards," Bamuturaki stated.

She added that this inconsistency in local supply chains is what is forcing the airline to look elsewhere for reliable products of the highest quality, but quickly added that their supplier base has continued to grow as standards improve.

“The Uganda Airlines’ supplier data base has grown to 200 suppliers in our five years of existence and over UGX120 billion has cumulatively been injected into the macro economy for local contractors,” Bamuturaki added.

Uganda has an elaborate legal framework to support local content. For example, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, 2003 (as amended), which governs public procurement in the country, includes provisions that support local content initiatives by promoting the participation of Ugandan businesses in government procurement processes.

Experts say that local content is important to national development as it stimulates economic growth by creating opportunities for local businesses to participate in sectors that are traditionally dominated by foreign companies, which consequently fosters a more resilient and sustainable economic base.

Bamuturaki, however, noted that compliance with high quality standards is non-negotiable in their industry, using the example of the airline’s uniforms that are currently being procured from foreign suppliers, after the airline failed to find a local supplier that would consistently comply with the requisite standards of quality.

To meet Uganda Airlines' requirements, local suppliers must adhere to several international standards, including that of Quality Management Systems (ISO 9001), standards that ensure that products and services consistently meet sensitive customer requirements, the Food Safety Management standard (ISO 22000), among others.

For suppliers to meet these stringent requirements, Bamuturaki suggested that they must invest in training and capacity building programs as well as working with certification bodies and industry experts.

She added that suppliers also need to regularly review and improve on their systems and processes.

Linet Laila, the Innovations Manager at African Queen Ltd, a local supplier, echoed Bamuturaki’s sentiments, and called for more opportunities to interact with procuring entities and regulators.

"The forum we have had was beneficial as we have been able to interact with the officials from Uganda Investment Authority and URSB, who have guided us on what to do," she noted.

With its fleet of several brand-new jets, Uganda Airlines flies several routes within Africa and has been gradually expanding its network to destinations in Asia, China and Europe.

MTN launches UGX4.5 bn project for youth

In January last year, Brian Tweheyo conceived the idea of a digital solution that would make renting easier for both tenants and landlords in the residential and commercial rental space.

He launched RentBeta, which offers different financial products enabling rent payments in instalments, collection, insurance, lending, savings, etc.

Recently, RentBeta was selected from among 740 applicants in 70 countries for the Top 100 Resilience Challenge 2024, for which the winner would receive the top prize of $150,000 in seed funding.

Tweheyo credits all the success he has achieved to the MTN ACE programme.

“Through the support and mentorship provided by the MTN ACE programme and Innovation Village, I developed RentBeta, which has been a very transformative initiative for both tenants and landlords,” he says.

RentBeta is only one of the many success stories from the first phase of the MTN ACE programme, which has been running since December 2022. It has seen 185 youth graduate across three distinct programs: 51 from MTN ACE Tech, 47 from the MTN ACE Career program, and 87 from the MTN ACE Skills program.

Additionally, 20 enterprises were selected for ACE Tech acceleration, and 15 enterprises for incubation, demonstrating the program’s significant impact on nurturing youth skills and enterprises. MTN sank UGX 1.5 billion in the first phase of the program.

Basing on the incredible success of the first phase, the telecommunications company has launched the second phase to continue equipping youth with digital skills.

The new three-year initiative, with an investment worth UGX 4.5 billion, aims to equip 8,000 youths and create 150 start-ups - basically transforming Uganda’s population into a digitally skilled workforce as the country positions itself to reap its dividend from the ongoing Fourth Industrial revolution.

MTN Uganda is collaborating with key partners including the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, the National ICT Innovation Hub, Centenary Technology Services, MUBS Entrepreneurship Innovation and Incubation Centre, and Engage Consult.

Speaking at the launch event of the new phase at the Nakawa Innovation hub in Kampala recently, Sylvia Mulinge, the MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer, said; “At MTN Uganda, we believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected world, and access to digital skills is a critical avenue to achieving that aspiration. As the second phase of the MTN ACE program takes shape, MTN Uganda is more committed than ever to empowering the country’s youth to become innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the digital age.”

Hon. Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo, the state minister for ICT, commended MTN Uganda for the initiative to empower the country’s young people and develop leaders in the digital space.

“We deeply appreciate the efforts of our partners whose marvellous effort in developing a digitally experienced and empowered generation is invaluable. Together, we are encouraging innovation and productivity across people, organizations, businesses, and government,” she said.

Under the new phase, MTN will set up four regional ICT and innovation hubs at the main public universities across the country namely; Makerere University, Gulu University, Kabale University, and Busitema University.

Moos as Kenya blocks Ugandan dairy products again

Top dairy exporters are bitter that Kenya has once again refused to grant them licenses to export their products to the lucrative market.

Benson Mwangi, the Brookside Dairy Uganda general manager, told journalists over the weekend that Ugandan farmers are incurring huge losses following a decision by the Kenyan authorities to reject more than 100 of their applications for import permits for dairy products from Uganda.

In February after Kenyan President William Ruto visited President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, hopes were high that the rubbing of shoulders between the two neighbours over exports and imports would ebb.

And again in May when President Museveni visited his Kenyan counterpart, a joint communique was issued pointing to the bolstering of bilateral relations the “for mutual prosperity and development” of the two countries.

However, Mwangi said that has not happened as trade relations between the two countries remain strained, with many Ugandan traders suffering from a continued ban on export permits for dairy products to Kenya.

"We were delighted to read the communique signed by the two countries when the two Heads of State met in Nairobi, as we believe it was key to unlocking trade barriers that have existed since March last year. However, a month later, we are yet to receive export permits for our long-life milk, which includes powder and ultra-high temperature (UHT) processed milk," Mwangi stated

Kenya has traditionally been a top market for Uganda’s dairy products, but the new trade restrictions have forced Kampala to seek alternative markets in North and West Africa.

However, the logistical challenges render the exports to those markets less competitive than to neighbouring countries.

Mwangi noted that the prolonged delay in the issuance of export permits by the Kenya Dairy Board had caused considerable disruption and had left dairy producers in a state of uncertainty.

Farmers and producers are now desperate for swift action from both governments to resolve the permit issue and restore trade flows.

In his State of the Nation Address on June 6, President Museveni stressed the notion of Pan-Africanism, which he said was one of the key pillars of the NRM political ideology.

“We need the East African market, we need the African market and we need the global market,” he said, adding that Uganda’s milk production for example, is now 5.3billion litres per year. “Who is to buy the extra 4.5 billion litres since the internal demand is only 800million litres?” He asked.

Ten years ago, Brookside Dairies, for which the Kenyatta family are the majority shareholders, bought a majority stake in the former Uganda Dairy Corporation, in which the Ugandan government also maintains a 49% shareholding.

It was hoped that this strategic partnership would make it easier for Uganda to export to Kenya, which has not happened, apparently.

The company recently laid off 250 of its Ugandan workforce in a move aimed at cutting its losses.

Why BoU closed Mercantile Credit Bank

The banking industry is reeling with shock following the decision by the Bank of Uganda, the regulator of the financial services industry, to close down Mercantile Credit Bank Limited, after over three decades of operation.

A press statement signed by the Deputy Governor Michael Atingi-Ego suggested that the regulator had placed Mercantile Credit Bank Limited under liquidation, revoked its license, and made an order for the winding up of its affairs, which he said was necessary to protect the interests of the bank’s depositors.

“This action is necessary because the Bank of Uganda has determined that the continuation of Mercantile Credit Bank Limited’s activities is detrimental to the interests of its depositors due to the institution’s failure to resolve its significant undercapitalization, poor corporate governance, and insolvency," the statement said.

Mercantile Credit Bank commenced operations in 1986, starting out mainly as a lender to importers and exporters. Later, it entered into a long-term institutional funding arrangement with the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank).

According to the Deposit Protection Fund, Mercantile Credit Bank deposited UGX174 million with the Fund in 2023, which implies that its total customer deposits currently stand at slightly more than UGX17.4 billion.

According to Bank of Uganda, the Deposit Protection Fund of Uganda (DPF) will shortly inform all depositors of the arrangements that are being put in place to enable them to access the insured portion of their deposits of up to UGX10 million per customer. The rest would be paid by Bank of Uganda in due course.

Mercantile Credit Bank is one of the few institutions in the class of credit taking institutions, which also include BRAC, GT Bank, Opportunity Bank, ABC Capital Bank and Yako Bank.

Two years ago, BOU increased the minimum paid-up capital requirements, with the minimum paid-up capital requirement for financial institutions (Tier I financial institutions) being raised from UGX25 billion to UGX120 billion effective December 31, December 2023 and UGX150 billion effective June 30, 2024.

Additionally, BOU raised the minimum cash reserve requirement for all banks from 8% to 10% of total deposits. The regulator argued that the reforms aimed at fortifying the stability of the financial system and mitigating systemic risk.

However, analysts say that the stringent measures also carry the risk of reducing competition in the industry as some institutions are forced to downgrade their licenses or to completely exit the market.

Barely five months ago, the Central Bank also closed down EFC Uganda, Ltd citing the institution’s failure to resolve its significant under-capitalization and poor corporate governance.

In recent years, the BoU has also closed down several banks including Global Trust Bank Uganda, National Bank of Commerce, and Crane Bank Limited over failure to comply with the regulatory requirements of their licences, a move that a Parliamentary investigation later described as high-handed.

Stop budgeting for corruption, CSOs tell MPs

In a stirring call to action, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) want Members of Parliament to eliminate budget allocations that enable corruption.

Speaking at a Post-Budget Dialogue for the financial year 2024/25, held under the theme "Transforming Challenges into Opportunities," the CSO noted that corruption was both an economic and national security threat.

"Corruption remains a severe threat to our economy and national security. I am glad the government is taking strong measures against it. We must ensure that corruption is suppressed and does not manifest openly in our society," said Dr. Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of Advocates Coalition for Development (ACODE).

While discussing the new budget, the CSO highlighted several instances of irregular, unapproved expenditures, including the controversial services award. These expenditures, the CSO argued, exemplify a pattern of financial mismanagement and corruption that must be eradicated.

Corruption, often seen as a malignant force, has deep-rooted impacts on society. It diverts essential resources away from critical development projects and undermines public trust in governmental institutions. The CSO's call to stop budgeting for corruption is not just a financial concern but a plea for moral and ethical governance.

The controversial services award given to the Commissioners of Parliament, was cited by the CSOs as a glaring example of how public funds can be misallocated. Such hefty awards, often dished out without transparent approval processes, can fuel public distrust and hinder genuine developmental efforts.

Parliamentarians play a crucial role in this transformation. As representatives of the people, they are tasked with scrutinizing budget allocations and ensuring that public funds are used responsibly. The CSO's call to action is a reminder of their duty to uphold integrity and accountability in all governmental financial matters.

Julius Mukunda, the CEO of the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), delivered a stark warning to the government regarding its borrowing practices. He cautioned against the detrimental habit of borrowing to pay salaries and channelling borrowed funds into unproductive, so-called ghost projects.

“It is so sad that the government gets loans and can’t utilize them well. Why do you keep sinking money into ghost projects like the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID) and the specialised hospital at Lubowa?” he asked.

In response, Ramadhan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, said that the government's current borrowing strategy.

Ggoobi asserted that the government is not borrowing to pay salaries but is instead focusing on development projects such as the construction of roads and hospitals.

“Our borrowing is directed towards development, like the construction of roads and hospitals,” Ggoobi stated. This shift in narrative aims to reassure the public and stakeholders that the government is prioritizing infrastructure and long-term growth over unsustainable financial practices.

To many of the participants at the dialogue, the CSOs’ emphatic message was a powerful reminder about the ongoing struggle against corruption.

By eliminating corrupt practices, the country can pave the way for a more transparent, accountable, and prosperous future. The extent to which parliamentarians would heed this call and take decisive action to eradicate corruption from the economic system, is what remains to be seen.

Stanbic’s FlexiPay starts global money transfer

Ugandans working in the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Kuwait, and more than a dozen other countries can now send money home, thanks to a new partnership between FlexiPay, Stanbic Bank’s digital payment platform, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and Upesi Money Transfer, a regional payments company.

Officials said in a press release that the initiative would facilitate FlexiPay users to make seamless international money transfers to and from Uganda at very competitive rates.

Josephine Nakato Kasacca, head of Customer Experience and Operations at FlexiPay, said that effective June 14, 2024, FlexiPay customers have been using the platform to send money to more than 20 countries and plans are underway to expand to 70 by December this year.

Some of the other countries from which Ugandans can receive money include Kenya, Qatar, Oman, France, Canada, Israel, South Korea, India, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Bahrain, Australia, and Poland.

Experts say that remittances (commonly referred to as kyeyo) are not just financial transfers; they are essential drivers of economic stability, poverty alleviation, and development in many developing countries.

According to Bank of Uganda’s 2022 Inward Personal Transfers Report, about 65% of personal transfers was used to pay for expenses including general household purchases and payment of school fees, while about 34% went towards house construction and land purchases.

The same report showed that about 5% of remittances came from the Middle East, about 21% came from inside Africa,15% came from Europe, and another 15% came from North America.

Official statistics from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development indicate that Uganda’s remittances market is expected to top USD1.3 billion by 2027.

However, the high cost of sending remittances – currently standing at 6% or more – has been a major concern, resulting from lack of competition as the few companies can charge what they want without losing customers.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are aiming at reducing the cost of sending remittances to as low as 3% by 2030.

Julius Okwana, Upesi Money Transfer's Country Manager, emphasized their commitment to use their extensive regional and global network to simplify remittances processes so as to drive financial inclusion in the country.

David Berno, the head of Remittance and Inclusion at IFAD, also underscored the important role that remittances have been playing in reducing poverty and enhancing food security in developing countries.

“We are excited to be affiliated with this campaign because money remittances enable families to meet their basic needs, such as food, shelter, and education, and can also contribute to local economic growth through increased consumption and investment.

“By supporting money remittances, IFAD aims to promote financial inclusion, empower smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs, and ultimately contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction,” Berno added.

Museveni assents to Free Zones Authority, Exports Board merger

The new law that merges the Uganda Free Zones Authority with the Uganda Exports Promotions Board is one of the Acts that have been assented to by the President.

A statement from State House on Friday indicated that several Acts including Free Zone (Amendment Act 2024), the Uganda Wildlife (Amendment Act 2024), and the Uganda National Metrological Authority (Amendment Act 2024) were endorsed by the President, several weeks after they were passed by Parliament.

The new Acts were part of the Rationalisation of Government Agencies process, aimed at merging, mainstreaming and rationalizing Government Agencies.

The primary objective of the process was to establish the agencies' operational relevance, eliminate embedded duplications and overlaps,and establish the resultant short term and long term saving of taxpayers’ money.

The new Act now merges the Uganda Free Zones Authority and the Uganda Export Promotions Board into one entity to be called Uganda Free Zones and Export Promotions Authority and its supervision shifts to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

The Uganda Free Zones Authority (UFZA) was established five years ago in line with the commitment of the East African Community (EAC) partner States to develop Free Zones for purposes of accelerating development through creating an enabling environment for the production of competitive products for export under the EAC Customs Union Protocol.

Free Zones are areas where raw materials, goods, and machinery may be landed, handled, manufactured or reconfigured for export without being subject to import and export duties.

Worldwide, free zones serve as catalysts for economic development by attracting investment, promoting industrial diversification, fostering innovation, creating jobs, and enhancing competitiveness. Their strategic implementation can significantly contribute to a country's overall economic growth and prosperity.

Officials of the UFZA, led by ED Hez Kimooni Alinda, had vehemently objected to the merger saying its establishment was an EAC matter and that shifting supervision from the Ministry of Finance, planning and Economic Development to that of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives was illegal. However, Members Parliament dismissed the arguments as not having legal merit.

The UFZA has been receiving funding amounting to more than UGX27 billion a year. The new reforms are projected to lead to a saving of more than UGX10 billion per year.

However, the reforms expand the scope of the new agency from Export Processing Zones and Free Port Zones only to the adoption of the wider Special Economic Zones, which include the ability to acquire land for their establishment.

As regards the other Acts that were assented to, the Uganda Wildlife (Amendment Act 2024) now sees Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (commonly known as Entebbe Zoo) merged with Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Also, the Uganda National Metrological Authority established in 2012 has also been dissolved and assimilated into the Ministry of Water and Environment.

Activists applaud UGX 516 Bn climate allocation

In a decisive move to address the escalating climate crisis, the Government has earmarked UGX 516 billion for climate change mitigation efforts in the next financial year.

While presenting the 2024/25 budget speech on June 13, Finance, Planning and Economic Development Minister Matia Kasaija said the move underscores Uganda's commitment to combating climate change, safeguarding the environmental and securing the country’s economic future.

“I have provided UGX516.78 billion next financial year for climate change mitigation, natural resources, environment and water resources management,” he said.

Environmental and conservation activists have welcomed the development saying proactively addressing climate change is a very urgent matter.

According to a recent research brief titled ‘A Burning Planet’ released by Twaweza, a non-governmental organisation, 86% of Ugandans surveyed expressed serious concern about the impact of climate change.

Twaweza’s findings highlight the growing awareness and anxiety among citizens regarding climate-related challenges, particularly in the agriculture sector, which is the cornerstone of Uganda's economy.

Climate change-induced changes in temperature and rainfall patterns have led to decreased agricultural productivity due to droughts, floods, and changes in the timing of seasons. Crop failures and loss of livestock have resulted in reduced incomes for farmers and increased food insecurity.

Experts argue that addressing climate change challenges requires comprehensive strategies that integrate climate adaptation and mitigation measures into national development planning. In recent years, most of the country’s climate change mitigation initiatives have been funded by donors and private sector companies.

Violet Alinda, the organisation’s boss in Uganda, told Business Edge in an interview that government has to take action because the citizens are extremely worried about climate change.

"Uganda is very vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and this new data tells us that citizens are already experiencing the kind of changes to agricultural production that climate scientists have predicted. The data also tells us that citizens are understandably worried," she said.

Alinda highlighted the global dimensions of climate change, attributing its primary cause to the carbon emissions of wealthy nations but its impact is mostly felt in developing nations.

"While it can be tempting to sit back and wait for high-income countries to pay for their actions, we risk denying ourselves the opportunity to engage meaningfully in critical negotiations and decisions. By acknowledging our part, we can be part of the solution," she added.

Kasaija said the fund would help with the restoration of the environment and reverse the effects of climate change including the restoration of 42,450 hectares of degraded wetlands along the Awoja, Kandekye-Ruhorobero, Nchwera, Chambura, Kiruruma, Naigombwa, Kibimba, Tochi, Aswa, Sezibwa, Mayanja, Muzizi, Mpanga and Lumbuye water systems.

The budgetary would also support a range of other initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and enhancing the resilience of communities to climate impacts, aimed at securing a better future for citizens.

Ugandan innovation wins UGX70m engineering prize

An innovation by Mr. Martin Tumusiime and his friends has won 15,000 British Pounds (about UGX70 million) from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Prize for Innovation, at a ceremony held in Nairobi yesterday.

Yo-Waste is a location-based mobile application that connects homes and businesses to independent agents for efficient on-demand garbage collection, which currently serves over 1,500 customers including homes, businesses, and waste collection agents, with a goal to reach 20,000 users by 2026.

Founded in 2019 by five Makerere University Computer Science students (Tumusiime, Gideon Mpungu, Lubowa Enock, Namuli Brenda and Rogers Kibuule), Yo-Waste currently helps to collect more than 50 tonnes of garbage daily by more than 40 partner collectors.

Yo-Waste narrowly missed out on the top prize of 50,000 British Pounds, which was won by Kenya’s Esther Kimani for her innovation of an early crop pest and disease detection device, which has been credited for reducing crop losses for smallholder farmers by up to 30% while increasing yields by as much as 40%.

Kimani's innovation not only provides real-time alerts within five seconds of an infestation, offering tailored intervention suggestions, but also alerts government agricultural officers to the presence of diseases or pests, contributing to broader agricultural management efforts.

The solar-powered tool uses computer vision algorithms and advanced machine learning to detect and identify crop pests, pathogens or diseases, as well as the nature of the infection or infestation. The device then notifies the farmer via SMS.

The annual Africa Prize was founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014 to support innovators developing sustainable and scalable engineering solutions to local challenges in Africa.

The other winners were Kenya’s Eco Tiles, an environmentally friendly roofing material made from recycled plastic, and Ivory Coast’s La Ruche Health, an app that connects communities to vital health information, advice, and services through “Kiko”, an AI chatbot tool available on WhatsApp and mobile apps.

The Royal Academy picks out scalable engineering solutions designed to solve local challenges and tackling the greatest global challenges while improving economic prosperity and sustainable development for Africa through engineering.

Goverment defends new Atomic Energy Bill

Environmental activists have put the Government on the defensive over the new Bill that it has drafted to replace the Atomic Energy Act of 2008.

At a consultative workshop in Kampala to discuss the new Atomic Energy Bill of 2024, environmental activists argued that Uganda lacks the capacity and preparedness to safely manage nuclear energy, citing potential environmental and safety risks.

However, Ruth Nankabirwa, the Energy and Mineral Resources minister, appeared to downplay the concerns, saying comprehensive measures are being taken to ensure Uganda's readiness.

"Our commitment to nuclear energy is grounded in rigorous planning and adherence to international safety standards," she asserted. "We have engaged with global experts and stakeholders to develop a robust framework that prioritizes the safety of our people and the environment."

Akisophel Kisolo, who chairs the Uganda Atomic Energy Council, added that the country is making significant progress towards utilizing nuclear energy.

"We are on course to have nuclear energy in Uganda," Kisolo stated confidently, while highlighting the ongoing efforts to establish the necessary infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, and technical expertise to support the safe and effective use of nuclear power.

The new law provides for the expansion of the Uganda Atomic Energy Council from five to eight members and the establishment of the Uganda Nuclear Energy Company to manage the country’s commercial interests in the nuclear industry.

However, critics are not comfortable with some sections of the new law which appears to give the Minister too much power to appoint members, and the requirement that the Council must comply with all the minister’s directives at all times.

In March, experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) facilitated at a high-level meeting in Kampala to discuss nuclear law and raise awareness about the relevant international legal instruments under IAEA auspices and to improve the coun-try’s legal framework in regard to nuclear safety, security, safeguards and liability.

Nankabirwa emphasized the critical need for nuclear energy in Uganda's energy mix, noting that it offers a reliable and sustainable solution to the country's growing electricity demands.

She also noted that Uganda's move towards nuclear energy aligns with global trends, where many countries are adopting nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change.

However, nuclear energy faces challenges globally related to public perception and acceptance, including concerns about safety, environmental risks, and the legacy of past disasters involving nuclear power plants in highly developed countries.

The activists say that while nuclear energy offers potential benefits in terms of low-carbon electricity generation and energy security, policymakers must carefully weigh these benefits against the serious risks associated with nuclear power including radioactive waste that could contaminate soil, water, and air for very many years.

However, the Government has remained resolute in its determination to develop nuclear power for peaceful means, using its locally available uranium deposits.

The minister is set to set table the new Bill before Parliament for debate in the coming weeks.

Survey shows private sector improvement in May

The month of May saw a further improvement in the private sector’s performance, according the Stanbic Bank Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

The overall upturn was supported by back-to-back expansions in both business activity and new orders, with the favourable demand conditions also underpinning optimism in the year-ahead outlook for output as companies are encouraged to expand staffing numbers again.

Shorter lead times and greater new orders allowed firms to increase their input buying and build inventory, according a press release from the bank.

The PMI is compiled from responses to questionnaires sent to purchasing managers in a panel of around 400 private sector companies operating in various sectors including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, construction, wholesale, retail and services.

“On the price front, greater purchase and staff costs were recorded, pushing total operating expenses up. In turn, firms raised their selling prices further,” it adds.

Compared to 51.5 in May 2022, the headline PMI posted at 54.1 in May 2024, up from 52.6 in April and above the 50.0 neutral mark for the second month running, signaling a further improvement in business conditions across the country’s private sector.

Business activity in the economy rose for the second month in a row, with a more upbeat sales environment contributing to the latest increase in new business in the month. Ugandan companies suggested that new client wins stemming from increased customer referrals helped boost new orders.

As was the case for output, new sales rose in all monitored sectors except agriculture.

Overall operating expenses rose further midway through the second quarter, as both purchase and staff costs increased again.

Higher wage bills, in part stemming from performance-related bonuses to motivate staff, alongside greater utility and raw material prices, drove cost inflation according to the survey.

Nevertheless, sustained and upbeat demand conditions enabled firms to raise their output charges for the 14th month running in May. Businesses often sought to pass the higher costs to customers, anecdotal evidence showed.

Confidence in the outlook for output over the next year encouraged firms to expand their workforce numbers with four of the five monitored sectors signaling greater employment, except construction, which recorded a decrease in staffing numbers.

Greater capacity allowed firms to work through their backlogs, which fell for the fifth month running.

At the same time, another monthly upturn in purchasing activity and a further improvement in suppliers' delivery times supported the building of stocks of purchases.

NCBA Bank injects UGX80m into 2024 Golf Series

NCBA Bank Uganda in conjunction with the Uganda Golf Club, have launched the 2024 NCBA Golf Series, a premier event aimed at advancing the sport of golf and fostering excellence within Uganda’s golfing community.

Top officials said the event, in which NCBA Bank has injected more than UGX80 million, is symbolic of their dedication to sustainability.

Now in its fourth annual edition, the NCBA Golf Series promises to be more expansive and exhilarating than ever, traversing several golf clubs across Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.

This year, East Africa's foremost golfing event will make its debut at Jinja Club, followed by Uganda Golf Club and Entebbe Club.

The bank also sponsors the NCBA Junior Golf Series, which concluded its third season last week.

Mark Muyobo, the NCBA Bank Uganda Chief Executive Officer, said their unwavering commitment to supporting golf stems from their belief in greatness, which inspires them to help customers achieve their financial goals.

“Our aim is to provide customers with exceptional financial services that enable them to save, invest, and grow their wealth. We encourage all participants to continue pursuing greatness as we journey through this exciting Series,” he said.

The launch of the tournament coincided with NCBA’s celebrations of World Environment Day, on which NCBA Bank planted 200 trees at the Uganda Golf Course, a significant step toward their pledge to plant 33 hectares of trees by 2030.

This effort aligns with Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDP) III, which aims to restore 24% of the country’s forest cover by 2040.

Emphasizing the importance of sustainability, Muyobo also reiterated NCBA’s goal to reduce direct emissions by more than 50% by 2030 through various initiatives and system improvements.

“Today, we plant 200 trees on this golf course as a testament to our commitment to sustainability. Tree planting is integral to combating climate change and preserving our natural ecosystems. Our tree-growing activities yield tangible and lasting benefits, including carbon sequestration, employee engagement, and community empowerment,” he added.

Muyobo urged Ugandan golfers to reflect on the challenges posed by climate change and to actively participate in identifying and implementing solutions that protect and restore nature.

Dubai Businessman Maktoum awarded top national honour

President Yoweri Museveni has conferred the country’s top honour, the Order of the Crested Crane 1st Class Medal, upon Sheikh Mohammed Bin Maktoum Bin Jumah Al Maktoum from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in recognition of his exceptional contribution to Uganda’s socio-economic transformation.

The honour, which is conferred upon Ugandans and non-Ugandan citizens who have distinguished themselves in the areas of public and private leadership and service, was presented to Prince Maktoum, a member of the Dubai Royal Family, during the 35th Heroes’ Day celebrations in Gomba District yesterday.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, whose personal net worth is said to be about $16 billion, heads the Alpha MBM Investments, an investment firm from the UAE, which was endorsed by the Government of Uganda to be the lead partner in the country’s $4 billion 60,000 barrel per day oil refinery project, in Hoima District.

The Dubai-based company is also investing heavily in other sectors including the restoration of Uganda Air Cargo, a fruit processing hub in Bukalasa, a gold refinery, among several others.

Prince Maktoum, who described Uganda as his second home and the people of Uganda as his second family, said he along with his business partners, have been looking for opportunities to establish impactful projects in Uganda that will add value to the Ugandan communities.

However, the oil refinery project stands out as the flagship project for which MBM Investments is to partner with the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) to develop in the coming months.

An MoU was signed last December between the government and Alpha MBM Investments LLC, outlining cooperation and negotiation terms for the Refinery Project. On January 16, 2024, negotiations of the key commercial agreements with Alpha MBM Investments commenced and once concluded, development works under the refinery project would commence.

According to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, at least three commercial agreements are being prepared for signing under the refinery project before the Final Investment Decision (FID) is undertaken.

The Uganda Refinery Holding Company, a subsidiary of the UNOC, is to hold a participating interest of up to 40% in the Refinery Company on behalf of UNOC and Government of Uganda.

As one of the world’s top producers of refined petroleum products, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) brings numerous benefits to Uganda’s fledgling oil industry.

The Middle East country is a significant player in the global oil market, with abundant reserves and advanced infrastructure for exploration, extraction, refining, and exportation of petroleum products.

The UAE is particularly famous for its production of high-grade petroleum products including gasoline (petrol), diesel, and jet fuel, which are suppliers to consumers around the world.

Uganda acquires $500m loan from S.Korea

Uganda has signed an agreement with South Korea for a $500 million loan to help finance infrastructure building in the east African country, Uganda's finance ministry has said.

South Korea's EXIM Bank will provide the loan, the ministry said in a post on X. It didn't provide details on what kind of infrastructure the money would fund but Uganda mostly borrows for road and energy projects.

The new credit adds to Uganda's growing debt problems that prompted ratings firm Moody's to downgrade the country’s rating, citing "diminished debt affordability."

As of Dec. 31, Uganda's public debt stood at $24.6 billion. Moody’s said the downgrade of the ratings reflects diminished debt affordability and increasingly constrained financing options, amid greater reliance than in the past on comparatively costly domestic and non-concessional sources of external financing.

According to Moody’s, the ongoing suspension of new World Bank loans risks adding to the government’s growing dependence on non-concessional financing, given that World Bank was one of Uganda’s largest creditors, accounting for around a fifth of Uganda’s public debt.

The ratings firm added that Uganda’s external vulnerability risk remains elevated, a reflection of a more challenging external debt servicing profile, the persistence of tighter global financial conditions, and diminished foreign exchange reserve adequacy.

The new loan agreement was signed by Uganda's finance minister, Matia Kasaija and South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-Yul on the sidelines of the Korea-Africa summit in Seoul, South Korea.

During the summit, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and the leaders of African countries agreed to forge deeper trade and business cooperation and launched a "critical minerals dialogue" aimed at sustainable development of the continent's resources.

Hosting a first-ever summit with the leaders of 48 African nations, Yoon said South Korea would increase development aid for Africa to $10 billion over the next six years as it looks to tap the continent's rich mineral resources and potential as a vast export market.

Nearly 50 deals and agreements were reportedly South Korea's first summit with leaders from 48 African countries to cooperate in areas such as mining, energy and manufacturing, South Korea's industry ministry said on Wednesday.

President Yoon pledged that South Korea would increase development aid for Africa to $10 billion over the next six years, and would offer $14 billion in export financing to promote trade and investment for South Korean companies in Africa.

The African leaders also welcomed South Korea's "Tech4Africa" initiative aimed at supporting the education and training of Africa's young population.

MTN restores five forests, set to introduce electric vehicles

In an ambitious move aimed at pioneering environmental stewardship for a sustainable future, MTN Uganda has registered tremendous success in restoring forest reserves, slashing carbon emissions and is now set to produce wind power and replace part of its fleet with electric vehicles.

Only three years ago, MTN Uganda embarked on an ambitious project to restore 220 hectares of forest cover across the country. This initiative, part of the larger "Uganda is Home" campaign, celebrated the symbiotic relationship between MTN Uganda and the people of Uganda, reinforcing the company’s commitment to the socio-economic well-being of all Ugandans.

MTN Uganda's forest restoration initiative was more than a symbolic gesture of social corporate investment; it was a tangible re-commitment to Uganda's environmental and socio-economic development. Three years later, the initiative aligns with this year’s World Environment Day theme, “Land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience” - highlighting the critical importance of reforestation for a sustainable future.

Launched at Kyewaga Central Forest Reserve in Entebbe, the project was undertaken in partnership with the National Forestry Authority. The reforestation effort aimed to restore forest cover in five Central Forest Reserves (CFRs) across the country, namely; Barifa CFR in Arua, Kagombe CFR in Kibaale, Jubiya CFR in Masaka, and Ogera Hills CFR in Serere District.

The project symbolized the company's then, 22-year presence in Uganda, with each ten hectares representing one year of MTN’s existence in the country.

In the three years since the project's inception, the impact has been profound. The restored forests have not only enhanced biodiversity but also improved the livelihoods of local communities. Forests play a crucial role in climate regulation, water purification, and soil preservation, contributing to the overall health of the environment and the well-being of the people.

However, MTN Uganda’s environmental conservation efforts extend beyond reforestation initiatives. The company has decisively committed to environmental responsibility with its goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, already bearing significant results through its "Project Zero" initiative.

This comprehensive initiative focused on decarbonization has led to the company reducing its emissions by more than half in just two years. The company registered a remarkable 59% reduction in emissions in Q1 2023 in comparison to Q1 2021.

This reduction was achieved through strategic deployment of smart energy monitoring tools, which provided invaluable insights and enabled the implementation of key actions to significantly reduce power consumption.

The project also targeted Tower Co sites, achieving a 15% reduction in emissions despite adding over 1,000 sites within two years. This accomplishment was driven by widespread solar deployment, integration of lithium-ion batteries, and a strategic shift in the primary power source.

MTN Uganda is in its initial stages of introducing electric vehicles (EVs) into its fleet, aligning with the company's broader strategy to further reduce emissions. Although still in the procurement phase, this move marks a significant step towards sustainable transportation within the company.

Looking ahead, MTN Uganda is exploring innovative solutions to harness wind power in targeted locations, despite the geographical constraints of Uganda not being at sea level.

Ongoing projects, including wind power production Proof of Concepts (POCs), are progressing, showcasing the company’s commitment to exploring all avenues for sustainable energy.

The company's dedication to sustainability and the ongoing success of ‘Project Zero’ exemplify its leadership in the journey towards a greener future.

Today, as we celebrate the 2024 World Environment Day, the success of MTN Uganda's reforestation project serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of ecosystem restoration. It exemplifies how corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand, creating a sustainable and prosperous future for all.

POATE exhibitors win Kenya Airways tickets

Two lucky participants at the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) have won return tickets to Nairobi and Mombasa from Kenya Airways and the Kenya Tourism Board, following a raffle draw.

Robert Onega of Hannah and Hannah Tours had his business card picked from a box and instantly won himself a return ticket to Nairobi where he will stay at the Tribe Hotel for two nights.

Ms Faith Limara of Tracks and Trails also won a return ticket to Mombasa, for a two-nights’ stay at the Pride Hotel.

Kenya Airways Director, Felix Mwangangi said the prizes were their token of appreciation for the excellent exhibition at the Expo.

Josephine Mbela of the Kenya Tourism Board, said they were glad to take part in the POATE, promising to send more participants next year.

At this year's three-day event, Kenya was represented by a strong contingent comprising; the Kenya Tourism Board, Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Tamarind Hotel, Hemingways Hotel, The Tribe Hotel, Heritage Hotels, Kilifi County, Pride Inn Hotels, Enashipai Resort and Spa, Hermosa Hotel, Kenya Airways, and Southern Sky Safaris.

The POATE is an annual tourism and travel trade show organized by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), bringing together key players in the tourism value chain for networking opportunities and business deals under both Business-to-Business and Business-to-Consumer formats.

This year marked the eighth edition of the event, attracting over 70 buyers and more than 5,000 trade visitors and consumers over the three-day period.

The expo, themed “Responsible Tourism,” blended Leisure and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) tourism seamlessly, reflecting the global emerging trends.

According to the Uganda Tourism Board, the expo aims to bolster the country’s tourism industry by increasing annual tourism revenue to approximately $1.9b and raising inbound tourism revenue per visitor from $1,052 to $1,500.

The country’s tourism revenue for the year ending 2023 rose to over $1b, up from about $687.2 m in 2022, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Data from the ministry indicates that international tourist arrivals reached about 1.3 million in 2023, a 56.5% increase from 2022, with arrivals from Africa continuing to dominate at 89.2%.

As Uganda continues to attract international tourists, the potential to draw more travelers from emerging markets, such as China, is significant. The sector remains a vital sector for Uganda, contributing about 5 % to the country’s GDP.

BoU maintains CBR at 10.25% as inflationary pressures persist

Bank of Uganda has kept its key rate unchanged at 10.25% in June unlike in the previous month when it was raised from 10%, which was prompted by rising inflation and significant depreciation of the Ugandan shilling against major currencies.

Central banks typically raise the Central Bank Rate (CBR) as part of efforts to control inflation by limiting the amount of money in circulation.

Deputy Governor Michael Ating-Ego told journalists at a briefing that because of a steady exchange rate that has been rising since March 2024, domestic inflation has increased considerably less than anticipated.

However, he credited recent increases in the CBR and robust export inflows of coffee, which were supported by favourable global coffee prices, which has helped to keep inflation lower than in other countries in the region.

"Inflation in Uganda remains among the region's lowest, averaging 3.2% over the past year. However, annual headline inflation rose to 3.6% in May 2024 from 3.2% in April, while core inflation climbed to 3.7% from 3.5%," Ating-Ego said.

He cited rising costs in healthcare, education, transportation services, and fuels as the main inflation drivers. Services inflation increased to 6.2% from 5.4%, and electricity, fuel, and utilities (EFU) inflation rose to 9.5% from 7.4%, reflecting global energy price hikes and the delayed impact of the shilling's earlier depreciation.

Despite these pressures, tight monetary conditions, declining global inflation, and a favorable domestic food supply have helped mitigate inflationary impacts. Looking ahead, Ating-Ego projected moderate inflation for FY2024/25, influenced by stable demand and controlled cost pressures.

During the trading session on June 4, the Ugandan Shilling showed a weaker standing, with buying and selling rates quoted at UGX 3,805.63 and UGX 3,815.63, respectively.

However, the inflation forecast has been slightly revised downward, reflecting a less depreciated shilling. Short-term inflation is expected to average between 5.0% and 5.4%, stabilizing around the medium-term target of 5% by the second half of 2025.

Several uncertainties cloud the inflation outlook, including potential escalations in Middle East geopolitical tensions, energy price increases, adverse weather affecting food supplies, and production capacity constraints.

Going forward, Ating-Ego said Uganda's economy remains resilient with growth projected at 6% for FY2023/24. The composite index of economic activity (CIEA) showed a slowdown, with growth at 0.9% quarter-on-quarter and 5.3% year-on-year for the quarter ending April 2024.

Nevertheless, economic growth for FY2024/25 is projected between 6.0% and 6.5%, potentially exceeding 7% in subsequent years.

However, risks to growth persist, including global economic uncertainty and a stronger shilling depreciation, which could dampen domestic demand. Tighter domestic financing conditions could further weaken private sector credit growth.

External factors such as a weaker global economy and escalating geopolitical conflicts could disrupt supply chains, increase freight costs, and reduce export demand.

Additionally, the country faces challenges like decreased capital inflows, export growth headwinds, and heavy external debt servicing due to rising global interest rates, resulting in declining international reserves.

Concerns over debt affordability and constrained financing options have led to a downgrade in the country’s sovereign credit rating, although with a stable outlook, suggesting these challenges are short-term, according to Atingi-Ego.

Tomatoes, vegetables push inflation to 3.6%

The escalating prices of tomatoes and fresh vegetables have been the primary drivers behind the rise in headline inflation rate in May.

According to the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), covering the 12-month period up to May, the annual inflation figure rose to 3.6 percent, marking a notable increase from the 3.2 percent recorded in April.

Specifically, tomato prices surged by 19.5 percent during the year ending May 2024, a stark contrast to the 3.4 percent increase observed in April. Similarly, fresh vegetable prices spiked by 13.5 percent over the same period, significantly higher than the 1.6 percent recorded in the previous month.

Officials told journalists at a press briefing that the two commodities contributed to the overall increase in annual food crop and related items inflation, which improved to minus 1.4 percent from the minus 2.4 percent reported in April.

Energy, Fuel and Utilities (EFU) inflation climbed to 9.5 percent for May, driven by significant hikes in charcoal, firewood, petrol, and diesel prices.

Edgar Niyimpa, the principal statistician at UBOS, stated that the rise in core inflation to 3.7 percent from 3.5 percent was also primarily fueled by the rising costs of road passenger transport and restaurant meals.

Geographically, Jinja reported the highest inflation rate at 5.1 percent over the past 12 months, attributed to a surge in annual food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation.

Jinja was followed by Kampala's high-income segment at 4.6 percent, while the middle-income sector in Kampala recorded the lowest rate at 2.0 percent.

This was primarily influenced by lower monthly increments in other goods and food crops, including vegetables, tubers, plantains, and cooking bananas.

Specific decreases were noted in cooking banana, onion, pineapple, and passion fruit prices in May compared to April. Diesel prices also saw a slight decrease, standing at 1.3 percent in May compared to a 1.4 percent increase in April 2024.

Mary Asimwe, a business woman dealing in tomatoes and other vegetables at Ntinda Market in Kampala, said that a box of tomatoes that was going for between UGX260,000 - UGX280,000 in February 2024, now costs between UGX380, 000 and UGX420 000.

Apart from increased demand, tomato farmers have also struggled with the dry weather in some parts of the country during the past three months, which has created low production, hence high prices, she added.

UGX322 billion earned from April coffee exports

Gross earnings from Uganda’s coffee exports in April amounted to about US$85 million (about UGX322 billion), according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority.

The organisation’s monthly report for April shows that the monthly coffee exports comprised 290,037 bags of Robusta worth $61.5 million and 100,940 bags of Arabica worth about $23.3 million, an increase of about 5% and 42% in quantity and value respectively compared to the same month last year.

Compared to the same month last year, Robusta increased by about 22% and 96% in quantity and value respectively, while Arabica exports decreased by 25% and 18% in quantity and value respectively.

However, the report indicates that the Robusta monthly export volume was higher than that of last year because of the newly harvested main crop from Masaka and South Western regions.

Arabica exports were however lower than last year due to a smaller harvest in Elgon region.

The report adds that coffee exports for the twelve months (May 2023-April 2024) totalled to 5.92 million bags worth $1.02 billion compared to 5.73 million bags worth US$ 838.8 million in the same period last year, which represents an increase of 3.4% and 21.6% in quantity and value respectively.

Italy maintained its place as Uganda’s most important export market with 43.87% up from 38% in the previous year, followed by India (8%), U.S.A, Germany, and Belgium.

The top ten major destinations of Uganda coffee took a market share of 87%, while exports to African countries amounted to 24,583 bags, a market share of 6%.

The African countries that imported Uganda coffee included Morocco, Sudan, South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt. Europe however, remained the main destination for Uganda’s coffees with a 69% imports share, higher than 66% in March 2024.

In April, various initiatives were undertaken to enhance coffee production across different regions such as establishing demonstration farms aimed at promoting Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and rehabilitation and renovation (R&R) techniques. These farms totalled 224, strategically distributed across different regions. During the month of April 2024, farm gate prices ranged from Shs 5,500-6,000/= per kilo of Kiboko (Robusta dry cherries).

Globally, world coffee production for 2023/24 is forecast to reach 171.4 million bags , 6.9 million bags higher than the previous Year, while global exports are expected to increase by 8.4 million bags to 119.92 million bags, mainly due to strong shipments from Brazil.

For May, Uganda's coffee exports are projected to be 450,000 bags.

MTN offers girls’ skilling initiative UGX270 million boost

Smart Girls Foundation, a Kasangati-based girls’ skilling initiative, is set to receive an additional UGX271 million from MTN Uganda as part of the MTN Girls in Tech program, which aims at equipping more than 500 girls with digital skills.

Speaking at the passing out of 112 youths who graduated in Computer Applications User Occupation on May 29, officials said the funds would be used to purchase hi-tech digital equipment for use at the facility in Wakiso District.

The graduands completed a one-month intensive training, mastering essential software tools such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint at Smart Girls Foundation, a youth-led non-profit organization that focuses on equipping young girls and women with economic and vocational skills. They were awarded certificates issued by the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT).

Smart Girls Foundation CEO Jamila Mayanja praised the graduands for their effort in enhancing their knowledge with skills that are relevant in the modern era and advised them to continue on the journey of learning.

“Beyond this graduation, keep learning and remain disciplined in new endeavors,” she noted, adding that the training center is now attracting learners from across the country, signaling the youth’s growing appetite for technical skills.

MTN Uganda’s journey with Smart Girls Foundation started in 2019 during the 21 days of YelloCare, an annual staff volunteerism initiative, with a donation of UGX30million to enhance the girls’ learning experience.

In 2022, the MTN Uganda funded the establishment of a state-of-the-art skilling facility worth UGX 300 million at Smart Girls Foundation, capable of training 400 girls annually in various vocational programs.

This facility is equipped with a modern computer laboratory, vehicle servicing bays, a washing bay, and renovated classroom blocks, all connected to the internet. The program targets school-going children, dropouts, teenage mothers, orphans, and vulnerable children.

Speaking at the colorful ceremony held at the Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology (UICT) in Kampala, Josephine Nassiwa, Manager, Wholesale Accounts at MTN Uganda, remarked on the significance of the increasing number of graduates in the digital skills training program.

"This graduation is a testament to the readiness of our youth to be employable in current workspaces that are reliant on technology for day-to-day operations,” she stated. “It not only aligns with our Ambition 2025 strategy—leading digital solutions for Uganda’s progress—but also enhances diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in the communities we serve.”

Nassiwa emphasized MTN Uganda's commitment to ensuring that everyone benefits from a modern, connected life, including access to opportunities irrespective of gender, to drive social and economic transformation in communities.

"We call upon more stakeholders to join us in this noble cause. By providing digital tools and skills training, we can bridge the gap and create a more inclusive digital economy, reinforcing our aspiration that Together, We’re Unstoppable," she added.

Uganda, with over three-quarters of its population under the age of 30 according to the World Bank, faces significant challenges in youth unemployment. According to official statistics from the Uganda National Bureau of Statistic (UBOS), Uganda has a youth unemployment rate of 17%, surpassing the national average of 11.7%, with girls disproportionately affected.

UDB, Centenary Bank scoop top banking accolades

The Uganda Development Bank (UDB) and Centenary Bank, an indigenous Ugandan bank, have won awards at the prestigious Banker of the Year Awards held in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 29.

UDB, the country's premier Development Finance Institution (DFI), was crowned the Regional Bank of the Year (East Africa), after beating off stiff competition from Export-Import Bank, Ecobank, KCB Group, and the United Bank for Africa, among others.

Uganda’s wholly indigenous Centenary Rural Development Bank Ltd scooped the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) Bank of the Year Award, which recognises banks that have greatly incorporated the growth of women-led small and medium-sized enterprises as part of their SME strategy.

Centenary’s dedication to advancing women's access to finance was described as “truly inspiring.”

Kamau Thugge, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, was named Cen-tral Bank Governor of the year.

UDB was credited for showing leadership in every category required of a hugely progressive development bank, making significant contributions in uplifting the lives of Ugandans whilst weathering extreme external shocks, and extending socially and economically supportive lending that improved institutional reach and performance-yet still put powerful green and sustainability strategies at its heart.

Patricia Ojangole, the UDB Managing Director, expressed delight at the recognition, which she said was a testament to the hard work, dedication, and resolve to not only accelerate financial inclusion in the country but also facilitate Uganda’s socio-economic transformation.

UDB also received a Silver Award (A+ rating, under the category of Best Per-forming DFI) for adhering to the strict prudential guidelines of the Associa-tion of African Development Finance Institutions (AADFI) and was one of the nominees for the Bank of the Year award, which was won by African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank).

The well-respected African Banker Awards, now in its 18th edition, honour the accomplishments of individuals and institutions that have made a major contribution to the expansion and advancement of Africa's banking industry in the previous year.

Some of the 2024 winners:

Banker of the Year - Admassu Tadesse, Managing Director, TDB Group; Bank of the Year - African Export Import Bank (Afreximbank); Central Bank Governor of the Year - Kamau Thugge, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya; Sustainable Bank of the Year - Standard Bank Group (mother company of Stanbic Bank).

DFI of the Year - Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA); AFAWA Bank of the Year Award - Centenary Rural Development Bank; Fintech of the Year -Flutterwave; SME Bank of the Year – Ecobank

Regional Bank of the Year (East Africa) - Uganda Development Bank (UDB); Regional Bank of the Year (West Africa) - United Bank for Africa (UBA).

Address drivers of rising national debt - experts

Uganda’s debt risks are becoming more pronounced both in the short to medium term, largely attributed to poor debt utilization as one of the key causes of the nation's mounting public debt stock.

This has to be addressed if the economy is to achieve its growth targets, according to analysts who talked to the Business Edge.

Christine Byiringiro, the program manager at the Uganda Debt Network, a non-governmental organisation, says paying back debt that was not well-utilised implies that the Government must divert crucial resources away from delivering social services, resulting in disproportionate spending on debt at the expense of vital sectors such as infrastructure, labour productivity, human capital development, and public health.

She adds that the government should pay attention to the several recommendations that have been put forward by the civil society players if the country is to scale the bludgeoning debt crisis.

“The recommended policies are geared toward the efficient use of borrowed funds because public debt used efficiently can leverage developments that have a high potential to unlock the production competences of the country and increase revenue collection efforts,’’ she added.

The government spent at least UGX8.3 trillion on debt servicing in the financial year ended June 2023, according to data from the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). This, was an increase from UGX6.7 trillion spent in the financial year ended June 2022.

She warns that this trend is likely to continue if something is not done.

Dr. John Sseruyange, an Economics lecturer at the Makerere University School of Economics, agrees. He says the government must strengthens its public expenditure models, should avoid poor utilization of borrowed funds and put more emphasis on the effects of climate change if it is to alleviate what he calls the ‘public debt dilemma.’

He says Uganda’s public debt was approximately 13% of GDP in 2009/2010; it is currently approximately 50% of GDP, with some of the borrowed money being used to address unplanned climate-related disasters.

“Working on the ongoing effects of climate change is crucial, government should not continue rebuilding washed-out roads on borrowed funds,” he says.

Parliament recently passed the national budget for the next financial year 2024/2025, approving a total expenditure of more than UGX72 trillion, reflecting a significant increase of Shs14 trillion from the initial budget proposal of UGX58 trillion.

From the above resource envelope, UGX3.1 trillion is to be allocated for external debt repayment and UGX9.1 trillion for domestic debt repayment through the Bank of Uganda.

However, the Uganda Debt Network is concerned that Uganda’s current budgeting process is focusing on short-term consumptive expenditure at the expense of long-term benefits for the economy.

‘’There is a need to focus on effective planning and implementation of the budget. To close the expenditure gap, the available fiscal space should not be used to cater for temporarily high government expenditures that are wasteful and unproductive. Having a clear direction for fiscal policy in adherence to the fiscal charter and Section 36 of the Public Finance Management Act (as amended) would benefit budget planning and execution,’’ says Byiringiro.

For the last three Financial Years (FYs), Uganda’s budgets highlight huge payments to debt interest rates. For instance, in the FY 2022/23, Statutory Interest Payments took UGX4.6 trillion (about 12% of the total budget (MoFPED, 2022).

According to the experts, it's essential for Uganda to balance its borrowing with in-vestments that foster long-term economic development, as excessive debt can strain the economy and limit future growth prospects. The government consequently needs to monitor its fiscal policies, debt management strategies, and overall economic perfor-mance so as to ensure the sustainability of the country’s public debt.

Footballer Cristiano Ronaldo tops highest-paid list

For the second year in a row, Cristiano Ronaldo, 39, is on top of the list of the highest-paid athletes compiled by Forbes, a US-based business magazine.

The Portugal striker earned $260m in the past 12 months, up from $136m last year.

Ronaldo's great rival Lionel Messi has fallen a place to third behind Rahm, the Spanish golfer, who has jumped up to second ($218m).

According to Forbes, the world’s 10 highest-paid athletes collectively earned $1.38 bn before taxes and agents’ fees over the past 12 months, which is the highest total ever.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo scored twice in Al-Nassr's 4-2 win against Al-Ittihad to reach a record 35 goals in the Saudi league, breaking Abderrazak Hamdallah's mark of 34 set in the 2018-19 season.

That puts Ronaldo on a record 765 goals in a 22-year career which has also included spells with Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus.

He also holds the men's record for international goals, with 128 from 206 appearances for Portugal.

World's top 10 highest paid athletes 2024:

1. Cristiano Ronaldo, football: $260m (£205m) 2. Jon Rahm, golf: $218m (£172m) 3. Lionel Messi, football: $135m (£107m) 4. LeBron James, basketball: $128.2m (£101m) 5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, basketball: $111m (£88m) 6. Kylian Mbappe, football: $110m (£87m) 7. Neymar, football: $108m (£85m) 8. Karim Benzema, football: $106m (£84m) 9. Stephen Curry, basketball: $102m (£80m) 10. Lamar Jackson, American football: $100.5m (£79m)

Source: BBC Sport

MTN offers 1.5 billion additional shares to Ugandans

MTN Uganda has received the green light from the capital markets regulators to sell more than 1.5 billion ordinary shares to the public.

The minimum number of Sale Shares to be applied for per investor is 1,400 at the price of UGX170 per share (about UGX240,000) and applications for shares must be received not later June 10, 2024.

The company said in a press release that the offer is being undertaken in accordance with their objective to broaden Ugandan shareholding in the Company and to provide an opportunity to Ugandan retail and professional investors, including MTN Uganda’s loyal customers, to own a stake in the Company and participate in its future growth.

MTN Uganda first floated shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE) in an initial public offering (IPO) in December 2021, selling 12.97% of the mandatory 20% of its shareholding, at UGX200 per share. The USE has now granted a waiver for the Company to float the balance of 7.03% at UGX170 per share, which is the current trading price per share on the securities exchange.

At their recent annual general meeting, MTN Uganda shareholders approved and declared the payment of a final dividend of UGX 6.4 per ordinary share (UGX 143.3 billion), which is to be paid to shareholders who will be on the books by close of business on June 12, 2024.

This implies that the new shareholders would benefit from the dividend payment come June 25.

The new applicants for shares, who must first obtain a securities central depository (SCD) account, may be Ugandan retail investors or local, East African and international professional investors.

Additionally, the company is to allocate 'incentive shares' to participating investors at no additional cost, aimed at encouraging meaningful participation in the offer. For every 140 shares bought, 30 incentive shares will be offered, which would effectively bring the price to about UGX140 per share.

In order to facilitate a proper sale, the trading of MTN Uganda shares on the USE has been suspended and will remain suspended until end of business on June 10.

Furthermore, professional investors will not be allowed to trade their MTN shares on the exchange for the next six months.

The company explained that this ‘lock-in restriction’ is appropriate to ensure an orderly market for MTN shares following the conclusion of the share offer, and to avoid distorting or creating a ‘false market’ for the company’s shares and to protect the interests of existing shareholders who will not have participated in the share offer.

However, investors based in a country that is the subject of sanctions from a domestic or internationally-recognised sanctions authority, are ineligible to apply for shares.

Uganda Cranes fans to receive millions from MTN

In a bid to re-ignite passion for the national football team, the Uganda Cranes, MTN Uganda has launched a new campaign to identify and reward the country’s top cheerleaders ahead of the forth-coming World Cup 2026 qualifiers.

The new initiative, organized in partnership with the Federation of Uganda Football Association (FUFA), would see the winners receive millions of shillings in cash, in addition to sponsorship to cheer the Uganda Cranes at both home and away matches.

To participate in the campaign dubbed ‘Uganda Fayaaa,’ fans may form 10-member teams and create cheerleading-videos and send them to partner TV stations including Bukedde TV, NBS Sports and FUFA TV, not later than June 3, 2024.

The top nine cheerleading teams would receive facilitation of up to UGX1.5 million each to activate their performances at the upcoming Uganda Cranes games against Botswana on June 7 and Algeria on June 10, 2024.

The best three teams selected from the nine groups would receive the top cash prize of UGX5 million per group. Additionally, they will be rewarded with a one-year contract to cheerlead the Uganda Cranes and Crested Cranes for home and away games plus allowances and facilitation.

The fans who participate in the voting also stand a chance to win goodies including airtime, data, and tickets for one the Uganda Cranes qualifying games.

FUFA CEO Edgar Watson welcomed the initiative, saying it coincides with the return of fans to international football at Namboole Stadium, which he said is a huge boost for the Uganda Cranes. “With the biggest sponsors of Ugandan football and Uganda Cranes — MTN — at the forefront, the fans will be looking forward to exciting times,” he said.

“FUFA knows the value of both fans and MTN to the sport in the country as key stakeholders. The great times are back to Namboole with the fans once again heavily involved. May the best cheerleader groups enjoy every moment in the Uganda Fayaa campaign.”

Somdev Sen, the Chief Marketing Officer of MTN Uganda, urged all fans to participate in the cheerleader search and support the national team. “Together, let's show the world the true spirit of Ugandan football," he said.

The 2026 World Cup will be jointly held in Canada, Mexico and USA with the number of participating teams rising to 48 from 32, while the number of teams qualifying from Africa was raised from five to nine, which presents Uganda with a big opportunity to qualify for the showpiece event for the first time.

Uganda is in Group G along with Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana and Somalia. The Cranes have already beaten Somalia in Mogadishu and have three points, behind group leaders Algeria who have six points.

Upcoming Uganda Cranes World Cup 2026 qualifying matches:

June 7, 2024: Uganda Cranes Vs Botswana (Namboole Stadium, Kampala); June 10: Uganda Cranes Vs Algeria (Namboole Stadium, Kampala). March 17, 2025: Mozambique Vs Uganda Cranes (Maputo); March 24: Uganda Cranes Vs Guinea (Namboole Stadium, Kampala).

September 1, 2025: Uganda Cranes Vs Mozambique (Namboole Stadium, Kampala); September 8: Uganda Cranes Vs Somalia (Namboole Stadium, Kampala).

October 6, 2025: Botswana Vs Uganda Cranes ( Gaborone); Algeria Vs Uganda Cranes (Algiers).

In January last year, MTN Uganda announced a hefty UGX19 billion sponsorship for FUFA programs and the Uganda Cranes (men’s team), the Crested Cranes (national women’s team), The FUFA Drum, The FUFA Juniors League, The FUFA Super 8, the FUFA Super Cup, and the FUFA Awards.

New NCBA branch to serve Namanve investors

NCBA Bank has opened a new branch, strategically located in Namanve Industrial Park near Kampala, a development officials said underscores the bank’s commitment to developing and supporting large businesses in the country

The launch ceremony, held at Namanve on May 24, attracted top officials from various sectors, including Hannington Wasswa, the Bank of Uganda Director of Commercial Banking, as well as John Gachora, the NCBA Group CEO, based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Essentially a corporate lender, NCBA Bank has in recent years emerged as a top financial institution with offerings including asset financing, mortgage financing, credit facilities, and trade finance.

Speaking at the launch event, Wasswa, who represented the BoU, emphasized the importance of leveraging the bank’s regional network to support regional investment with affordable financing options.

“As NCBA Bank continues to broaden its financial services to critical areas of Uganda’s manufacturing sector, it is important to leverage the bank’s access to funding from its regional network,” he said.

The Namanve Industrial Park, spanning 2,200 acres and currently hosting over 150 manufacturing entities, is a critical hub for Uganda’s industrial growth, though severely underserved by the financial sector.

The new branch in Namanve would provide a comprehensive range of financial services tailored to meet the needs of large-scale businesses and the broader investment community.

The NCBA Group CEO John Gachora reaffirmed NCBA’s commitment to developing the East Africa region, describing the region as a beacon of rapid development and a prime investment destination.

“East Africa is where we see hope and rapid development. This is a place I would encourage anyone to invest in,” he added.

Mark Muyobo, the NCBA Bank Uganda CEO, stressed the significance of the new location – in the middle of Uganda’s largest manufacturing hub.

“Manufacturing is one of the sectors where we are a strong player. One of the solutions we have is ensuring that we are closer to the manufacturers in their area of operation.”

Wasswa commended NCBA’s key innovations in partnership with telecom companies like MTN, which enhance access to financial services via mobile phones.

“These initiatives have enabled the bank to remain competitive and are in line with the BoU's agenda to promote financial inclusion in the country. The bank has the capacity to meet the financial requirements of many customers in the business community.”

The NCBA Group, which also has operations in Rwanda and Tanzania, recently announced its quarter one results for 2024, reporting a profit before tax of UGX200 billion.

MTN contributes UGX42.5 billion to UCC Fund

MTN Uganda has handed over a contribution of UGX42.5 billion in a major boost to the Uganda Communications Commission’s Universal Service and Access Fund. The amount indicates a significant increase from last year's UGX36 billion.

Sylvia Mulinge, the MTN Uganda CEO, handed over the substantial contribution to Thembo Nyombi, the Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission, at the regulator’s offices in Bugolobi, on May 24.

Mulinge told journalists at the press briefing that the contribution highlights the company’s ongoing commitment to drive social and economic change and bridging the digital divide in the country.

“At MTN, we believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected world. Therefore, our contribution to the Universal Service and Access Fund is not just an obligation but is deeply aligned with the core values of our business,” she said.

“Connectivity is the cornerstone of our economy, vital for modernizing education, revolutionizing healthcare, and enabling financial inclusion through digital technologies.”

She added that their support to the UCC Fund aligns with MTN’s 2025 strategy of spearheading the digital solutions for Africa’s progress action plan while pursuing the key strategic priority of creating shared value with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices at the core, so as to scale up digital, financial and social inclusion for a more inclusive and sustainable society.

Recent statistics from the UCC point to the ongoing progress in connectivity efforts. In the second quarter of 2023, the country experienced an influx of 600,000 new mobile phone subscriptions, bringing the total to about 35 million. This substantial growth in mobile services demonstrates a robust national telephone penetration rate of 77 lines per 100 Ugandans.

In addition, the period witnessed a significant 6% increase in active mobile internet users, totaling 12.5 million. This surge is largely driven by the widespread adoption of smartphones, which have become the primary internet access point for most Ugandans.

Thembo Nyombi highlighted the impact of recent funding on expanding telecommunications services to under-served regions.

"Currently, 85% of government secondary schools have computer labs connected to the internet thanks to this fund," he stated. "However, while secondary schools are being covered, there is a significant gap in primary schools, where the majority of pupils reach Primary Seven without ever seeing or using a computer."

Under the Uganda Communications Act of 1997, every national telecom operator is required to contribute 2% of their gross revenues to support the UCUSAF.

Early last month, Airtel Uganda handed over UGX34 billion to the same Fund. Nyombi disclosed that the communications regulatory agency has utilized the contributions from the Fund to establish 65 masts over the past two years in areas deemed commercially unviable for telecom companies, thus promoting fair and equal access to digital services.

However, apart from contributing to the Fund, MTN Uganda has also setting up initiatives and programs aimed at making its services accessible in underserved communities as well as inculcating digital skills in the next generation.

In 2023, MTN Uganda extended its fibre cable coverage from 9,418 kilometers to 12,082 kilometers and increased 4G coverage to 85%, 3G coverage to 93% and 2G coverage to 97%.

Through the MTN Uganda Foundation, the company has contributed more than UGX4.4 billion to the community, which includes the establishment of more than 42 ICT labs in various educational institutions nationwide, the online MTN Skills Academy, and the MTN Changemakers initiative.

The company also continues to engage communities directly through initiatives such as the MTN Internet Bus, which provides essential ICT training to underprivileged populations.

BoU chief salutes DTB’s Thambi over exceptional performance

The Bank of Uganda Acting Governor, Dr Michael Atingi-Ego has hailed Thambi Verghese, the outgoing managing director of Diamond Trust Bank Uganda, for transforming a previously small bank into the financial services giant it is today.

Thambi, who joined DTB in 2007, was hosted to a farewell dinner at the Kampala Serena Hotel on May 21, at which Atingi-Ego was the chief guest.

“Under his leadership, DTB achieved remarkable growth, expanding its branch network from three branches to 37 nationwide. The bank opened three cash collection centers, 56 ATMs, 22 deposit collection machines, and a network of 939 bank agents,” he said, amid loud applause from the audience.

He also commended Thambi for steering the bank through challenging times such as the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, typifying strength and resilience in his leadership.

He said under Thambi’s guidance, DTB experienced exponential growth, expanding its branch network and introducing innovative digital and remittance solutions to enhance customer accessibility and convenience.

Atingi-Ego said despite facing formidable challenges, Thambi’s leadership led to substantial growth in the bank’s assets, deposits, and net after-tax profits.

The farewell event also marked the introduction of Godfrey Sebaana as the new CEO and MD of the bank.

Sebaana, who expressed gratitude to Thambi for his mentorship, pledged to continue the bank’s growth trajectory and enhance its product offerings to meet evolving customer needs.

He emphasized DTB’s commitment to dominating the East African Community (EAC) region and beyond, adding that the Board agreed to introduce innovative products to help traders, manufacturers, and other bank customers, as the bank endeavors to deliver valued service.

Throughout his tenure, Thambi prioritized community banking and forged strong partnerships with various stakeholders, positioning DTB as a key player in the industry.

In his farewell remarks, Mr. Thambi expressed gratitude to the DTB Uganda Board, staff, and regulatory authorities for their steadfast support throughout his tenure.

Thambi said he worked closely with more than 100 CEOs, three Directors of Commercial Banking at the Bank of Uganda, two Executive Directors of Supervision, three Deputy Governors, one substantive Governor, and three Chairpersons of the DTB Uganda Board.

He is also credited with growing the bank’s workforce from 60 to more than 680 full-time employees, 99% of whom are Ugandan, with women dominating the gender ratio at 56%.

Why is URA over-complicating a simple VAT system?

The ongoing fight between small-scale traders and the tax authorities is a clear indication that the administration of Value Added Tax (VAT) has glaring gaps, which must be addressed to promote national development.

In simple terms, VAT is a ‘consumption tax’ (paid by the final consumer), which is levied on products or services whenever value is added at each stage from production to the point of sale. So, in an ideal situation, producers and big companies pay VAT when they buy inputs to produce their goods or services and also collect VAT on their sales along the value chain.

But because the final consumer ultimately bears the entire burden of the VAT, it's included on the final price that he/she pays for the goods or services. Okay, let me use the example of the National Water & Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) - supplying clean water to a Company X that makes juices and bottled drinking water - to explain the VAT process.

NWSC incurs VAT when it purchases raw materials such as chemicals, equipment, services, and other inputs that are necessary for its clean water-production processes. This VAT, which is paid on the inputs, is called ‘input’ VAT.

Now, when NWSC sells its ‘value-added’ piped water to Company X to make the juice and mineral water, it adds 18% VAT and collects it from Company X. That is called ‘output’ VAT. In an ideal situation, the value of output VAT should eventually be higher than that of input VAT because of the value- addition aspect.

Now, the difference between the output VAT, which NWSC collected from Company X and the input VAT that it paid on its inputs, represents the VAT liability of the producer (NWSC) and must be remitted to the tax authority. Similarly, after Company X has used NWSC water to produce ‘value-added’ juices and mineral water, the input tax it paid to NWSC when buying the piped water will be deducted from the output VAT paid by VAT-registered businesses that buy juice and mineral water from Company X to sell to the final consumers and remit the difference to URA.

Should the input VAT exceed the output VAT at a certain point, then the producer gets a VAT ‘refund’ in form of a tax credit. In practical terms, this entire system becomes self-regulating as producers will want to supply their goods and services only to VAT-registered companies in a bid to reduce on their tax liability. From the above example, it is important to note that VAT only makes sense if there is ‘value added’ to a product or service along the value chain.

But apart from local products and services, VAT may also be applied on imported goods - intended to ensure that imported and locally-produced products can compete on a level playing field in terms of price competitiveness.

Therefore, as soon as say a bale of used clothes arrives in Uganda from abroad, it is assumed that value has been added to the goods, so the importer has to pay VAT of 18% as required by law. If it is a large-scale importer who is going to distribute the bales of clothes to other VAT-registered companies that sell them to other VAT-registered businesses, the input/output VAT process must happen as discussed above.

That’s where the feud between URA and the small-scale trader operating a shop in kikuubo comes into the picture. Of course, should the trader be a small-scale businessman who imports his/her goods directly from China, he/she would have to pay the mandatory 18% VAT as required by law when clearing the goods at the Customs clearance point.

But should the small traders who buy bales of used clothes from him to sell to final consumers also be subjected to the input/out VAT process again? I mean, what value has been added to the imported used clothes so as to warrant further payment of VAT at the lower level of the distribution chain? Technically, that would amount to double taxation, because the VAT was already paid at the Customs clearance point!

Realistically, any subsequent transactions involving finished imported products at the lower levels of the distribution chain must be inclusive of VAT. That is why the shopkeeper near your home does not remit VAT. She does not give receipts and the retail price you pay for a padlock is VAT-inclusive and so you can’t accuse her of evading VAT.

I'll contend that demanding VAT payment from small traders is ‘double taxation,’ which only serves to raise the prices of imported goods, to the utter disadvantage of citizens and eventually, national development. If the prices of essential goods become too high, citizens cannot save, which negatively impacts aggregate savings in the economy.

If indeed the intension of the tax policy is to make imports unattractive, ostensibly to support import substitution, then we might be barking the wrong tree. The Government must instead create a more conducive environment to support local investment. Take the example of the Government’s own Teso Juice factory in Soroti. To what extent is it supporting import substitution for juices?

But most importantly, curtailing importation carries the unintended consequence of reducing employment opportunities for citizens. For example, importing just one container of used clothes does provide jobs for several people including; clearing agents, drivers and turnboys, truck owners, loaders, and traders at various levels.

If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, as our American friends would say.

Economic uncertainty as Uganda’s credit rating is downgraded

Global credit rating agency Moody’s Ratings has downgraded Uganda’s long-term foreign-currency and local-currency issuer ratings to B3 from B2, a development that implies that going forward Uganda’s bonds would be less attractive to international investors and the government would have to borrow at higher interest rates from both global and local lenders.

In its latest rating note on the sovereign, Moody’s said the downgrade of the ratings reflects diminished debt affordability and increasingly constrained financing options, amid greater reliance than in the past on comparatively costly domestic and non-concessional sources of external financing.

According to Moody’s, Uganda’s external vulnerability risk remains elevated, a reflection of a more challenging external debt servicing profile, the persistence of tighter global financial conditions, and diminished foreign exchange reserve adequacy.

It said downside risks relate to debt affordability and external vulnerability challenges, adding that the structure of Uganda’s debt has gradually but markedly become less favourable over the past few years and that higher reliance on domestic and non-concessional sources of external financing has contributed to an increase in the government’s borrowing costs.

Although Uganda’s debt burden, which stood at 47.1% of GDP in FY 2022/2023 is below the median of B-rated peers (53.1% of GDP), the weighted average interest rate for Uganda’s total debt stood at 7.3% as of December 2023, having risen from 6.4% in June 2022 and 5.6% in June 2019. The country’s net domestic financing amounted to 3.6% of GDP annually between fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2023 on average, compared to 1.4% of GDP over the preceding four fiscal years, according to the rating note.

The rating agency said domestic debt makes up 41% of public debt as of fiscal 2023 but 80% of interest payments. The share of public external debt on non-concessional and commercial terms has also increased, representing 26.7% of the external debt stock in December 2023.

It also noted that the country’s debt affordability has consequently weakened, with a widening gap between Uganda and rating peers that Moody’s expects will persist. Interest payments consumed 22.2% of government revenue in fiscal 2023, up from 14.2% in fiscal 2019.

Analysts said efforts to contain borrowing costs have been complicated by a tighter global financing environment and the recurrent use of supplementary budgets, driving increased domestic issuances. For example, the adoption of a supplementary budget in December 2023 raised the target for domestic borrowing in fiscal 2024 by up to UGX3.5 trillion, Moody’s said in the rating note.

It added that beyond the increasing cost of debt, the higher reliance in recent years on net domestic financing and ad-hoc funding methods – such as advances from the Bank of Uganda (BoU) to the government to cover temporary deficiencies of recurrent revenue – points to increasingly constrained access to funding.

Additionally, Moody’s said the suspension of new World Bank project approvals, which remains ongoing since August 2023 in response to Uganda’s enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), risks adding to the government’s growing dependence on non-concessional financing if further sustained, given that World Bank is one of Uganda’s largest creditors, accounting for around a fifth of Uganda’s public debt.

In turn, more restricted financing options risk contributing to keeping the cost of debt high, the rating note added. The note stated that Uganda’s external vulnerability risk remains higher than in the past, a reflection of a more challenging external debt servicing profile, the persistence of tighter global financial conditions, and diminished foreign exchange reserve adequacy.

It added that the country will continue to face a more challenging external debt servicing profile over the next few years, as principal repayments on external borrowings rise and repayments to the IMF begin from 2025 onward, according to the rating note.

While revenue collection remains weaker than regional peers, gradual improvements have been made since 2010; the overall government revenue ratio has nearly doubled from 8% of GDP in that year to 14.4% of GDP in fiscal 2023. Under its medium-term revenue strategy, the government remains committed to increasing the ratio of domestic revenue collection to GDP by 0.5 percentage points annually, including through the rationalisation of exemptions and improved tax administration.

Moody’s expects growth to accelerate to a rate of 6-7% over the medium-term horizon, on the back of the developments in the oil sector, ongoing investments in transport and energy generation infrastructure to address structural constraints, and favourable demographic trends. These dynamics are balanced by the economy’s small size, vulnerability to climate-related shocks, and low wealth levels, limiting shock-absorption capacity. Moody’s said Uganda’s prospects over the longer term will be shaped by progress in oil sector investment.

The sector could strengthen growth, fiscal revenue, and the external position, which would bolster Uganda’s creditworthiness provided prudent management of oil wealth. Despite progress, the completion of oil infrastructure projects remains vulnerable to implementation risks, as past delays indicate.

However, further delays in the start of oil production would lead to wider external deficits over the longer term if debt—contracted mainly to finance oil-related projects—were not compensated by higher foreign-exchange receipts and revenue generation capacity.

UBA elects new Board as assets soar to UGX50 trillion

Members of the Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) have voted Julius Kakeeto as their new chairperson, replacing Sarah Arapta.

Kakeeto, also the Chief Executive Officer of Post Bank, has been the Vice chairperson for two years, and has been replaced by Michael Mugabi, the CEO of Housing Finance Bank, as vice chairman.

UBA is the umbrella body of the financial institutions licensed and regulated by Bank of Uganda and has a current membership of 25 institutions.

The other members of the new Executive Committee include; Edgar Byamah (CEO, KCB Bank) as treasurer, and Mumba Kalifungwa (CEO, Absa Bank Uganda) as honorary auditor.

The Committee Members are; Sanjay Rughani (CEO, Standard Chartered Bank), Patricia Ojangole (CEO, Uganda Development Bank), and Shafi Nambobi (CEO, UGAFODE). Wilbrod Owor, the UBA executive director, will continue serving as the secretary to the Executive Committee.

Speaking at the annual meeting recently, Sarah Arapta, the outgoing chairperson and CEO Citi Bank Uganda, highlighted some of the challenges that the industry has faced during her tenure, including fraud and dispute resolution but noted that the industry has registered robust growth.

Total assets of the banking industry grew from UGX45.8 trillion in 2022 to UGX49.5 trillion in 2023, while customer deposits increased from UGX31.5 trillion in 2022 to UGX 33.96 trillion in 2023, according to Arapta.

Additionally, access channels, especially agent banking points across the country, increased to 33,437 banking agents by close of 2023, plus 984 ATMs and 856 bank branches.

Industry gross loans to customers also increased by 7.6 % from UGX19.6 trillion in 2022 to UGX21.1 trillion in 2023, with the top five sectors' credit portfolio by member financial institutions making up 89.1% of the total industry loan book.

These sectors included household and personal loans (UGX4.85 trillion), real estate (UGX4.31 trillion), trade (UGX3.72 trillion), manufacturing (UGX2.89 trillion), and agriculture (UGX2.53 trillion).

The banking industry paid about UGX1.3 trillion in taxes to the Uganda government, up from 1.08 trillion in 2022, while expenditure on ICT services shot up to UGX694 billion in 2023, up from UGX 392 billion in the previous year.

Furthermore, contributions to the NSSF rose to UGX 157.3 billion up from 131 billion in 2022 with the total employee head count topping 19,428 (53% female and 47% male).

Arapta reported that the best gift the industry gave to customers in October 2023, was the dropping of early loan repayment fees charged on outstanding loans, which was agreed to by the entire UBA membership.

“This decision to halt the charging of early repayment fees was aimed at facilitating the loan market with flexible options and alternatives in constraining economic circumstances and by extension the growth of private sector credit,’’ she added.

Uganda Breweries injects UGX100m into POATE 2024

Uganda Breweries Limited, makers of Pilsner Lager, have announced a sponsorship deal worth UGX100m for the Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE), which starts on May 23 at Speke Resort Munyonyo.

Speaking at an organising board meeting for the event, Andrew Kilonzo, the UBL Managing Director, said the partnership with Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the event organisers, would not only provide a platform to showcase Uganda’s tourism potential, but also act as a platform to exhibit authentic and locally manufactured brands on the international scale.

“Our support towards this edition of POATE highlights the pivotal role of collaboration between the private sector and government to promote Uganda’s tourism and hospitality industry.

Under this partnership, we will sponsor the Expo with Pilsner Lager and Uganda Waragi Lemon and Ginger - brands that are deeply rooted in Ugandan culture and represent the bold and vibrant spirit of Uganda,” he said.

Top officials said that during the event, under the theme ‘Responsible Tourism, more than 70 global buyers, over 5,000 trade visitors and consumers will throng the three-day expo in the heart of Kampala.

Ms Lily Ajarova, the UTB Chief Executive Officer, noted that culture is among the major tourism drivers in Uganda and as such, the role played by brands such as Pilsner Lager and Uganda Waragi towards cultural preservation is key to promoting Ugandan tourism.

She said this year’s POATE was oversubscribed a week before the event, and presents immense opportunities to the different tour operators and lodges in different regions of Uganda.

Indeed, expectations are high for the POATE 2024 as it marks a significant step towards responsible tourism and inclusive development in Uganda’s vibrant tourism sector, promoting sustainable practices and equitable opportunities within the tourism industry.

Some of the objectives of the POATE include serving as a platform to showcase Uganda's tourism potential, including its natural beauty, wildlife, cultural heritage, and adventure opportunities; facilitating networking among tourism professionals, including tour operators, hoteliers, travel agents, and government officials for collaborations, partnerships, and knowledge sharing within the industry; and acting as a platform for Ugandan tourism businesses to access domestic and international markets.

Additionally, the event will also include capacity-building opportunities such as workshops, seminars, and training sessions aimed at enhancing the skills and knowledge of tourism professionals in regard to various topics such as marketing strategies, sustainable tourism practices, customer service excellence, and destination management.

It will also serve as a forum for policy advocacy whereby government officials, industry stakeholders, and experts, will advocate policies that support the sustainable growth of tourism and address the pressing challenges that are facing the sector.

Salaried employees warned on saving

Individuals and businesses should take advantage of the current fragile economic situation to adopt a culture of saving, which is crucial for sustaining the growth of their social well-being.

Samuel Matekha, the head of Marketing and Communications at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB), says many Ugandans have remained poor because they lack basic saving and investment skills, which are needed to optimally utilize the available resources.

Addressing a financial literacy workshop for employees of Graphic Systems Ltd at Luzira, Matekha said people should avoid overspending if they are to survive the difficult economic times.

“Don’t be ashamed to live within your means. In fact, the best thing you can do is to live within your means and save something for the rainy day. As financial institutions, we are obligated to teach you how to manage your money, so that you can save and get yourself out of poverty with your savings,” he said.

Matekha said it is crucial for financial institutions to conduct financial literacy drives at work places, to ensure that every employee learns to manage their earnings effectively and to prepare for future uncertainties and earning higher yields from investments accumulated from savings.

He pointed out that pride often prevents employees from engaging in side work, leading to financial instability as they fail to save from their salaries. He advised employees to set financial goals and develop plans to spend wisely, urging them to save at least 20% of their income.

Immaculate Onyota, the Human Resource Manager at Graphic Systems, expressed gratitude to DTB for providing the financial literacy training.

She said many employees are inexperienced with saving and investments, the reason for which they often spend all their salary in a matter of days, leaving nothing to save. She insisted that it is important for every employee in Uganda to receive financial literacy training, in order to lift themselves out of poverty, and improve the national savings culture.

“As a company, we have gained from this training, and we look forward to more in future to help our employees to improve their social well-being,” she said

Studies have shown that Ugandans save less than 10% of their income, which makes it a challenge to invest in projects that could generate more revenue in the future.

Expectations high as UNBS gets hi-tech executive director

Mr. James N. Kasigwa has been named the new executive director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) following an appointment by the Minster of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Francis Mwebesa.

Kasigwa, 45, is an electrical engineer by profession and boasts of an illustrious career, having worked with multinational corporations, private and public sectors, spanning over two decades in leadership and strategic management of expert teams in Science, Technology, Innovation, Standards and the Infrastructure Industry.

Prior to the new appointment, which took effect on May 13, Kasigwa has been working with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation as the Director for Science, Technology, Innovation Regulation and Biosafety.

He previously worked as the Commissioner ICT Infrastructure Development at the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance and in the private sector in the areas of information security and risk management. He becomes the 5th ED of UNBS, replacing David Livingstone Ebiru (2021-2023) who was fired over alleged mismanagement.

The standards body particularly shone during the reign of Dr. Ben Manyindo (2012 - 2021) who made significant contributions to the organization's efforts in standardization and quality assurance.

Formed in 1989, UNBS is mandated to enforce standards in Uganda to ensure the quality and safety of products and services. The body develops, adopts, and promotes standards for products, services, and systems in various sectors of the economy. These standards ensure consistency, safety, and quality, thereby enhancing consumer confidence and facilitating trade.

Additionally, UNBS is mandated to conduct quality assurance activities such as product testing, certification, and inspection to verify compliance with established standards. This helps to safeguard public health, safety, and environmental protection.

UNBS is also responsible for maintaining the national measurement standards and providing calibration and metrology services to ensure accuracy and reliability in measurements across different sectors.

UNBS’s mandate also includes developing, promoting and enforcing standards in protection of public health and safety, and the environment against dangerous substandard products as well as ensuring fair trade.

Additionally, UNBS assesses and certifies products, processes, and systems to ensure that they meet specified requirements and standards. This helps to facilitate market access for Ugandan products both domestically and internationally.

Furthermore, its mandate also includes educating consumers about their rights regarding product quality and safety, as well as investigating complaints and taking enforcement actions against non-compliant products so as to protect consumers from substandard goods and services.

Kasigwa’s appointment comes at time when the standards body is still reeling after numerous financial scandals involving the misappropriation of billions of shillings.

He holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Makerere University, a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and a Master’s of Science degree in Telecommunications Engineering from London South Bank Uiversity, London, England, and an MBA in Business Administration from ESAMI.

Uganda getting set for 24,000 megawatts nuclear plant

Uganda's uranium exploration is gaining momentum to meet global energy demands, with plans for a 24,000MW nuclear power station by 2040, Irene Batebe, the permanent secretary for the ministry of Energy and Minerals Development, has said.

‘’The exploration and evaluation of uranium resources, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, are vital to ensuring a sustainable supply of nuclear fuel for Uganda's planned nuclear power plants and research reactors. Uganda's uranium exploration is gaining momentum to meet global energy demands, with plans for 24,000MW nuclear power by 2040,” she said.

Speaking at the Integrated Uranium Production Cycle Review Mission conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Batebe added that the Government is planning to establish a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology for nuclear education, training, research and development of uranium for radioisotopes for industrial and medical applications.

Worldwide, the demand for uranium is increasing and the uranium production cycle involves exploration, mine construction, operation, and decommissioning.

Batebe said Uganda is progressing with detailed uranium exploration and will soon move to the construction phase of its first nuclear power station. She said the Integrated Uranium Production Cycle Review symposium comes at the right time as it would help to guide both exploration and infrastructure development for the next phase.

The event is being hosted by the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The objectives of the Review Mission in Uganda will include providing Uganda with an objective assessment of the status of its national infrastructure for uranium exploration, mining, and processing. The mission also aims to acknowledge areas of good practice and offer suggestions or recommendations for improvement.

Phiona Nyamutoro, the State Minister for Minerals, highlighted the significance of this peer review mission in evaluating and enhancing Uganda's uranium production cycle.

”This mission will support Uganda in enhancing regulatory, operational, social, environmental, and safety performance throughout the uranium production cycle, aligning with the country's nuclear power aspirations,” she said. ‘’With a growing energy demand, for key infrastructural developments, government seeks to utilize hydropower potential and explore nuclear power options.’’

Adrienne Hanly, the Technical Lead for Uranium Resources and Production at IAEA, said the recruitment of international experts started in February, with the selection process completed by 8 March 2024. In April, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) experts began reviewing evaluation forms and other related materials.

According to Uganda’s Vision 2040, the Government is committed to developing nuclear power from the available uranium resources in the country to reduce the energy deficit. Furthermore, the National Development Plan III (2020/21-2024/25) indicates the willingness to support uranium exploration through a proposed project on Uranium Exploration for Peaceful and Scientific Applications.

In 2016, Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Russia to cooperate in the development of nuclear energy. This agreement included feasibility studies for nuclear power plants and training for Ugandan personnel in the nuclear field.

Globally, uranium-powered stations have been popular for decades as the mineral fuel packs a tremendous amount of energy in a small volume. This means that a relatively small amount of uranium can produce a large amount of electricity, making nuclear power plants highly efficient.

The U.S. has the largest number of nuclear power plants in the world, and nuclear energy accounts for 20% of its electricity generation. Ongoing research and development in nuclear technology continue to improve safety, efficiency, and waste management practices, making nuclear power an increasingly attractive option for clean energy generation worldwide.

Shell launches engine oil campaign for motorcycles

Shell Uganda has launched a new campaign to promote the use of Shell Advance AX5, a new premium quality 4-stroke motorcycle engine oil, which helps to clean and protect the engine by preventing the build-up of deposits and maintaining engine cleanliness.

Speaking at the launch of the promotion in Kawempe near Kampala, company officials described Shell Advance AX5 as a lubricant that is valued by motorcycle enthusiasts and riders worldwide for its superior performance, engine protection, and reliability, making it a popular choice for maintaining and optimizing the performance of their motorcycles.

As part of the promotion dubbed Shell Advance ‘Saawa ya ku Yiriba,’ boda boda riders who buy Shell Advance AX5 stand a chance to win over UGX250million worth of prizes including brand new motorbikes, fuel, and other goodies in weekly draws, according to Rebecca Nasuwa, the Shell Uganda Manager for Lubricants.

She said the campaign will run for a period of 13 months at all Shell fuel stations across the country. To participate, riders will need to purchase Shell Advance engine oil at any participating retail outlet to receive an entry coupon.

All entry coupons will be logged into a portal where winners will be drawn weekly. Lucky winners will be notified by SMS on the same mobile numbers indicated on their respective draw entry coupons. Riders that participate weekly have a chance to win lots more. The campaign partly aims at rewarding boda boda riders who use Shell products for their continued support.

“We at Shell do appreciate boda boda riders and have made improvements to the rider experience at our locations over time,” she said.

The specially formulated motorbike engine oil is formulated with Shell Active Cleansing Technology, with boda boda riders in mind. Shell petrol stations currently offer boda-boda riders dedicated motorbike fuelling points called Shell Boda Spots as well as motorbike service points called Shell Motorcare Express specifically operated by professional motorbike mechanics.

“We are looking foward for opportunities to add value to our beloved customers,” Nasuwa added.

She added that motorcycle riders would great appreciate Shell Advance AX5 because it is an ideal product for standard motorbikes thanks to its high oil-performance reliability, which helps to protect and clean the engine and prolong its life.

Manufacturers task Gov't, banks on high interest rates

The Government wants commercial banks to lower the interest rates they charge manufacturers so as to stimulate growth in the sector, but banks also insist that the Government has an important role to play.

Speaking at the Financial Symposium organized by the Uganda Manufactures’ Association (UMA), David Bahati, the State Minister of Finance, said manufacturers deserve support because of the significant contribution they make to the country's economy.

The sector contributed approximately UGX5.5 trillion to the national Treasury in the 2021/22 financial year, out of the UGX21 trillion collected for the entire year. Currently, according to Bahati, manufacturing accounts for 16.5% of the GDP, with the industries alone contributing 27.4% to this figure.

He therefore called on the manufacturers to unite and advocate collectively for their interests, stating, that this would give them a stronger voice to articulate issues during negotiations with the government and other stakeholders. Bahati added that although domestic credit stood at Shs42.3 billion as of March 2024, with 55.9% allocated to the private sector and 40.8% to the government, the high cost of capital remains a significant challenge facing the manufacturing sector.

“Despite being the largest consumer of available credit, manufacturers are burdened with an average interest rate of 17.4%, which is higher than the country's average rate of return of 18%. The cost of money is therefore still high, yet with the current technology and the history of the clients, we thought the banks would lower their rates because the risk to exposure is also lower,” he said.

He nevertheless highlighted government efforts to reduce barriers to business, such as streamlining investment licensing processes and improving transport infrastructure to enhance market access for manufacturers. The call by Minister came as a concerted effort to support the manufacturing industry and drive economic growth through improved access to affordable credit.

In response, Godfrey Sebaana, CEO of the Diamond Trust Bank Uganda(DTB), shed some light on the complexities and potential solutions regarding the issue of the bank high interest rates. Though he acknowledged that the interest rate of 18% is indeed high for sectors like manufacturing, Sebaana highlighted the need for a balance between monetary and fiscal policies to determine the underlying cost of capital in the country.

For instance, he noted that while the Uganda development Bank may offer credit at 12% interest, this too may be high for the manufacturers, who at the moment, are seeking for single-digit interest rates. He pointed out the discrepancy between government borrowing rates, which currently stand at 17%, and the rates offered to manufacturers, emphasizing the need for alignment.

"At DTB, we recognize that typical manufacturing setups require patient capital with longer repayment periods. High rates of 18% are therefore unsustainable for such ventures," Sebaana stated.

As a solution, Sebaana advised manufacturers to consider equity financing, especially during the initial capital expenditure phase. He highlighted the role of commercial banks in providing working capital through trade finance, leveraging contingent facilities to reduce borrowing costs.

"We have introduced various programs in partnership with Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), UDB, and the Bank of Uganda to assist manufacturers at different stages of their development," he added.

However, Sebaana acknowledged the limitations of UDB's funding capacity, suggesting that disruption of commercial bank interest rates would require a substantial increase in UDB's capital, an endeavor that is very challenging within the current fiscal framework.

Despite these challenges, Sebaana encouraged manufacturers to engage with banks, leveraging their expertise to navigate through high-interest rates. He also pointed out the growing trend of green financing as an alternative funding source, offering potentially lower costs compared to conventional credit.

Deo Kayemba, the UMA chairman, said the financial symposium was organized to allow the manufacturers meet with bankers to explore solutions to some of the challenges they are facing, adding that the symposium also aimed at highlighting ways the manufacturers can reduce their costs, increase production and competitiveness of their products within the regional and continental markets.

URA now to deploy drones in smuggling fight

The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has said they are to invest in surveillance drones at porous border points in an effort to curb the vice of smuggling.

This follows an URA enforcement operation that intercepted a group of men smuggling cooking oil and assorted food items at Alinyapi near Nimule-Elegu Border Post in Amuru District.

Taking advantage of the rise in River Nile water levels that had forced the URA enforcement team to halt monitoring the route, the men tied the jerry cans full of cooking oil as well as an assortment of rice, soap, and sugar wrapped in polythene sheets and pulling them across the river.

URA spokesman Ibrahim Bbosa said the operation recovered 1,340 litres of cooking oil, 1,000 litres of petrol, 500 pieces of soap, 125kgs of brown sugar, and 600 packets of spaghetti.

Additionally, the eight motorcycles that were being used to carry the goods were impounded. According to the law, smuggling is a serious offence and vehicles that are used in smuggling are forfeited to the State and are supposed to be auctioned.

Bossa said in an effort to close all the loopholes particularly along porous borders, the tax body is to invest in surveillance drones to protect tax revenue collection and create a levelled marketplace for tax-compliant traders.

According to data from URA, during the period of July to March of the FY 2021/22 over UGX70 billion was recovered from 5,748 seizures ranging from textiles, contraband cosmetics, rice, and fuel among others.

URA currently has more than 27 cargo scanners as part of non-intrusive screening efforts at official border crossings, which has helped to deter the vice at the official crossing points.

Whereas the deployment of various intelligence measures like informers had helped to curb the vice through non-gazetted crossing points, smugglers still sneak into the country with contraband goods worth millions of shillings.

The most-smuggled products into Uganda include fuel, electronics such as smartphones, alcohol and tobacco, and foodstuffs such as rice and cooking oil.

URA is keen on curtailing smuggling as the vice can have several negative impacts on the economy including loss of revenue for the government, which could otherwise be used for public services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.

Additionally, it distorts markets by creating an uneven playing field for businesses operating legally within Uganda. It can lead to unfair competition, as smuggled goods may be sold at lower prices due to the avoidance of taxes and tariffs. This can harm local industries and businesses, leading to job losses and reduced economic growth.

The vice is also known to have social costs, such as facilitating organized crime, endangering the population by supplying counterfeit, substandard or hazardous products as well as contributing to environmental degradation.

URA insists that Uganda has porous borders with countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, DR Congo and South Sudan and addressing the vice of smuggling would necessitate enhanced border security measures including aerial surveillance using drones.

NCBA Bank partners with NFA to plant 20,000 trees

Corporate banker, NCBA Bank Uganda, has entered a partnership with the National Forestry Authority (NFA) for an ambitious initiative to re-plant 20,000 trees in the Jubiya Forest Reserve in Masaka District, as part of efforts to replace the dwindling forest cover across the country.

The trees to be planted on the 30 hectares will be planted as part of the bank’s sustainability initiative, and the government’s National Development Plan (NDP) III, which speaks to the restoration of 24% the country’s forest cover by 2040.

According to the NCBA Chief Executive Officer, Mark Anthony Muyobo, the bank is cognizant of the alarming rate of deforestation in Uganda, and has thus determined through its ‘Change the Story’ initiative to champion tree-planting drives countrywide.

Muyobo said the partnership with NFA and the Ministry of Water & Environment through its Running Out Of Trees (ROOTS) Campaign is not a mere gesture, but part of a comprehensive strategy to mitigate climate change and empower communities, where the bank intends to plant ten million trees by 2030.

He said this would also help Ugandans to tap into the tangible benefits of carbon appropriation, and at the same time address the root causes of environmental degradation.

“The partnership with NFA and the MW&E aligns with NCBA's Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) pillars, particularly in reducing direct emissions and amplifying tree planting programs,” he said, during the signing of the MoU, at the bank’s head office in Kampala.

It should be noted that since 1900, Uganda has lost about 41.6% of its forest cover, due to human- economic activities, such as agriculture, wood fuel and animal grazing among others.It is also important to note that about 88% of Ugandans still use wood fuel for cooking, which exerts a lot of pressure on forests, which are the raw materials for the wood fuel/ charcoal, used by many of our people for cooking.

And although more than 70% of Uganda’s 4.9 million hectares of forest cover is mainly woodland grown on private land, it is experiencing high rates of clearance for agriculture and charcoal production.

“This trend is completely unsustainable, especially in the age of global warming, and erratic weather patterns such as flush floods and droughts. As a bank, we are therefore, committed to sustainability and responsible corporate citizenship, through our “Change the Story” initiative where we aspire to see a more sustainable and equitable future,” Muyobo said.

Tom Okello Obong, the Executive Director of the National Forestry Authority, emphasized the urgency of such partnerships, citing the importance of such collaborations in meeting both national and global obligations regarding emissions reductions and landscape restoration.

While commending NCBA Bank for the partnership, Obong noted that Uganda aims to plant 40 million trees annually, requiring every able-bodied citizen to plant a tree each year.

"As a country, we have set targets to increase our forest cover significantly by 2040. However, rampant deforestation, particularly on private land, poses a significant challenge. Partnerships like the one with NCBA are essential in addressing this pressing issue," Obong noted.

Issa Katwesige, Assistant Commissioner Planning and the ROOTs Coordinator at the Ministry of Water and Environment, said their focus is on planting indigenous trees in areas where people live, along roadsides, and in schools.

“This partnership with NCBA Bank will enable us to expand our restoration efforts and protect our biodiversity," stated Katwesige. "We welcome NCBA to this space because I know that they have been doing a lot, and now we can do more."

Furthermore, he highlighted the importance of corporate partnerships in advancing environmental conservation, adding that the Ministry of Water and Environment boasts a range of initiatives, including nurseries, aimed at promoting tree planting and habitat restoration.

Bankers protest proposed ATM cash tax

Commercial banks have objected to the government proposal to impose a 0.5% levy on all cash withdrawals made through ATMs, saying the move would be counterproductive.

According to the proposed Excise Duty Amendment Bill 2024, the Government is proposing that effective July 2024, withdraws of cash via ATMs would be subjected to a 0.5% excise duty.

However, banking industry stakeholders argued that the tax would increase the cost of financial services and curtail financial inclusion measures for all Ugandans.

According to records on the Bank of Uganda website, ATM withdrawal charges in Uganda range from UGX600 -UGX1,500, with ABC Bank charging the highest amount of UGX1,500 followed by Stanbic Bank at UGX1,200 per transaction.

The bankers argued that an additional levy on withdrawals would have the effect of discouraging people from making deposits, while those who get paid in the banks might turn to withdrawing all their cash at once to keep it in their houses.

Speaking at a public debate on theme; “Impact of tax proposals on the banking sector and the economy, Robin Bairstow, the CEO of I&M Bank, called for further consultation, noting that tax proposals affecting the banking sector deserve thorough consideration as they have far reaching implications for both financial institutions and the broader economy.

“We are committed to engaging with stakeholders to ensure that tax reforms promote a vigorous banking sector while positively contributing to Uganda’s economic prosperity,” he said.

According to an analysis by the Kampala Associated Advocates, the new tax proposals would have a wide-ranging impact as the banks would simply transfer the burden to the customer.

In a seating on May 5, Members of Parliament rejected the proposed 0.5% levy on every withdrawal of cash through financial technology services. Led by Speaker Anita Among, the House argued that the move would be detrimental to the growth of the digital financial services industry and would be an unnecessary burden on consumers.

Amos Lugoloobi, the State Minister of Finance and Planning, conceded to the deletion of the proposal from the Bill. But the proposal on ATM withdrawal tax was deferred to allow for further consultation.

Meanwhile, the House maintained Excise Duty on Opaque Beer and introduced an ad valorem Rate on drinking water. The committee recommended maintaining excise duty on opaque beer, while reducing excise duty on alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages locally produced, excluding kombucha, to 12 per cent or UGX250 per litre.

The House also adopted the Committee's recommendation introducing an ad valorem rate of 10 per cent or UGX75 per litre on mineral water, bottled water and other drinking water to create uniformity for the industry.

EU, Denmark offer UGX66 bn to Ugandan farmers

The European Union (EU) and Denmark have announced funding amounting to more than UGX66 billion in a bid to boost agricultural productivity and help Ugandan farmers to withstand the challenges associated with climate change.

The funds are to be channeled through the Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) Development, formerly ABi Trust, which was jointly founded by the Governments of Uganda and Denmark in 2010 as a social enterprise that channels development funding to agribusinesses and agriculture in Uganda.

aBi Finance, its business arm, provides lines of credit to micro-finance institutions for on-lending to small-holder farmers and agribusinesses, as well as an agriculture loan guarantee scheme for the micro-finance institutions.

A press release issued on May 2 indicated that over a period of five years (2023-2028), aBi Development would receive UGX35.6 billion from Denmark and an additional UGX20.2 billion from the EU to support green and inclusive growth initiatives in Uganda's agri-food systems.

Additionally, aBi Finance would receive UGX11 billion from Denmark to help accelerate the adoption of green and inclusive finance for climate change adaptation, mitigation and biodiversity conservation across the country.

Over time, these small agricultural finance and insurance initiatives have helped to improve access to credit, savings, insurance, and other financial services for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.

This helps small-holder farmers to invest in inputs, equipment, and technologies to increase productivity and manage risks associated with weather, pests, and market volatility.

"There is a strong and urgent need to support Uganda's agriculture to increase productivity and adapt and respond to climate change. Denmark is proud to continue more than ten years of support to Ugandan agriculture through aBi Finance and aBi Development. We are very happy to do this as a Team Europe Initiative in collaboration with the EU Delegation," said Signe Winding Albjerg, the Danish Ambassador to Uganda.

The 'Team Europe Initiative' is a collaborative effort between the EU and its member States to pool resources and coordinate actions in support of partner developing countries, aimed at addressing pressing challenges such as climate resilience, to promote sustainable development, and foster stability and prosperity.

According to the EU, Uganda agriculture needs to boost its productivity and to help it withstand the challenges of change and the two projects would help boost incomes and yields, and enable farmers to withstand droughts, floods and changing seasons.

"Building on more than ten years of partnership, the two projects will support more than 200,000 farmers to increase their yields and adapt to climate change. The projects will introduce innovations such as drought-resistant seeds, enhanced irrigation systems, and improved post-harvest processes," the press release said.

"The ambition is to mobilise funding and catalyse private sector participation through market systems development and linkages."

Jan Sadek, the EU Ambassador to Uganda, express delight at strengthening jobs and incomes in agriculture through the Team Europe Initiative.

"Many farmers and processors have already benefitted from the support from aBi Development, but the need is only growing larger. I am Particularly happy to see aBi Development take the lead in promoting compliance with the EU Deforestation Regulation. This is necessary for farmers and forests alike," he said.

Felix Okoboi, the Board chairperson of aBi Development, said they proud that the EU and Denmark had chosen to show their confidence in aBi Development's ability to deliver on climate and agriculture.

"This long term engagement is what Uganda needs to meet the climate challenge and boost the agricultural sector," he added.

I&M Bank partners with Nnaabagereka for Queen's Ball

I&M Bank Uganda has partnered with the Nnaabagereka Fund to organise the first Queen's Ball, aimed at raising funds to support women, youth, and children with mental issues.

Speaking at a press briefing in Kampala on Tuesday, Robin Bairstow, the I&M Bank CEO, said they were to partner with the Nnaabagereka of Buganda Sylvia Nagginda in a bid to address the issue of mental health in the country.

"Mental health is a critical issue facing our society, and through our collaboration with the Nnaabagereka we aim to make a meaningful impact in the lives of women, youth, and children in Uganda," Bairstow said.

According to the Uganda Counselling Association Report for 2023, approximately 14 million Ugandans (32%) were said to be affected by mental health challenges in 2022.

The Nnaabagereka noted that since its establishment in 2022, the Nnaabagereka Fund has been 'a beacon of hope,' providing essential assistance in areas such as mental health, education, healthcare, and economic empowerment and called on all people of goodwill to partner with her for more impact.

"I have seen the transformative power of compassion, understanding and support, this spirit of empathy drives us forward today as we strive to have a community where no one suffers in silence. Let us recommit ourselves to the cause of mental health advocacy; let us pledge to be beacons of hope to those who are struggling, to be allies to in the fight against stigma, and to be agents of change in our communities," she said.

"We are delighted to join forces with I&M Bank Uganda for the Queen's Ball. Together, we can shine a light on mental wellness and create lasting legacies for future generations."

Scheduled to take place at the Kampala Serena Hotel on Tuesday May 9, the Queen's Ball promises to be a high-profile event, bringing together top Government officials, chief executives, diplomats, corporate sponsors, as well as officials from Buganda Kingdom and other cultural institutions to support a worthy cause.

Typically, the Queen's Ball is a popular prestigious and formal event designed to celebrate the queen and provide an opportunity for guests to rub shoulders with crème la crème of society in an elegant setting as well as dance, wine and dine with the Queen of Buganda complete with live music and performances by top artistes.

NCBA Bank buoyed by UGX27 bn net profit

Corporate banker, NCBA Bank Uganda has announced its financial results for the fiscal year 2023, showcasing robust growth and profitability driven by strategic investments in a strong performance culture.

The bank reported a net profit of UGX27 billion, marking a 17% increase from the previous year's performance. The growth was supported by a surge in customer deposits, which rose to UGX567 billion from UGX491 billion in the preceding year.

Patrick Muyobo, the bank's Chief Executive Officer, also attributed the performance to NCBA's strategic focus on fostering a high-performance culture and leveraging the performance of its digital lending arm, Mokash.

He emphasized the bank's commitment to enhancing financial inclusion in the country by providing access to short-term credit and savings platforms to millions of Ugandans through Mokash.

"Through our digital lending business of Mokash, we have elevated financial inclusion in the Ugandan market through easing access to short term credit to the unbanked and providing a savings platform to ten million clients," Muyobo said.

The bank witnessed notable growth, with total assets increasing by 9% to UGX854 billion, while total equity recorded a remarkable 29% jump. Additionally, gross loans and advances to customers grew by 8%, reaching UGX242 billion.

On the income side, the bank demonstrated healthy growth, with total income increasing from UGX100 billion to UGX114 billion, representing a robust 14% rise. Additionally, the bank managed to reduce impairments by an impressive 56%, from UGX7 billion to UGX4 billion.

Operational costs were also effectively managed, with a 6% reduction, contributing to the bank's overall profitability in the year.

Muyobo highlighted NCBA's resilience and adaptability in navigating market challenges, as evidenced by the bank's 16% year-on-year growth in total income, with profit before tax increasing by 46%, and net profit after tax rising by 19%.

Looking ahead, Muyobo reaffirmed their commitment to delivering on strategic business priorities, leveraging on digital capabilities, and maintaining a customer-centric approach to doing business.

"With a solid financial foundation and a culture of innovation, NCBA Bank Uganda is poised to capitalize on emerging opportunities and drive sustainable growth in the market," he said.

In the period under review, the Kenya-based NCBA Group injected UGX22.6 billion into its Ugandan subsidiary. This contribution was part of a larger investment totaling UGX155.83 billion, which the company allocated across its subsidiaries in Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania, aimed at fortifying its regional retail banking business.

Going forward, Muyobo said NCBA Bank Uganda is set to scale up the integration of sustainability into its business strategy and operations, anchored on five Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) pillars, which is aimed at proactively contributing to a more equitable, resilient, and environmentally sustainable world.

Mukene, fuel top April inflation drivers

The rising prices of fish and fuel were the main drivers of annual inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index in April, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS).

Speaking at a press briefing on April 30, officials stated that the price of dried Kapenta (Mukene) increased by almost 30% in April compared to 7% in the month before, while the price of fresh Tilapia increased by 15.6% in April compared to 5.8% in March.

According to UBOS, a kilogramme of mukene was selling at an average price of UGX18,831, up from UGX15,271 a year ago.

Mukene, which has over the years been dominant in Uganda's fish catches, is not only an important ingredient for animal feeds but also represents an affordable and nutrient-rich alternative to traditional protein sources for human beings.

The current acute scarcity of mukene in the country is being attributed to the recent government ban on certain fishing methods and restrictions on fishing silverfish (Mukene) and increased enforcement activities by the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) on Lake Victoria.

Additionally, the annual energy fuel and utilities inflation rose up thanks to the increase in the prices of electricity, petrol, and charcoal.

A litre of petrol is selling at an average price of UGX5,457, up from UGX5,086 a year ago, thanks to the depreciating shilling and the high price of crude oil on the international market.

A barrel of crude oil which was selling at $84.7 in April 2023 has been hovering over the $90 mark for most of April 2024.

Overall, the report shows that the annual inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the 12 months to April 2024 increased at a slower rate of 3.2% compared to 3.3% registered in the year ended March 2024.

CPI is a measure that tracks changes in the prices of a basket of goods and services typically purchased by households over time. It is one of the most commonly used indicators of inflation in an economy.

The CPI provides valuable insights into consumer spending patterns and inflationary pressures within different sectors of the economy. It helps policymakers such as the Central Bank to make informed decisions about monetary policy.

Alizik Lubega, the UBOS director of Economic Statistics, attributed the situation to annual core inflation that registered 3.5% in April 2024 compared to 3.4% registered in March 2024. "Other Notable price increases have been experienced in the area of domestic flight charges, hotel and accommodation, local brew, refined oil and cement among other things," Lubega said.

Amid the rising prices, the officials advised Ugandans to cut costs and only spend where necessary.

By geographical areas and income groups, Kampala High Income Centre registered the highest inflation of 4.5% for 12 months to April, which was driven by annual food and non-Alcoholic beverages prices.

The second annual inflation was registered in Fort portal at 3.4% compared to 5.0%, driven by annual clothing and footwear inflation that increased to 7.1%.

The least annual inflation was registered in Mbale center at 1.4%, driven by Annual insurance and financial services inflation that registered 2% increase.

Physical planners' body warns on quacks as new Council is elected

Members of the Society of Professional Physical Planners of Uganda have elected new leaders as the government moves in to crackdown on imposters in the physical planning field.

Charles Nampendho, who was elected to lead the nine-member Council, decried the inadequate funding to the physical planning function saying he would lobby the Government to allocate enough funds for better service delivery.

He added that given Uganda's population growth trends, organising them is the role of the physical planners but they lack the resources to do a thorough job.

"The new leadership will increase accountability for the works of physical planners and eliminate shoddy physical planners," he said.

The new Council membership also includes; Martin Kigozi (treasurer) and Moses Ogutu (secretary), Hafsa Namuli, Polycarp Ejotu, Eric Nagosia, Stella Mudondo, Amanda Ngabirano, who chairs the National Physical Planning Board, and Vicent Byandaimira, are ex-officio members.

The new team replace the interim executive council, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development last year under Section 23 (5) of the Physical Planners Registration Act 2023, mandating them to organise elections within one year.

Physical planning, also known as urban planning, is the process of designing and organizing the physical layout of cities, towns, and other urban areas. It involves making decisions about the use of land, transportation systems, infrastructure, and buildings so as to achieve specific social, economic, and environmental goals.

Ngabirano warned unscrupulous physical planners who have been engaging in poor planning practices, resulting in the development of poor development plans, unethical planning practices, and violations of minimum physical planning standards.

"Planning has been happening, but with a lot of quacks who do substandard physical planning work. There are imposters masquerading as professional physical planners, yet they are not," Ngabirano said.

Unqualified physical planners can pose significant dangers as they may lack the expertise to make informed decisions, leading to poorly designed and managed environments, inadequate infrastructure, and increased risks to public safety and environmental degradation.

In 2020, the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development introduced the Physical Planners Registration Bill, 2020, to Parliament to address the challenge of errant physical planners and other challenges facing the physical planning field.

The Bill was successfully passed by Parliament, and President Museveni has already assented to it. The Physical Planners' Registration Act, among others, established the Physical Planners Registration Board and also provides for the registration of physical planners, and disciplinary procedures for errant members.

Coffee export volumes show slump in March

In comparison to the previous month, Uganda's coffee exports recorded a significant decrease in March 2024, according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority report.

Coffee exports in March 2024 amounted to about 329,600 bags, worth US$64.74 million, down from about 434,500 bags exported in February 2024, thus indicating a notable decrease of 104,900 bags.

Similarly, the value of coffee exports declined from USD 82.56 million in February 2024 to USD 64.74 million in March 2024, a decrease of about USD 17.8 million. The March 2024 coffee exports comprised 244,975 bags of Robusta valued at USD 46.01 million and 84,711 bags of Arabica valued at USD 18.72 million.

Year on year, the volumes of coffee exported by type in March 2023), Robusta decreased by 33.03% and 0.24% in quantity and value, respectively, and Arabica exports decreased by 30.53% and 26.19% in quantity and value, respectively.

"The monthly coffee export volume was lower than that of the previous year due to a smaller harvest in the Elgon region coupled with delays in the onset of the harvest season and a shortage of shipping containers," the report explains.

The scarcity of shipping containers has a become a serious problem for exporters due to a combination of factors such as the supply-chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the general decrease in imported goods from developed countries.

Italy maintained the highest market share with 38%, followed by India at 12.3%, Germany at 10.5%, Belgium at 3% and Sudan at 5%.

Coffee exports to Africa slumped to just 33,328 bags, down from 60,948 bags in February. African countries that imported Ugandan coffee included Sudan, Morocco, South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya

Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd maintained its market-leader status with a market of 10.21%, followed by Olam Uganda Ltd (8.64%) and Kawacom (U) Ltd with 7.86%.

The average export price was US$ 3.27 per kilo (UGX12,500), US cents 10 higher than in February 2024 but 83 US cents higher than in March 2023 (USD2.44/kilo).

The average Robusta price was US$ 3.13 per kilo (UGX11,900), about four US cents lower than that of the previous month. The highest price was for Washed Robusta, which was sold at US$4.23 (about UGX16,000) per kilo, followed by Screen 17 at US$3.42 per kilo.

It is not clear how the prices would stand in the next few months but typically, global coffee export volumes vary depending on several factors such as harvest seasons in the major coffee-growing countries, market demand, weather conditions, and economic trends.

For some of the top coffee-producing countries such as Brazil and Colombia, the main harvest season typically occurs between April and September, which implies that prices might slide in the coming months because of market factors.

Over the years, the combination of diverse flavour profiles, traditional processing methods, sustainable practices, and the growing recognition in the specialty coffee market has contributed to the uniqueness and desirability of Ugandan coffee beans on the international market.

New UDB incubator plan targets 290 entrepreneurs

The Uganda Development Bank, Uganda's national development finance institution, has announced the launch of an incubator programme designed to prepare hundreds of young entrepreneurs for the funding they need to scale up their businesses.

The programme, being implemented under UDB's Enterprise Development Product (EDP), was designed to train over 290 enterprises to become big businesses that create jobs.

Speaking at the launch of the programme at their offices in Nakasero, officials noted that the training programme was pertinent in light of the fact that whereas small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) constitute 90% of the private sector; contribute 80% of all manufacturing output; and provide over 2.5 million of jobs to Ugandans, only a fraction of these businesses manage to survive beyond their third year of operation.

The initiative shall provide capacity-building training and offer technical support to develop and implement the required processes in the businesses.

"The objective is to have professionally run businesses that survive the test of time, and that are investor ready," said Allan Joshua Mwesigwa, the director of strategy and corporate affairs at UDB.

He added that the initiative is being implemented in collaboration with several partners including Makerere University Business School Entrepreneurship Innovation and Incubation Center (MUBS EIIC), the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), Uganda National Bureau Of Standards (UNBS), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Uganda Investments Authority (UIA), National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and Uganda Women Entrepreneurs' Association Limited (UWEAL).

Over the years, UDB has played a pivotal role in line with its mandate to accelerate socio-economic development in Uganda by supporting projects within the private sector that demonstrate potential to deliver high socio-economic value, in terms of job creation, improved production output, tax contribution and foreign exchange generation, among other outcomes.

The Bank's financing interventions are mainly in agriculture, agro-processing, and manufacturing, which account for about 80%of its investment portfolio.

It however undertakes specific interventions in other sectors including tourism, human capital Development and ICTs.

Barbara Kasekende, the head of Business Advisory at UDB, described the incubator as the heartbeat of the bank, adding that the enterprise development product (EDP) was created to bridge the gaps between SMES and access to finance.

The programme would offer training under a customized curriculum designed to cater for the specific needs of the enterprises and the environment in which they operate, according to Kasekende.

Some of the modules include; management best practices, debt management, good governance, record keeping, and financial management among others.

Coffee exports anxiety after UGX32 bn budget cut

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority wants Parliament to intervene following the Government's decision not to provide the UGX32.5 billion required for the establishment of a coffee traceability system in order to protect Uganda's coffee exports to the European Union.

The coffee industry regulator had tabled a budget of UGX35 billion for the establishment of the system, but only UGX2.5 billion has been provided in the FY2024/2025 budget, leaving a massive shortfall of UGX32.5 billion. This directly implies that the setting up the system would have to be deferred to 2026 though it has a deadline of January 2025, as per the European Union Deforestation-free Regulations (EUDR).

The EU, which consumers almost 70% of Uganda's coffee exports, established the regulations in 2020 as a 'legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation' aimed at reducing Europe's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global biodiversity loss.

Globally, coffee production is estimated to drive around 100,000 hectares of deforestation every year, according to reports. The traceability system can enable a coffee consumer at a coffee shop say in Madrid to trace the coffee in her cup to the garden where it was grown. It is not yet clear how the new rules would impact large coffee plantations that were established on deforested land across Uganda.

However, the EUDR also applies to other products such as dairy products and palm oil among others.

In compliance with the EUDR, all countries that export to the EU would be classified as a 'low' or 'high risk,' no later than December 30, 2024. When it comes into effect, the EUDR would apply to goods produced after June 2023, which implies that Uganda's traceability system both urgent and long-overdue.

The system must register all the coffee value chain players including nursery bed operators, farmers, processors and exporters and farmers to ensure that Uganda is compliant with the EU regulations or risk a ban on Ugandan coffee.

In the report of the Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries on the ministerial policy statement and budget estimates for the Financial Year 2024/25, the MPs said the government must take immediate action to allocate the funds to the UCDA.

Dr Emmanuel Iyamulemye, the UCDA Managing Director, told this publication that the establishment of the national traceability System is also catered for in our legal framework.

"The National Coffee Register as provided for in the National Coffee Act 2021, would be a precursor to the creation of a National Traceability System (NTS) aligned with EUDR requirements," said Iyamulemye.

The EU regulation, which takes effect on January 1, 2025, requires that exporters of commodities such as coffee, cocoa and their derivatives must submit specific documents to export to the EU market.

Brazil, Ethiopia and Vietnam, which are Uganda's top competitors in global coffee production, are already in advanced stages of setting up their traceability systems.

President Yoweri Museveni's government has overseen the planting of millions of coffee trees in recent years as part of plans to increase annual output to 20 million bags by 2030.

UBL sets up UGX20 billion cleaning facility

Uganda Breweries Limited, the maker of Tusker and Guinness, has commissioned a state-of-the-art effluent treatment plant, which officials said marks a significant milestone in the company's commitment to sustainability and reducing its carbon footprint.

Speaking at the launch, officials explained that the solid residues from the UGX20 billion plant are given away to farmers as fertiliser while the biogas powers a facility that produces electricity for the beer factory.

Andrew Itambo Kilonzo, the managing director, said the new plant brings UBL closer to realizing their goal of reducing carbon emissions by 92% or 8,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, adding that as a responsible corporate citizen, UBL remains steadfast in pursuing sustainable practices and initiatives that benefit society and the environment.

Chief guest Ruth Nankabirwa, the minister for Energy and Mineral Development, commended UBL for investing in the facility, saying UBL is not only reducing its carbon footprint but also contributing to the country's energy security and economic growth.

"This project will not only create jobs and stimulate economic activity but also promote the use of clean energy, which is essential for mitigating the impacts of climate change. Uganda has increased its ambition to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 22% to 24.7% in the new climate change plan that presents the country's intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deal with the effects of climate change, and fulfil aspirations of the Paris Agreement," said Nankabirwa.

The dirty water from all sections of the brewery is pumped into collection tanks and electronically sieved to remove solid particles. The plant then restores the PH balance of the water, converts organic material into biogas and sludge, disinfects the waste water and then allows it to return to Lake Victoria when it is much cleaner than the water in the lake, in full compliance with NEMA regulations.

The biogas is used as fuel to produce power for the brewery while the sludge can be used by local farmers as a fertilizer at no cost. The facility can produce about 20 tonnes of manure per day, while the methane gas is burnt so it does not go into the environment.

Diageo Africa President Dayalan Nayager said the setting up of the plant was within the organization's promise to accelerate to a low-carbon world, in which it is committed to using renewable energy only by 2030 and achieving net-zero carbon status in their operations.

Jimmy D. Mugerwa, the UBL Board chairman, said UBL is the one of few companies in Uganda that have invested billions of shillings in efforts to cut carbon emissions in their production processes.

"We urge all organizations across Uganda to emulate what Uganda Breweries is doing here today in their various operations and we call upon the Government to continue supporting these sustainability initiatives," he said.

Will new guidelines mop up online lending mess?

Moses Nkonge desperately needed cash to put windows and doors in his family house having got fed up of renting. A friend suggested that he gets a loan from an online lending platform. Indeed, he got the money in no time and finished his house.

However, what Nkonge had not counted on was the shame and embarrassment that was to follow.

"This platform literally called every person in my contact list to tell them how I had absconded from paying back their money, and that they were looking for me to jail me. It was the most embarrassing situation I had ever faced," Nkonge narrates.

Nkonge is not alone; many people have faced humiliation and even lost properties to online lenders, whose operations are unregulated.

Following a public outcry, the Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority (UMRA), the regulator of microfinance lenders, has now come out to take action by introducing digital lending guidelines in a bold move aimed at shaping responsible lending and borrowing practices. UMRA says the guidelines are essential to protect both the interests of both the lenders and the borrowers, and to promote the sustainability and impact of the microfinance sector in the country.

Judith Tusuubira, the UMRA executive director, said digital lending platforms have emerged as powerful tools for providing access to credit for individuals, but abusive and predatory behaviors have been reported, necessitating regulation.

"Without proper oversight, digital lending platforms can also pose risks to vulnerable consumers. As such, our aim with these guidelines is to strike a balance - enabling innovation while ensuring consumer protection," she added.

Tusuubira however credited the various digital lending platforms for offering innovative solutions tailored to the unique needs and challenges faced especially by low-income consumers, and serving as bridges to accessing much-needed financial resources. By leveraging technology and innovative lending models, she said these platforms offer a lifeline to individuals who may face barriers to accessing traditional banking services, thus representing a pathway to economic empowerment and financial stability.

The guidelines set forth by UMRA provide a framework for responsible lending practices, addressing issues such as transparency, affordability, and consumer protection. By embracing digital innovation while upholding regulatory standards, stakeholders can unlock the full potential of digital lending to drive economic growth and empowerment at the grassroots level.

URA tasked to sensitise traders on how Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (EFRIS) works to avoid demonstrations.

In January 2021, URA implemented EFRIS to tackle tax administration issues associated with business transactions and receipt issuance.

Since then, the authority has been trying to get the business community to adopt the system and Ugandans to get used to demanding fiscalized receipts. Despite success, reports indicate that some traders especially from KIKUBO Business lane have identified the system as double taxation

In response to this, traders in Kampala under their umbrella bodies, The Federation of Uganda Traders Association (FUTA), KACITA among others on Monday morning did not wait to stage a protest over the implementation of EFRIS.

Traders complained about EFRIS as double taxation like they have been describing it, saying that they don't understand the automated sale records and levy system.

"We have written a lot of letters to our government and other authorities, including the Ministry of Trade, URA, Ministry of Finance, and other entities. We are complaining about EFRIS, high taxes, double taxation, VAT, everything," Noted John Kabanda, President of FUTA.

The Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) has therefore asked Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to sensitise traders on how the Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (EFRIS) operates

According to KACITA Chairperson Thaddeus Musoke, the majority of the traders are only partially literate and have trouble understanding how complex systems like EFRIS operate.

"It needs someone who already has some IT knowledge. And the level of education of most of our members is low. We want to convince URA to give us more time," Musoke said

URA thinks that it's a technique of evading taxes, but that is not the case; people are scared of the system. They don't understand the system. So, URA has to get strategies of interesting our members to embrace EFRIS. The moment URA insists, more clashes will happen. We just appeal to URA; be slow, let us engage. Emphasizing Musoke

Through cooperative effort with the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) disclosed plans to establish an operating office in the Kikuubo business area aimed at educating traders about EFRIS services

The disclosure was made by URA Commissioner General John Musinguzi on Saturday during a joint press conference held at the PSFU offices in Nakasero.

"The purpose of the office is to dispense services to the taxpayers like return filing, issuance of E-receipts, spreading awareness, and bridging any knowledge gap between traders and URA," he said.

The involvement came at a time when traders downtown threatening to shut down their businesses and stage demonstrations in response to the URA's failure to resolve their grievances which finally happened yesterday Musinguzi responded to this as false allegations, he however attributed the issue of double taxation to middlemen. "There is nothing like double taxation. If anything, it is exploitation of traders by middlemen who call themselves container leaders shipping goods from abroad," Musinguzi responds

"When they bring in the container and they are assessed, let's say UGX 50 million, they then go and charge traders about UGX 100 million, and as such, they make off with excess monies," Musinguzi explained. Musinguzi further demystified the system, emphasizing that it is not a new tax but a technology that simplifies the collection of value-added tax (VAT) and aids traders in proper record-keeping and stock management, as well as issuing e-receipts and e-invoices.

Vice-Chairperson of PSFU Sarah Kagingo underlined the value of ongoing interaction in preventing interruptions and identifying long-term solutions. "When there are demonstrations and violence on the streets of Kampala, it's the business community that will suffer as their sales will drop and this in the long run will affect their compliance," Kagingo noted.

The Electronic Fiscal Receipting and Invoicing Solution (EFRIS) is an initiative under the Government Domestic Revenue Mobilization Strategy that was designed to manage the issuance and centralized tracking of all e-receipts or e-invoices, enforce the usage by all taxpayers required to improve business efficiencies, reduce the cost of compliance through improved record keeping among taxpayers and mitigate tax administration shortfalls while promoting efficiency.

Inflation: Bank of Uganda raises CBR again

For the second month in a row, the Bank of Uganda has raised its key rate, the central bank rate (CBR) in a bold move to combat inflation.

Michael Etingi-Ego, the acting BoU governor, told journalists at a briefing that the decision to raise the CBR once again to 10.25% from 10% was made based on the assessment that while inflation was declining, there were still significant risks and uncertainty.

The CBR, primarily an interest rate, is a tool used by the Central bank to stabilize prices in the economy by influencing the pricing of financial assets in the economy including Treasury bond rates, mortgages and other loans.

By tinkering with with the CBR, the Central bank influences the interest rates charged by commercial banks, which in turn affects the amount lent out and thus money in circulation in the economy.

Generally, the CBR therefore plays a pivotal role in shaping economic activity, controlling inflation, and maintaining financial stability within an economy.

For example, the BoU primarily uses the CBR to keep the annual inflation rate around a target of 5%.

Atingi-Ego said raising the rate was necessary to anchor inflation around the target level while supporting economic stability to encourage saving, investment, economic growth, competitiveness.

Last month, BoU raised the CBR by 50 basis points to 10% for the first time since December 2023, in response to the Shilling falling to an all-time low of UGX3,955 to the U.S Dollar in the week of February.

This depreciation was reportedly due to a strong dollar demand from the energy and manufacturing sectors and the reported outflow of offshore funds from the local market for higher yields in competing markets abroad.

However, the depreciation pressure on the local currency has since eased slightly but it is still below the monthly average exchange rate of UGX 3,745 to the USD that was recorded at the same time last year.

Atingi-Ego admitted that "the evolution of inflation remains a challenge" but that last month's increase in the CBR had a spillover effect of stabilising the exchange rate but that the local currency continues to remain vulnerable to the outflows of investor funds to other markets, which he said significantly impacts domestic prices.

Atingi-Ego warned that short-term projections indicate that inflation could rise to between 5.5% - 6% in the next 12 months, thus dampening household incomes and consumer spending.

The return to the medium term average of 5% is not expected until the second half of next year, according to the BoU chief.

However, economic analysts will look at this as a tall order given that the country will by then be entering a new election cycle ahead of the general elections in early 2026, which traditionally poses a serious challenge to the BoU because of excess liquidity in the economy as politicians unleash the cash.

However, Atingi-Ego insisted that the increase in the CBR 'as a prudent measure' to address the heightened inflation risks, adding: "This monetary stance is necessary to balance the need to contain inflation while supporting sustainable, which is essential for Uganda's social economic transformation."

Mind standards, exporters told as AFTA takes shape

Uganda's micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have been urged to ensure high quality standards if they are to benefit from the lucrative African Continent Free trade Area (AFTA).

Prof. Charles Kwesiga, the Executive Director of the Uganda Industrial Research Institute, says that there is an urgent need for SMEs to acquire certification of their products if they are to compete favourably with other countries in the AFCFTA market.

"Poor standards are a barrier to the AFCFTA market. It is important for MSMES to know and maintain standards as well as embarking on more production so as to get into the AFCFTA market," he said.

He made the remarks at the national capacity building workshop for SMEs and youth entrepreneurs on export readiness under AFCFTA focussing on quality standards.

He stressed that three other things must be done well if SMEs are to guarantee access to the AFCFTA market: enhancing the use of technology; acquiring affordable finance, and empowering human capital.

Speaking to this publication in an interview, Mr. Daniel Richard Makayi Nangalama, the acting Executive Director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), noted that most SMEs try to cut corners by avoiding the need to verify their products with UNBS, which he said was the reason they are finding problems along the way.

"I urge SMEs to verify their products with UNBS to so as to ensure quality standards. You will not reach the AFCFTA market until you start interacting with us," he said.

The mandate of the UNBS is to develop, promote, and enforce standards in order to enhance the quality of products and services produced in Uganda, including facilitating trade by ensuring that Ugandan products meet international standards, thereby enhancing their competitiveness in global markets.

Collaborating with other national and international organizations involved in standardization and quality assurance activities is also part of the UNBS mandate, which makes it extremely difficult to export to foreign markets without a certification from the standards body.

However, different stakeholders also argued that Uganda must concentrate on building a more comprehensive trade policy strategy that focuses on improving the quantity and quality of the existing exports so as to take advantage of the new markets.

Emanuel Mutahunga, the commissioner for External Trade at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, said that the Government is playing its part such as putting in place the relevant policy framework to ensure that the country benefits from the AFCFTA.

"The AFCFTA National strategy has already been drafted and is awaiting official launch and also, the President has already approved the Export Development Fund at the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) aimed at expanding Uganda's potential to export to the AFCFTA," he said.

John Bosco Kalisa, the Executive Director of East African Business Council (EABC), said they have embarked on creating awareness among the SMEs and youth entrepreneurs so as to enhance their competitiveness in foreign markets.

"Currently, our main focus is on standards because they are a tool to enhance competitiveness; if they are not properly crafted or understood by MSMEs, they will always be struggling. There is a report that says that in Uganda only 18% of SMEs have acquired regional standards, so we need to double the efforts in terms of creating more awareness about standards," Kalisa said.

The AfCFTA was approved by the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2012, for the establishment of a continent-wide free trade area and an action plan for boosting intra-African trade to be key initiatives whose implementation would promote socio-economic development.

Optimism as tourism earnings hit $1 bn mark

Uganda's post-pandemic tourism revenues topped UGX3.82 trillion (USD1 billion) in 2023, painting a promising picture for Uganda's economic post-Covid recovery, according to a new report.

With the current trajectory, direct tourism revenues are poised to surpass pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024, signaling a bright future ahead. A closer look at expenditure patterns reveals the fundamental role played by accommodation, food and beverage facilities, commanding a combined share of 54% of tourist spending.

In terms of employment, the tourism sector emerged as a key contributor, directly supporting over 610,000 jobs, representing 5.7% of total employment. This notable increase from pre-pandemic levels underlines the sector's resilience and its ability to generate livelihoods and foster socio-economic development.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the tourism industry had been the cornerstone of Uganda's economy, significantly contributing to GDP and sustaining livelihoods for millions. However, as the crisis unfolded, the sector's performance plummeted, with hotel bookings dwindling to a fraction.

According to the report, a significant milestone in Uganda's tourism recovery journey is the notable upsurge in international arrivals with the country welcoming 1,274,210 visitors in 2023, up from about 814,000 in the previous year. The resurgence in Uganda's tourism sector has been propelled by a notable surge in arrivals from the country's traditional overseas source markets, including the UK, USA, and India.

Arrivals from Africa continue to dominate Uganda's inbound tourism landscape, commanding an impressive share of 89.2%. Meanwhile, Asia, Europe, and the Americas contribute significantly to overseas tourist arrivals, highlighting the global appeal of Uganda's diverse attractions, the performance report adds.

Asia and Africa have led the charge, with arrivals exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 79% and 9%, respectively. While overseas regions are yet to fully recover, there has been a notable uptick in visitor numbers from these areas in 2023. India stood steadfast as Uganda's foremost overseas market, maintaining its pivotal role in driving tourism influx. Meanwhile, USA, UK, China, and Germany continued to fortify their positions as the top source markets.

Across Africa, the top three source markets collectively contributed the lion's share of arrivals. Tanzania experienced a marginal dip in its ranking, while Burundi's ascent signaled evolving travel preferences. Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Sudan emerged as newcomers to the top ten markets from Africa, signaling a transformative shift in intra-continental tourism dynamics.

In the Americas, the report said USA continued to assert its dominance as Uganda's primary source market, closely trailed by Canada. A notable evolution was observed in tourist purposes, with leisure tourism witnessing a commendable growth from 12% to 16% in 2023. Insights into tourist behavior sheds further light on visitor trends, with a discernible preference for air travel and an average stay of eight nights in Uganda.

In general terms, the hospitality sector experienced a remarkable recovery, with hotel occupancy rates reaching new heights. The national average hotel room occupancy soared to about 54%, surpassing 2019 levels by two percentage points. Notably, domestic tourists emerged as the driving force behind this surge, constituting eight out of every ten guests in hotel and accommodation facilities.

According to the report, the resurgence of domestic tourism not only bolstered hotel occupancy but also invigorated the broader tourism ecosystem. With domestic visitor proportions surpassing pre-pandemic levels, Uganda's hotels and accommodation facilities experienced a much-improved performance in 2023.

It further states that domestic tourism surged by 25.3%, with domestic adventurers gravitating towards renowned attractions like the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC), which witnessed a 27% spike in visitor entries.

Regionally, the Western region took the lead, boasting an impressive average occupancy rate of 65.2% in 2023. All regions, except the central region, surpassed pre-pandemic occupancy levels, fueled by the surge in domestic tourism, particularly for MICE, business, and leisure travel, as reported by stakeholders in the tourism private sector.

Notably, national park visitor numbers experienced a rebound with a 5.4% uptick in visitations, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 20%. While some parks demonstrated remarkable resilience, others continued their trajectory towards full recovery, with notable increases in visitation to Semliki and Murchison Falls National Parks. The report further shows that significant milestones were also reached in visitations to iconic landmarks such as the Source of the Nile and the Uganda Museum, with both facilities witnessing substantial surges in visitor entries, surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 21% and a 137%.

According to the UNWTO, international tourism is expected to fully recover pre-pandemic levels in 2024, with initial estimates pointing to 2% growth above 2019 levels. However, the global tourism body notes that staff shortages remain a critical issue, as tourism businesses face a shortfall in labor to cope with high demand.

Airtel Uganda boosts UCC fund with UGX34.8 billion

Airtel Uganda has handed over a cheque worth UGX34.8 billion to the Uganda Communications Commission aimed at supporting the establishment of better communication infrastructure and technologies in rural areas across the country.

Under the Uganda Communications Act of 1997, every telecom operator is mandated to contribute 2% of their gross revenues to support the Uganda Communications Universal Service and Access Fund (UCUSAF), whose aim is to contribute to the realization of universality in access and use of communications services through establishment of communications projects in areas that are unserved or underserved by the telecommunications operators.

While receiving the contribution at their head office in Bugolobi yesterday, UCC Executive Director Nyombi Thembo saluted Airtel Uganda for being an example and a force in communication development in the country.

Manoj Murali, the Airtel Uganda CEO, reaffirmed their commitment to unlocking the full potential of Uganda's telecommunications industry.

"Airtel Uganda is deeply committed to Uganda's development. Our commitment is demonstrated by our participation in the licensing regime and providing reliable communication services across Uganda on our 100% 4G network. We do this because our role as technology enablers is to unlock the potential of Uganda as we connect people and businesses to opportunities. We are proud to be exceedingly delivering on this mandate," he said.

According to the UCC, serious challenges still persist in most unserved and underserved areas, particularly remote regions due to absence of essential complementary infrastructure and basic amenities such as access roads and grid power.

The absence of these foundational elements not only hampers the speed of construction of communication infrastructure but also hinders the operational efficiency of telecommunication masts once they are installed.

Getting the mandatory financial support from telecom operators to address these infrastructure gaps therefore becomes imperative for ensuring a more inclusive and effective communication services and products across the country.

Young golfers shine at NCBA Golf Open

Junior golfers from five different countries have demonstrated their talent and passion for the sport at the NCBA Uganda Golf Open 2024, hosted at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf & Spa Resort in Kigo.

Over the course of three thrilling days from March 31, budding golf enthusiasts participated in a tournament that formed a crucial part of the NCBA Junior Golf Series, dedicated to fostering and nurturing golfing talent in the youth and children.

The tournament, in which NCBA Bank Uganda injected about UGX100 million, is crafted to prepare the young generation for greatness in future tournaments, in line with NCBA's ethos of Go For It!

Mark Muyobo, the NCBA Uganda Chief Executive Officer, underscored the bank's commitment to supporting and sponsoring initiatives aimed at nurturing young talent in golf, emphasizing the sport's significance in youth development. More than just a tournament, the series serves as a platform for budding players to not only refine their golfing skills but also to cultivate essential life skills in a fun and inclusive environment.

"We aim to instill the joy of learning golf in children while fostering their overall development. Through engaging and inclusive junior golf programs, we seek to bolster the presence of golf academies in Uganda and pave the way for elite junior players to compete in international championship events," stated Muyobo.

The NCBA Uganda Golf Open 2024 featured multi-day tournaments and camps tailored specifically for junior golfers aged between 6 and 18 years. In addition to its efforts to promote the development of the sport, NCBA Bank remains a staunch supporter of sports initiatives nationwide.

The bank's sponsorship of the NCBA Monthly Mug challenge at the MaryLouise Simkins Memorial Golf Club in Namulonge also underscores its dedication to fostering community bonds and promoting excellence in sports.

"Our mission at NCBA is to inspire greatness. We are committed to empowering our customers to achieve their financial goals by offering exceptional financial services, and our backing of golf resonates deeply with this commitment," Muyobo added.

The event saw Arianna Jenny Tumwesigye, 8, steal the show with an impressive +13 score, hitting 85 strokes. Meanwhile, Aria Dodhia from Kenya, demonstrated her prowess in the girls' 9-10 age category, clinching victory with 82 strokes.

Malaika Kasio displayed exceptional performance among girls aged 11-12, matching Ariana Bholim's score of 171 strokes in the 13-14 age group. Rachael Natukunda also stood out, delivering an impressive 171 strokes to claim victory in the girls' 15-18 category.

On the boys' side, Aryan Patel emerged victorious in the under-6 age group, carding 83 strokes, while James Tino Macakiage dominated the 7-year-old category with 73 strokes.

Ivan Kipyegon Kimutai and Lucas Kimara showcased their talent in the 8 and 9-year-old categories, respectively. Ishaan Patel impressed with 163 strokes in the 10-year-old category, while Jordan Van Rooyen secured victory with 172 strokes among the 11-year-olds.

Jeff Kivi and Ronan Patel displayed remarkable skills in the 12 and 13-14 age groups, respectively, claiming their trophies with 162 and 151 strokes. Pius Ochieng concluded the winners' list, lifting the trophy in the fiercely contested 15-18 age category with 155 strokes.

With participation from over 100 junior golfers from diverse backgrounds, the event offered a pathway for young talents to qualify for prestigious international tournaments such as the Rome Classic in Italy and the Big 5 Championship in South Africa.

Will new online lending guidelines foster responsible borrowing?

Last month, the Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority (UMRA) introduced digital lending guidelines tailored for microfinance institutions (MFIs) and online lenders in a bold move towards shaping responsible lending and borrowing practices. This move signaled a concerted effort to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital financial landscape.

The regulator said structured lending practices are essential to protect the interests of both the lenders and the borrowers, and to promote the sustainability and impact of the microfinance sector in the country. UMRA Executive Director, Judith Tusuubira stressed, at the launch, that although today, digital lending platforms have emerged as powerful tools for providing access to credit for individuals, abusive and predatory behaviors have been reported, necessitating regulation.

"Without proper oversight, Digital lending platforms can also pose risks to vulnerable consumers. As such, our aim with these guidelines is to strike a balance - enabling innovation while ensuring consumer protection," she said.

Tusuubira however credited the various digital lending platforms for offering innovative solutions tailored to the unique needs and challenges faced especially by low-income consumers, and serving as bridges to accessing much-needed financial resources. By leveraging technology and innovative lending models, she said these platforms offer a lifeline to individuals who may face barriers to accessing traditional banking services, thus representing a pathway to economic empowerment and financial stability.

The guidelines set forth by UMRA provide a framework for responsible lending practices, addressing issues such as transparency, affordability, and consumer protection. According to Tusuubira, they aim to create an environment where digital lenders operate ethically, mitigating risks associated with over-indebtedness and predatory lending practices.

It should be noted that the introduction of these guidelines represents a pivotal moment for the microfinance sector in Uganda. By embracing digital innovation while upholding regulatory standards, stakeholders can unlock the full potential of digital lending to drive economic growth and empowerment at the grassroots level.

"As the digital lending landscape continues to evolve, UMRA remains committed to monitoring industry developments and refining regulations to ensure they remain effective and relevant. The journey towards responsible borrowing practices is ongoing, guided by a shared commitment to financial inclusion and consumer welfare," Tusuubira said.

Jackline Mbabazi, the Executive Director of the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda (AMFIU), hailed the guidelines as a beacon for institutions navigating the digital financial realm. She lauded the government's commitment to creating an enabling environment and highlighted the collaborative effort that shaped the guidelines, ensuring their relevance and acceptance across the industry.

"While MFIs may not be traditional digital lenders, we have embraced digital financial services to offer more choices to our customers," Mbabazi affirmed. She acknowledged challenges encountered during the digital transition, such as high transaction costs and security concerns, stressing the need to address these issues for widespread adoption.

Stella Alibatesa, National Personal Data Protection Director, National Information Technology Authority (NITA) highlighted the paramount importance of robust data protection measures. As digital transactions surge and mobile money platforms proliferate across the nation, the safeguarding of personal data emerges as an urgent imperative. Alibatesa highlighted the gravity of this matter, emphasizing that robust data protection measures are indispensable in averting potential fraud and preserving individual privacy rights.

With the advent of digital lending platforms, borrowers entrust sensitive personal information to financial institutions and online lenders. However, this influx of data brings forth heightened concerns regarding its security and misuse. Alibatesa articulated the necessity for stringent safeguards to shield this data from unauthorized access and exploitation, thus fortifying the integrity of digital lending practices. Furthermore, she underscored the pivotal role of the Personal Data Protection Office in upholding data privacy standards.

Serving as a barricade against potential breaches, this regulatory body assumes the responsibility of enforcing data protection laws and ensuring compliance within the digital lending ecosystem. Through vigilant oversight and proactive intervention, the Personal Data Protection Office aims to instill confidence among borrowers and lenders alike, fostering an environment of trust and accountability. In addition to regulatory oversight, Alibatesa emphasized the collaborative efforts required to bolster data protection within the digital lending sphere.

"By engaging with industry stakeholders and fostering a culture of transparency, microfinance institutions can proactively address emerging threats and devise robust privacy policies that align with evolving regulatory frameworks. Through collective action and mutual commitment to data protection principles, the digital lending landscape can thrive while safeguarding the rights and interests of borrowers," she noted.

Zianah Muddu, CEO of the Financial Technology Service Providers Association (Fitspa) emphasized the imperative of collaboration and meaningful engagement within the industry to cultivate responsible borrowing practices, with a strong emphasis on integrity and accountability. "As Uganda strides forward in embracing digital financial services to enhance financial inclusion, the introduction of these guidelines marks a significant leap towards establishing a transparent and inclusive lending ecosystem," she said.

She added that through concerted efforts among regulators, industry players, and stakeholders, the objective is to surmount challenges and leverage the opportunities presented by digital lending for the collective welfare of all citizens. According to Zziyana, the pursuit of digital financial inclusion persists, underpinned by an unwavering commitment to ethical conduct, robust data protection measures, and responsible lending practices.

Yet, the pivotal question remains: Can these digital lending guidelines genuinely cultivate responsible borrowing practices? Zziyana suggests that the answer lies not only in the formulation of policies but also in the collaborative endeavors and steadfast commitments of all stakeholders involved.

Relief as UNOC finally secures Kenyan oil import licence

The Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) will effective next month start importing petroleum products through Kenya following the end of a bitter dispute between the two regional partners over direct oil imports through the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

For years, Uganda has imported petroleum products through Kenyan companies and middlemen, who have been selling them to landlocked East African partner States. Last year, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni accused Kenyan resellers and middlemen of inflating fuel prices by up to 58% and said Uganda has been 'cheated' by the fuel resellers to a 'huge loss' for long enough.

For years, Uganda has been importing 90% of the petroleum products it consumes from oil marketing companies in Kenya, which do sell it to their Ugandan subsidiaries who then sell it to the companies for sale to the final consumer at the pumps.

Now, Kenya has agreed to allow Uganda's state oil firm UNOC to receive a license to import petroleum products directly from the Middle East without going through the third parties.

Licensing UNOC to import refined petroleum products ends a row that has lasted for months and saw international courts get involved as Uganda sought redress.

Early this year, Uganda sued Kenya at the East African Court of Justice after Kenya denied UNOC a licence to operate in Kenya and directly handle petroleum imports headed to Uganda.

The oil import row escalated to strained diplomatic relations between the two neighboring countries until President Willam Ruto visited his counterpart in Kampala early last month.

Following the decision by President Ruto to broker an out-of-court settlement, Ugandan officials traveled to the Kenyan capital Nairobi to conclude the deal.

"You will see UNOC getting a licence and then we will see how to work together because usage of our pipeline is an opportunity for us," Davis Chirchir, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary in charge of Energy and Petroleum, was quoted by Kenyan media as saying.

UNOC will use the Kenya Pipeline Company's infrastructure so there will be no loss of opportunity for Kenya, he added, noting that; "We are working closely with Uganda to resolve the challenge."

Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, Uganda's Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, has welcomed the move saying that in addition to lowering the pump price of petrol to the final consumer, UNOC also hopes to obtain the essential oil business experience as Uganda gears up to be an oil producer by 2025.

However, Ugandan motorists might not see a significant decrease in pump prices from the current over UGX5,000 per liter, following the Government's decision to increase tax on each litre of fuel sold, effective next financial year.

Nankabirwa however said the country's prospects have registered yet another key milestone following the recent commissioning of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) Coating Plant, in the Tabora Region of Tanzania.

Vendors get UGX10m for using mobile money

As part of its efforts to champion financial inclusion and empower women, MTN Mobile Money, in partnership with Ericsson, has rewarded women vendors at Kalerwe Market in Kampala, for encouraging their customers to use mobile money for their grocery purchases.

There was excitement at the busy market when Ms Sarah Namubiru confirmed receipt of her top prize of UGX4 million, followed by Jane Namusoke (UGX3 million), Aisha Nakigozi (UGX1.5 million), Fatuma Namutosi (UGX1 million), and Lamula Nalweyiso (UGX500,000).

Speaking at the handover of the cash at the busy market, officials said these remarkable women exemplify the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, demonstrating the impact of leveraging digital solutions to enhance business operations and customer convenience.

The initiative, which was launched early this month, signifies a commitment to not only recognize and reward women entrepreneurs but also to create avenues for financial empowerment and business growth.

By encouraging customers to embrace MoMoPay services, these vendors are not only streamlining transactions but also contributing to the digital economy's expansion and efficiency.

In addition to the rewards for promoting mobile money, MTN MoMo offers further support to women entrepreneurs through initiatives such as the Wesotinge with MoMo offer, providing access to quick loans at low-interest rates.

This holistic approach to financial services aims to address the diverse needs of women in business, facilitating access to capital and promoting sustainable growth and resilience.

By fostering a culture of digital payment adoption and financial inclusion, MTN MoMo is playing a vital role in transforming the business landscape, driving economic empowerment, and unlocking opportunities for women across the country and beyond.

PSFU, Dutch launch UGX14 bn renewable energy project

The Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) in partnership with the Netherlands Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS) have launched a renewable energy project worth 3.4 million Euros (about UGX14 billion), aimed at on increasing access to solar and clean cooking technologies in 13 refugee-hosting districts in northern Uganda.

Speaking at the launch in Kampala on March 26, officials said the project, dubbed "Demand Side Results Based Financing Project," aims to bridge the end-user affordability gap for improved clean energy services and off-grid solar products in underserved refugee communities and host districts.

The project will offer incentives to selected private sector companies to trigger a mandatory price reduction that is equivalent to a preset affordability gap within the targeted project areas.

The subsidy would be indirectly transferred to the end-user as a discounted price, which may be paid through installments on a pay-as-you use basis.

Ms Karin Boven, the Netherland Ambassador to Uganda, said the project basically aims to help address energy poverty, which she said is still a serious problem in Uganda.

"Energy poverty is a pressing issue that affects millions of people around the world, particularly in developing countries. Uganda is one such country grappling with the challenges of energy poverty whereby 57% of Ugandans have access to energy but only 8% have access to clean energy therefore this fund is timely," she said.

On behalf of the Government of Uganda, Hon. Okaasai Sidronius Opolot, the Minister of State for Energy and Mineral Development, welcomed the initiative.

"I thank the Kingdom of the Netherlands and other funding partners for this initiative, but I am calling upon stakeholders to rationalise this project for better implementation and offer subsidies on clean energy products so as to adopt technologies that will help access clean energy," he said.

Mr. Francis Kajura, the PSFU Programmes and Partnerships Manager, said they would do everything to ensure that the products supplied under the project are of the highest quality.

"We will make sure that the clean energy products sold under the project are not counterfeits as well as making sure that they are tested to the national standards," he said.

With a population of over 47 million people, Uganda faces significant barriers to enable all citizens to access reliable and affordable energy sources.

According to the International Energy Agency, as of 2019, Uganda ranked seventh among the top 20 access-deficit countries, with 26 million people lacking access to clean electricity.

Over the years, the Embassy of the Netherlands has been a key partner in efforts to scale up initiatives that advance energy access across the country, given the benefits that come with access to energy including enabling higher household incomes by setting up micro businesses, irrigation systems and generally lifting the quality of life.

In recent years, many Ugandans in off-grid regions have embraced renewable energy sources but lack of enforced product standards has been a major challenge because of the rampant counterfeit and poor quality products on the market.

New report highlights serious gaps in NSSF benefits

The majority of people who received their benefits from the National Security Fund (NSSF) did not acquire any form of financial literacy before receiving their cash, which severely undermined how they spent the money, a new report has shown.

According to NSSF National Beneficiaries Survey Report, seven out of ten beneficiaries did not seek any advice before or after receiving the benefits. The report, which surveyed 1,129 recipients of NSSF cash, was compiled by Enterprise Uganda in collaboration with NSSF.

The report says failure or unwillingness to seek financial advice points to the fact that most of the decisions made after receiving the money were based on sentiment and the limited knowledge and exposure of the beneficiary. Indeed, the researchers found out that the main reasons for not seeking financial advice included; the beneficiary being sure of what they wanted to do, not trusting anyone or simply not needing anyone's advice on how to spend 'my money'.

Only 17% of the beneficiaries consulted an expert for guidance on how to use the cash. Of these, nine out of ten said they found the advice helpful. This proves that if scaled up, a targeted financial literacy program could add a lot of value to the beneficiaries.

Indeed, according to the report, the bulk of the benefits was put to non-income generating expenses such school fees for children, pointing to the high dependence rate in households on aging parents, thereby limiting the shelf-life of the retirement benefits.

Speaking at the launch of the report at their headquarters in Kampala, Patrick Ayota, the NSSF managing director, stressed the need to step up efforts to increase financial literacy in the population. "It's true that there is low financial literacy uptake, therefore the need to enhance it is paramount," he said.

The report shows that the average amount paid to beneficiaries was UGX24 million and the average age of beneficiaries was 50 years. However, 60% of the beneficiaries received less than UGX10 million, most of which was spent on paying school fees (40%) and buying a plot of land and building or completing a home (34%). This implies that NSSF benefits are inadequate for real social security.

Members with higher pay-outs (and definitely higher levels of education) chose to invest in less-risky options such as treasury bonds because the low risk - modest return profile of interest earning instruments do favour those with bigger amounts to invest, while knowledge about these also remains dismal among the less literate.

Dr. Fred Muhumuza, an economist, told this publication that there is a great need for capacity building among the NSSF beneficiaries on how to multiply their meagre benefits. "That the majority of the NSSF beneficiaries receive less than UGX10 million means that the benefits are not sufficient for retirement therefore retirees need to be educated on how to multiply the meagre benefits in order to survive," he said.

Beneficiaries who ventured into business faced the most uncertain prospects due to the high business failure rate especially for new small businesses. Some of the beneficiaries expressed deep regret about their investment decisions.

Rosemary Mutyabule, the deputy Executive Director of Enterprise Uganda, also stressed the need to plan properly prior to receiving the cash, especially if one intends to start a business with the money.

"Make sure that you have your business plan as early as possible before you access your retirement benefits if you are to avoid business failures," she said.

The report indicates that most of the retirees continue to shoulder immense responsibilities for young dependents, which is forcing them to continue in full-time employment so as to keep afloat.

Indeed, at least six in ten of those who had received their benefits continued to be employed, with only 9% saying they were settled and enjoying their retirement.

Sebaana new DTB boss as Thambi exits

Diamond Trust Bank Uganda (DTBU) has named Godfrey Sebaana as its new CEO and Managing Director, effective April 2, 2024.

Sebaana succeeds Varghese Thambi, who has steered the bank's growth and transformation over the past 17 years.

An accountant by profession, Sebaana has been the executive director and head of corporate, commercial and institutional banking at Standard Chartered Bank. With a robust financial services background spanning two decades at the highest level, Sebaana boasts of wide experience in mergers, acquisitions, corporate advisory and financial institutions management, across various industry segments, encompassing global and local corporates, SMEs and retail.

He is a fellow of the Association of Charted Certified Accountants (ACCA) UK and holds a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) from Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh Business School.

Mr. Aziz Kassam, the DTB Uganda Board chairman, expressed happiness at Sebaana's appointment saying they would benefit a lot from his leadership, going forward.

"We look forward to leveraging his rich domestic and regional banking knowledge and expertise to accelerate our future growth," he said.

He further noted that the new CEO joins the bank at an 'exciting time', almost halfway through their 5-year, post-COVID business growth strategy that started in 2022 at the core of which is an ambitious and aggressive digitally-driven customer acquisition and retention strategy.

He commended Thambi for his stewardship of the bank over the past 17 years, saying DTBU has grown from just one branch to become one of Uganda's most strategically important financial institutions, with 37 branches across the county and directly employing 680 people of which 56% are women.

"While the entire DTBU family has contributed to this growth and success, at the centre has been the generous effort and unwavering dedication of Thambi. He leaves the bank as it emerges from industry-wide challenges of the past few years showing promise and potential. He takes with him the deep gratitude and very best wishes of the board, the staff and innumerable customers that he and the Bank have supported over the years," Kassam noted.

Sebaana joins a Group that also operates in regional markets including Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania with a total branch network of more than 100 branches across the EAC region.

According to their audited financial results, DTBU made a profit of UGX35 billion in 2022, up from UGX19 billion in 2015, which effectively puts DTBU among the top ten banks in Uganda.

Stanbic declares UGX155 billion in dividends

Stanbic Uganda Holdings Ltd, the mother company of Stanbic Bank Uganda, have published their annual financial report for the year ended 2023, which has seen the Board of Directors recommending a payment of UGX155 billion in dividends to the company�s shareholders.

Consequently, each of the 22,400 shareholders will smile their way to the bank with a dividend payment of UGX3.03 per share. This amount is in addition to the interim dividend of UGX2.44 per share, which was paid in the year ended December 2023.

This brings the total dividend to UGX5.47 per share for the entire period under review. However, the UGX155 billion dividend payment is a decrease from the UGX185 billion, which was paid in 2022.

But the report indicates that the company made a total profit of UGX411 billion, up from UGX357 billion in 2022.

The total asset base rose by more than UGX300 billion to top UGX9.3 trillion, while the customer loan portfolio grew to reach UGX4.22 trillion, up from UGX4.08 trillion in 2022.

Additionally, customer deposits increased from UGX6.131 trillion in 2022 to UGX6.332 trillion in 2023.

These key numbers seem to point to a steady and strong post-pandemic recovery for the business sector.

Income tax paid to URA rose by about UGX4 billion to reach UGX129.4 billion, making Stanbic Uganda Holdings one of the leading taxpayers in the country.

Stanbic Uganda Holdings is part of the Standard Bank Group, Africa's largest bank by footprint and assets.

The company, which is listed on the Uganda Securities Exchange, comprises five subsidiaries with a market capitalization amounting to more than UGX1 trillion.

The subsidiaries are; Stanbic Bank Uganda Ltd, the leading commercial bank in the country, Stanbic Properties Limited, a real-estate company; SBG Securities Uganda Ltd, an investment and brokerage firm; Stanbic Business Incubator Ltd, an enterprise development institution, and FlyHub Uganda Ltd, a technologies and innovations company.

At the beginning of this year, Mr. Francis Karuhanga was transferred from South Africa and appointed new CEO, while Ms Anne Juuko, the former CEO of Stanbic Bank Uganda Ltd, was recently rewarded with a big promotion to a new position at the Group's regional office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kiira Motors seeks UGX524 billion to fund 5-year plan

Kiira Motors Corporation, a budding indigenous vehicle building enterprise, has presented a UGX524 billion proposed business investment budget to the Presidential Affairs Committee of Parliament. It was contained in the Ministerial Policy Statement, and Budget Estimates for the FY 2024/2025.

"We are counting on guidance and support from the government to explore sustainable, timely and innovative funding for the Corporation", Paul Isaac Musasizi, the CEO, told the Committee on March 22.

Operationalized in 2018, Kiira Motors is fully owned by the Government and Makerere University with shareholding of 96 percent and 4 percent respectively.

The entity's core business objective is to develop, make and sell sustainable mobility solutions (electric motor vehicles, parts, systems and services) across the continent.

Musasizi explained that Kiira Motors seeks to extend the value chain of material, harness the potential of innovative young people, substitute the importation of mobility solutions, and make the country a net source of e-mobility solutions.

The Corporation's five-year business plan, which is already approved by the National Planning Authority (NPA), spans 2023-2028 to progress the entity to positive cash-flow status. Among the key cost drivers in the five year-plan include the construction, tooling and furnishing Kiira Vehicle Plant - KVP; parts and materials for plant commissioning; master store, human capital and capacity development, business development, and operating expenses.

Denis Onekalit Amere, the Kitgum Municipality MP, said Kiira Motors stands as Uganda's premier and substantive entity with practical skilling capabilities for the present and future automotive industry workforce, which Parliament must support through adequate appropriation.

Committee Chairperson Jesca Ababiku (Adjumani District Woman MP) observed that building a native motor vehicle industry is consistent with Uganda's aspirations and pathways to Vision 2040 outlined in the National Development Plan - NDP III.

In the current FY 2023/2024, the Corporation requires UGX80 billion to operationalize the Vehicle Plant startup facilities in Jinja and parts and materials to produce 30 buses to consolidate the production skills of the team on the newly installed production line and enhance consumer confidence.

But the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development appropriated just UGX32.5 billion leaving a funding gap of UGX99.5 billion. Currently, the overall funding gap for the Corporation stands at UGX134 billion.

The government has so far capitalized the Corporation to the tune of UGX335 billion for the period 2018 - 2023. The entity with an ambitious target of producing 5,000 vehicles annually by 2030 currently directly employs 168 staff in the engineering, production, finance, administration, marketing and sales and will rise to 600 once the KVP is commissioned.

In April 2022, President Yoweri Museveni said government would take the lead in buying electric buses produced by the Corporation, for use by for the different Ministries, Agencies and Department and public academic institutions.

As of March 2024, construction of the vehicle plant start-up facilities is at 86 percent completion and is projected to be ready for commissioning by October. Since its establishment, Kiira Motors has produced 16 buses at the National Enterprise Corporation - NEC Luweero Industries in Nakasongola District, which are on the road while 23 are on the production line.

118 women chosen to be MTN service providers

MTN Uganda has unveiled more than 100 women entrepreneurs who are to provide goods and services to the telecommunications giant, as a new initiative aimed at empowering and uplifting women-led businesses in the country.

Speaking at the unveiling event at their headquarters in Kampala, Sylvia Mulinge, the MTN Uganda CEO, said the selected women had demonstrated exceptional skills, passion, and determination; showcasing the incredible potential and versatility of female-led businesses in Uganda.

"We are thrilled to unveil these remarkable women entrepreneurs who have not only met but exceeded our expectations," said Mulinge.

"By choosing these women entrepreneurs as service providers to MTN Uganda, we are not just investing in their businesses; we are investing in the future of Uganda. We believe that by empowering women economically, we create a ripple effect that benefits families, communities, and ultimately, our nation's prosperity."

MTN Uganda is currently not only the country's most valuable company, best employer and the top taxpayer, but also offers the most attractive rates for suppliers of goods and services.

The new initiative specifically targeting women suppliers is part of the Advancing Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) programme, which the company launched in October last year, with the objective of growing the female supplier base, enhancing the capacity of women businesses through skills development as well as building sustainable business eco-systems through mentorship and coaching programmes.

"By enlisting these exceptional 118 women entrepreneurs as part of the MTN supplier base, I am pleased to note that we have moved the needle from 7% women suppliers in 2023 to 15% in 2024," Mulinge noted.

Speaking at the same event, chief guest Prof. Gudula Naiga Basaza, who also doubles as the Chairperson of the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Limited (UWEAL), advised the women entrepreneurs to be focused, resilient, tenacious and compliant, for their businesses to thrive.

Also in attendance were several partners and mentors that are working with MTN to ensure the successful implementation of the AWE programme.

They include DFCU Bank, Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), NSSF Hi Innovators, ATC, UN Women, The Innovation Village, and MTN MoMo.

Ms Paulina Chiwangu, the UN Women Country Representative to Uganda, urged women to work together if they are to eliminate all forms of violence against women and to ensure that peace and security prevail above all else for their businesses to thrive.

Mr. Richard Yego, the MTN MoMo CEO, said they are working to ensure that as many women as possible are assimilated into the mobile money eco-system.

Will Wagagai open gold wealth kitty to all citizens?

Uganda is supposedly on the brink of significant economic transformation with the imminent commencement of production at Wagagai gold mining and refining facility in Alupe, Busia District.

According to the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), the Chinese investor has so far spent about $200m to set up the comprehensive gold mining value-addition facility, which is set to start production soon. The plant, whose construction was launched in July 2022, boasts of capacity to process five tons of gold ore daily and refine gold to an exceptional purity of 99.9%.

Beyond its economic significance, Wagagai Gold Plant promises substantial benefits for local communities. According to Energy and Mineral Development Minister Ruth Nankabirwa, the facility is expected to generate 3,000 jobs, providing employment opportunities and boosting livelihoods in the region. It is also projected to create an annual foreign exchange earnings of $100m and contribute $10m (UGX380 billion) in tax revenue.

"This is a big opportunity for us to turn around the fortunes of our country. As a ministry, we are looking at value addition to optimize this value," said Nankabirwa.

It should be noted that Uganda's mineral-rich landscape offers immense potential for economic growth, with ongoing exploration projects uncovering promising reserves across various districts. Over the past decades, the government has prioritized industrialization as a pathway to economic growth and job creation. Central to this vision is the development of the mineral sector, with gold emerging as a key focus due to its significant value and abundance in the country.

With approximately 31 million tons of gold deposits already confirmed, Uganda holds immense potential for revenue generation through mineral extraction. The projected value of refined gold, estimated at $12.8 trillion, underscores the economic significance of this resource.

Ms Irene Batebe, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, says the extraction and refining of gold presents opportunities for job creation and social development, following President Yoweri Museveni's directive that gold and other extractives must not be exported without undergoing local processing.

However, Onesimus Mugyenyi, the deputy executive director of ACODE, is not entirely optimistic saying that the extraction and export of Uganda's minerals is often shrouded in contradictions and challenges, complicating efforts to maximize revenue and ensure equitable distribution.

"It is not yet clear how much the investors are mining out of the country's vast deposits, and therefore, how much is being lost," he notes. Mugyenyi highlights the need to combat illicit financial flows (IFFs) that are plaguing the minerals sector. He also points out that contradictory data from national trade monitoring agencies and tax authorities raises concerns about the accuracy and transparency of revenue collection.

"Additionally, the prevalence of tax exemptions and the clandestine nature of IFFs further exacerbate revenue losses and hinder the country's development efforts," he says. According to Mugyenyi, data from the national trade monitoring and tax agencies is also contradictory, often giving divergent figures on how much is exported and how much taxes are being collected.

"For instance, data from URA tells a different story of how much they have collected from the extractives, when compared to other agencies like the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. Also, URA can tell how much was collected, but can't identify the source of what was taxed. That said, the districts also don't know how much is being taken out, and that is why they think that they are not getting what they deserve," he says.

Currently, Uganda has about ten mine inspectors, with six of these stationed at the department of geological survey and mines in Entebbe. This means that the country has got only ten inspectors to monitor all the mines countrywide, which is practically impossible. Evidence presented by the African Tax Justice Network (ATJN) also suggests that the cost of tax exemptions is extremely high to the country and sector, and that the benefits, in terms of additional investments, are low.

In February last year, Parliament passed the Mining and Minerals Bill (2021), which spells out how the sharing of mineral royalties is to be done. The Bill allows the sub counties and town councils to share part of the royalties, in an arrangement where the government takes 65% of the share while district local councils take 20%. Under the same arrangement, sub counties and town councils will take 10% of the share, and land owners or lawful occupants of the land take the remaining 5%. The law, in principle, aims to create an accountable and transparent licensing regime and also provide for the participation of host communities in the entire decision-making chain of mining.

However, Denis Lee Oguzu, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Network on Illicit Financial Flows, echoes Mugenyi's sentiments, saying Uganda's mineral sector is bedeviled by illicit flows, which undermine the citizens' ability to benefit from their mineral wealth.

"The capacity of government agencies such as URA IG, BoU, OAG and FIA must be boosted to detect and limit the extent of illicit financial flows," he argues.

With Wagagai set to start production, all eyes will be on the government to ensure that gold wealth reaches ordinary citizens rather than remaining the reserve of foreigners and a few well-connected individuals.

MTN injects UGX20m into Jinja skills institute

In an ambitious effort to boost vocational training standards in Busoga and beyond, the MTN Foundation, MTN Uganda's philanthropic arm has donated state-of-the-art equipment to Heta Vocational Ground in Jinja City.

The donation worth UGX20 million, underscores MTN's commitment to fostering inclusive, empowered an sustainable development of communities across Uganda.

Speaking at the handover of the equipment, Ms. Hellen Kirunda, the founder of Heta Vocational Ground, highlighted the anticipated impact of this support: "The infusion of modern technology into our operations not only augments our production capacity but also broadens the economic prospects for our learners and the institution at large," she stated.

The vocational training center, known for its commitment to empowering vulnerable communities, has historically relied on basic tailoring machines for training and employment initiatives. The limitations of such equipment have constrained both the learning velocity and the more than 300 learners at the institute.

This scenario is poised for a significant overhaul following the MTN Foundation's generous provision of industrial-grade tailoring machines, inclusive of embroidery units, alongside four internet-ready computers, and comprehensive phone repair toolkits.

Kirunda said they envision expansion of the center's vocational training offerings to nine additional districts, including Iganga, Kamuli, Luuka, Bugiri, Mayuge, Bugweri, Buyende, Kalio, Namutumba, and Namayingo.

The institution has been credited for playing a pivotal role in curtailing unemployment and underemployment, fostering job creation through comprehensive skills training in areas crucial for Uganda's sustained economic advancement.

"Empowering the youth with marketable skills is fundamental for sustained community and national development, fostering a cycle of creativity, innovation, and lifelong productivity," Ms. Kirunda said.

Mr Allan Njagala, MTN's Head of Commercial for Eastern Region, said they are committed to a future where every Ugandan, regardless of their background or status, has access to the opportunities afforded by a modern, connected life. "Our partnership with Heta Vocational Grounds embodies our collective pursuit of unstoppable community transformation," he added.

The grant is part of MTN's Changemakers Initiative, which was launched in July last year to support individuals and organizations creating impact in their communities.

The company has since allocated UGX 500 million to support 25 select projects nationwide, spanning various sectors, as part of its broader commitment to investing in Uganda's future. This endeavor aims to empower youth, women, persons with disabilities, and rural communities across five Ugandan regions.

Over the past decade, the MTN Foundation has contributed UGX 30 billion towards more than 250 projects in education, health, youth empowerment, and more, establishing itself as a key driver of positive change and development across Uganda.

Optimism as African Free Trade Area plan gains momentum

The African Union Assembly recently adopted key protocols and decisions affecting the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which included the first-ever Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade, Investment, Digital Trade as well as several rules of origin on clothing and certain automobile products.

The AfCFTA, which aims to make Africa a single market, is potentially one of the worlds largest free trade areas, boasting of a total of 55 countries and eight Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Africa thus stands at a historic crossroads as it embarks on the final steps to the full implementation of the AfCFTA), signaling a monumental shift in its trade landscape.

Despite encountering formidable challenges, the AfCFTA presents a promising pathway to convert these obstacles into avenues of prosperity, according to Wamkele Mene, the Secretary-General of the AfCFTA.

AfCFTA heralds a new dawna promise of transformation where Africa's riches are not squandered but leveraged to uplift nations and empower communities. By fostering an environment conducive to intra-Africa trade, AfCFTA presents an unprecedented opportunity for African countries to emerge as net exporters of agricultural products, ushering an era of self-sufficiency and abundance, he states.

According to Wamkele, 1.3 billion Africans currently depend on imported food grains, despite Africa boasting 60% of the world's arable land. This paradox, he says, underscores the urgency to rectify fragmented trade rules that stifle intra-Africa trade, leading to missed opportunities for self-sufficiency. He notes that the prohibition on trading essential commodities such as milk between African countries has perpetuated a cycle of dependency.

However, Wamkele notes that AfCFTA harbors a bold vision: to dismantle these barriers and accord African goods the same preferential terms as their global counterparts. By fostering an environment of equitable trade, AfCFTA aims to unlock Africa's agricultural potential and nurture self-sufficiency.

Yet, the journey towards food security is not without its challenges. Structural impediments, bureaucratic hurdles, and logistical complexities stand as formidable obstacles on the path to prosperity. Nonetheless, Wamkele believes AfCFTA stands as a testament to Africa's resiliencea platform where challenges are reframed as opportunities, and barriers are transformed into catalysts for growth.

By harnessing the transformative power of trade, Wamkele believes that AfCFTA paves the way for a future where food security is not just a dream but a tangible reality for all Africans. The full implementation of the agreement kicked off in January 2020, and is expected to reshape markets and economies across the region and boost output in the services, manufacturing and natural resources sectors.

In January 2021, the AfCFTA came into full force, although trade between the 54 African states is still low, on account of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But according to Mene, the concept of an integrated market transcends mere economic transactions; it embodies the spirit of solidarity and cooperation woven into the fabric of African societies. However, geopolitical instability, exemplified by coup d'tats and market disruptions, looms as a formidable barrier to Africa's progress. However, Mene sees beyond the turmoil, envisioning a continent united by a truly continental value chain, a network that not only meets Africa's demands but also generates employment and drives industrialization.

Of particular note is the remarkable progress in establishing rules of origin, with an impressive 88.3% convergence reached among the products traded within the continent. This milestone not only streamlines trade procedures but also reinforces the commitment to fostering genuine African manufacturing, catalyzing industrial development and job creation across the continent. Africa's dispute settlement mechanism has also been activated, marking a significant shift towards an African-centered approach to resolving disputes. This not only ensures fair trade practices but also enhances investor confidence, safeguarding investments vital for Africa's economic growth and stability.

Another stride is recorded in the Pan African Payments and Settlement System, eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries in cross-border transactions. This system promises to enhance competitiveness, reduce trade costs, and democratize access to trade for millions of Africans, propelling the continent towards greater economic self-reliance. The African Trade Gateway, a pioneering platform connecting enterprises, entrepreneurs, and traders is another achievement, offering invaluable resources, from market insights to payment solutions, revolutionizing the way trade is conducted across the continent and empowering African businesses to compete on a global scale.

Stewart Mwesigwa, the business development manager at Roofings Ltd, underscores the vast potential for value addition, stating that proper mining and value addition can drive industrialization and economic growth. Mwesigwa advocates for action, urging stakeholders to move beyond theoretical discussions and take tangible steps to maximize AfCFTA's benefits. He stresses the need to address non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and streamlining of processes to facilitate trade.

Nicholas Kafeero, representing the freight forwarding industry, views challenges in Africa's logistics landscape as opportunities for investment. He highlights the importance of partnerships and collaboration across industries to address container imbalances and improve logistics. Kafeero advises manufacturers to increase voyages to mitigate reduced sailing schedules globally and emphasizes the need for better logistics to match payment balance for Africa's exports.

Joseph Owino, from Fresh Diaries, is optimistic about Uganda's milk industry, highlighting the surplus available for export. He emphasizes the potential for growth through value addition, citing a potential $500m deal with Algeria as an example. He underscores the untapped opportunities in the African market for processed dairy products and advocates the leveraging AfCFTA of to expand exports further.

On his part, Habert Byaruhanga, the president of the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), emphasizes Africa's tourism potential, highlighting its rich biodiversity and unique offerings. He stresses the need for Africans to recognize and capitalize on the continent's tourism assets. Byaruhanga advocates for targeted marketing efforts and events like the National Birdwatching Conference to showcase Africa's natural wonders and attract global visitors.

Diamond Trust Bank, UAP in new partnership

Diamond Trust Bank Uganda and UAP Old Mutual Insurance Uganda have entered a partnership to deliver general and life insurance products and services, which effectively makes the bank a one-stop centre for both banking and insurance services, aimed at drive insurance penetration and inclusion.

Speaking at the signing of the partnership agreement in Kampala, DTB Managing Director Varghese Thambi said the collaboration marks a milestone in DTBs commitment to addressing the evolving needs and improving the financial well-being of their customers.

Our decision to enter this partnership comes from our dedication to addressing the evolving needs of our customers. UAP Old Mutuals products align with Diamond Trust Bank's commitment to offer a holistic financial portfolio to customers, said Thambi.

He used the opportunity to call upon the Insurance Regulatory Authority of Uganda (IRA) to do more towards extending bancassurance services to the grassroots communities, highlighting the transformative potential of such a move for financial inclusion and security.

He underscored the fact that the vast network of banking agents across Uganda are potential distribution points for bancassurance products.

There are about 35,000 banking agents across the country under the agent banking platform. Now these are potential locations for the future to distribute Bankers Insurance products as of now it is not there. I am sure the regulator will find it reasonable and make the necessary amendments in the regulations to get insurance at the doorstep of the last-mile customer, he said.

Current insurance penetration in Uganda stands below 1%, according to the insurance regulator. It is thus hoped that Bancassurnace will play a significant role in driving penetration, complimenting insurance companies in reaching prospective customers.

Additionally, bancassurance generated UGX179 billion in 2023, which was a 26% increase from 2022. It contributed about 11% to the gross underwritten premiums of the insurance sector by quarter three of 2023. A total of 23, 021 nonlife policies and 527,790 life policies had been underwritten, with more than UGX20 billion given in agency commissions.

Thambi said their partnership with UAP aims to break barriers and offer a comprehensive range of insurance products seamlessly alongside banking services.

Caroline Owomuhangi, the Marketing and Communications Specialist at UAP Old Mutual Insurance, emphasized their shared commitment to delivering value and convenience to customers.

She urged Ugandans to embrace insurance products, emphasizing their role in ensuring business and economic stability by mitigating risks and safeguarding investments and emphasized the importance of bancassurance in the financial services landscape, citing its significant growth and contribution to the industry.

MTN scoops fastest internet award

Ookla, the global leader in internet testing and analysis, has announced MTN Uganda as the Fastest Mobile Network.

The prestigious accolade, presented to the MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer Sylvia Mulinge at the sidelines of the esteemed Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last week, now cements MTN Uganda's position as a leader in telecommunications excellence.

This award is the result of MTNs unwavering commitment to the nation by investing and consistently upgrading the network to serve the ever-growing base and evolving needs of our customers, said Mulinge.

At MTN, we believe that everyone (regardless of who and where they are), deserves the benefits of a modern connected life and that working together with government and other partners, we are unstoppable in driving the progress of our country.

Ookla's extensive analysis, encompassing millions of speed tests conducted with consumers across Uganda between July December 2023 positions MTN as the undisputed leader in mobile network performance in the country.

The companys efforts to invest in cutting-edge infrastructure and innovative technologies to enhance network speed, coverage, and reliability are eventually bearing fruits.

According to the companys report for 2023, MTN Uganda saw a 21.4% growth in data consumption (MB per active subscriber), with total data traffic up by 50%, with 4G traffic accounting for about 66% of the total volume.

There has also been increasing traffic growth in 5G services as offices, homes, education, and health facilities adopt the technology countrywide.

Additionally, the company continues to develop partnerships with device manufacturers and distributors to push the affordability and access to smartphones through a number of device-financing schemes.

"Being recognized as the Fastest Mobile Network by Ookla is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team at MTN. We remain committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation and setting new standards in mobile network performance to meet the evolving needs of our customers." Mulinge added.

Over the last four years, MTN Uganda has invested more than USD300 (more than UGX1 trillion) in expanding its network infrastructure throughout the country, in line with the 2018 National Broadband Policy and Ugandas Vision 2040 commitments.

Livelihoods at stake as poor regulation threatens Silverfish, Nile Perch

Amidst the luminous waters of Uganda lies a precious resource that has sustained thousands of livelihoods over the years-silverfish (Rastrineobola argentea), locally known as Mukene. The small pelagic fish is deeply interwoven with the fabric of the nation's fisheries sub-sector.

Despite its role as a low-cost, nutrient-dense food source, the Mukene faces dire threats from illegal fishing practices, posing risks to both ecological balance and the livelihoods of millions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (FAO), Uganda's fisheries sector boasts impressive figures, with reported catches exceeding 600,000 tons per year.

This bounty constitutes a staggering 81% of the fish consumed by the population, emphasizing the sector's pivotal role in providing protein, income, and revenue. The small-scale fisheries sector, on the other hand, supports over 3.2 million people dependent on fish-related livelihoods.

Silverfish, dominant in Uganda's fish catches, is not only an important ingredient for animal feeds but also represents an affordable and nutrient-rich alternative to traditional protein sources for humans. However, a recent report by FAO indicated that up to 7080 % of small fish catches are utilized for animal feed production for example being exported to Kenya for the animal feed industry rather than for human consumption.

Consequently, rampant illegal fishing practices threaten the sustainability of the nutrient-rich fish. From poor fishing methods to the diversion of Mukene for animal feed, these activities not only deplete fish stocks but also disrupt the delicate aquatic ecosystems essential for their survival.

Seven years ago, President Museveni introduced a military body - the Uganda Peoples Defence Force-Fisheries Protection Force (UPDF-FPF) - in the management of fisheries and enforcement of regulations involving fishing licences and restricted mesh sizes in fishing gears. However, the military interventions have largely prioritized protection of the commercially valuable Nile Perch exports. In 2018, for example, the fisheries sub-sector was the second largest export industry in Uganda, valued at USD169 million. However, profits are heavily skewed towards industrial processing industries owned by foreigners rather than indigenous small-scale fish harvesters.

According to John Walugembe, the executive director of the Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, combatting these challenges necessitates a comprehensive approach, integrating regulation, education, and community engagement. He adds that strengthening enforcement mechanisms is critical to curbing illegal fishing activities, safeguarding fish stocks, and protecting livelihoods.

Raising awareness about the nutritional value of fish, particularly Mukene, can foster appreciation and promote sustainable consumption practices among consumers. Investing in alternative livelihoods for those engaged in illegal fishing can mitigate pressure on fish stocks while fostering economic opportunities in other sectors, he argues.

Walugembe believes that initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable fishing practices and value addition hold promise in enhancing the resilience of small-scale fisheries, ensuring their continued contribution to food security and economic development.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Standards (UBOS), fisheries contribute 3% to Ugandas GDP and approximately 12% to the total agriculture GDP, underscoring its economic significance. By charting a path towards sustainable practices, Walugembe adds, Uganda can preserve the future of Mukene and secure the well-being of its citizens for generations to come.

Indeed, Hellen Adoa, the fisheries state minister, believes in charting a path towards sustainable fishing practices, and has been in the press frequently, addressing a myriad of concerns and misconceptions surrounding fishing practices in Uganda's fisheries sector. For instance, during a recent press conference at the Uganda media center, Adoa outlined the challenges facing the fisheries sub-sector - the influx of immature fish from South Sudan, the use of illegal fishing gear, and unsustainable harvesting of silverfish.

The minister particularly highlighted the detrimental effects of the Hurry-Up fishing method, stressing how it is a threat to fish stocks due to its non-selective nature. However, she also clarified that while the Hurry-Up method was indeed banned, the fishing of silverfish itself was not prohibited. Citing the Fish (Fishing Rules) of 2010, Adoa called for an immediate halt to the use of the banned method and urged relevant agencies to enforce the same.

However, Godfrey Ssenyonga Kambogo, the chairman of the Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda (AFALU) thinks it is currently impossible to decisively deal with the issues of illegal fishing in the country, citing lack of logistical support to government agencies mandated to deal with it. He says that the marine police and army, tasked with regulating illegal fishing, are stretched thin, and their efforts fall short due to limited resources and manpower.

He notes that this has left fishers vulnerable to exploitation thus perpetuating a cycle of illegal fishing practices. Says Kambogo: Many of the fishermen are young, unemployed, and impoverished, relying solely on fishing for survival, and as such, expecting them to afford expensive fishing gear is unrealistic, and necessitates government support, perhaps through affordable credit schemes.

By providing support, registering fishers, and promoting responsible fishing practices, Kambogo believes that Uganda can safeguard its precious aquatic resources for future generations.

MTNs voice revenue rebounds amid data surge

MTN Uganda has posted impressive growth in voice revenue despite a surge in data demand among consumers. The telecom giant revealed that voice revenue experienced double-digit growth of 10%, fueled by increased adoption of attractive bundle offerings and aggressive subscriber growth initiatives, among other factors, which led to a significant increase in subscriber numbers, with 937,000 subscribers added to its subscriber base in the third quarter of the year alone.

"While data consumption is on the rise, we continue to see strong growth in our voice revenue, thanks to our strategic initiatives and favorable market conditions," said Sylvia Mulinge, the MTN Chief Executive Officer. However, despite the robust performance, the contribution of voice revenue to overall service revenue slightly decreased to 44.7%.

However, Mulinge said this shift aligns with the company's medium-term strategy to diversify revenue streams and capture growth opportunities in higher-growth segments. She added that the telecoms revamped regional structure strategy has played a crucial role in driving positive results, further bolstering the company's subscriber base and revenue growth.

The ability to sustain strong voice revenue growth amidst surging data demand highlights MTN Uganda's resilience and strategic focus on meeting the evolving needs of its customer base. As we continue to navigate the dynamic telecommunications landscape, we remain committed to delivering innovative solutions and driving value for our stakeholders, she said.

Mulinge noted that the company's strategic investments in expanding network coverage, especially in rural and hard-to-reach areas, had led to a notable increase in the number of subscribers, as more individuals are brought onto the network.

With a commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction, Mulinge noted that the company is poised to capitalize on emerging opportunities and drive further growth in the market going forward.

According to UCC, the average Ugandan consumed approximately 1.7 GBs in 2023, while telecommunications networks posted a combined 138.5 million GBs in downloads during the same period. However, the telecoms data revenue also maintained its growth momentum, recording a remarkable 22% increase, supported by improvements in network quality and value-added data packages. The company reported notable growth in active data users, reaching 7.5 million, with a corresponding increase in data traffic by 51%.

The trend was maintained even for the mobile money segment, according MTN MoMo MD Richard Yego. We've witnessed a substantial increase in our user base, almost doubling from 400,000 to 800,000. Moreover, our transaction volume has skyrocketed, reaching an impressive 2.5 trillion. These figures are a testament to the impact we've had and the strides we've made in the market," he said.

He noted that central to this exceptional growth has been strategic initiatives, including robust regional expansion efforts that have yielded tangible results. Collaboration with partners has further fortified the telecoms market position and expanded its service offerings.

MTN MoMo's unwavering commitment to digitalization and innovation has been instrumental in setting it apart in the industry. The introduction of new platforms and services, coupled with advanced solutions, has garnered increased user engagement and adoption, particularly in regions where these innovations have been introduced, Yego added.

Reflecting on the company's overall performance, Yego expressed optimism, stating, "Our growth in various segments, including data, fintech, and digital revenue, coupled with a notable increase in profit after tax, exemplifies our resilience and strategic foresight. As we move forward, we remain committed to innovation, excellence, and delivering sustainable value to our stakeholders."

MTN Uganda reported a robust growth of 18.1% in fintech revenue, driven by increased adoption of mobile money services and cashless payments. The company's fintech subscriber base expanded by 9.7% to 11.6 million, with significant growth in merchant transactions on the MoMo Pay platform.

Andrew Bugembe, the MTN Uganda Chief Finance Officer, said the company has reported promising indicators of growth, with significant revenue expansion and a remarkable improvement in its net promoter score (NPS), reaching its highest post-COVID levels. These achievements serve as a testament to the effectiveness of MTN's strategic initiatives and underscore its resilience in navigating a dynamic business landscape, he said.

Monzer named new MTN South Sudan boss

The MTN Group has appointed Ali Monzer as Chief Executive Officer of MTN South Sudan, the countrys largest telecommunications company, effective April, 2024.

He succeeds Gordian Kyomukama, who will retire after a distinguished career with MTN. In a press release, the Group said Monzer brings over 23 years of telecommunications industry experience to his new role.

Since joining MTN in 2004, Monzer has held progressively senior positions, most recently as Chief Technology and Information Officer at MTN Uganda.

The Group said that in previous roles, Monzer has demonstrated success in operational efficiency, cost optimisation, market growth and customer experience enhancement.

He holds a Masters degree in computer communication engineering and other relevant industry certifications.

I am pleased to have Ali Monzer spearheading our operations in South Sudan and believe he will add immense value to the market, said Ralph Mupita, MTN Group President and CEO.

His wealth of experience and proven track record in technology and operations make him well-positioned to drive MTN South Sudans continued growth and success.

Monzers professional journey began in 2001 on the African continent as a telecom engineer, and has over the last 23 years traversed various roles and countries including Ghana and Nigeria, contributing significantly to the success and expansion of MTN.

Having spent the majority of his career with MTN, which he joined in 2004, Monzer has since played pivotal roles, progressing from a manager to a senior manager and then a general manager.

Monzer, who is fluent in English, Swahili, Arabic and French, previously worked as acting head of Mobile Money in Uganda and utilized his understanding of the system, network, and technology to address a critical challenge faced by the business.

An award-winning information technology professional, Monzer has been described as a well-positioned telecom professional who has driven business growth, enhanced efficiency and ensured high customer satisfaction, and was listed among the top 10 technology leaders of 2023.

He has been credited for positioning MTN Uganda as a credible technological trailblazer on the African continent. As a technology and information expert, Monzers responsibilities encompass driving technological advancement, fostering innovation, ensuring network reliability and security, and shaping the future of the telecommunications industry to meet evolving societal, business, customer, and organizational needs.

He is a strong proponent of customer-centric innovation - fostering a culture of customer-centred innovativeness to remain competitive in the industry.

As the team leader in South Sudan, Monzer will steer his team to continue giving rival Zain Telecom a good run for their money. MTN South Sudan was established in 2011, shortly after independence. The team there will greatly benefit from a man to whom investing in training and skill development is a top priority as he is an advocate of regular training programs to keep the team updated with the latest technological know-how.

Over the last five years, Monzer has been seen as one of the champions of MTNs Ambition 2025 vision of leading digital solutions for Africas progress, driving accelerated growth and faster deleveraging, and positioning MTN for greater relevance by 2025.

MTN Boosts Kajjansi skilling centre with UGX17m

Five years ago, Ms Mariam Nakirijja, a community health worker, visited the Nottingham Trent University, one of the best multi-skilling institutions in England.

On returning to Uganda, she decided to start a social enterprise she named Nottingham Trent Training Centre, in Kajjansi, Wakiso District, with the aim of fighting poverty by helping women and vulnerable youth to acquire skills in various disciplines including tailoring cookery, hair dressing, among others.

The training centre, currently operated by the Tusitukire Wamu Development Association, became an instant hit, given the high number of unemployed women and youth in the area.

Today, the center provides essential skills training in tailoring, baking, and hairdressing to over 300 individuals, mainly school dropouts, teenage mothers, youths, persons with disabilities, and disadvantaged boys.

However, the proprietors, desperate for more equipment because of the high number of trainees at the centre, decided to try their luck by participating in MTNs Change Makers Grant challenge, which was launched last year to bolster grassroots projects that are making a significant impact on their communities.

Luckily, they emerged winners of UGX17 million worth of equipment, which were handed over to the centre in Kajjansi on March 7.

Speaking at the handover, officials said the contribution marked a critical phase in their partnership with the Tusitukire Wamu Development Association, highlighting MTNs commitment under its Ambition 2025 strategy to foster digital innovation for national progress.

Zakiyu Kikomeko, the MTN Ugandas Chief Community Officer for Kajjansi Town Council, commended the partnership between MTN and the centre.

Our collaboration with the Tusitukire Wamu Development Association is a clear indication of our unwavering commitment to community development and empowerment, he said. Through this initiative, we are not just making a donation; we are investing in a sustainable future where technology and community efforts combine to open up endless opportunities.

Speaking on behalf of the training centre, Ms Nakirijja highlighted the significant impact this support would have on community livelihoods as they will benefit from free training opportunities.

We are now going to give our learners six months free study because MTN Uganda has also supported us. We invite all residents here to bring learners irrespective of their age, to acquire the new skills. They will only pay fees for their Directorate of Industrial Training Examinations, she said.

Also in attendance was the Kajjansi Town Council Mayor Al-Bashir Kayondo, who applauded MTN Uganda and partners for supporting the training center.

The officials said MTN Foundation's contribution is a strategic move within the broader Ambition 2025 initiative, aimed at enhancing digital solutions that cater to the evolving needs of Ugandan society. Additionally, the foundation has earmarked Shs 500 million to support 25 Change-makers initiatives across Uganda's five sub-regions.

These projects, focused on sectors such as economic empowerment, education, health, water, and environmental sustainability, are designed to benefit youth, women, persons with disabilities, and rural communities.

Semakula appointed SBG Securities boss

SBG Securities, a subsidiary of Stanbic Uganda Holdings, has named Grace Semakula as its new CEO, effective March 1.

Prior to his appointment, Semakula was the Investor Relations Manager at Umeme Ltd, since February 2016.

Before that, he worked at NSSF for five years as portfolio manager and equity analyst, having begun his career in 2007 as a research analyst at African Alliance, a securities brokerage firm.

He replaces Joram Ongura, the founding boss. Semakula, 41, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics from Makerere University and an MBA from the Warwick Business School, UK.

In 2013, he earned the Chartered Financial Analyst certification from the CFA Institute, a global association of investment professionals whose mission is to lead the investment profession globally by promoting the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence for the ultimate benefit of society.

Francis Karuhanga, the Stanbic Holdings Uganda boss, described Semakula as a professional who possesses a diverse skill set that covers financial modeling, private equity, fixed income, equities, and investment banking.

His holistic understanding of the financial landscape, coupled with analytical dexterity and strategic acumen, means he has what it takes to lead SBG Securities on the next frontier of growth, he said in a statement.

Commenting on his appointment, Semakula said; I am delighted to confirm news of my appointment as CEOSBG Securities Uganda, effective March 1, 2024. Ive always been passionate about expanding and deepening the level of participation by Ugandans in our capital markets and exploring local investment opportunities.

This new assignment gives me just the right platform to do so, with my colleagues, as we create value for our stakeholders and drive Ugandas growth.

SBG Securities is one of the five subsidiaries of Stanbic Uganda Holdings Ltd, including Stanbic Bank, Stanbic Properties, Stanbic Business Incubator, Fexi-pay and FlyHub; all members of the Standard Bank Group, Africas largest financial services provider.

The securities brokerage company obtained its brokerage licence from the Capital Markets Authority in April 2021 and successfully steered MTNs initial public offering (IPO).

Apart from also doing asset and investment management, the company buys and sells shares on behalf of its clients in Uganda and the regional markets of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania through its affiliated entities.

MTN machines boost Sironko women

About nine years ago, Sandra Nakayenze launched Kalaa Mugoosi Women Empowerment, a social enterprise whose main objective was to empower the rural women of Sironko District in eastern Uganda, to add value to their coffee.

Today, the social enterprise is winning awards and grants, having become one of the most successful coffee businesses in the region - boasting of more than 1,200 small-scale coffee growers, mostly women, in Sironko District.

On March 1, telecommunications giant MTN Uganda became the enterprises newest donor, following the handover of three coffee-pulping machines worth UGX20 million. Back in 2022, the social enterprise emerged second-runner up in DFCU Banks inaugural Rising Woman campaign from which they received UGX5 million, which they used to buy a coffee pulping machine.

Nakayenze said the machine completely transformed their operations and made them a real value-addition enterprise that started processing more than 250 tonnes per year. The machine was indeed a God-send as it reduced the time that rural women and girls were spending on pulping coffee before sending it to the stores.

Mid last year when MTN Foundation launched the Change-makers Initiative aimed at empowering local individuals and organizations to enact meaningful change within their communities, Kalaa Mugosi Women Empowerment Ltd expressed interest with a proposal to buy three additional machines plus coffee driers.

Their proposal was successful and the equipment was delivered over on March 1 at a colourful ceremony in Sironko, also attended by top district leaders including Hon. Florence Nambozo, the Woman Member of Parliament.

"Our support for Kalaa Mugosi Women Empowerment Ltd epitomizes our belief in the power of collaboration to achieve a modern, connected life for everyone," said Deogracious Odwori, who represented MTN Uganda CEO Sylvia Mulinge.

Nakayenze expressed gratitude to MTN, saying the new equipment, which is powered by a small generator and thus can be easily transported on a light pick-up track to the different coffee growing communities during the coffee season, would save farmers the burden and high cost of transporting unpulped coffee to the town.

With the new additional equipment, our capacity will rise from about 250 metric tonnes to more than 500 metric tonnes per year, she said. Most importantly, she said income for the farmer at the grassroots will also almost double as they will be able to produce speciality coffee, which must be de-pulped within eight hours after picking.

Because of the poor means of transport, some farmers have been remaining with unpulped coffee cherries for more than three days, which made it impossible to process into speciality coffee the highest coffee grade.

If it is not speciality grade coffee then it has to be commercial grade, which sells at just UGX8,000 per kilo. On the other hand, speciality coffee sells at between UGX15,000 UGX20,000 per kiogram, so you can see what difference the machines will make on the farmers income, Nakayenze said.

. She revealed that on average, a coffee farmer in Sironko has been earning between UGX15m - UGX20 million per year but this could potentially double to more than UGX50 million because of the higher income and lower costs brought about by the new equipment.

MTNs machines, she said, would bring Kalaa Mugosi even closer to their dream of becoming the producers of the highest quality coffee and services that meet international standards while also promoting sustainable coffee farming best practices in the communities.

Going forward, the MTN Foundation has earmarked UGX500 million for 25 selected projects across the country, spanning economic empowerment, education, health, water, sanitation and hygiene.

This initiative is part of a broader commitment to invest in the nation's future, targeting youth, women, persons with disabilities, and rural communities across five regions of Uganda.

Over the last decade, the MTN Foundation has dedicated UGX 30 billion towards more than 250 projects, which has significantly impacting communities nationwide and cemented its position as a catalyst for positive change and development in the country.

EU Parliament endorses Kenya trade agreement

The European Parliament has endorsed an Economic Partnership Agreement with Kenya, paving the way for duty-free and quota-free access to the lucrative EU market.

A press statement posted on the EU Parliament website says the lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the plan on February 29, making it the first EPA that the bloc has signed with a developing country.

The agreement includes binding and enforceable provisions on international standards and agreements on labour, gender equality, climate and the environment, and prevents both parties from lowering labour and environmental standards, the statement reads in part.

In December last year, the EU and Kenya officially signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), following years of protracted negotiations with the European Council.

Should the Kenyan Parliament ratify the agreement in the coming weeks as expected, the EPA will enter into force, providing duty-free, quota-free EU market access to all exports from Kenya, combined with partial and gradual opening of the Kenyan market to imports from the EU.

The development will evoke much anxiety from the private sector in Kenyas regional partners like Uganda, as it includes trade-related development assistance to Kenya to tackle supply-side constraints such as lack of productive capacities, infrastructure, human capital and capacities to comply with EU standards.

When these are addressed, it directly implies that Kenyas exports would be more competitive in the EU and even in the regional market.

The EU-Kenya EPA builds on negotiations for an EPA with the partner States of the entire East African Community (EAC), which were finalised in October 2014. However, the signing of the EU-EAC EPA had stalled because of discussions within the EAC on the consequences of the EPA for the economies of the Member States.

Except for Kenya, all EAC partner States fall in the Least Developed Countries category, and still enjoy duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market.

Kenya, however, sits in the lower-middle income status and was under pressure to endorse the EPA, in order not to lose free access to the EU market.

Initially, the EAC States envisaged the EU-EAC EPA as a bloc-to-bloc agreement that could only enter into force after it had been ratified by all EAC partners.

However, at their 21st Ordinary Summit in February 2021, the EAC Heads of State authorised EAC States that wish to do so to commence engagements with the EU without needing approval from all other EAC members.

That meant in practice that Kenya, which expressed the wish to individually access the EPA, would be able to move forward in the implementation.

Kenya is a major exporter of tea, coffee, flowers, fruits and vegetables to the EU, while it mostly buys machinery, raw materials, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from the EU.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates has also concluded a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with Kenya, making the EAC nation one of the first African countries with which the UAE has inked such a pact.

Creatives: Africans Sitting On Goldmine

The bustling main hall at Protea Hotel in Kololo is filled with passionate voices and determined spirits. As the sun rises over the vibrant cityscape, artists, filmmakers, musicians, and innovators have gathered to unravel the untapped potential of Uganda's rich cultural tapestry. At the heart of the discussion lies a plea for recognition and support from the government. Amidst the throngs of creatives, one sentiment echoes loudly: "No one is thinking about us."

Hannington Bujjingo, a prominent comedian, emphasizes the critical role of the arts in driving employment and economic growth. "We are the biggest employer of young people," he declares, urging policymakers to prioritize the needs of the creative sector in national planning strategies. Bujjingos call for action reverberates through the room, resonating with artists who have long felt marginalized by the system. Yet, amidst the challenges, there is a sense of hope and determination. "We know quite a lot," Bujjingo asserts, highlighting the industry's resilience and ingenuity in the face of adversity.

The workshop, which has centered on 'collective management operations and licensing practices,' has brought together determined artists with the support of the copyright watchdog, the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), rallying alongside them. Amidst the dialogue, there is a palpable sense of unity and purpose. "We have stopped the fighting," declares Mercy Kainobwiso, the URSB boss, reflecting on a decade of collaboration and progress within the industry. Together, stakeholders have worked to address issues of governance, transparency, and accountability, laying the foundation for a more inclusive and sustainable creative ecosystem.

Yet, challenges remain. From the need for greater government investment to the imperative of capacity building and education, there is much work yet to be done. But amidst the challenges, there is a shared commitment to building a brighter future for Uganda's creative industry. For several generations, Bujjingo asserted, Uganda has been teeming with creative talent waiting to be unleashed. From musicians to filmmakers, artists to writers, Uganda's creative industry brims with potential, yet it grapples with issues including commercialization and protection of intellectual property rights. In this nation where the culture of freely using creative works prevails, the need for robust copyright protection mechanisms becomes imperative, he insisted.

According to Ms Kainobwisho, the registrar general, there is need for a transformative shift in the way the nation perceives and values creative output, as countless artists and creators struggle to earn a living from their craft. She stressed investment in copyright protection, emphasizing the need for sophisticated monitoring systems to track and monetize the usage of creative works.

With over 315 radio stations across the country, she noted, tracking the usage of creative works presents a monumental task. Kainobwisho underscored the necessity of government intervention to implement monitoring infrastructure that can accurately track the dissemination of creative content. She believes the move has potential economic gains, citing examples from neighboring countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Kenya, where strategic investments in copyright protection have yielded significant returns.

Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) can be properly empowered to play a pivotal role in safeguarding artists' rights, because we are sitting on a goldmine, but this gold must be protected and mined. For instance, Uganda's creative industry contributes over $209m to the national economy, but needs further investment to harness its full potential, she pointed out.

Hannah Coleman, an associate legal officer at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), outlined the complexities involved in crafting effective copyright legislation. According to Coleman, policymakers and stakeholders ought to come together to strengthen copyright governance and advocate for transparency, accountability, and international standards adherence within CMOs, laying the groundwork for a sustainable creative economy.

The need for collective action and governmental commitment is paramount. The revision of outdated copyright laws, coupled with substantial investments in monitoring infrastructure, heralds a new era of prosperity for Ugandan creatives, she said. But the path to comprehensive copyright protection is fraught with challenges. For example, resistance to change within the industry itself is not new, as some artists express concerns that stringent copyright enforcement may stifle their promotion and hinder their ability to reach wider audiences. Yet, proponents argue that protecting intellectual property rights is essential for ensuring the sustainability of the creative landscape.

Coleman insisted that by investing in technology, supporting copyright enforcement, and fostering a conducive regulatory environment, Uganda can unlock the full potential of its creative economy. On a continental scale, Africa's creative luminaries are also mobilizing for a way forward for the continent's burgeoning creative industries.

At a recent conference in Marrakech, Morocco, key stakeholders highlighted the pivotal role of content in shaping global perceptions and driving economic growth. According to Nyla Atazi, an entrepreneur and advocate for cultural industries in Morocco, Africa's creative industries are among our most visible sectors, shaping how the world sees the continent and its people.

Through film, literature, fashion, food, music, or other forms of expression, she noted, the continent is striving to influence global culture in profound ways. The creative arts therefore, highlight the immense potential for driving economic development and growth through job creation, she said. Atazi emphasized that Africa's creative industries are not just about entertainment; they're about economic empowerment, cultural enrichment, and global influence.

Peace Hyde, a media entrepreneur, noted that with an abundance of raw talent and a burgeoning digital economy, young Africans are increasingly drawn to sectors like fashion, music, cinema, and more. She said the evolution of digital tools has empowered creatives to succeed globally, as demonstrated by the rising success of African content on international platforms.

"African content is becoming a staple part of global content. Its exciting to see the world recognize the value of our storytelling and invest in our narratives," she said. According to the African Development Bank, the continents creative economy is on the rise. Streaming and on-demand markets are projected to grow significantly, with millions of subscribers expected to join digital platforms in the coming years. The music industry alone is poised to reach over $0.5b in digital streaming revenue by 2025. However, despite this immense potential, there are challenges to overcome.

Obi Asika, Founder and Chairman of Dragon Africa, emphasized the need for African nations to invest in domestic platforms and support local creators. "IP is the key issue," he asserted, adding that "Investing in and protecting African intellectual property is essential for sustainable growth." George Gachara, Chairman and Founder, Heva Fund LLP, echoed this same sentiment, highlighting the importance of providing resources and training to young creatives. "We need equity and angel investors," he emphasized. "Financial institutions must move beyond statements and develop products tailored to entrepreneurs in the creative sector."

He stressed the need for governments to prioritize the creative economy, and putting African people first. "The creative and cultural industries are the expression of African identity, and they deserve to be at the forefront of national agendas," he noted. Africa's creative potential is limitless, but unlocking it requires concerted effort from governments, investors, and stakeholders. By investing in talent, protecting intellectual property, and creating supportive ecosystems, Gachara said, Africa can harness its creative industries to drive economic growth, social development, and global influence.

DTB, TerraPay ease money transfer

TerraPay, a top European money transfer company, and Diamond Trust Bank Uganda (DTB), have announced a strategic partnership to expand international money transfers and strengthen financial inclusion in Uganda.

Speaking at the launch in Kampala, officials said that the key attributes of this partnership include the ability to facilitate direct deposits on bank accounts from any part of the world and leverage DTB's renowned brand name to optimize advantages for customers in the Middle East, the UK, North America, Kenya, as well as Europe, thus granting them the capability to execute real-time money transfers to their loved ones in Uganda.

Commenting on the collaboration, Varghese Thambi, the DTB Managing Director, said, "We are committed to providing our customers with the best possible banking experience. This partnership with TerraPay will allow us to offer our customers faster, more convenient, and more secure money transfers, with lower fees.

He added; TerraPay's agile technology will allow us to reach a wider network of customers, making it easier for them to send and receive money across borders. We are certain that this partnership will have a positive impact on the lives of many people in Uganda."

Willie Kanyeki, TerraPay's Vice President, East and South Africa, expressed confidence that the partnership would be a great success and would help promote financial inclusion in the region, by simplifying global money movement for both individuals and businesses, making it easier than ever to connect with loved ones and also, empower global commerce.

Remittances from people in the Diaspora contribute significantly to the development of Africa in general and Uganda in particular. The money sent back home is oftentimes the difference between survival and destitution.

According to Bank of Ugandas 2022 Inward Personal Transfers Report, about 65% of personal transfers was used to pay for expenses like general household purchases and payment of school fees, while about 34% went towards construction and land purchases.

The same report showed that about 5% of remittances came from the Middle East, about 21% came from inside Africa,15% came from Europe and another 15% came from North America.

This money is sent through digital channels through bank transfers, e-Wallets and mobile payments, according to the report.

Official statistics from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development indicate that Ugandas remittances market is expected to top USD1.3 billion by 2027.

However, the high cost of cross-border payments remains a continental and global challenge. Target 10c of the Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) focuses on reducing the cost of remittances to 3%. Today, the average global cost of sending remittances stands at 6.2% - double the target amount.

Mr. Samuel Muyingo, the Terrapay Country Manager for East and Southern Africa, said TerraPay's cost to send money is no more than $1.8 per transaction.

Violet Wanyana, the Head of Money Transfers at DTB, assured customers that they had done sufficient due diligence on Terrapay to ensure that their systems are safe and secure for their customers.

Top NCBA clients to enjoy premier banking service

NCBA Bank Uganda has made waves in the banking sector with the unveiling of its revamped Premier Banking offering, given the array of exciting benefits and exclusive discounts for its esteemed clientele.

NCBA Chief Executive Officer Mark Muyobo says the revamped service aims to provide customers with more personalized and convenient banking experiences, catering to their unique needs and preferences and is symbolic of their commitment to deliver tailored solutions that align with the evolving needs of high-net-worth individuals.

As a premier customer, you deserve nothing but the best, and that's precisely what we aim to deliver. Our enhanced Premier Banking offering is designed to provide you with exclusive privileges, personalized service, and unparalleled convenience," Muyobo said at the launch.

The revamped Premier Banking proposition introduces a host of new features, including tailored account options, exclusive advisory services, and access to premier leisure facilities.

Speaking at the launch event at which PSFU Board Chairman Humphrey Nzeyi was chief guest, Muyobo said Customers can also benefit from unsecured salary advances and credit cards with generous limits, enhancing their financial flexibility and convenience.

Nzeyi urged high net-worth individuals to embrace the service as it could be a game changer for their business enterprises going forward.

The bank is also expanding its Premier Banking services to include Diaspora Banking, catering for customers who transact and save in US Dollars or Uganda Shillings from anywhere in the world, with savings accounts bearing interest for the customer, depending on the account balance.

To complement the enhanced banking services, Muyobo said NCBA Bank has forged strategic partnerships with leading entities in the various industries to offer exclusive benefits and discounts to its premier customers.

These partnerships extend to various sectors, including transport, healthcare, technology, and hospitality - providing premier customers with a comprehensive suite of perks and privileges, he revealed.

One of the highlights of the event was the introduction of the Premier Banking debit and credit cards, offering customers enhanced transaction capabilities and exclusive privileges.

These cards provide customers with access to a wide range of benefits, including discounts at partner establishments and comprehensive insurance coverage.

In addition to financial services, NCBA also unveiled partnerships with premier hospitality and travel companies, offering customers access to exclusive travel packages and VIP treatment at partner hotels and resorts.

One of their partners, World Navi, a top vehicle importer, has offered exclusive discounts on vehicle purchases and personalized golfing experiences to NCBA customers to enhance the lifestyle of premier banking clients.

Ruby Hospital also unveiled discounted health packages for NCBA premier customers. These packages include comprehensive wellness assessments and specialized health checks, ensuring the well-being of premier banking clients and their families.

Additionally, Mercury Computers has announced exclusive benefits for NCBA premier customers, including discounted prices on a range of IT products and accessories. Likewise, Chloride Exide, a pioneer in power solutions, introduced special discounts on automotive batteries for premier banking clients.

The launch event was attended by the banks high profile customers, including prominent business leaders who shared their positive experiences about their relationship with NCBA.

Boda Boda Industry Riding Uganda's Economy

Mr. Freddie Ssewankambo wakes up before dawn daily. He dresses up quickly, takes a cup of tea then kick-starts his Bajaj Boxer motorcycle and sets off from Mukono to join the thousands of boda boda riders on the streets of Kampala City.

By 8:00 am, Ssewankambo has made at least UGX20, 000, which he sends to his wife for the family's daily needs at home. At his stage in Wandegeya in Kampala City, the former teacher deposits UGX10, 000, his daily savings, into an account he holds with a microfinance institution, and then proceeds with his daily work.

At the stage with about 30 riders, the chairperson acts as head of the stage SACCO, to which each member contributes a mandatory UGX5, 000 each day. This acts as their emergency fund. On a good day, Ssewankambo says he makes up to UGX100, 000 completely tax-free, which is not bad in a country where even top executives would count themselves lucky to earn UGX3 million a month.

"I have used my savings over the years, to pay tuition for my children at good schools, and build a house for my mother back in the village, which to me is a very big achievement," he says.

Such a daily windfall is what has caused the number of motorcycle taxis to skyrocket over the years, currently estimated to employ around 1.2 million youths nationwide, with total incomes exceeding UGX16 trillion per year.

Moses Sserukenya, another boda-boda cyclist from Seeta in Mukono District, says that from their SACCO, they are able to borrow money from a microfinance institution to acquire new motorbikes, in a move meant to expand their incomes and create employment for other unemployed youths.

"We normally get motorcycle loans of up to UGX5 million, and have each other for guarantors. Normally, the old motor bike logbook acts as collateral. It is through such means that I have been able to own three bikes now," he said.

They have also been able to acquire other assets such as cattle, plots of land, houses, and omnibus taxis, while others have started small businesses for their wives. What all this shows is that the boda-boda industry has important linkages to other key sectors in the economy.

and education to trade, real estate and agriculture. According to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), the number of officially registered riders in the city is presently estimated at about 200,000 operating from approximately 5,000 stages. However, many more unregistered Boada-Bodas enter the city every day.

With the unemployment rate in Kampala hovering at more than 10 per cent, according to the Ugandan Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), hundreds of riders only expected to continue joining the Boda-boda business.

And motorcycle importers and traders will continue to cash in. According to Ministry of Trade and Industry statistics, Indian-made bikes (Bajaj, TVS and Hero brands) form 87% of the total population of motorbikes in Uganda. These are mostly imported by Verma Co Ltd, Nish Auto Ltd, Mantra Motorbikes East Africa Ltd, Simba Automotives, Yuvraj International, and Eagle General Traders, among others.

Most of the boda-bodas are loaned by microfinance institutions such as Pride Microfinance, Centenary Bank, Finca, Finance Trust Bank, and SACCOs, which give the bikes out on hire purchase. However, some of Indian suppliers such as Verma Co, Nish also offer boda-boda credit facilities.

The popularity of motorcycle taxis may be linked to traffic congestion due to the poor state of roads, which the motorcycle can navigate faster cars, buses and taxis. The popularity of the Boda-Boda as a money maker has attracted a number of corporate workers and executives to venture into the once down-looked industry, as a side hustle.

According to Henry Ssenkaaba, a spare parts operator in Kisekka Market, many of the motorbikes operating in the city belong to white-collared (corporate) Ugandans. "The rider is either given a loan, where he pays a certain amount until it becomes his, or they are simply given an amount to give the 'boss' every day," he explains.

As a side business he says, the owner buys the motorbike at about UGX6 million and receives UGX20,000 daily from the rider, which translates into more than UGX12 million in two years. "This means its profitable business, but it needs patience because the money doesn't come at once," he notes, adding that the risk of financial loss is also extremely high.

Last year, Uganda imported approximately 96,000 motorbikes from India, China and Japan, although the bulk (87%) came from India. Each of the bikes paid import duty of 25%, VAT of 18% and Withholding tax of 6%. This means Uganda earned approximately UGX334 billion in revenue from motorcycles alone. Among the common challenges in the industry is astronomically high accident rate, whereby according to the Uganda Police traffic report for 2023, boda-boda accidents make up 80% of all road accidents ountrwide. While the boda - boda business could be a ticket to achieving dreams, it is also a highly risky and dangerous occupation due to lack of adequate regulation bt the government.

Gov't signs $400m hydrogen fertilizer plant

The Government of Uganda has signed a joint agreement with the Aga Khans Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) and Westgass International to set up a green hydrogen fertiliser plant in Kiryandongo District. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Ruth Nankabirwa, said the project seeks to increase the production of nitrogen fertiliser to about 200,000 tonnes annually. The plant is being set up in the context of the fact that agriculture, often hailed as the backbone of Uganda's economy, stands as a beacon of hope for economic growth and poverty reduction.

With nearly 80% of the population employed in the sector and given its significant contribution to GDP and exports, the importance of agriculture cannot be overstated. However, amidst the aspirations for transformation outlined in Ugandas long-term development plans, lies the critical need to enhance production and productivity within the agricultural sector. Agricultural inputs such as artificial fertilizers are seen as vital to this process, and more so given that the soils are being over-cultivated due to the rising population.

Although Uganda holds vast arable land resources and potential for agricultural growth, the need for strategic interventions to boost domestic fertilizer production and enhance competitiveness in international markets is critical. Currently, Ugandas fertilizer consumption per unit of arable land is estimated by the World Bank to sit at approximately 2.4kg per hectare.

The national fertilizer policy aims to reduce nutrient loss through soil erosion by 30 kg per hectare per year and raise the use and application levels of fertilizer to at least 50 kg of nutrients per hectare per year. The impending establishment of Uganda's first hydrogen-based fertilizer plant promises to be a game-changer in this regard, but the pressing question remains: Will this ambitious project truly address the country's productivity challenges?

At its core, the initiative holds the promise of revolutionizing Uganda's agricultural landscape, particularly against the backdrop of increasing food insecurity and climate change challenges. The production of hydrogen-based fertilizers represents a prime example of leveraging renewable energy systems to address pressing agricultural challenges, according to Ms Kate Airey, the British High Commissioner to Uganda.

Currently lagging behind regional neighbors like Kenya and Tanzania in fertilizer usage, Uganda must prioritize the promotion of fertilizer usage to sustainably increase agricultural productivity. With only 40,000 tonnes of nitrogen-based fertilizer utilized annually, there is a critical need to ramp up production to meet growing agricultural demands and drive economic growth.

The production of green hydrogen fertilizer, locally, has enormous transformative potential in boosting productivity and improving livelihoods. Ms Airey said renewable energy investments have broader economic and environmental benefits in driving economic growth, and addressing food security and energy poverty across the continent.

The significance of the project extends beyond agriculture, encompassing broader economic and environmental benefits. With millions across Africa lacking access to electricity, investments in renewable energy are crucial for addressing energy poverty and driving economic growth, Airey added.

The Norwegian Deputy Ambassador to Uganda, Olive Beckham, highlighted the collaborative effort to harness Uganda's abundant renewable energy resources for sustainable agriculture development, underscoring Norway's commitment to supporting projects that promote food security and utilize renewable energy sources effectively.

He said by leveraging green technologies and fostering public-private partnerships, the country can address key development challenges while promoting sustainable agriculture and industrialization. The establishment of the hydrogen-based fertilizer plant signifies a significant milestone in Uganda's journey towards social and economic transformation. Norway is committed to supporting projects that promote food security and utilize renewable energy sources effectively, he said.

Nankabirwa emphasized the potential for renewable energy to empower communities, boost food security and drive socio-economic development. She said the production of more than 200,000 tons of fertilizers locally would definitely improve agricultural productivity and help to mitigate the increasing food insecurity challenge. Fertilizer use is crucial in raising and sustaining agricultural production, food security and thus reducing persistent poverty, Nankabirwa said.

The project is expected to create over 300 direct jobs and mitigate climate change while fostering low carbon growth. However, amidst the optimism surrounding the project, Odrek Rwabwogo, the chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development (PACEID), highlighted the need for strategic interventions to boost domestic fertilizer production and enhance competitiveness in international markets.

This country has vast arable land resources and huge potential for agricultural growth, if we put things right, like improving fertilizer usage in order to fix production and productivity gaps, he said, adding that by leveraging green energy fertilizers and expanding export credit funding, Uganda aims to position itself as a key player in global trade, unlocking new opportunities for economic prosperity.

Gallon Gollum, CEO of Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), emphasized the multifaceted nature of the project, viewing it as a catalyst for climate action and low-carbon growth. In October last year, the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group approved a project to provide 60,000 metric tons of fertilizer to 400,000 smallholder farmers in Uganda.

Under the Fertilizer Financing for Sustainable Agriculture Management project, the Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism is expected to provide $2m (about UGX7.6 billion) in partial trade credit guarantees and a grant of $877,842 grant to the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership.

Over a 3-year duration, the project will support two wholesalers to sell fertilizer with a value of up to 15 times the value of the $2m partial trade credit guarantee. It will also link wholesalers to around 25 hub agro-dealers and 125 retail agro-dealers who will on-sell the fertilizer to farmers. The project is expected to boost yields and will also provide training to 3.4% targeted farmers40% of them women on using improved seeds, balancing crop nutrition and best farming practices, the officials said.

Importers decry low investment in railway

Steel and poly pipes manufacturer Roofings Group is one of the largest importers of raw materials and exporters of finished products in Uganda. The steel giant imports thousands of tonnes of steel raw materials for processing into various steel products such as bars, rods, iron sheets, wire mesh, and pipes among others, at its massive factories at Lubowa and Namanve in Kampala.

Apart from supplying to the local market across the country, the company also exports roofing sheets, steel bars, pipes, and steel wire products among others, to every country of the East African region and beyond. However, Stewart Mwesigwa, the company’s business development manager, says the fact that they must carry almost everything by road has remained a very serious challenge and a major limitation to their operations.

Roofings is a good example of how Uganda is paying a very high cost for her inappropriately balanced modal share of transport in the country, and if not corrected the country’s cost of transportation will continue to hurt the private sector, according to experts who note that this can be corrected by increasing the share of railway transport in the country’s transport mix.

According to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), currently up to 95% of the country’s import and export business relies on road transport, the remaining 5% is shared between rail, air and water modes of transport. This shows that the country is predominantly dependent on expensive road transport, which must change if the country is to improve the competitiveness of its private sector.

Evidence shows that most countries with a more favourable business environment have a higher railway transport share in their mix. India for example has 35 per cent of its transportation by rail. Worldwide, the railway is known as the cheapest and most reliable mover of heavy loads; it is cost effective and its costs of maintenance are lower.

A recent survey by the UN Economic Commission in Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP) showed that following the outbreak of Covid-19, use of rail across borders went up several times fold. Ugandan manufacturers say that in the context of Covid-19, the railway would have been the most ideal means of hauling their raw materials and finished products across the borders, to save time, costs as well as avoiding infections through the numerous truck drivers.

To make matters even worse, there are long queues at the borders along the Northern Corridor especially in Malaba and Busia, due to clearance delays, as authorities strive to clear the numerous trucks, one by one. As a result, this has caused unprecedented delays in delivery and distribution for the manufacturers.

"The delays impact our efficiency, in terms of production, because delivery time for raw materials is now extended for two to three days more. In the end, we are also delayed in supplying our customers," says Mr. Stewart Mwesigwa, from the Roofings Group. Mwesigwa adds that had the country’s railway system been fully functional, manufacturers would be feeling less frustration because most of their supplies would be arriving on time, thus reducing the cost of doing business. "In certain aspects, the rate at which you receive raw materials determines your efficiency. The more you receive, the more you produce, and the more you produce, the more you reduce your costs. This railway would even have enabled us to keep exporting because it has fewer imitations," he says.

Data from the Uganda Railway Corporation (URC) shows that one train load can carry approximately 800 metric tonnes of goods, the same amount of tonnage that would take about 50 trailers on the road.

Dr. Fred Muhumuza, an economist, says that the country is in dire need of a fully functional railway network, to reduce the cost of road repairs. He says, for example, that presently the entire road network from Malaba on the Kenyan border to Katuna on the Rwandan side, needs to be redone, because of cracks that are spilling water under it because of heavy traffic.

"This means the water will fault its baseline and soon we shall have to redo the entire road. When you don't have a properly functional railway, you carry the burden of redoing the roads so often," he says. "One of the biggest challenges we faced during the pandemic was the truck drivers. We had about three people per truck, moving only about 20 tonnes of cargo, yet the train can take fifty times that with about three to five people." Dr. Muhumuza also notes that cargo by train normally moves into designated areas, saving the country from strenuous traffic jams and accidents accruing from the use of trucks.

Although Uganda intends to build a US$2.3b standard gauge railway to connect the country to neighbouring Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and DR Congo, the meter gauge railway will also be maintained, according to David Musoke Bulega, the managing director of Uganda Railways Corporation (URC). He says that the meter railway line would act as a supply and distribution network for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), while it (SGR) will serve as the trunk line from Mombasa. Under the plan, sections of the railway network will be upgraded to the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), while others will be maintained under the meter gauge.

According to the plan, the SGR could connect Malaba, Kampala, Tororo, Gulu, Nimule, Gulu, Pakwach, Arua, Kasese, Rwanda and DR Congo. The Uganda Railway, also known as the Lunatic Express, was built during colonial times.

However, works and transport minister, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala, says that vandalism of railway materials has moved away from stealing railway sleepers to cutting the main line, leading to the losses amounting to approximately $1b (UGX3.7 trillion) worth of railway materials to railway vandals, which is a significant injury to the economy. Gen. Katumba says the revival of the route offers a feasible solution to traders with bulk cargo in and out of the country, as rail is known to be an affordable, safe and reliable means of transport. He adds that in the medium term, URC will rehabilitate the MV Pamba ship, improve port facilities, repair and upgrade the existing metre- gauge railway line as well as construct a new Port at Bukasa.

He adds URC has already drafted a UGX333.59b business plan to rehabilitate and purchase key components of the railway network, in order to fully resume operations. Also, plans are underway to rehabilitate more wagons and coaches, as well as procuring others from China to stabilize their operations. Already, approximately $10m has been spent on rehabilitation works for the Kampala Port Bell rail line, two locomotives and remanufacturing five diesel electric locomotives to ply the southern corridor route.

"Approximately UGX1.2 billion was spent on building a warehouse, access roads and fencing Port Bell, while dredging the lake will most likely take Shs2b," he says, adding that the planned new railway network is more comprehensive, stretching to all border towns. According to Bulega, the new line will use concrete cement sleepers in an attempt to beat vandals, who have been its biggest challenge to date.

KACITA applauds new port payment system

Ugandan traders under their umbrella body, the Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), have applauded the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) for introducing a new electronic payment system aimed at improving service delivery through instant settlement of port charges.

The traders say the new system would improve the clearing processes of good from the port, save time as well as reducing the turnaround time for importers, thus enabling them to increase their trade volumes in the long run.

KACITA chairman Thaddeus Musoke said clearing goods at the Mombasa Port has been one of the traders’ biggest headaches, partly because they had to physically move huge chunks of money to Kenya, to clear goods.

“This has been a big threat to our lives, because you just never know who knows about the money you are carrying. Others have been moving the money through the banks, but even then, it has been a big inconvenience,” he said.

Musoke added that the new system comes with a lot of benefits, as it enables the traders to clear their goods from the comfort of their homes, even outside office hours, which was impossible previously.

Christened ‘Kargo Pay,’ the new system was first launched in Kenya last year, marking the discontinuation of all credit sales to customers, and a transition by port authorities to electronic settlement of port charges.

According to Musoke, the traders are especially happy that the new system allows them to clear port charges in Uganda Shillings. After paying in local currency, banks will then convert the payments made in local currency to the equivalent in US Dollars, at a rate lower than the banks' spot rate, which is as an incentive to boost electronic settlements.

“Sometimes you find that changing money to US Dollars is hectic. However, paying in local currency is the most convenient thing they have done for us, and we are happy,” he said, adding that the traders are ready to embrace the new system.

In addition to currency flexibility, ‘Kargo Pay’ also introduces alternative payment methods such as ATM cards and mobile transfers for regional customers. This innovation aims to eliminate the need for physical visits to banks, further enhancing convenience and efficiency in port charge settlements.

Ms. Nynnet Rwatanga, an official from True Love Africa, said Kargo Pay is a very progressive development as the money is now pulled directly from the bank account to the app wallet, and then clearing is done instantaneously.

Additionally, she said the app would improve the credibility of agents and suppliers, who will most likely deliver the goods on time, hence solidifying the trust of their clients.

She however noted that the app could be improved by allowing the users to access information such as bank statements, which is crucial for their operations.

During a user familiarization workshop for traders at the Kampala Serena Hotel on February 14, KPA officials noted that the application facilitates instant settlement of port charges, thereby significantly enhancing punctuality and accuracy in collections.

The application also allows customers to electronically access funds in their accounts at any time of day or night, regardless of bank working hours, thus enabling instant settlement of port charges.

Following the successful launch in Kenya last year, the app is now being rolling out to other EAC partner States, including Uganda and Rwanda.

Swiss Investor, UWA Row Angers MPs

Mr. Thomas Price, an investor in Butambala District, has appealed to Parliament to intervene in what he termed frustration from officials of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Price, originally from Switzerland, is the proprietor of Conservation Through Commercialisation (CTC), a private conservation, education and tourist facility with lions, buffaloes, wild dogs, iguanas, lemurs, foxes, hyenas, snakes, tortoises, crocodiles, and zebras among others.

The Parliamentary Committee on Tourism, Trade, and Industry on February 8 visited the facility as part of their countrywide tour for first-hand information key stakeholders, in the company of UWA and the tourism ministry officials.

“We are happy where we have reached but unhappy with where we want to be. Whichever step we take we find challenges; in the past two years, we paid for a trapping licence, and we have sent reminders to UWA but it has not been delivered” Price told the legislators.

Price accused UWA officials of continuously putting off his requests to import specific breeds of tigers and hyenas, which he said are highly attractive to tourists. He said that his request to acquire zebras from the Lake Mburo National Park, which has over 2,000 zebras, has also not been responded to.

“Put yourself in my shoes. If you are an investor like me, it can be frustrating, I spend money to buy 1,100 kilogrammes of meat to feed animals every week,” Price said.

He asked the committee to investigate an officer at UWA only identified as Makombo who he said has frustrated his efforts. He claimed that Makombo has not only frustrated CTC but the entire tourism sector, which he remarked had more potential compared to certain developed countries such as those in Europe.

The Under Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Samuel Kakura, assured the MPs that the ministry is already engaged in processes to settle the conflicts.

“I want to assure [Price] that we will support their endeavours, we recognise private stakeholders supporting conservation. We are going to work on your issues, and continue the engagement,” said Kakura.

The UWA Executive Director, Sam Mwandha, however counter accused Price of delaying to submit the relevant documentation as well as ignoring UWA’s guidance.

“We provided him with a list of animals he can have. When we ask why he cannot first exhaust the list, he goes on accusing not only Makombo but other staff and me,” Kakuru said.

The committee chairperson, Hon. Mwine Mpaka, said the committee would summon all the parties involved for further interrogation. “We need to look at the documents of CTC, understand their challenges, and see how to support him,’” said Mpaka.

The MPs appreciated the quality of services offered at CTC, spread out on over 50 acres of land and proposed that government considers supporting such investors.

“We have seen investors who have been supported and have done nothing, yet we have here one who is doing good work and is being frustrated; frustrating an investor is criminal,” said Hon. Francis Mwijukye (FDC, Buhweju County).

Lower Madi County MP, Hon. Ronald Afidra, wished to know the extent to which government has supported CTC, cognisant of the complementary role that the zoo plays in wildlife conservation.

“Our government provides such investors with incentives, to what extent has it supported CTC, considering that tourism is our top income earner?” asked Afridra.

Local Firm to Spearhead Karuma Bridge Study

The Government has enlisted a local engineering firm to spearhead a comprehensive inspection study of the structural integrity and longevity of the Karuma Dam bridge.

The firm, MBM Consulting, formed in 1999 following the merger of Mutenga Batumbya Consulting Engineers of Uganda with Wardrop Engineering Inc. of Canada, is expected to gather crucial technical data and measurements to inform future decisions regarding the bridge's upkeep and potential reconstruction.

The Karuma Dam Bridge serves as a critical artery linking various regions and supporting economic activities to the entire northern region. Built in 1963, the bridge has become increasingly hazardous due to its narrow design and lack of modern safety features.

The current Karuma Bridge, often referred to as the old bridge, is structurally outdated, limited in capacity, and has a history of fatal accidents though it is close to the new 600MW Karuma Power Dam.

The study is expected to propose a new design for the bridge, which includes features such as suspended cable architecture and dedicated lanes for bicycles and motorcycles, catering to the diverse needs of commuters and enhancing overall accessibility, according to Ssempebwa.

The award of such a high-profile contract to a local player comes at the time when local engineers under their umbrella Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC), have been calling on the government to scale up their participation in big infrastructure projects.

According to the engineers, this would help the government to lower the cost of infrastructure development in the future, since the needed engineering skills and experience would be locally bred and available.

Moses Tiberonda, a UNABCEC board member, said the Government is spending heavily on infrastructure development because although human resources with the needed experience are somewhat available, the opportunity is generally passed to foreign players.

“When there is a big project and we employ local human resources, the skills gained would be an added advantage to the country, because a skilled local engineer is cheaper than an expatriate,” he said.

He said although local engineers have severally been accused of shoddy works, lack of qualified key personnel and inadequate technical capacity and experience, this can only change after they have worked on big projects.

“Because of this, more than 90% of contract resources in the construction sector are being shared among foreign firms, while local contractors, in charge of most small contracts, share the remaining 10%,” he said.

To build their capacity, however, the government had reserved at least 30% of the value of contracts above UGX45 billion to local contractors, under the new public procurement guidelines.

The government also reserved procurement of supplies whose cost is sh1b and bellow and other public works below UGX10 billion strictly to local companies to protect them from unfair competition and progressively build their capacity. According to finance minister, Matia Kasaija, this would build up local professionals and increase access to business growth opportunities, stability and diversity of markets, as well as productivity and technology.

According to Kasaija, the government spends approximately UGX4 trillion each year on infrastructure projects, most of which are awarded to foreign firms, because the local ones lack financial and technical capabilities. “Most of the money we pay these firms is repatriated back to their countries and there is nothing we can do about it. If only half of it can remain here, there would be a very big effect on the economy,” he said.

He said the economy is losing a lot by the government paying most of the money and giving jobs to foreign firms, whose primary interest is not necessarily the performance of Uganda’s economy. According to the works and transport minister, Edward Katumba Wamala, although the government passed the local content reservation law, the response from local contractors is still not enough.

He said that for instance, local participation in road construction in the oil region is still not enough, despite the 30% reservation made for them. “30% of all this money is too much, and can change our local economy, but our brothers don’t seem to be interested,” he said.

MTN Uganda Named Best in Africa

MTN Uganda has won a UGX380 million cash prize after being named the overall winner of the Group’s Yellow Care Campaign for 2023.

The telecommunications giant has operations in 18 countries including South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Swaziland, Zambia, Rwanda, Botswana, Benin, Cameron, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Liberia, Sudan, Kenya, among others.

The annual Y’ello Care campaign provides an opportunity for more than 5,000 MTN employees across the continent to volunteer their time and resources to support their communities over a period of 21 days. MTN Uganda was named the overall winner of the 2023 campaign, and scooped a cash prize of $100,000 (about UGX380 million), to be injected into this year’s campaign, which kicks off in June.

In line with MTN’s strategic intent of ‘leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress,’ MTN Uganda supported eight grassroots organizations last year to which staff volunteered time and resources to provide tech infrastructure, connectivity, and training to enhance digital and financial literacy and equip entrepreneurs with the skills they need to navigate the digital marketplace.

MTN Group Chief Sustainability & Corporate Affairs Officer Nompilo Morafo said whether it’s equipping entrepreneurs with the latest technologies, MTN’s support goes beyond connectivity to building relationships, understanding needs and offering tailored solutions that empower businesses to chart their own course.

For the award-winning initiative, MTN Uganda partnered with the Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA), Maendeleo Foundation, Centenary Technical Services, Centenary Foundation, and Tunaweza Foundation to implement the 21 Days of Y’ello Care campaign.

MTN Uganda CEO Sylvia Mulinge told journalists that the 2023 initiative aimed at providing essential digital and financial tools, and facilitating wider market access.

The main beneficiary organisations in the campaign included; Disability Employment Link Project Uganda, Teso Textile Light Dynamics in Soroti City, Tusakimu Women’s Group in Lubaga Division, Kampala; King of Kings Multi Investment in Kitgum; Mulungi Confectionary and Skilling Centre in Seeta, Mukono; Take a Step Women’s Group in Hoima; Bumu Disability Development Association in Luwero; and Every Shelter Bashebora Project.

Mulinge emphasized that digital skills play a critical role in enabling entrepreneurs to successfully navigate the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Financial Markets: Uganda Top In EAC

Uganda has once again asserted its dominance in the East African financial landscape, with the latest Absa Africa Financial Markets Index, highlighting the country's remarkable growth trajectory.

Released in Kampala on February 6, the report places Uganda at the forefront of financial market development in the region, ranking fourth across the continent.

The Absa Africa Financial Markets Index evaluates the financial market development of 28 countries, spotlighting economies with the most conducive environments for effective markets.

Uganda's score of 62.8 in the 2023 report surpassed its regional counterparts, with Kenya at 59, Tanzania at 55, Rwanda at 44, and the Democratic Republic of Congo at 35.

While Uganda trails South Africa, Mauritius, and Nigeria in the continental ranking, the report commends the country's robust macroeconomic environment and transparency.

Notably, Uganda excels in policy transparency, macroeconomic data standards, and maintains a relatively low inflation rate.

However, the report also highlights areas for improvement. For instance, Uganda's score dipped from 64.4 in 2022, primarily due to challenges in accessing foreign exchange, leading to a decline in international reserves adequacy.

Initiatives to enhance liquidity in domestic markets and bolster local investor participation are underway, aiming to address these shortcomings.

Mumba Kalifungwa, the Absa Uganda Managing Director, celebrated Uganda's consistent rise in the rankings over the years, noting the country's improved position from 10th in 2017 to 4th in 2022, which it maintained in 2023.

Kalifungwa emphasized Uganda's resilience amidst global challenges, crediting the country's decisive macroeconomic policies.

"We have maintained this position as a country for two years now, ranking closely behind big economies like Nigeria and South Africa, which is commendable," he said

Deputy Governor of the Bank of Uganda, Michael Atingi-Ego, echoed the sentiment, acknowledging Uganda's commendable performance despite external pressures.

He attributed Uganda's economic resilience to the Bank of Uganda's proactive measures in stabilizing the economy and financial system.

He acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the economy, citing pressures on domestic inflation and liquidity due to supply chain disruptions and higher interest rates. "This performance is credited to our decisive macroeconomic and macro-prudential policy measures for shielding the economy and financial system from the full impact of external shocks," he said.

He highlighted ongoing initiatives aimed at deepening financial markets, which have contributed to stabilizing exchange rates and lowering inflation rates. While Uganda's economic growth has rebounded above the long-term average post-COVID, sectoral disparities persist. Key indicators such as business sentiment remain positive, while credit creation stagnates. Inflation has notably decreased, driven by a significant drop in food inflation.

Looking ahead, Absa forecasts a modest increase in inflation, reaching the 5% target mid-year before easing back to 4.4% by December. However, potential risks, including geopolitical tensions and volatile global financial markets, underscore the need for prudent fiscal policies. As Uganda navigates these challenges, the message from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) emphasizes fiscal reform, urging a strategic approach to fiscal policy anchored by credible medium-term strategies.

140 to lose jobs as BoU revokes EFC's licence

More than 140 employees of EFC Uganda Ltd, a microfinance deposit-taking institution, are sweating over their next move following a decision by Bank of Uganda to wind up the institution. The institution’s licence was revoked effective January 19, 2024.

“This action has been taken because Bank of Uganda has determined that the continuation of EFC Uganda Limited’s activities is detrimental to the interests of its depositors due to the institution’s failure to resolve its significant under-capitalization and poor corporate governance,” said Bank of Uganda Deputy Governor Michael Atingi-Ego.

By that action, the Central Bank effectively placed EFC under liquidation, revoked its license, and ordered for the winding up of its affairs.

In another development, the Central Bank and the Deposit Protection Fund have outlined procedures under which depositors would be refunded their money.

EFC launched operations in Uganda in 2012 as Entrepreneurs Financial Center Ltd, with the vision “to be the preferred financial services partner for micro and small entrepreneurs (MSEs) in Uganda.” Two years later, it was awarded an MDI license.

Its main shareholder was the Desjardins Group, a Canadian financial service cooperative, as well as other financers based in Belgium, Mauritius and the Netherlands.

Major donors in some of these countries were using EFC as a conduit for their financial support to Ugandan small and medium enterprises.

Before its closure, EFC was one of just four microfinance deposit taking institutions (MDIs) in the country. The three remaining are; Finca, Pride Microfinance and UGAFODE Microfinance.

The institution was holding customer deposits worth more than UGX50 billion, according to recent financial reports.

In a statement issued on January 24, the Bank of Uganda and the Deposit Protection Fund (DPF) announced how the depositors would be refunded their money.

The DPF is a Government agency that provides deposit insurance to depositors in Ugandan banks and MDIs to the tune of UGX10 million each.

Any amount in excess of UGX10 million is refunded by the Bank of Uganda.

“Depositors who have protected deposits of up to UGX100,000 will be paid using mobile money with effect from January 29, 2024 after verification of their NINs and mobile phone numbers. All other depositors with balances of up to UGX10 million will be paid effective February 5, 2024 through an agency bank to be communicated,” the press statement said.

It added: “BoU will inform depositors with more than UGX10 million of the arrangements for paying their deposits within 14 days from the date of this notice.”

Earlier, BoU advised EFC’s creditors to submit their claims to the Office of the Director Financial Stability at Bank of Uganda within 30 days.

Additionally, all EFC borrowers with outstanding loans and advances must continue to service their loan obligations by making payments at Bank of Uganda offices and branches, while any person or company holding EFC’s property was advised to hand it over to the Central Bank.

President Museveni Takes Over Chairmanship Of G77 + China

Uganda has assumed the chairmanship of the Group of 77 plus China (G77+China).

President Yoweri Museveni will, in the next year, lead the largest negotiating bloc of developing countries in the United Nations, which provides the means for the countries of the South to articulate and promote their collective economic interests. Uganda took over the leadership from the Republic of Cuba during the 3rd South Summit of the G77+China Heads of State and Government at Speke Resort Convention Center, Munyonyo, under the theme “Leaving No One Behind.”

In his inaugural speech, President Museveni informed the Heads of State and Heads of Delegations that Uganda remains committed to the pledge to “leave no one behind” and called upon the international community to implement this by ensuring targeted support to enable countries in dire need to address their challenges without conditionality.

“Leaving no one behind cannot be realized without adequately addressing the challenges and needs faced by countries in special situations, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states, as well as specific challenges faced by many middle-income countries, conflict- and post-conflict countries, and countries and peoples living under foreign occupation. These challenges continue to undermine the efforts of these countries to ensure that no one is left behind. In our view, international financial institutions and multilateral development banks must support the national priorities of developing countries without any conditionalities that infringe on these countries’ sovereignty,” Museveni said, adding that Uganda has accelerated its national efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in its entirety to ensure that no one is left behind at a time when the country is striving to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to other global challenges.

“Uganda has identified four key sectors of wealth creation and job creation that include commercial agriculture, industrialization, services, and information and communication technologies (ICTs) to support our socio-economic transformation. The Government of Uganda is implementing targeted interventions in the above key sectors with a view to ensuring that no one is left behind,” he added.

Gen. Museveni commended the unity within the G77+China Group, which has enabled it to stay on course to promote and defend its members’ collective economic interests at the United Nations, and urged members to continue embracing the founding principles that gave life to what he termed a heterogeneous and representative group of nations.

“Currently, the populations of the G77+China represent 80% of the global population. In addition, its GDP accounts for more than 40% of the global GDP. This shows that, in spite of the challenges, the group has registered progress in defending and promoting the interests of developing countries,” he noted.

H.E. Museveni further called on the group to remain united in their demand to the international community to support developing countries to urgently address the global challenges, in particular poverty, hunger, the digital divide, and climate change. He also called for an end to the threat of multilateralism and the rise of unilateralism, which make all susceptible to the impacts of the current unjust international economic order.

“As the G77 and China, we should continue to work collectively to ensure that we achieve an international economic order that is just and equitable, as envisaged 59 years ago at the founding of the Group,” Museveni said.

According to the President, Uganda is taking over the chairmanship of the group at an opportune time of its 60th anniversary. H.E. Museveni thanked members for entrusting Uganda with the chairing of Group 77+China for 2024, which will continue to yearn for a revitalized multilateral system that is capable of adequately addressing current and emerging global challenges.

“Uganda’s Chairmanship will strive to further promote: acceleration of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda; scaling up action to address climate change and biodiversity loss; strengthening international tax cooperation; financing for development; fight against illicit financial flows and strengthening digital cooperation, among others,” Museveni said.

Speaking at the Summit, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called upon member States to live up to the expectations of the theme; “Leaving no one behind” at a time when many countries face political, social, and economic challenges. He also called for all-inclusive United Nations security.

“Righting our troubled world depends on effective global action, yet the international system is out of date, out of time, and out of step. The United Nations Security Council is paralyzed by geopolitical divisions, and its composition does not reflect the realities of today’s world. It must be reformed,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that in the new technological era, no one should be left behind.

The President of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Dennis Francis said the coming together of the G77+China signifies their strength in shaping a new world order that is inclusive and leaves no one behind.

“The Summit of the Future aims to expedite the execution of the 2030 agenda, address crucial governance gaps, and remind member states of their pivotal role in development. The G77 must play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the summit,” Dennis Francis said.

The Group of 77 (G-77) was established on June 15, 1964 by 77 signatories of the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries” issued at the end of the first session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva. The Group has now grown to 130 countries.

Excitement as Nigeria's Dangote refinery starts production

The Dangote Oil Refinery, the largest on the continent at 650,000 barrels per day (bpd), has begun producing diesel and aviation fuel, the company said on January 13.

The refinery, owned by billionaire Aliko Dangote, has been built at a cost of about $20 billion – more than enough to fund Uganda’s national budget for a year - and is widely expected to solve Nigeria perennial petroleum challenges.

Africa’s most populous nation spends more than $23 billion a year to import petroleum for its 250 million people.

The prices of petrol have more than tripled from a year ago after the government scrapped fuel subsidies in Africa’s largest crude oil producer.

The refinery is also expected to make the country a net fuel exporter of gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and aviation jet fuel to neighbouring West African States.

The facility has already received millions of barrels of crude oil and is expected to start with a capacity of about 350,000 bpd, but it should be able to meet the country's entire domestic fuel demand, as well as exporting refined products, by the end of 2025.

The refinery is supplied with crude oil via the largest sub-sea pipeline infrastructure in the world (1,100 km long).

At a complexity of 10.5, the Dangote refinery is reportedly more complex than most refineries in the United States (average 9.5) or Europe (average 6.5).

The eventual launch of the long-awaited project will be an encouragement to Uganda, which is planning to build its own 60,000 bpd refinery worth $4 billion to process its crude oil in Hoima.

The Government of Uganda is still seeking a lead investor for the project in which several East African Community partner States have also expressed interest in holding shares.

Crane Bank Sale: Top BoU, DFCU bosses face prosecution

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has blocked DFCU Bank’s attempt to sidestep the prosecution of its top bosses in a case where they are accused of fraudulently transacting in Crane Bank’s assets in collusion with officials of the Bank of Uganda.

The decision potentially sets new precedents in regard to holding Government officials, as well as company directors personally liable for the illegal actions of their organisations even when operating in overseas markets.

Back in October last year, DFCU suffered a legal setback when the Uganda High Court ruled that Meera Investments Limited was the rightful owner of the 48 leases that Bank of Uganda had illegally sold to DFCU Bank when it liquidated Crane Bank in 2016.

Given that DFCU was indemnified by Bank of Uganda in the purchase agreement, it meant that it would be the long-suffering Ugandan taxpayer to shoulder the burden of the hefty costs, damages and compensation to tycoon Sudhir Rupalelia.

The legal battle then shifted to the UK, where DFCU raised a jurisdiction challenge.

But in a terse judgment issued on January 8, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom rejected DFCU’s argument that UK courts had no jurisdiction over a matter involving the Government of Uganda and ruled that DFCU’s top bosses and several BoU chiefs must stand trial for their role in the impugned transaction.

The DFCU chiefs, including three Ugandans – Mr. Jimmy Mugerwa, Mr. Juma Kisaame, and Mr William Sekabembe – as well as BoU officials at the centre of the transaction, have now been ordered to file their defences within 21 days.

The precedent potentially puts Ugandan company directors and Government officials at the risk of being prosecuted personally for any future breaches of the law while transacting on the behalf of their respective organisations.

Founded in 1964 as a development finance institution, DFCU boasts of total assets worth UGX3.2 trillion and is listed on the Uganda Securities Exchange in 2004.

Arise BV of Netherlands are the majority stakeholder (58.7%), while NSSF enjoys a 7.46% shareholding in DFCU.

Uganda Listed Among Top Kyeyo Cash Recipients

A new report by the World Bank has shown that Uganda is among the top ten recipients of money from nationals working abroad, commonly referred to as 'kyeyo' cash, in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report titled, "Migration and Development Brief 38" shows that Uganda's $1.3 billion remittance inflows from abroad in 2022 put us in 8th position in Sub-Saharan Africa, behind regional counterparts Kenya's $4.1 billion in the third position.

This reflected a growth of 17% compared to the previous year.

In the EAC region, Tanzania followed Uganda with $0.7 million while Rwanda garnered $0.5 million.

Tens of thousands of Ugandans have been leaving the country to find work abroad in recent years, with an estimated 1.5 million Ugandans currently living in the diaspora.

Tens of thousands of Ugandans have been leaving the country to find work abroad in recent years, with an estimated 1.5 million Ugandans currently living in the diaspora.

According to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, almost 85,000 Ugandans went to work in the Middle East alone in 2021.

Many of these Ugandans in the Diaspora are remitting cash to invest back home, to support relatives or depositing it on their bank accounts.

Official figures by the Bank of Uganda indicate that Kyeyo cash long surpassed earnings from the major cash crops and is currently almost three times the size of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Going forward, the report says remittance flows to the SSA region are projected to rise by 1.3 and 3.7% in 2023 and 2024.

However, the cost of remitting cash from abroad remains notoriously high in SSA, with senders paying an average of 8% - higher than the global average of 6.2%, and way above the Sustainable Development Goal target of 3%.

Globally, the top recipient countries of remittances in 2022 were: India ($111 billion), Mexico ($61 billion), China ($51 billion), the Philippines ($38 billion), Pakistan ($30 billion), Egypt ($28.3 billion), Nigeria ($20.1 billion) and Morocco ($11.2 billion).

Inside MTN Uganda's transition to a tech firm

MTN Uganda, like most telecom companies around the world, has recorded rapid transformation in its operations, customer experience and development of various products and services aimed at responding to evolving consumer needs.

From voice calls to SMS services and internet to mobile financial services, MTN Uganda has spurred a paradigm shift in how we connect with people as well as do business, creating great social and economic impacts on the communities and Uganda's economy.

In addition to the evolving consumer needs, the digital transformation of countless industries, sectors and government processes, has also compelled the telecom company to reposition its business model to take the lead in driving digital solutions for the progress of the country.

The demand for this was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic where we witnessed a heavy reliance on technology and digital solution for everyday life and business activities including e-Commerce, e-Education and e-Health as a must-have at a time when everyone was grounded.

MTN Uganda acknowledges the fact that although the voice is still growing and posting good profits, creating a huge impact on the people and communities and ensuring that everyone enjoys the benefits of a modern connected life requires the provision of products and services far beyond that of a telecom.

To achieve this, the company is implementing Ambition 2025 concentrating on five growth platforms: fintech solutions, digital services, enterprise services, network as a service and the application programming interface marketplace.

This is aimed at accelerating digital disruptions within financial services, payments, remittances, lending, insurance and e-Commerce.

The potential market for these areas remains immense: less than 50% of the country's population remains unbanked and the majority of the population still prefers cash payments.

Also, though the percentage of adults that were formally included rose from 28% in 2009 to 58% in 2018 as quoted by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, this figure is still too low.

Uganda too also lags behind its neighbours in mobilising long-term savings and allocating these savings to private sector investment. For instance, in 2019 bank deposits in Uganda were the equivalent of 16.3% of GDP, compared to Kenya's 36.6%. Insurance penetration stood at 0.72% in Uganda compared to 3% in Kenya.

Similarly, internet access stands at around 52%. This is lower than Rwanda's 60% and Kenya's 112% in the East African region. The low internet penetration in this market is attributed to the high cost of internet and smartphones as well as inadequate infrastructure, especially in remote and rural areas. Of course this same situation plays out across sub-Saharan Africa.

It is on this basis that MTN Uganda, in line with the MTN Group, is now focusing on platforms and partnerships as the best option to increase digitalization going into the future. We have an ongoing effort to better integrate our service portfolios such as connectivity, Internet of Things and 5G among others which involves platforms with open interfaces to external parties to accelerate digitalization. We strongly believe that the future now lies in digitalization to improve people's lives and help countries achieve faster economic transformations.

Strong actions needed: But to achieve this dream, various stakeholders including the government will need to take some bold decisions. MTN Uganda acknowledges the fact that the government has provided a favourable regulatory environment to facilitate the growth of the ICT sector. The National Broad Band Policy 2018 and the National Payment Systems Act 2020 have enabled telecom companies and other digital companies to come up with numerous products and services beneficial to the population and the economy.

However, more measures need to be put in place to address other pressing challenges such as high taxation on devices and the internet, limited spectrum, cyber security and gender disparity that could deny consumers of more benefits of digitalization at the time the entire world is on a digital transformation.

For instance, MTN Uganda is currently investing US$300million in the network expansion countrywide including the rollout of 5G and fibre optic but there's a need for the government to come up with measures that will stir uptake of internet-enabled devices such as smartphones to increase usage and drive down the cost of internet. Increased internet will increase economic activities in various sectors and thus more income to the population and more tax revenue collections to the government in the future.

As such, opportunities for inclusive connectivity still exist as long as there are more efforts towards increasing digital skills literacy, access to devices, continuous improvement in the fiscal and regulatory environment and there's consumer trust for the innovations.

Dubai COP28 endorses new declaration, but with no crude oil exit plan

A new draft for the final declaration of the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai does not include the clear phase-out of coal, oil and gas demanded by many countries.

The text of the UNFCCC declaration under the United Arab Emirates conference presidency was published on Wednesday morning. The 21-page paper called on countries to move away from fossil fuels in their energy systems. More than one hundred states had previously called for a complete phase-out.

It also includes the goal of tripling the capacity of renewable energies by 2030 and doubling the pace of energy efficiency during this period. The G20 countries have already committed to this.

On Monday evening, the climate conference presidency published a draft text that triggered a storm of protest from many States, who criticized it as being too weak in terms of climate protection. Germany and the EU labeled it unacceptable.

The latest draft now goes some way towards meeting these critics.

Environment activists attending the UN Climate Change Conference had called on the 200 countries attending to show greater urgency in combatting global warming and agree on a complete phase-out of fossil fuels.

On the first day of the summit, Germany and the United Arab Emirates announced both will contribute $100 million each to assist countries most affected by climate change.

However, the World Food Programme refused to be excited about the compensation grants, saying no matter how much money we spend on compensating for climate damage and supporting countries in dealing with climate change - if we don't manage to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it would never be enough. Also, previous commitment from donors over the last 28 years had not been fulfilled, the WFP official added

Earlier on Thursday, the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said 2023 would top 2016 as the hottest year on record, with the global mean temperature rising 1.4 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average.

"Greenhouse gas levels are record high. Global temperatures are record high. Sea level rise is record high. Antarctic sea ice is record low," WMO chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

Stanbic Uganda Holdings Gets New Boss

Mr. Francis Karuhanga has been named the new Chief Executive Officer of Stanbic Holdings Uganda Ltd, replacing Andrew Mashanda, effective January 1, 2024.

Karuhanga, the first Ugandan to hold the position, has been the Chief Audit Executive for Standard Bank Group, based in South Africa.

Patrick Mweheire, the Standard Bank Group Regional Chief Executive for East Africa, saluted Karuhanga for accepting to leave his current "top 15 position in the organization's Global Leadership hierarchy" to return to Uganda.

"The deployment of such an important member of the Group's leadership is a sign of commitment to our purpose of driving Uganda's growth" he said.

"We are confident that with his strong record of being a collaborative leader and an aptitude for building and leading teams, developing, and motivating people, Mr. Karuhanga will consolidate the growth of our franchise, building on the work of his predecessor to continue delivering exceptional value for our shareholders, and customers" Mweheire added.

Karuhanga is one the Group's longest-serving executives, having worked with the company for more than 23 years.

He worked with Stanbic Bank Uganda for seven years before being transferred to South Africa in 2007 on promotion as Manager of Internal Audit for the entire Group.

Karuhanga is Fellow of the Association Chartered Certified Accountant (FCCA UK), and a Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA).

He also holds a MSc in Accounting and Finance, a Bachelor of Commerce and a diploma in Business Studies.

Standard Bank Group, Africa's largest bank by assets, operates in 20 African countries, including Uganda as Stanbic Bank Uganda Ltd.

In April 2019, Stanbic Bank Uganda reorganized its corporate structure to create the Holding Company (SUHL), whose subsidiaries have now grown to five entities, namely; Stanbic Bank, Stanbic Properties Ltd, Stanbic Business Incubator Ltd, FlyHub Uganda Ltd, as a digital innovation and solutions hub, and SBG Securities Uganda Ltd, an investment house and stock brokerage firm.

Karuhanga takes over a company that currently has 1,900 employees countrywide and operates assets worth UGX9 trillion.

Private sector involvement in youth skilling could boost employment

Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world, with 78 per cent of its citizens under the age of 30. Such a high number is an opportunity for the country's growth but only when it is equipped with the right skills to realise its full potential.

Looking at the world trend, there's a big possibility that children now in their lower level of education, especially in primary schools may do completely new jobs to those we know today. This implies that this young generation will require new skills altogether to fit in the fast-evolving places of work. To our disadvantage, things seem to be evolving fast.

The latest report by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Generation Unlimited, indicates that young people across the world are unable to identify or acquire the skills needed for today's job market, contributing to a global skills gap and exacerbating youth unemployment.

Titled, "Reaching YES: Addressing the Youth Employment and Skilling Challenge" the report notes that young people aged 15-24 years old are unable to identify the skills they need for future employment opportunities.

Moreover, young people are also unable to access relevant skills training, while employers also lack a standard to verify the skills new employees claim to possess. Back home, the situation could not be any better, evidenced by a large number of young people involved in low skills, low productivity and low-income economic activities.

Luckily, the government realized this early and started to provide relevant skills to the youth through the revamped Business Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) institutions in anticipation of future jobs. The Ministry of Education and Sports' decision to partner with the private sector to form Sector Skills Councils to help eliminate skills mismatch in various sectors is commendable because it could boost employment levels of our youth. However, this is not enough.

The Government and the Private Sector need to create a skills mapping system to define skills, categories and competencies. The Uganda National Bureau of Statistics indicates that between 600,000 and 700,000 youth. Youth graduate from our various training institutions but there's limited information on the current needs of the country in terms of the skillset required to secure available job opportunities and solve the unemployment problem.

So, forecasting the skillset needed in the next few years could help the Government and the Private Sector to align training towards achieving that goal. Currently, the Government is placing more emphasis on sciences but there's a need to break down that further so that each stakeholder is aware of the skills needed in terms of numbers - doctors, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers or software engineers and so on.

So, the training of young people in specific skills should be deliberate based on a robust human resources strategy and the country's needs. The Private Sector especially corporate entities need to actively help the Government in skilling and retooling our youth. Besides internship opportunities offered to students, corporate entities need to come up with new models of training fresh graduates.

This can be supported with a policy framework that can help establish a national skills program rolled out countrywide with some benefits accorded to it in form of tax reduction for corporate entities providing internship opportunities to fresh graduates. Similarly, corporate entities can provide soft skills to our youth, both physically and virtually to boost their employability or success in entrepreneurship.

MTN Uganda is currently providing part of this through initiatives such as the ACE Program, a nationwide youth-centred economic empowerment program that impacts the relevant skills and creates opportunities for the youth.

This program, designed for fresh graduates, those in and out of school, innovators, entrepreneurs well as tech-driven start-ups, is an invention of the MTN Uganda Foundation, executed in partnership with the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, The National ICT Innovation Hub, Centenary Technology Services, Refactory, MUBS Entrepreneurship Innovation, and Incubation Centre, as well as MTN's Fintech subsidiary, MTN MoMo Uganda Limited.

Establishment of a digital database to enable young people to register such that their credentials are stored for a potential employer, or any stakeholder interested in their skills, can be a plus. This should also be done for youth who have attained employment in a particular period to help analyze the trend of employment opportunities and in which sectors. Moreover, more and more services are going online connecting people and companies without physical interaction, more efficiently.

However, the low level of smartphone and internet penetration due to, among other reasons taxes on devices and the internet, pose a big challenge because a majority of the population who are yet to embrace digitalization will miss out. But there's always a starting point and the rest will follow.

Boosting information sharing among key stakeholders 'Private Sector players especially potential employers, trade unions, government, educational institutions and youth' either through regional, national or continental could also play a big role in enabling the youth to access training opportunities and thus contribute to the country's economic growth and development. Thus, as the Government takes bold steps to train the human resource, in this case, our youth, the Private Sector needs to take some more responsibility, especially towards the tail end of the Government-offered training opportunities to finally hone the skills of these young people and get them ready for the job market.

This way, both the Government, Private Sector and the citizens will thrive and create a prosperous nation.

New DTB, KACITA partnership to boost women enterprises

Diamond Trust Bank and the Kampala City Traders' Association (KACITA) have entered a partnership aimed at boosting small businesses and entrenching Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles in the country.

DTB Uganda CEO Varghese Thambi singed the MoU with the KACITA board in Kampala recently.

Under the partnership, DTB will particularly endeavour to provide preferential banking and financial services to youth and women-led businesses, which Thambi said would boost their growth into big enterprises.

"Many times, our key business players don't receive the right support for the growth and sustainability of their businesses. Key among these players are women and youth. Under this partnership, we shall tailor our offering to answer the needs of their businesses" said Thambi.

The officials said the initiative is not only structured for those involved businesses but will also contribute to the broader goals of responsible and ethical business conduct in the region, reflecting a holistic commitment to sustainable and inclusive economic development.

KACITA Chairman Thadeus Musoke said 65% of the women-led businesses in KACITA have proven to be resilient compared to those operated by men.

"We are glad that DTB is identifying us as a partner and a focus on women traders is very important. We are sure that women businesses, if well supported, will multiply and be very pivotal in national growth" he added.

As part of the deal, DTB will also introduce ESG principles to the KACITA business community, focusing on reducing carbon emissions and promoting energy efficiency in line with the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) by integrating them into the daily operations of KACITA members.

Additionally, the bank will collaborate with property developers to facilitate the provision of land to KACITA members to build houses in a new estate to be established in Wakiso District.

Members of KACITA will secure mortgage loans of up to UGX20 million from DTB to acquire plots in the KACITA Village estate.

Capital Markets Authority Gets New Boss

Ms Josephine Ossiya has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA).

Ossiya, formerly the Chief Financial Officer at Bujagali Energy Ltd, and a Bank of Uganda Board Member, replaces Mr. Keith Kalyegira, who has been at the helm of the regulator for ten years.

Ossiya is the first woman to hold the position, and joins an array of women who head top Government Authorities, including UNRA, NIRA, KCCA, ERA, Deposit Protection Fund, among others.

Ossiya, who was recently elected the first female president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, joins CMA with a wealth of experience in financial management, planning and accounting.

She holds an MBA from the University of Liverpool and membership of CPA and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

As CEO, she is responsible for implementing the decisions of the Board and ensuring the effective discharge of CMA's mandate and the overall supervision of the management team comprising four Departments.

CMA Mandate: The CMA is a statutory body created under the Capital Markets Authority Act in 1996 with the primary responsibility of promoting and facilitating the development of an orderly, fair, and efficient capital markets industry in Uganda. The CMA is also mandated to identify potential risks and assess controls in place to minimize and mitigate those risks.

Ossiya's experience makes her an ideal choice for these vital tasks. She is taking over a busy organisation that currently regulates more than 100 entities.

Anxiety As Donor Aid to Uganda Slumps

Declining donor aid means a higher tax burden on citizens and more foreign debt to bankroll notoriously high public expenditure. Concern is rising as donor cash continues to take a downward slide, which analysts say reflects the escalating levels of donor fatigue and a vote of no confidence over corruption, human rights abuses and fiscal indiscipline.

Latest statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicate that foreign aid in the form of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Uganda has continued to slump, dropping by 30% from $2,961 in 2015 to $2,046 in 2022.

ODA refers to the financial flows, loans and grants - to developing countries from official State agencies abroad for the promotion of economic development and the welfare of citizens in the recipient countries.

In 2022, total ODA to Uganda dropped by more than USD900 million, from USD2,961 a year before, to USD2,046, while total multilateral assistance 'money channeled through organisations' dropped to USD1,235 million from USD1,994 in 2021.

Whereas the report points to the fact that ODA to Sub-Saharan Africa was generally lower, development assistance to all Uganda's EAC counterparts actually increased in 2022 compared to a year before, with Kenya currently enjoying the lion's share of ODA in the region.

Why aid is cut: There are various reasons why donors may tighten their aid taps, some of which include donor fatigue, human rights and governance concerns, and poor accountability standards in the recipient countries.

The report, titled; Geographical Distribution of Financial Flows to Developing Countries 2023: Disbursements, Commitments, Country Indicators, shows that ODA from the Netherlands and Norway to Uganda saw the biggest drop, from USD458 million in 2021 to minus USD351 million and minus $214 in 2022 respectively.

However, ODA from Germany to Uganda topped $160 million in 2022, compared to just $44 in 2015, making the country one of Uganda's most important development partners currently, though the bulk of the ODA was channeled directly into development projects rather than budget support. All indications are that Kenya has now replaced Uganda as the donors' "blue-eyed bond" in the region. The country received a total of $1,896m in total ODA and $1,157 million from the World Bank's International Development Association, compared to Uganda's rather meager $338m. However, ODA from the European Union institutions to Uganda climbed to $170m, though still lower than Kenya's $180m.

Negatives and positives: Whereas some economists such as Jeffery Sachs are adamant that aid is a vital driver of economic growth and development, others argue against it saying it engenders corruption and a dependency syndrome, which have adversely affected the development of poor countries. Even Uganda's top government officials including President Museveni, have often argued that time has come for Uganda and Africa to be 'weaned off' donor aid to become self-reliant.

However, reduction in donor aid largely means a higher tax burden on citizens and undesirable outcomes in terms of social services delivery. For example, the health sector is currently Uganda's biggest beneficiary of donor aid, followed by humanitarian activities, according to the report.

While Uganda's revenue performance has continued to improve, the main concern for analysts is that the exorbitantly high cost of administration coupled with a narrow tax net means that the few official tax payers are increasingly shouldering a heavier tax burden. To make matters even worse, Uganda's tax revenue system has been negatively affected by massive tax exemptions and diminishing political support for tax collection efforts, according to the World Bank.

Due to inadequate tax revenues and falling ODA, the government has had no other choice but to rely more on borrowing from countries such as China. Official statistics show that Uganda's current external debt stands at a record 50% of GDP.

World Bank squeeze: The World Bank has, over the last few decades, been the mainstay of Uganda's loans to finance large scale projects particularly infrastructure and human capital development.

However, the Institution recently announced that it would not be releasing any new financing to Uganda, citing human rights concerns, a development that has thrown the proverbial cat among pigeons with the local currency taking a severe beating. Although inflation is expected to slow, it is projected to remain above the Central bank's medium-term target of 5%, according to the Uganda Economic Outlook published by the African Development Bank.

Thanks to the rising levels of mistrust by donors because of corruption, most ODA to Uganda now comes in the form of multilateral assistance (through organisations to support projects directly) rather than budget support. In 2015, for example, multilateral support was just $635m but it almost doubled to $1,235 in 2022. This trend observers say, is indicative of donors' continuing disillusionment with the Government's deficiencies in public accountability.

Generally, the report shows that the USA continued to be the world's largest provider of ODA in 2022 with a contribution of USD55.3 billion, followed by Germany (USD 35.0 billion), Japan (USD 17.5 billion), France (USD 15.9 billion) and the United Kingdom (USD 15.7 billion). However, net ODA to sub-Saharan Africa was USD29 billion, indicating a decline of about 8% in real terms.

Uganda Investment Authority Wins Global Award

Uganda, through its chief investment promotion agency, the Uganda Investment Authority, has won yet another prestigious award "the Investment Catalyst Award" in the 2023 Go Global Awards.

The coveted Go Global Awards recognizes and honors government foreign direct investment (FDI) and economic development agencies and businesses that significantly contribute to international investment, commerce, and global well-being.

The awards are also the ultimate global platform for business and investment promotion agencies seeking to extend their reach and establish a formidable presence in the international marketplace.

The 2023 edition of the Go Global Awards was held in the city of Providence, Rhode Island, USA, and was hosted by the Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce, Elizabeth Tanner, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, and the International Trade Council.

Uganda's Ambassador to the United States, Robie Konge, received the coveted award on behalf of Uganda and the Uganda Investment Authority.

The Go Global Award comes hard on the heels of another prestigious award "the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) global award" that Uganda won in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in early 2023, for attracting the best investment project (Modern Tiles) in East Africa in 2022.

The Uganda Investment Authority was also honored as the best investment promotion agency in East Africa.

Uganda has, for the second year running (2022 and 2023), ranked fourth out of 28 African countries in the Continental Financial Markets Index by Absa Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, after South Africa, Mauritius, and Nigeria.

Uganda targets $4 billion in green investment deals at COP28 in Dubai

The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is participating in the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP 28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with an ambitious target of clinching four billion dollars in green investment deals.

This pivotal event, which runs from November 30 - December 9, 2023, at the Dubai Expo in the United Arab Emirates, has brought together world leaders, policymakers, and influencers to address the pressing challenges of climate change.

As a statutory body, UIA is charged with making provisions for natural resources like minerals, water, and wildlife by attracting technology, skills, and investment for their prudent use in line with government policies, laws, and international obligations.

The Director General of UIA, Mr. Robert Mukiza, said the authority's mission at COP 28 is to target four billion dollars in green investments.

"We will run an aggressive promotional drive during the COP 28 to generate four billion dollars in climate-linked investment deals and pursue future leads in renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, waste management, recycling, and green infrastructure" said Mukiza.

According to Mukiza, Uganda, while a low-carbon investment destination, is ideal for green investments as well as adaptive technologies.

Uganda offers untapped potential in solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, capitalizing on the growing demand for clean energy solutions.

"We are also a growing but significant technology hub with attractive prospects in sustainable tourism and the location of one of the world's largest and most responsible oil and gas projects" he said.

Uganda is located strategically as a gateway to East Africa with a proven record for its investor-friendly policies and dedicated government support as well as one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world, guaranteeing access to domestic, regional, and global markets (quota-free and tariff-free).

These include; the East African Community (EAC) with a population of over 300 million people, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) with a population of over 600 million people, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with a population of 1.3 billion people in 55 countries with a combined GDP valued at $3.4 Trillion, Everything But Arms (EBA) with the European Union and Trade agreements with China.

Mbale Industrial Park Development Takes Off

The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) has handed over the Mbale Industrial and Business Park site to China Railway Number 3 Group for the design and building of key infrastructure like tarmac roads and water and sewerage systems.

Representing UIA Director General, Robert Mukiza, the Project Manager, Hamza Galiwango, (also UIA's Director for Industrial Parks Development), handed over the contract site to the contractor's Project Manager, Huang Jun.

This was witnessed by the Resident Engineer, Ronald Olaki, from the Ministry of Works and Transport, and Eng. Francis Lwezahura, from the Ministry of Water and Environment.

The infrastructure project is a two-year UGX411 billion pre-finance contract that will be jointly supervised jointly by UIA and the Ministry of Works and Transport and that of Water and Environment, to ensure adherence to design and environmental standards. The project is expected to be completed on schedule.

The massive Mbale infrastructure development project follows that of Namanve (Kampala) and Kapeeka, all by UIA.

Mbale, also known as Sino-Uganda Mbale Industrial Park, currently has 26 operational industries, with nine under construction, and five at pre-start stage, employing thousands of Ugandans and churning out products like textiles and electrical appliances.

The park is one of 25 industrial parks planned by the Government of Uganda, through UIA, across Uganda.

President Museveni Directs on More Support to Investors

President Yoweri Museveni has tasked the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives to create mechanisms through which investors are heard and supported.

Addressing thousands of investors from across Uganda at the UIA-organised inaugural Presidential Investor Conference (PIC) at Kololo, President Museveni tasked the two Government entities to develop clear and faster reporting channels for dealing with investment and business issues raised by investors.

President Museveni said the Presidential Investor Conference is good because both domestic and international investors get together with the ministers and public servants to identify bottlenecks to investment and find ways of resolving them.

On access to capital, the President advised the investors to utilize the scheme provided by the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) where the government injects funds annually for investors to access. The government in one year has injected USD230 million to help investors who need support.

Other funds available to investors are the UGX1 trillion for exports and the UGX831-billion World Bank Investment for Industrial Transformation and Employment (INVITE).

On the issue of infrastructure, President Museveni said the government will continue to handle this, especially to bring down the price of electricity to US five (5) cents.

The President pointed out that in supporting investors, money is not the problem but rather organization and linkages of investment support initiatives.

President Museveni advised the investors to venture into agricultural value chains from farm to processed foods to markets and directed UIA and other responsible agencies to follow up on their progress.

The President noted that Uganda is beginning to achieve vertical integration in many sectors and these are expanding investment opportunities along the value chains like in coffee, fruits, cereals, cassava, bananas, Irish potatoes, cotton, beef, milk, leather, and so on.

The Presidential Investor Conference is a one-of-a-kind investor conference at which the president interfaced with over 2,000 Investors from across Uganda.

The participating Investors, ranging from small to big, are drawn from the following priority sectors: Commercial Agriculture and Value Addition; Manufacturing, Services; and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

According to the Director General of UIA, Mr. Robert Mukiza, one of the expected outcomes of the Conference is a better environment for investment and doing business in Uganda, hence strengthening the competitiveness of the country's private sector.

The chief executives of financial institutions including Stanbic Bank, DFCU Bank, Opportunity Bank, Pride Microfinance, Post Bank, Centenary Bank, Housing Finance Bank, Uganda Development Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Uganda Development Corporation, and Diamond Trust Bank made presentations.

Other presentations were from the UIA, Uganda Tourism Board, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Uganda Registrations Services Bureau, National Water and Sewerage Corporation, power players Electricity Regulatory Authority, Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited, and Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited.

There will also be reports by private sector players like Private Sector Foundation of Uganda, Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises, Uganda Manufacturers Association, ICT Association of Uganda, Uganda Tourism Association, Association of Uganda Tour Operators, other service providers, and commercial agriculture investors, amongst others.

Why Bitature Bailout is a Sensible Decision

Recent media reports that Government is considering to bailout business Patrick Bitature by acquiring Electromaxx, his thermal power generation company based in Tororo District in eastern Uganda, have raised a number of eyebrows. For some reasons, I think it is a sensible decision that deserves public support.

Recent media reports that Government is considering to bailout business Patrick Bitature by acquiring Electromaxx, his thermal power generation company based in Tororo District in eastern Uganda, have raised a number of eyebrows. For some reasons, I think it is a sensible decision that deserves public support.

Vantage Capital definitely considered Bitature's credit worthiness, his business plans and the projected cash flows, and concluded that the Skyz Hotel project would indeed be a viable venture.

And indeed it still is and it would be a great shame if the five-star hotel is sold off cheaply. Skyz Hotel comprises four high-rise buildings atop Naguru Hill, with 141 hotel rooms including luxurious presidential suites.

It is franchised to Protea Hotels of South Africa, owned by Marriott International, the largest hotel chain in the world with a combined total of than 1.4 million rooms in 140 countries worldwide. Within such a global ecosystem, Skyz Hotel was anticipated to be a cash cow and more so as the country was getting set for a multi-billion dollar oil production phase.

Over the last 15 years, a good number of investors "both local and foreign" have set up valuable investments in anticipation of oil Dollars.

However, almost all the investors in the various sectors including transport, real estate, construction, logistics, hospitality, among others have been counting big losses because Uganda's first-oil timeline has been a moving target since 2007.

When the MoU between Government and oil companies was first signed in 2014, the investors were promised that "first oil" would flow by 2019. Five years later, there is no investor for the oil refinery, while the Final Investment Decision for the EACOP was only signed last year. The new date for first oil has now been shifted to 2025!

To make matters even worse, the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, bringing the global economy and the international travel industry to a virtual standstill for a period of almost two years. Official reports show that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, global hotel occupancy fell to as low as 30%.

As a direct consequence, many global companies have sought and received bailouts from their respective Governments to save them from total collapse. For example, AIG, Exxon Mobil, Marriot, Boeing, Coca-Cola, etc, have been bailed out by the US Federal Reserve with hundreds of billions of dollars.

In the UK, under an arrangement dubbed the "COVID Corporate Financing Facility" the government has already released more than 7.5 Billion Pounds to private companies such as Easyjet, Greggs and Redrow.

Secondly, Bitature's Simba Group is a very important entity in Uganda's economy. Over a period spanning 25 years, Bitature has invested heavily in a portfolio with interests in telecommunications and media, energy, agriculture, education, real estate, oil & gas, travel and hospitality. For years, he has served on many high profile Boards including Umeme, Private Sector Foundation, Uganda Investment Authority, among others.

Thirdly, as an acclaimed and reputable local entrepreneur, Bitature is an inspirational icon whose story of rising from nothing and working his socks off to reach where he is, has inspired millions of people. Little wonder that he was identified for a high-level appointment as a diplomat for the Government of Australia. His Simba Group of Companies directly employs more than 2,500 people and many thousands more indirectly. It would therefore be extremely detrimental to the national economy if the Government allowed such a local investor to collapse.

Fourthly, the decision to nationalize Electromaxx, a 50MW heavy fuel thermal plant that uses Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), is both feasible and sensible. HFO fuel is 30% cheaper than diesel. World-wide, electricity/energy is a national security issue.

Many people don't know that it is extremely risky for a country to depend on hydropower dams on a single river as our only source of power. Now, what happens should a major disaster befall at Nalubale Dam or a terrible drought hits water levels in Lake Victoria and River Nile to render the downstream power dams non-functional?

Diversifying our energy mix by investing in a thermal plant would therefore be a strategic decision. Acquiring the thermal plant as a standby generator would therefore be akin to hitting two birds with one stone, getting a strategic asset while also giving an important local investor out of a crisis.

From profit-centric to purpose-driven is the new norm for a sustainable business

Not too long ago, businesses had a singular obsession of making profits for their shareholders. The bottom line reigned supreme, and little else registered on the corporate radar.

However, a remarkable transformation is brewing, heralding a shift towards embracing community investment as the guiding principle for sustainable corporate growth.

This is because businesses are inextricably linked to the communities they operate in. The symbiotic relationship between businesses and their communities is the very bedrock upon which their success is built.

Think about it: your employees, your customers, and your brand advocates, they're all part of this larger ecosystem. It is the investment in this ecosystem that primes the pump for long-term growth and sustainability.

The evidence is compelling. Numerous studies underscore the substantial impact of community investment on a business growth and resilience.

Foremost among the benefits is the cultivation of an exceptionally positive brand image. Businesses that actively engage in community initiatives send an unequivocal message that they are not just about the bottom line but they are about making a meaningful difference in the communities.

For instance, in today,s fiercely competitive job market, prospective employees are increasingly gravitating toward brands that radiate generosity and altruism.

A recent study found that a staggering 64% of Millennials wouldn't even consider working for a business or company lacking robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) values. This statistic isn't just a blip on the radar, it's a tidal wave, especially considering that by 2025, Millennials are projected to constitute a whopping 75% of the workforce.

The impact of community investment extends beyond the workplace; it resonates with consumers. In today's world, consumers aren't merely seeking products or services; they're seeking out brands that prioritize people and purpose over profit.

In this context, community investments have become a potent competitive advantage, elevating brand images and harmonizing with the ethical standards cherished by today's consumers.

It should come as no surprise that businesses are wholeheartedly embracing the mantle of community investment. Consider MTN Uganda, for instance, with its MTN Foundation, which has invested a substantial Shs30 billion in more than 250 projects spanning various fields including Information and Communication Technology, youth empowerment, health and education, fortifying communities. This commitment has impacted more than 2.5 million people, fostering loyalty to the telecom giant.

In the pursuit of local sustainability, beer companies such as Uganda Breweries Ltd and Nile Breweries Ltd are investing significantly in raw material production and thus building a sustainable raw material production while indirectly impacting the lives of millions of the farmers, some of who are beer customers.

In the financial sector, Stanbic Bank's initiatives, such as "Stanbic For Her," demonstrate a commitment to women's empowerment and financial inclusion, impacting thousands and leaving a positive mark on over 2 million Ugandans. These companies, by investing in community well-being, not only enrich lives but also cultivate a loyal customer base, contributing to their enduring success.

Hence, the writing on the wall is clear: community investment is no longer an option; it's an imperative. As societal expectations continue to evolve, and our stakeholders' demands more from the corporate realm, businesses can no longer afford to be mere bystanders. Community investment transcends mere financial contributions; it's about creating a lasting impact, nurturing positive brand images, attracting and retaining top talent, and, most importantly, improving the lives of those who need it most. It's not just a responsibility; it's a golden opportunity for businesses to be a positive force in our world.

In this ever-evolving business landscape, community investment has transformed from an option into a guiding compass, leading us toward a more inclusive, connected, and impactful society. So, the time is now for businesses to step up, to embrace the new reality of corporate responsibility. The future is clear, invest in communities, and you invest in your own sustainability.

Onapito Ekomoloit is the MTN Uganda Foundation Board of Trustees and Corporate Sustainability Initiatives expert.

NCBA Bank Powers Singleton Golf Challenge Semi Final

The bank injected Shs.60 million in the event in which amateur golfers from Uganda and Rwanda took part

The par-71 golf course at Entebbe was abuzz on November 18 as more than 120 golfers descended on the town for the penultimate round of the 8th season of the Singleton Match Play Golf Challenge.

NCBA Bank injected Shs.60 million into the event, which saw the pairs of Joseph Bogera and Kenneth Kiddu as well as Richard Mucunguzi and Saidi Kirarira advance to next months final.

NCBA Bank injected Shs.60 million into the event, which saw the pairs of Joseph Bogera and Kenneth Kiddu as well as Richard Mucunguzi and Saidi Kirarira advance to next months final.

Muyobo reiterated their commitment to promoting the game of golf in Uganda, in line with the Banks environment, social and governance strategy.

NCBA Bank is Uganda's third biggest bank in East Africa by assets and sponsored the Singleton Match Play Challenge as part of their corporate social investment activities by giving back to the community.

Four clubs namely; Kabale Golf Club, Kigali Golf Club, Uganda Golf Club (Kampala) and hosts, Entebbe Golf Club, took part in the event.

Bogera and Kiddu beat off stiff competition from Entebbe Golf Club captain Serwano Walusimbi who paired with Peter Magona.

In the other semifinal, Richard Mucunguzi joined forces with Saidi Kirarira to eliminate Brian Manyindo and Micheal Odur.

The Singleton Match Play Golf Challenge is said to be the most popular golf event for amateur golfers in Uganda and the entire East African region.

The other sponsors of the Singleton Golf Challenge include DSTV, Afrisafe, Uganda Airlines, and Cfao Motors.

No more headache as NCBA Bank launches vehicle importation campaign

A car importer through World Navi to receive 80% financing from NCBA Bank, 2-months grace period, comprehensive insurance cover from ICEA Lion

Gertrude saved a portion of her salary for three years with the aim of buying her first car. With her Shs21 million on her account, she started searching for a car on websites that sell used Japanese cars. She identified the car she wanted and confirmed her order.

However, her heart sunk when she was told that the money has to be wired to Japan before the car is shipped to Mombasa Port.

Gertrude was really scared to send her hard-earned money to people she didnt know. However, a friend encouraged her that it was safe. Two days later, she was relieved to receive a confirmation that her car was on the way. About four months later, the car landed at Mombasa Port. She got the services of someone recommended by her brother to do drive the car from Mombasa to Malaba.

But on seeing the photos of the car from her driver, Gertrude was shocked to notice that the car at the port was different from the one she had paid for, though it was of the same make and colour.

To make matters worse, the driver told her that the battery was not working so they needed to replace it before starting the journey. The car stereo, the tool box plus the spare tyre had also been removed, according to the driver. By the time Gertrude eventually put the car on the road, she had spent an additional Shs.1 million on the car, excluding taxes!

But that was all. She was frequenting different garages as the car kept breaking down. Six months later, she decided to sell the car at a 30% loss so as to cut her losses. Gertrudes ordeal is quite familiar. But she was told that she was lucky that at least her car arrived as some get lost on the way. This challenge is what NCBA Bank, in collaboration with its partners are intending to solve.

The bank, the third largest bank in East Africa by assets, has launched a three-month vehicle purchase promotion in which customers would be able to import both new and used cars of their cars, completely hassle-free.

Working together with World Navi Co., a leading Japanese exporter of high quality new and used motor vehicles, and ICEA Lion Insurance, the bank will finance 80% of the cost of the car. For instance if the car costs Shs.30 million, the customer will contribute only Shs.6 million and pay the rest in monthly installments over a period of say 2-3 years.

Speaking at the launch of the three-month campaign in Kampala on November 17, top officials said every vehicle in the promotion would come with genuine certificates of good quality, 3% comprehensive insurance from ICEA Lion, and a three-month warranty.

Additionally, NCBA Bank would offer a two months grace period and convenient payment terms thereafter. This particular collaboration with World Navi Co. Ltd and ICEA Lion Insurance is yet another manifestation of our commitment to partner with other reputable entities to make the lives of our customers better, said NCBA Bank CEO, Mark Muyobo, at the launch.

He said the two-month grace period offered by NCBA Bank would enable their customers to make the necessary cash-flow adjustments before starting to pay their monthly installments.

We invite our customers to visit any of our branches at Rwenzori Towers, Village Mall, Forest Mall, and Twed Towers or our website for more information about how they can participate in this exciting campaign, he added.

Mr. Ambrose Kibuuka, the CEO of ICEA Lion Insurance Uganda, described the promotion as a groundbreaking collaboration that would redefine the landscape of motor vehicle insurance in Uganda.

Through our partnership with NCBA Bank and World Navi Co., we are proud to offer comprehensive and marine insurance at discounted rates exclusively for all Ugandans utilizing World Navi as their trusted vehicle importer, he added. Mr. Stanley Makombe, the World Navi Co. General Manager for Africa Region, said every vehicle they import is inspected and certified by their engineers in Japan before being shipped to the customer.

This he said, aims at ensuring that their customers get real value for money and hassle-free.

Optimism as October coffee exports fetch $80 million

Ugandan coffee exports have continued to show a positive trend with the volume of coffee exported in October amounting to 470,000 sixty-kilogram bags, worth USD 79 million, according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority.

Robusta continues to form the bulk of our coffee exports, with about 410,000 bags valued at USD67 million. This was an increase of 3% and 18% in quantity and value respectively, compared to the same period last year.

The report shows that the monthly coffee exports performance was higher than that of the previous year on account of a good crop harvest in the South-Western region and the prevailing good prices on the global scene, which prompted exporters to release their stocks.

Cumulatively, coffee exports for the 12 months from November 2022 - October 2023 totaled 6.16 million bags worth USD952 million compared to 5.83 million bags worth USD883 million in the previous year (November 2021-October 2022).

This represents an increase of 6% and 8% in quantity and value respectively. Among the coffee exporting companies, Kyagalanyi Coffee had the highest market share, doubling to 16% up from 7% in September 2023. It was followed by Louis Dreyfus Company 14%, Ugacof (10%); Ideal Quality Commodities (9%), and Olam Uganda Ltd (7%) to complete the list of the top five exporters.

The top ten coffee exporters held a market share of 82%, up from 80% the previous month. This reflects increasing concentration, according to UCDA, adding that changes in exporter positions compared to last month show competition at this level.

UCDA projects that coffee exports would reach 500,000 bags in November with the main harvesting season already underway in Central and Eastern regions. Out of the 50 exporters, 22 exported Robusta Coffee only while nine exported Arabica coffee only.

In regard to the destinations of Ugandas coffee exports, Italy maintained the highest market share with almost 30%, slightly lower than to 35% the previous month. It was followed by Germany 17% down from 22%, Spain 9% down from 4%), India 7% and Algeria 6%.

Coffee exports to fellow African countries saw a slight increase to 90,000 bags and a market share of 19% compared to 105,000 bags (18% market share) the previous month. The top African importers of Ugandan coffee included Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya. Europe remained the main destination for Ugandas coffees with a 68% imports share, but slightly lower than the 70% the previous month.

At the global level, the report shows that total world coffee production for 2023/2024 is forecast to top 174 million bags, some 4.3 million bags higher than the previous year.

Exports to the global market are expected to increase by six million bags to a record 122.2 million bags, higher than 116.4 million bags the previous year, primarily on strong shipments from Brazil.

Global coffee consumption is forecast at 170.2 million bags, with the largest increase happening in the European Union, the US and Brazil.

Record figures: Since the 1960s, the coffee year 2016/2017 was Ugandas best year for coffee exports when some 4.6 million bags were exported. This enabled Uganda to scale the half a billion dollar mark for the first time, with a value of $545 million.

Ugandas national record for coffee exports to date stands at 5.4 million bags, which was set in the 2020/2021 coffee year.

However, 2021/2022 was our best year for foreign exchange earnings from coffee when a national record of about $877 million worth of exports was set.

Uganda remains Africas second largest producer of coffee behind Ethiopia. South American giant Brazil ($5.7 billion value of exports) has maintained its place as the worlds leading coffee producer, followed by Vietnam ($1.8 billion).

Protect Local Industries Museveni

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has said that the government will continue protecting local manufacturers from unfair competition

Protection of local industries; that one must be done, and we need to start with other East African countries to promote the local industries by putting taxes on the imported final products and, at some stage, some intermediate products because all these can be produced here, President Museveni said.

The President made the remarks while meeting members of the Presidential CEO Forum at State House Entebbe. Led by the Vice Chairman of the Forum, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, members briefed the President on the achievements registered since the beginning of the forum in 2021.

H.E. Museveni noted that African countries should transform from raw material-producing economies to industrialization if they are to achieve socio-economic transformation. He gave an example of the global textile industry that is worth US$800 million and that Uganda has been missing out on as a result of exporting unprocessed cotton.

When you hear that all these countries are collapsing because they cant maintain security, its because the economy is not growing. Why? Because they export raw materials, President Museveni stated. He asked the Presidential CEO Forum to join the government in fighting against corruption, which he said is delaying local investment in Uganda.

I am happy with the activities of the forum. Lets help ourselves with corruption because there are a lot of government people asking for bribes from investors. They are delaying investment, he further stressed.

The president also decried the fake seedlings being distributed to farmers and vowed to replace the distributors, who have since turned into seed growers.

The Operation Wealth Creation people whom we had put there to distribute have now become seed growers. Were going to replace them with institutional agencies like prisons and the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC) to produce seeds since they are looking for quick money, H.E. Museveni informed the Forum.

This after the Permanent Secretary-Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, Mr. Ramathan Ggoobi, informed the President about their allocation of 2.32 trillion shillings to the Parish development Model and working on how to remove barriers for the small businesses to access the 200 billion shillings small business recovery funds.

President Museveni said the government is committed to providing cheap electricity and cheap transport as one of the ways to ensure the low cost of doing business in Uganda.

Were going to build a new 840 megawatt dam in Ayago. Were also going to build 200 megawatts of solar in Bulambuli at a price of 5 cents per unit, H.E. Museveni said.

The Vice Chairman of the Presidential CEO Forum, Mr. Emmanuel Katongole, informed the President that since the first engagement with the CEOs in Kyankwanzi in 2021, a lot of reforms have been implemented to support local businesses to access the new markets. He added that 51 joint venture companies and initiatives have been approved under the countrys oil and gas sector, and an agreement has been reached with logistics companies and the Uganda Cargo Consolidators Association to facilitate intra-East African Community trade and insurance.

There has been sensitization about the existing tax holidays; fees for product certification have been lowered for products of SMEs; and a US$217 million grant has been processed from the World Bank to support women enterprises in Uganda, Mr. Katongole said.

The Presidential CEO Forum was inaugurated in 2021 by President Museveni with a call to the business community to adopt import substitution and export promotion if the country is to realize tangible economic progress.

The Forum is a direct and adequate link between the private sector leadership, CEOs of corporate institutions, and government executives with the aim of contributing to the National Development Agenda.

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija; the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, Hon. Francis Mwebesa; the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa; and various CEOs from the public and private sectors.

Let Us Trade More in Finished Products Museveni appeals to China

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has appealed to the government of the Peoples Republic of China to open their market for finished goods.

I would like to encourage China to open their market more for processed coffee and other products, not only raw materials, he urged.

President Museveni made the remarks in a meeting with a delegation from the National Peoples Congress of China led by the standing committees Deputy Chairman, H.E. Luosang Jiangcun, at State House Entebbe.

The President noted that Uganda attaches a lot of importance to the China market because it helps to support the prosperity of the East African country.

When I last checked, China had opened up its market for 400 products to enter their country without tax or limit. That is very important because somebody buying what you produce is actual support. One of the problems in Africa has been the export of raw materials, because when you export raw materials, the income is not only much lower, but you also lose jobs. It is important for China and Africa to trade in finished products more..

He added: When you hear that there are crises in many African countries, this is the root cause. The economy cannot grow without value addition. So, I encourage China to open their market more for finished products. President Museveni conveyed greetings to the President of China, H.E. Xi Jinping, and lauded China for always supporting Africas development.

Ever since 1949, when the Communist Party took power in China, China has been on the side of Africa. At that time, Chinese leaders like Mao Tse-tung supported our struggle against colonialism. Then, after independence, even when China was not so prosperous, they extended support to Africa. I remember China building the Tanzania-Zambia railway after independence, and that was to help landlocked Zambia against the white Supremacists in Southern Africa, H.E. Museveni explained.

Uganda and China have been cooperating for decades. A number of projects have been launched, like the rice scheme in the east of the country. They have helped us with two hydroelectric dams with a total of 900 megawatts, then helped us with the Expressway, and the Huawei company has been helping with the internet backbone as well as many other projects. So, we are very happy with China.

President Museveni also expressed gratitude to China for its support on the issue of the UN Security Council reform that pushed for Africa to get two permanent seats on the council. He also thanked H.E. Jinping for his move to send a high-level delegation to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and G-77+China Third South Summits, which will take place in Kampala next year in January.

On his part, H.E. Luosang thanked President Museveni for promoting China-Africa friendship and cooperation. I want to convey President Xi Jinpings sincere greetings and wishes to you, Your Excellency. You are an experienced politician and a leader of high regard in Africa committed to China-Uganda and China-Africa friendship and cooperation, he said.

H.E. Luosang disclosed that China highly commends President Museveni for promoting peace and development in Africa. Under your strong leadership, the Ugandan government and people have been committed to an independent development path, and you have made notable progress in national socio-economic development. Uganda is a good friend of China, and you are a cooperative partner of China in Africa, he said.

In recent years, President Xi Jinping has had multiple meetings with Your Excellency, and you have maintained regular communication. You have jointly contributed to the strengthening of bilateral relations between Uganda and China.

H.E. Luosang further reiterated Chinas commitment to support Uganda to achieve its socio-economic development agenda. We are looking forward to enhancing our bilateral relations and bringing the China-Uganda cooperative partnership to a new era.

On the issue of the NAM and G-77+China Third South Summits, H.E. Luosang said China supports Uganda in hosting the events and that they believe that the two summits will be an opportunity for the developing countries to strengthen solidarity and seek common development.

It (NAM) will further improve Ugandas international influence, and I thank you for the letter inviting President Xi Jinping to attend the meeting. His Excellency attaches great importance to the summit, but due to the tight schedule, he will not be able to attend in person, but he will send a high-level delegation to join you.

The meeting was also attended by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Thomas Tayebwa, Government Chief whip, Hon. Denis Obua; and the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze.

There is a ready market, Museveni assures Foreign Investors

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has wooed foreign investors to invest in Uganda, saying that the East African country has a lot of investment opportunities with a readily available market.

When you produce a good or a service, who will buy the product? In the case of Uganda, you have the possibility of both. When you are here, you produce a good or a service and you will be assured of the market, he said. The President made the assurance today while officiating at the ongoing Uganda- United Arab Emirates (UAE) Investment and Business Forum at Speke Resort Munyonyo.

When you produce a good or a service, who will buy the product? In the case of Uganda, you have the possibility of both. When you are here, you produce a good or a service and you will be assured of the market, he said. The President made the assurance today while officiating at the ongoing Uganda- United Arab Emirates (UAE) Investment and Business Forum at Speke Resort Munyonyo.

We were clear from the beginning that we needed these markets, that is why we worked on the issue of regional integration. So you have the market of East Africa of 300 million people. Those Ugandan women are producing a lot of children, and are very active with children so by 2050, the population of Africa will be 2.5 billion. It will be the biggest population on earth. Up to now Africa has been underpopulated because you can hear that even today, the population of Africa is 1.5 billion, we have just overtaken India and China but remember that India is 1 million square miles of land, Africa is 12 million square miles of land so you can fit India into Africa 12 times. Africa has the capacity to accommodate more population. Therefore, in terms of business planning, when you are here, you are in the right place at the right time, Gen. Museveni added.

The President further assured the investors that apart from the Uganda, East African and African markets, Uganda has been able to negotiate with the United States of America under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) where they sell products to the United States.

You know there are many Africans in the United States, and we also have trade arrangements with China and with the European Union. Therefore, you have the internal, regional, continental and the third-party market including like the one of UAE.

President Museveni further informed the businesspeople that Uganda has already put in place all the necessary infrastructure required for the smooth running of business. The infrastructure such as roads, electricity, water among others helps to connect the producer of the good or service to the consumer. Now all these are in place or are being put in place here, he noted.

Then you need the natural resources and Uganda has got a wide spectrum of these resources from which you can produce a good or a service. As you can see, we have got very good agriculture. Recently, there were problems in the world such as war in Ukraine, Corona and many people in other parts of the world had a lot of problems, inflation went up; here it went up temporarily up to 10 percent, but it is now 2 percent, one of the lowest in the world. Why? Because we have got everything here, we have got food, raw materials for everything else in agriculture. Our agro-processing sector is a huge area; to process grains, milk, beef, fruits and everything, the raw materials are there. We also have forest products. The trees here grow very quickly and it is very easy to produce forest products here like papers and furniture.

President Museveni on the other hand told the investors that the country is soon starting to produce lithium car batteries for their electric cars which are already in production.

Then we have the knowledge-based industry like automobiles which our people are already engaged in. We have been buying British vehicles for a long time, then we started buying some German vehicles, then we started buying Japanese vehicles and all this time we have been begging these friends to even assemble here, they wouldnt listen but now they have lost that opportunity and we are now going to make our own cars. I dont want to hear assembling of vehicles here, its too late, he expounded.

We also have the pathogenic economy. People have been making money from our diseases through vaccines, but we are now going to make this money ourselves so that we treat our diseases. President Museveni also underscored the role of the private sector in the economic development of any country.

Our movement which started as a student movement in the 1960s as part of the Anti-Colonial Movement, has been able to tell our people that we need to work with the private sector from wherever because if somebody comes regardless of where he comes from and puts a factory here, we are going to share benefits with him. Initially, Africans here did not understand the importance of the private sector; the African leaders made a lot of mistakes in the 1960s and 70s because they did not understand the anatomy of private sector and I tried to talk to some of them, but they did not listen otherwise Africa would be far now, the President asserted.

Our leaders made a mistake with the private sector, they confiscated private property in the name of nationalization. This is one of the main reasons why Africa lagged behind. You can imagine that here in Uganda we had our Indians who had come from India and became Ugandans, and they were very active in business but one of our leaders Idi Amin chased them and stole their property. Why was he chasing these people, yet they were working for the country? But when we came, we brought them back, he added. President Museveni also cautioned Ugandans especially policy makers against frustrating and wasting time of investors, explaining that they are very vital in building the economy of the country.

You should clarify to our friends from the UAE that this area is very good for doing business and most of the requirements are in place. Its not very crucial that you (investors) should work with a local partner, if you get a reliable partner go on, if you dont, come alone because Uganda will still benefit. You Ugandans should welcome Foreign Direct Investment, dont waste their time and dont talk in your confusing language that the factory of an Indian, theres no Indian factory here, all the factories here are Ugandan regardless of who builds it.

The Minister of State for Investment and Privatisation, Hon. Evelyn Anite, commended President Museveni for his visionary leadership that has since enabled the revival of Ugandas economy, which had collapsed before the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came into power in 1986. Today, the exports of Uganda to UAE have increased by 37.8 percent. Ugandas export to the UAE now stands at USD1.4 billion. The Foreign Direct Investment stands at USD3 billion, she stressed.

The Ambassador of Uganda to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), H.E Kibedi Zaake elucidated that due to President Musevenis continuous engagements with the investors in UAE, the Foreign Direct Investment has managed to grow from USD1 billion to USD3 billion. Your Excellency, by the time you came for the Dubai expo 2020, the Foreign Direct Investment from UAE to Uganda was at USD1 billion but after the engagements you held with the President of UAE and some of the rulers plus the companies you met, Your Excellency, the FDI grew by three-fold this year; it has now come to USD3 billion, Amb. Kibedi informed the President. The leader of the delegation from UAE, Mr. Rashid Karim revealed that in UAE they are looking for a sustainable growth of their economy based on knowledge and innovations and that is why they are working with countries like Uganda to discover such opportunities.

President Museveni Meets Dubai Investor

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has met the CEO and Managing Director of Rowad Capital Commercial LLC (RCC) group, Mr. Chaher Al Taki, who called on him at State House Entebbe.

RCC is a leading global engineering and construction contractor established in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The group also specialises in the provision of Advisory and Consulting Services in the Middle East and Africa.

Mr. Chaher informed President Museveni of his group's interest to invest in various sectors that include among others oil and gas as well as telecommunications.

President Museveni expressed Uganda's readiness to work with the group so that both parties benefit economically.

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija and the Minister of State for Investment and Privatization, Hon. Evelyn Anite.

Others were the Chairperson of Tumaini African Knowledge Center (TAKC), Ambassador Rosa Malango and TAKC board member, Ms. Rose Birungi.

President commissions fruit processing factory in Nakasongola

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni commissioned Kike Tropical Fruits Limited, an extraction and refinery plant. Situated in Kakooge, Nakasongola District, the factory deals in fruit processing. During the commissioning, the President thanked Mr. Francis Mugabe, the proprietor of the factory and his family for joining Ugandas fight against poverty. Thank you very much, he said.

President Museveni also thanked Ms. Olivia Mugabe, who persuaded her brother, Mr. Francis to set up Kike Tropical Fruits Limited, for her persistence that led to the formation of the factory. I found that daughter of mine in Austria. She told me she wants to come back to Uganda and add a brick to the development of our country. I suggested to her that she find a market in Austria so that they could buy our products. She managed to get the market and then came back here to get what she could sell to them, he said. When she realized that the Austrian market needed standard processed fruits, she mobilized her brother Francis to set up the factory. I want to thank Olivia and Francis for having spectacles that see far. You know, you Ugandans want to import a lot. Francis was an importer but later realized that he could manufacture what Ugandans import.

The President further assured Mr. Mugabe of the governments support President Museveni told the audience that for years now, he has been advising Ugandans to get involved in commercial agriculture with calculation, saying that its one of the best ways of fighting poverty and creating wealth.

When we came to power in 1986, many farmers had made a mistake of fragmenting family land through inheritance, and that is why I said from 1989 to 1995 that you need the four-acre model. We told you that if you have four acres of land now, in one acre put coffee, and in the second acre put fruits like oranges, mangoes, or pineapples. In the third acre, put pasture for zero-grazing cows for milk, and in the fourth acre, put food crops like cassava. You never heard me talking about cotton for the smallholder farmers because cotton is death for them; they will never get out of poverty; it can only make money if you do it on a large scale. Tobacco is also poison for West Nile. In the backyard, you put poultry for eggs, and for those who are not Muslims, look after pigs. Then, if you are near the swamp, make fishponds, he said.

Therefore, these seven activities are what can save a man of four acres or less. That is what we told you. Our message was partially heard; that is how people in Luwero started to grow fruits like pineapples because we talked so much about it at that time, and Francis didnt know that I had started the campaign for the apples in the highlands like Kabale. From one acre of apples, you can get a lot of money. The problem was on our side; we tried to build a fruit factory in Soroti, but it was poorly built. That is why I was now struggling with Olivia to see whether we could get private investors.

President Museveni also donated a Fuso truck to the fruit farmers in Greater Luwero to help them transport their agricultural produce.

The proprietor of the factory, Mr. Francis Mugabe thanked President Museveni for honoring their invitation, before revealing that the day is a special one for him, Kike Tropical Fruits and fellow traders in Greater Luweero who have supported him for the last 20 years of doing business.

It is a great opportunity for us to host our beloved president. Mzee, we are very happy to see you, he said. He also informed the president that the fruits they use in the factory are supplied by local farmers from across the country.

We offer them ready markets for their fruits. Not only do we offer them ready market, but we also employ their children, Mr. Mugabe asserted, adding that Kike Tropical Fruits Limited now exports its pineapple concentrate to the European Union (EU) market. Our products have been tested and they meet the required standards of the EU market and that is why we are exporting.

Due to increased demand for the factorys products, Mr. Mugabe informed the President that he had to acquire a loan from the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) to upscale and expand the capacity. Your Excellency, we were able to be financed for half of what we requested because we lacked collateral, but I think we shall harmonize that, the investor said.

We are meeting only 30 percent of the required volumes of mango pulp for our local customers, so we are missing out on the remaining 70 percent. Your Excellency, we need you to support us and acquire machines that can contain that capacity so that we can take up the remaining 70 percent.

Ms. Olivia Mugabe said, The patriotism of my family inspired me to serve my mother country. My role in Kike was to provide advice to my brother Francis and to make market linkages internationally. Kike is the answer to value addition to mangoes and pineapples while also boosting income for our farmers.

Established in 2019, the state-of-the Art plant has a processing capacity of 1,000 metric tons of fresh fruits each season and has registered and supported more than one thousand farmers of mangoes, pineapples, and passion fruits from the districts of Greater Luwero, Greater Masaka, West Nile, and the Northern and Bukedi sub-regions in Uganda.

The factory adds value to Ugandan-grown fruits that include mangoes, pineapples, and passion fruit and is also looking at apple processing, thus not only supporting commercial agriculture by offering a ready market to farmers for their products but also improving farmers household incomes.

The factory that has acquired national and international accreditation and certification employs 500 workers, which directly and indirectly impacts over 10,000 smallholder fruit farmers across the country.

Government reaffirms support to scientists

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has warned public officials against taxing innovations, saying there's no logic in taxing innovations when Uganda gives tax holidays to products that are not the result of new ideas.

"Why tax innovations? There's no logic because even when a product is not a result of innovation, the government gives a tax holiday of 10 years for products that are already well known, but if you are bringing it to Uganda for the first time, we give you a tax holiday. So why would someone tax a baby, when he has not been taxing adults?

Innovators have not highlighted this. You bring it up, it will stop; that is why we created a Ministry of Science to specifically bring out these issues," he reassured.

The President made these remarks while officiating at the National Science Week at Kololo Independence Grounds. He was accompanied by the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Maama Janet Museveni.

The National Science Week 2023 serves as a pivotal platform strategically designed to showcase the milestones Uganda has achieved in the domains of science, technology, and innovation on a national scale and on a global stage.

Speaking at the event, the president reassured scientists of the government's support for promoting innovations, which in turn will help transform the country socially and economically.

"You know how we work; recently, we were able to put more than Shs1 trillion into the Parish Development Model (PDM) program. Some years ago, when we were struggling with the road infrastructure, we were able to inject almost Shs5 trillion year by year," he said.

"So with science and innovation, this Shs 500 billion you need can be found. The minister should bring up the proposal for discussion, and the government will look for the funds. We don't have a problem with the minimum funding you are talking about. The government seed capital, which was our recommendation, can be provided through the annual allocation of this money."

The President further tasked the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations to bring on board the private sector so that they can contribute an additional venture capital to the science sector. President Museveni commended the religious people for linking God's work with science and emphasizing science because everything is about this branch of knowledge.

"Who created the wind? Is it the scientists? It is nature, and nature is God. If you believe in God, you must believe in science," he said.

"I thank the religious people like Bishop Joshua Lwere, for aligning religion with science because this is quite a destruction by those who believe in miracles instead of using what is known. Miracles happen, even me I have seen some miracles, I don't know where they come from, but I don't concentrate on them, I concentrate on what I can do. If they happen, then that's good, that is like a bonus added to whatever I'm struggling with."

The President pledged to offer scholarships to scientists, informing them that they should highlight the most crucial areas of study that the country needs, and then the government will be able to support them.

The Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr. Monica Musenero, informed the President that the science, technology, and innovation sector is a key driver of economic development.

She said it accounts for 50 percent of national economic development and that any nation that does not figure out how to make science work for their economy struggles to sustainably grow. We are working to attain a transformed society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country by 2040, if not earlier, as you have envisioned."

She also reported to the President that as the ministry, they have developed strategies, put in place structures and mechanisms to develop human capital which has an aligned culture that will deliver Uganda to science-led socio-economic transformation within the shortest time possible.

The event was also attended by the Minister of State for Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs, Hon. Kabuye Kyofatogabye, the State House Comptroller, Ms. Jane Barekye, scientists, investors, among others.

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on Use ICT to Build Our Economy

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has cautioned Ugandans against using Information And Communications Technology (ICT) to promote importation of goods. President Museveni said Ugandans should use ICT to promote the buying of goods and services within Uganda or promote selling to outsiders but not vice versa.

I am told I can now use my followers on social media to advertise and then Im paid but now the question is, whose products are you advertising? Are you advertising Ugandas products or are you trying to convert Ugandans into importers? If you are promoting importation, then you are sucking blood from us and taking it outside, he said.

The President made the remarks while officiating at the 2nd Annual National ICT Job Fair 2023 at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds.

Running under the theme: Navigating the Digital Horizon, the two-day event organised by the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in partnership with Huawei Technologies Uganda, serves as a platform to connect employers in the ICT sector with talented job seekers. The event brings together a diverse range of stakeholders, including employers, job seekers, policymakers, and industry experts, thus fostering meaningful networking and collaboration opportunities.

President Museveni explained that ICT is a huge step for the human race but Africa, like all the other scientific innovations, must use it in the right context to build an economy that is independent, integrated, and self-sustaining.

If you integrate your ICT with imports, then you are a liability, not an asset to the country; the same with the banks, telecom companies like MTN. When you talk or chat What are you talking about? Are you talking about importing human hair? If that is what you are talking about, then you are a liability. What are telephones used for? Is it to buy or sell? The banks are giving loans, but for what? For importing or for manufacturing here? Or for internal distribution?

President Museveni further underscored the vital role of ICT, saying that it makes work faster, more efficient, and more traceable, which is why he supports the idea of digitizing government processes.

He, however, noted that Ugandans and Africans at large should not over-emphasize electronic technology and forget about other basic human needs like food, shelter, clothing, health, and security, among others, which are part and parcel of building economies.

I support ICT, but I dont want you to make the mistake of getting lost again because Africans are likely to get lost. Have you ever eaten a computer? The President inquired. Gen. Museveni further urged that Ugandas digital effort should be used to support the independence of the country in acquiring the basic human needs.

The digital effort that we are doing, is it supporting the independence of Uganda or the dependence of Uganda in acquiring these basic human needs? These needs are the ones transforming economies. In Uganda, we are stable because we are a bit independent in the area of food, some of the areas of shelter items like cements, steel, bars and so on, he said.

You can imagine that until recently people were importing furniture from Dubai, but I think that one is also changing; leather was being imported; now we are making it here in Kawumu from your cows, mobility; we have been using Japanese cars for all these years. And in the past we used to tell them to come and assemble their cars from here, but they were not interested. Recently, some of them wanted to assemble vehicles from here I said no; I no longer allow anybody to assemble vehicles here; we shall make them here ourselves.

The Vice President, H.E. Jessica Alupo, lauded President Museveni for his unwavering support and commitment towards the ICT sector, which has enabled the government to achieve so many endeavors as far as the sector is concerned.

Your Excellency, I would like to specifically thank you because you have already directed the Ministry of ICT to conclude the establishment of the National ICT Backbone Infrastructure together with Huawei. Your Excellency, the National Backbone Infrastructure is a lifeline that will propel Uganda into a digital future, and by prioritizing connectivity and investing in this critical infrastructure, we can bridge the gap and also empower our citizens to thrive in the digital age, H.E Alupo said.

The Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi, described President Museveni as a great champion and advocate of ICT in the country. We want to appreciate your personal efforts and the efforts of the government because, in all your speeches, you always stress the need to create employment opportunities for Ugandans, especially your bazukulu. You have attracted very many investments, and there are factories and industries which have been built here in Uganda that have created many jobs, Dr. Baryomunsi noted.

The Minister of State for ICT, Hon. Joyce Ssebugwawo, said the event is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of ICT, National Guidance, and partners, and it reflects the countrys collective commitment to address the issue of unemployment in Uganda, particularly in the dynamic field of information and communication technology. It is important to underscore the significance of this endeavor. Uganda boasts of a young and vibrant population. The National ICT Job Fair serves as a bridge connecting our talented youth with the many opportunities this sector offers, the Minister said.

The ICT sector is a driver for economic growth and innovation, and our government has made substantial investments in creating an enabling environment for development. However, this growth can only be sustained if we ensure that the workforce is equipped with the right skills. This is where the job fair plays a pivotal role. The ICT sector alone contributes 2 percent to the aggregate nominal GDP and that is as of the Financial Year 2021-2022 and this continues to grow.

MTN Uganda delivers on promise to President Yoweri Museveni, successfully mobilizes South African investors to invest in Uganda

Wednesday 6th September 2023. Kampala, Uganda. MTN Uganda has fulfilled President Yoweri Museveni's call to action, rallying South African investors to explore opportunities in Uganda. This remarkable achievement follows the successful conclusion of the second leg of the Uganda-South Africa summit, held at the prestigious Speke Resort, Munyonyo. In February of this year, during the first leg of the Uganda-South Africa trade and investment summit in South Africa, President Museveni issued an impassioned appeal to MTN and other South African businesses operating in Uganda. He urged them to collaborate in attracting more South African companies to invest in Uganda, particularly in the critical sectors of Agro-Industrialization, manufacturing, and tourism. The objective was clear: to bolster the Ugandan economy, create new employment opportunities, and enhance the country's trade balance. Hon. Evelyn Anite, the State Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatization, commended MTN Uganda for its unwavering commitment to this cause. She said the telecom giant successfully mobilized 40 South African companies to participate in the summit, fostering greater trade and investment cooperation between the two nations. Several South African enterprises, including Tiger Brands, SADC Grains, Radco Holdings, and Brand South Africa, have expressed their intent to establish businesses in Uganda, reinforcing the significance of this collaboration.

During the summit's closing ceremony on September 06, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni extended his gratitude to MTN Uganda and its partners for their instrumental role in helping the government attract foreign direct investment from South Africa. He emphasized Uganda's abundant resources in minerals, agriculture, and forestry, which present a wealth of opportunities for investors. President Museveni reaffirmed the government's commitment to ensuring that Uganda's products are not exported as unfinished goods, emphasizing the importance of private sector participation in attracting more South African investors. He also lauded MTN Uganda for its pivotal role in transforming the nation's mobile phone landscape, taking it from around 28,000 users in the 1990s to over 30 million customers today. Ralph Mupita, the Group President and CEO of MTN Group, pledged continued support to the Ugandan government through various initiatives aimed at boosting the economy of the east African nation. These include among others financing for locally produced smartphones to the population to increase internet penetration and catalyze economic growth. In a parallel development, the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI), in collaboration with South African firm Hexagon Engineering, signed a memorandum of understanding to produce electricity transformers in Uganda, with the goal of reducing imports. Likewise, the Uganda Investment Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with Invest South Africa to fortify their collaboration and promote trade and investment. This summit builds upon the groundwork laid during a similar event held in South Africa earlier this year. President Museveni's call to South African businesses in Uganda to mobilize more of their compatriots to invest in Uganda, particularly in Agro-Industrialization, manufacturing, and tourism, continues to bear fruit. Recent statistics from the Bank of Uganda reveal that the value of Uganda's exports to South Africa has steadily increased, doubling to US$21.24 million over the past decade. In contrast, the value of South Africa's exports to Uganda decreased from US$251.6 million to US$127.6 million during the same period. Uganda's exports to South Africa encompass cotton, gold, fish fillets, tobacco, coffee, and fresh flowers, while South Africa's exports to Uganda include machinery, vehicles, plastics, chemicals, electronics, parts and accessories, petroleum, live animals, books and newsprint, textiles, footwear, aircraft, and household goods. MTN Uganda led the charge in organizing the second leg of the Uganda-South Africa summit, partnering with key South African businesses in Uganda and collaborating with essential local institutions, including Absa Bank Uganda, Sanlam, Nile Breweries Limited, Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited, DFCU Bank, MultiChoice Uganda, and Woolworths and Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU). MTN Uganda remains dedicated to fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships between Uganda and South Africa. This achievement reflects our unwavering commitment to driving progress and prosperity for all.

UKETA PARTNERS WITH IBANDA UNIVERSITY TO BOOST ONLINE LEARNING

UKETA, an online Learning platform has partnered with Ibanda University to enhance an alliance aimed at extending the skylines of soft skills education to both students and lecturers within the University. According to Daudi Bitature, Sales Operational Analyst, UKETA Learning platform, the aim of this partnership is to empower the academic community at Ibanda University by providing cost-effective access to a comprehensive array of soft skills courses. The courses are organized by experts in business, finance, and education, which will prepare them for success in various professional spheres. “Collaborating on this joint venture is bound to make a significant impact on the employability, entrepreneurial, and personal development skills of the students. Let's work together to make sure this dream becomes a reality,” said Bitature. Christopher Banura, Assistant Dean, Ibanda University, said students should possess not just academic coursework, but also essential soft skills to enhance their attractiveness to potential employers after completing their university studies. “This partnership ensures the provision of practical skills aligned with their academic subjects, which they can apply beyond their educational years. This pivotal decision aims to seamlessly integrate the courses into the student's learning journey, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and skill enhancement,” said Banura. The meeting which was attended by over 15 people, entailed breakdowns of various strategies for seamlessly integrating these essential courses into Ibanda University's existing curriculum. Emphasis was also placed on creating a hybrid learning experience, ensuring inclusivity by catering to individuals without ready access to electronic devices and data bundles. This collaboration between UKETA Learning and Ibanda University marks a significant stride toward equipping the academic community with the tools they need to excel not only in their chosen fields but also in their personal and professional growth. UKETA Learning platform was launched this year in April and it offers a user-friendly and interactive environment, with features such as video lessons, quizzes, practical assignments, and community forums that facilitate peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. The platform is accessible via smartphones making learning flexible.

MTN Uganda unveils the second phase of MTN Ace Tech as 20 enterprises are selected to take part in the program

Wednesday 31 st May 2023 Kampala, Uganda- MTN Uganda has unveiled the second phase of MTN ACE-Tech known as the MTN Ace-Tech-Incubation program aimed at equipping enterprises with skills needed to successfully spur growth of their businesses. This follows conclusion of the MTN Ace-Tech's first phase this month that involved training 130 individuals in software development. MTN Uganda Foundation and the partners have selected 20 enterprises to participate in the inaugural MTN Ace Tech program's incubation phase at the National ICT Innovation Hub in Nakawa in Kampala. The incubation is to be implemented by MTN Foundation through its MTN ACE Tech, Centenary Technology Services and the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, implemented by Innovation Village, a Kampala-based nongovernmental organisation dedicated to convening various stakeholders to collaborate with and support entrepreneurs to bring ideas to life that leverage technology for scale and to solve the most pressing problems in society. Bryan Mbasa, the Senior Manager at MTN Foundation said the selected participants out of 40 that submitted their applications this year will undergo a 13-week training in commercializing their business ideas and managing growth.  “Throughout this journey, the participants will attend all the master classes, workshops, webinars, networking events and so on, and access tools and high-quality coaches and mentors to support in applying the concepts and insights gained, from the various program sessions towards refining the enterprises,” he said. He said selected enterprises cut across various sectors including digital financial services, agriculture and transport. Mbasa said enterprises that will emerge best in the incubation will have an opportunity to meet a wide range of prospective local and international investors for an opportunity to raise an early-stage financing round to spur their growth. “We, at MTN Uganda, believe in the power of entrepreneurship to create a positive social and economic impact in our communities, and throughout this incubation, we're proud to support entrepreneurs and enterprises to unlock their potential and create opportunities for growth and development,” he said. Uganda is ranked as one of the most enterprising countries in the world with high percentages of new business each year, according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). However, the business failure rate remains also high due to inadequate skills and proper product positioning. This also coincides with the government's National Development Plan (NDPIII) which recognizes the potential of ICT to drive economic growth, innovation and job creation. Rowena Turinawe, the Head of Innovation and Digital Services at Centenary Technology Services, said they are glad to be part of the MTN Ace Tech incubator because it aligns directly with the mission of providing holistic technology solutions and delivers innovation that matters to enable and inspire entrepreneurial growth. “This initiative will provide pathways for highly skilled innovators to create sustainable and scalable solutions that support service delivery, create employment opportunities, and improve the use of ICT innovation and technology development in the country and this fits perfectly into our agenda,” she said. “We want to see the youth rise to their potential, equip them with technical skills, open opportunities for them to gain employment and spur innovation as well as entrepreneurship in Uganda.” “Who better to share about Business than those that have walked the path - MTN with 25 years of experience across Africa, Centenary with 40 years of experience across Uganda and now Malawi. That's combined 75years of business excellence that the selected participants will tap into the MTN ACE program,” Rowena concluded. Arthur Mukembo, the Future Lab Studio Lead at Innovation Village said the new partnership the new initiative through the Future Lab Studio, the Innovation Village will support innovators to build and scale solutions by creating pathways that give these enterprises opportunities to build better enterprises. “This innovative will also enable enterprises to access market opportunities, unlock relevant funding to sustain their growth as they work to improve the lives and livelihoods of Ugandans as they scale into Africa and beyond,” he said. Meanwhile, Agnes Lumala, the academic registrar at the Uganda Institute of Information Communications and Technology, which hosts the National ICT Innovation Hub, said the government's partnership with the private sector now crucial to drive new technologies. “Whereas pushing the digitalization agenda is crucial for government to attain economic recovery, we cannot achieve it without support of the private sector,” she said, acknowledging the contributions of MTN Foundation, Centenary Technology Services and the Innovation Village towards the digital agenda. MTN Ace Tech is one of the three MTN ACE program launched in December last year and implemented in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, The National ICT Innovation Hub, Centenary Technology Services, Refactory, MUBS Entrepreneurship Innovation, and Incubation Centre, Engage Consults and MTN's Fintech subsidiary, MTN MoMo Uganda Limited to empower the youths.

BIRDIC Commissions New Generation Tuku Tuku Vehicles to Improve Tooke Distribution

The Banana Industrial Research and Development Center (BIRDIC) whose mission is to use research to develop and market banana-based valued-added products, is embarking on a drive to popularize Tooke flour and related products, by improving their distribution network countrywide. BIRDIC is the successor of the Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development (PIBID). Speaking during the commissioning of a new generation tools of trade (Tuku Tuku) that are meant to widen Tooke distribution capacity, The Director General of the PIBID and BIRDC, Rev. Dr. Professor Florence Isabirye Muranga, said that streamlining the distribution process and equipping agents with the tools to deliver quality products to the market was an integral part of making sure the initiative harnessed the success of research and development. The Tuku Tuku vehicles will distribute a wide range of Tooke products which include; Tooke flour, Mandaazi, Doughnuts, Bread, Cakes, Scones, Crisps, and Biscuits, among others. Rev Dr. professor Muranga, added that the market is littered with gluten-rich confectionary products and that enhanced distribution of Tooke products would ensure a healthier choice of gluten-reduced products which are healthier for human consumption are available across the country. “As the society becomes more health conscious, they will demand more of products that are of high quality and that meet health requirements and that's why research is important” She added: “Our products are made out of Tooke flour. Incomes of our farmers will definitely increase as we extensively distribute Tooke products, we have created employment for the youth as well as retailers. As we venture into the international market, we shall attract forex – which is crucial to the development of our country.” On the enormous opportunities in the market, Dr. Muranga emphasized the company's readiness and capacity to satisfy both local and regional markets while also working on expanding the export market. “We have internally built resilient structures to counter any challenges that may come our way. Tuk Tuks are not in direct competition with existing sales infrastructure rather they will ensure a steady supply of products both to retailers and wholesalers. In other words, they will complement the existing infrastructure,” said Muranga. According to Isaiah Ssemamuli, Tooke Sales Manager, the Tuk Tuk vehicle distribution model is built on a door-to-door sales strategy that intends to supply to schools, hospital canteens, grocery stores, supermarkets, small shops, and any other customer touch point that can be visited on a daily basis “We intend to cover all parts of the country starting with Eastern and Central Uganda. The wider distribution footprint has been in Western Uganda and this is attributed to the location of our pilot plant in Bushenyi,” said Ssemamuli. Andrew Matovu, the Marketing Manager, noted that this is just a beginning of the commercialization. “Today we are commissioning the new generation distribution but we intend to unveil a revised distribution strategy during the launch of our first hub in Jinja.” said Matovu. Dr. Muranga thanked all esteemed customers who have continuously bought the products and reassured a steady supply in all the regions of the country.

TOOKE is a registered trademark under PIBID, The Presidential Initiative on Banana Industrial Development Project (PIBID) was established by the Government of Uganda in 2005 with the mandate to pilot the banana research that was generated at Makerere University into tangible socio-economic outcomes. PIBID, a Government funded project was founded with a mission to spearhead the endowment of rural farmers with technical/scientific services so as to ensure sustainable banana production for competitive value addition, product development, and quality assurance The Banana Industrial Research and Development Centre (BIRDC) is the successor to PIBID BIRDC's Mission is to be the center of excellence for farmer-focused banana industrial development through strategic public-private partnerships.

NIGERIA- UGANDA BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT FORUM

The Nigeria High Commission in Uganda in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Collaboration with the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Uganda Investment Authority has embarked on strengthening trade through meeting Ugandan Entreprenuers in a business summit. The two-day business summit held at Hotel Africana is aiming at enhancing Business opportunities between the private sector of both Countries. Addressing the stakeholders in the summit, H.E Ismail Alatise, the Nigerian Ambasaddor said this business forum is allowing the Nigeria - Uganda public and private sectors to discuss business challenges, identify opportunities, share experiences, and create business-to-business networks. "We are raising awareness about investment and business opportunities in both countries. This will boost bilateral trade and investment flow through showcasing products in a business exhibition," said Alatise. Olive Kigongo, The President of Uganda National Chamber of Commerce remarked that the this platform is an overview for business opportunities, Sharing challenges in doing business, Getting credible first-hand information on investment climate, trade and business. " Ugandan Entreprenuers are to exploit skills of accessing finance for business and investment, Understanding regulatory, taxation and legal regime Networking for potential partnerships, among others," said Kigongo The Uganda- Nigerian business summit is targeting the Large, Medium, Small and Start-Up companies from Uganda and Nigeria Potential investors from the region and the rest of the world. Also, Transport and Cargo companies Banks, microfinance, and other financiers. Others are; Manufacturer, Trader and Transport Associations, Education Institutions, Agricultural Producers and Agro -industries Leading local and regional media In the PUBLIC SECTOR, it's targeting Government Ministers, Policymakers, public sector agencies, and business support institutions covering Security, Taxation, Trade, Finance, Immigration, Investment, Tourism, and the East Africa Community, International Organizations, multinational agencies, and development partners Over 200 people attended the summit including Senior Uganda and Nigeria Officials, private sector business leaders, technical experts, academia, and donors with informative and relevant discussions across select sectors including Finance and Investment, Security, Trade, Taxation, Immigration, Agriculture, and Education.

DTB Bequeaths Food Items to the Muslim Community in Kampala

Muslims dwelling in Kampala city have received an Iftar food package to celebrate Eid as they end the Ramathan season, thanks to Diamond Trust Bank-DTB. The food items include sacks of Sugar, rice, cooking oil, and flour, among others. Speaking during the handover at the Gadafi Mosque situated at Old Kampala, Andrew Musanje, the Head of Branches & Alternate Business at DTB, said Iftar gives the bank an opportunity to join in fellowship with friends – new and old – to celebrate the diversity of its customers. “We are therefore here on the occasion of Ramadan iftar to celebrate the breaking of the fast – one of the most sacred and joyful rituals of Islam. Our Muslim brothers and sisters across the country and the entire world, have been fasting and breaking the fast together as a sign of celebrating common humanity and the universal values of peace, charity, community, and family,” said Musanje. After receiving the packages from DTB, Sheikh Shaban Mubaje Ramadhan, the Grand Mufti of Uganda, thanked DTB for such a good gesture by DTB and noted that this encourages the Muslim community to strengthen the ties on their side through embracing mobile banking and taking on more products and services DTB has to offer to the world.

About DTB Diamond Trust Bank - DTB is a leading regional bank, listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). An affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, STB has operated in East Africa for over seventy years. DTB's focus on the SME sector's commitment to enhancing convenience for customers through branch network expansion has driven the bank's growth in recent years. With over one hundred and thirty branches in Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, and Burundi some of which are 24/7 digital branches, DTB is committed to enabling people to advance with confidence and success. The bank's heritage and values are articulated in its brand promise, to achieve more and brought to life through an engaged diverse workforce.

UKETA Launches Online Courses to Upskill Professionals and Empower Organizations Across East Africa

In the latest demonstration of the potential and growth of online education, Simba Group has launched UKETA, an innovative online course platform designed for professionals. The platform is designed to provide a comprehensive and flexible learning experience, empowering professionals to acquire new skills, enhance their expertise, and advance their careers in today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape. Speaking during the launch in Kampala, UKETA Founder Dr. Natalie Bitature said UKETA is tailored to meet the unique needs of professionals across various industries, including business, technology, finance, marketing, leadership, and more. The platform, she said, offers a wide range of courses, ranging from beginner to advanced levels, to cater to learners with different skill levels and backgrounds. Courses are curated by industry experts and thought leaders, ensuring that learners receive the most up-to-date and relevant content. "We are excited to launch UKETA and provide professionals with a cutting-edge platform to enhance their skills and stay ahead in their careers. Every effort was made in designing the platform to ensure we deliver high-quality, practical, and relevant learning experiences that can empower professionals to achieve their career goals and excel in their respective industries," Dr. Bitature said. UKETA offers a user-friendly and interactive learning environment, with features such as engaging video lessons, interactive quizzes, practical assignments, and community forums to facilitate peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. The platform is accessible via desktop and mobile devices, making learning convenient and flexible for busy professionals. Joel Muhumuza, one of the UKETA Instructors said: "The courses focus on practicality and real-world applications. The platform offers hands-on, industry-relevant assignments and projects that allow learners to apply their knowledge and skills in practical scenarios. This approach enables professionals to immediately apply what they have learned in their work environment, making the learning experience highly practical and valuable. To celebrate its launch, UKETA offers a limited-time promotional offer with discounts on select courses, making it even more affordable for learners to embark on their learning journey. Additionally, UKETA plans to regularly update its course offerings and expand its partnerships with renowned institutions of higher learning to enhance the learning experience for its users continuously.

Younger dairy farmers and increased consumption of UHT milk to spur sector growth

Uganda's potential and fortunes in the dairy sector can grow significantly if strategies are put in place to attract a younger crop of dairy farmers and with increased investment in long life milk processing and other value added products. Jackline Kittony, the Marketing Director Tetra Pak East Africa said that Uganda's conducive weather makes diary farming in Uganda an area of competitive advantage for the economy. Tetra Pak, a leading global player in packaging solutions in the dairy sector, is leading a campaign to popularize consumption of long life milk especially among the younger generation. Kittony said that there should be deliberate efforts to create a milk consumption culture at home and at school by carefully explaining the benefits of milk consumption to children. “Studies have shown that UHT milk is loaded with essential nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamins A and B12 which are good for health”. In addition, the UHT milk comes in six-layered aseptic packaging which prevents the milk from contamination. Current data from the Diary Development Authority (DDA) indicates that Uganda produces about 2.8 billion liters of milk annually but only 30% is processed. According to recent statistics on milk consumption, Kenya leads EAC with 120 liters per capita annually, which is 89 liters below the recommended amount from the World Health Organization (WHO). Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda record even lower annual per capita consumption numbers of 53 liters, 42 liters, and 38 liters, respectively. “UHT milk has a long shelf life milk. That milk is safe. Because of the high heat treatment the milk is processed through, the bacteria doesn't survive giving it a higher shelf life,”Kittony said. She explained that if farmers embraced UHT processing of their milk, they will enjoy even larger market and better incomes since consumers far and wide would be able to access their products all year round. Information from the ministry of agriculture indicates that Uganda's revenue from export of dairy products rose from $131.5m (about sh490bn) in 2018 to $205m (765bn) in 2020. Kittony pointed out that sector revenues could rise even higher if youth were attracted to the diary sector. For this to be done, she noted that dairy farming should be seen as a business and not simply as a subsistence activity done predominantly in Uganda's cattle corridors. “We need to attract young people into the diary space. The average age of a dairy farmer is 64 years, this indicates that the young people are not taking it up,” she pointed out. “We need to view diary as a business venture. The young people need to be educated on what the inputs and outputs are and importantly, where the markets are,” Kittony explained. A recent survey published by Tetra Pak projects that Africa will see an increase of more than 50 percent in liquid dairy consumption, growing from 15 billion liters in 2010 to almost 25 billion liters in 2020. Milk consumption in Africa is currently the lowest in the world, around 37 liters per capita annually, which is 67 liters below the world average of 104 liters per capita and only accounts for six percent of world consumption. The growth, however, will come at the expense of “loose milk”, which is unpasteurized milk sold in cans and/or bags.

Simba Telecom and d.light Partner to Distribute Solar Products in Uganda

Simba Telecom Uganda, a leading telecommunications company, and d.light, a global leader in solar-powered solutions, have signed a partnership agreement to distribute solar solutions across Uganda. Under the partnership, Simba Telecom Uganda will expand its product offerings to include d.light's high-quality solar-powered products, including solar home systems, solar lanterns, and portable solar chargers. These products will be available at Simba Telecom Uganda's retail stores nationwide, making them more accessible to customers across the country. Speaking during the agreement signing and launch event in Kampala, Simba Group Chairman and Simba Telecom Founder Dr. Patrick Bitature said the partnership aligns with Simba Group's commitment to complement the government to power every house in the country and provide innovative products and services that meet the needs of Ugandans. "We are excited to partner with d.light to provide our customers access to affordable and reliable solar solutions. This partnership aligns with our commitment as Simba Group to power every house in the country and provide innovative products and services that meet the needs of our customers," Dr. Bitature said. Ugandans will access affordable solar products on a pay-as-you-go basis for up to 1 and a half years. The PayGo Solution (Kibanja Mpola) is a revolutionary approach to purchasing solar products, allowing customers to make affordable payments over time. This system removes the barrier to entry for many customers who may not be able to afford a one-time fee for a solar product. "We believe that access to clean energy is a basic human right and that everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from the advantages of solar energy. The partnership with Simba Telecom enables us to bring our solar solutions to more people across Uganda. Customers will enjoy the benefits of solar energy without worrying about the upfront costs subsequently improving their lives and contributing to economic development," d.light Group CEO Nick Imuda said. Across the world, governments strongly advocate for the promotion of solar energy alongside the main electricity grid. Solar energy is renewable, abundant, and accessible to most people, especially in rural areas where access to the main electricity grid is limited. The partnership is part of d.light's mission to empower people without access to reliable electricity with affordable, high-quality solar-powered solutions. The partnership will enable d.light to reach more customers and help them improve their quality of life by providing access to clean energy.

UNLOCKING INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN THE LANGO REGION

Gudie Leisure Farm (GLF) has dedicated the month of April for the Lango Region Spotlight. This is an initiative aimed at enlightening the country about the investment opportunities in Lango, generating support for young entrepreneurs within and from across Uganda that are already investing in it, and celebrating its rich cultural heritage. The Spotlight will feature 3 major events; - (1) the Lango Region Business Symposium, Cottage Industry Investment Show and Dinner that will be held on Saturday 1 st April, 2023 starting at 9:00am; (2) a Cultural Immersion (cultural village, museum, art market and food market) and Talent Show, both of which will be held on Sunday 2 nd April. 2023 from 10:00am to 7:00pm - all taking place at Gudie Leisure Farm in Najeera; and, (3) the Lango Region Expedition - a business tour around the region – that will run from 4 th to 7 th April, 2023. Speaking at the launch of the Lango Spotlight, Prof. Gudula Naiga Basaza, Founder and Managing Director of Gudie Leisure Farm, said that, “To create significant change in Lango, we need to attract catalytic investments into the region. The region's leaders must play the proactive role of exposing and convincing the Private Sector and other would-be investors that Lango does indeed have the ability to generate for them worthwhile returns if they put resources in the region. This is why as a Private Sector actor that is investing especially in its young entrepreneurs, we have embarked on creating investment promotion platforms through which the region's leaders, youth, business community and government can highlight the commercial opportunities the region offers and also promote Lango's beautiful culture and people - starting in the Central Region - Uganda's major business and trade hub.” Ms. Teddy Owot Ogong, Dokolo's Gudie District Agent and a business leader from the region, said, “Lango hosts some of the most talented youth in the country who are eager to become active participants in the socio-economic transformation of Uganda! In Dokolo and Amolatar, for example, we have incubated and trained over 400 youth in several market-relevant agribusiness skills since 2021. These young people want to join hands with the Private Sector to exploit the region's resources for Lango's communities' and Uganda's benefit.” About Gudie Leisure Farm Gudie Leisure Farm (GLF) is a social enterprise providing various agribusiness development services to youth-owned micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in the agricultural sector, and in particular, those operating in the white meat and related value chains. Established in 2009, the company, since its inception, has been providing the MSMEs with the technical and business training they need to produce and distribute high quality white meat products and services through its agribusiness incubation center, linking them to markets in and outside their districts of operation that can deliver them with the returns 2 they expect from their investments and business development services (BDS) providers in the public and private sectors that can support the growth and sustainability of their enterprises. The entity has built a network of 112,900 youth in 740 parishes in all regions of Uganda across 27 districts including; - Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Lwengo, Kyotera, Masaka, Kiryandongo, Luweero, Dokolo, Moroto, Arua, Amolatar, Nwoya, Soroti, Jinja, Namisindwa, Tororo, Hoima, Mbarara, Isingiro, Kabale, Kisoro, Kikuube, Fort Portal, Kamwenge and Kassanda, and operates in 6 refugee settlements - Rwamwanja, Kiryandongo, Maaji, Nakivale, Rhino and Kyangwali. Within the Lango region, Gudie Leisure Farm has incubated 240 Youth Agripreneur Champions from 40 Parishes. These have since returned to the region and incubated over 4000 Youth Agripreneur Champions out of school and 4800 Youth Agri- Club Agripreneurs (youth in school). All the youth have embracing the role of transforming their region by being proactive, productive, planned and profitable. They are engaged in value chain linked agribusiness. They have held district skilling fairs for communities within the region and train community members on a weekly basis in their Parish Entrepreneurship Learning Associations (PELAs).

MTN Uganda unveils ICT lab at Kabale Preparatory School in Kabale District

Thursday 23 March 2023 - Kabale, Uganda: Kabale Preparatory School in Kabale District has benefited from a fully equipped computer lab as part of the MTN Uganda Foundation's efforts to boost information and communication technologies in schools and communities. The facility comes with 10 computers, a 24-hour power backup and one-year free internet connectivity courtesy of the MTN Digital Access Program. Other beneficiary institutions include Smart Girls Foundation in Wakiso District and Moroto Public Library in Moroto District.  Bryan Mbasa, the Senior Manager of MTN Uganda Foundation said the new computer lab will provide space for inclusive and structured learning. “We at MTN Uganda believe that everyone deserves a modern connected life and computer labs are a springboard to educators looking to transform traditional instruction and equip learners with tech skills critical to the fast-evolving job market,” he said. This comes at the time the Uganda government is fast-tracking its 2040 digital vision to empower its citizens to achieve the goals of universal inclusion, sustainable development, economic progress and poverty eradication through digital innovation combining initiatives across multiple sectors. The Minister of State for Trade and Cooperatives, who also doubled as the chief guest during the handover ceremony, Mr David Bahati applauded MTN Uganda for championing the use of ICT to drive the country's economic growth. “The government has embraced ICT to improve service delivery to the citizens as it strives to achieve social and economic transformation. We are investing in numerous infrastructures including the national backbone that could trigger digital transformation as enshrined in Vision 2040. We are grateful to MTN Uganda for walking the journey with us,” he said. MTN Uganda Foundation is also implementing a digital literacy project in which MTN Internet Bus is carrying out ICT outreach camps in various regions of the country to spark and ignite creativity and innovation by introducing remote communities to the benefits of ICT which then can be kept alive through the community resource centres. Over the years, MTN Uganda Foundation has supported 42 ICT labs including six in technical institutes including Amelo Technical Institute located in Adjuman District, St. Simon Peter's Vocational Training Centre in Hoima District, and St. Daniel Comboni Polytechnic in Moroto District in partnership with the Belgian Development Agency, Enabel.

MTN Uganda rallies partners and donates e-waste to MUK's College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology for recycling

MTN Uganda on Tuesday donated e-waste worth UGX 20 million to Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology for recycling, reuse and dispose of responsibly. The donation amounting to 390 items includes 166 monitors, 134 desktops, and 90 laptops and shall be revamped and donated to rural secondary schools to enhance ICT access and literacy. The items weigh 1,831.5 kilograms, which contributes to carbon saving when recycled and reused.   “We at MTN Uganda recognize the importance of conserving our environment and as such have mainstreamed eco-responsibility as a key priority in our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments so we can create shared value in the communities we operate in,” said Senior Manager Network Planning and Engineering, Yasin Ramadhan. Mr Ramadhan said they are excited as a company to work with Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology as they strive to ensure that e- waste is put to meaningful use while conserving the environment. This development comes at the time the country has recorded a surge in the importation of electronics –laptops and mobile phones among others –in recent years owing to changes in technologies, liberalization of the economies and e- initiatives to boost service delivery. As a result, there has been a high turnover of ICT equipment and devices as the population keeps acquiring or replacing their devices with new ones that suit the latest technologies and leading to an increase in the volume of e-waste. In her remarks, Eng. Dr. Dorothy Okello, the Dean, School of Engineering, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology applauded MTN Uganda for partnering with the University to sustainably handle e-waste at a time countries across the globe are facing challenges in handling e-waste. “We thank MTN Uganda for joining us in this journey and we are looking forward to growing this partnership for the betterment of our country and achievement of ESGs,” she said. MS. Marsha Walusimbi, the Head of Talent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at ATC Africa, commended MTN Uganda for the innovation meant to manage e-waste sustainably.

DTB SCOOPS THE MOST INNOVATIVE BANCASSURANCE AGENT 2022 AWARD

Diamond Trust Bank – DTB has been named the Most Innovative Bancassurance Agent in Uganda for the year 2022 at the prestigious Insurance Innovations Award -2022 held that the Kampala Serena Hotel. DTB was voted the most innovative Bancassurance Agent because of its innovation in the use of Digital Banking channels and Digital communication channels to drive awareness and appreciation of Life Insurance services in Uganda. DTB was among the 27 companies and individuals who participated in the 2022 – Insurance Innovations Awards. The DTB won under the Bancassurance Agent category which attracts insurance players in the Banking sector. DTB Managing Director Mr. Varghese Thambi on receiving the award expressed DTB's commitment to innovations that support people's well-being by introducing to their services like insurance. He dedicated the award to the staff of the Bank who did exceedingly well in delivering a service to the people. Speaking at the event Board Chairman Insurance Speaking at awards, the Board Chairman of IRA, Dr. Isaac Nkote, said the organization is proud of these annual events and will continuously do so with an aim of putting a strategy of creating awareness of the industry and attracting global players to deliver and transform the sector as people come to understand the insurance products. “We need to create more visibility for the insurance policies so as to shape the destiny of this industry," The Minister for Kampala, Hon Hajjat Minsa Kabanda who was the Chief Guest at the event, said innovation awards in the industry will help in the penetration of the market and increasing the saving culture in Uganda hence reducing poverty. "The industry has been suffering mistrust since 2010 but now we are glad to announce that Ugandans have embraced the industry's policies. The innovative awards were held under the theme “Celebrating Innovation for Excellence in Insurance.

Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Chairman Lauds Uganda's efforts to increase trade and investment within member states

The Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, Lord Jonathan Peter Marland has lauded the government of Uganda's effort to support trade and investment through collaboration with private sector associations such as the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce (UNCCI) and the Private Sector Foundation (PSFU). Speaking during a dinner hosted by UNCCI to honor his visit to Uganda, Lord Marland said CWEIC was impressed by the seriousness with which the government of Uganda and especially President, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, had accorded to the promotion and marketing of Uganda as an investment destination and also as a source of quality good and services. “The Commonwealth Nations, with about 2.4 billion citizens spread across 52 countries that are bound by a common language, shared history, and a combined economic value of USD 13 trillion, have a huge potential for increased trade and investment and especially for the African continent where 21 of the member states are located.” The occasion was graced by the Minister of Trade and Industry Hon. Francis Mwebesa, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Uganda, and Michael Ating-Ego, among other dignitaries and business heads and investors in the country.

In her remarks, the President of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ms. Olive Kigongo said Lord Marland's visit to Uganda was important because it underlined CWEIC's commitment to working with the private sector organizations and the government to find opportunities that would drive economic development and growth in member countries. “The Ugandan business landscape is very dynamic, with many different players from sectors as diverse as agriculture and digital services. Uganda's business spectrum extends from small to medium enterprises,” she noted, recognizing stakeholders from manufacturing, construction, the extractive industry, pharmaceuticals, and tourism, financial services, among others – all eager to take advantage of market opportunities not just in the region, and African Continental free trade area but across the entire span of the commonwealth Member Countries.” To achieve this, Kigongo noted that the Chamber has fully recognized the need to weave ‘headwinds' into its strategy over the next phase of its journey but also focus reconciles with the global template provided by the Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 63 at the African Union, as well as country's National Development Plan. Presiding at the event, Francis Mwebesa, Minister of Trade, Cooperatives, and Industry commended the government for prioritization of the private sector and providing a suitable fiscal monetary, and regulatory environment for the private sector to invest.

“Human capital and infrastructure investment provide a strong backbone for the private sector to thrive. The shift towards sustainable practice in most sectors is evident. The global economy is transforming, and there's a growing focus on sustainable and environmentally responsible business practices,” he said. According to him, these practices will help Uganda's private sector take advantage of opportunities that speak to her unique attributes. Minister says the chamber is such important that it will enable the government to develop policies to improve the business environment. “To progress, we need to have an ideal exchange with global counterparts such as the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council,” he called, tasking the Chamber President, to fast-track this engagement with Lord Marland and his team. The business evening private sector stakeholder dinner was attended by over 100 top CEOs operating with progressive businesses in Uganda, these included the Uganda Banker's association, Coffee manufacturers, CEOs from Commercial Banks, and private Universities, among others.

MTN Youth Skilling Program: Irene Nandyose turns hobby into a thriving business

Irene Nandyose, a business administration graduate from Makerere University Kampala loved knitting and crocheting during her free time on campus. And it is through this exercise that a business idea was hatched. But the business idea was only implemented in 2020 following training under the MTN Uganda Youth Skilling Program which aims at equipping young people with entrepreneurial skills. She co-founded the Candid Craft Card, an online craft marketing platform, as a source of her livelihood. “I am a self-taught crotchetier and I got the courage to do this as a business upon attending the MTN Youth Skilling Program because I have always wanted to commercialize it and make money out of it,” she said. “The training was engaging. We were equipped with numerous entrepreneurial skills starting with idea generation, screening, concept development, product development and, finally, commercialization,” she said. “We were also equipped with other skills such as digital marketing and e- business so that we could market and sale our products online, cyber security to avert incidences of possible fraud and communication to ease our communication with our customers.” Nandyose, who produces children's and swimming wear, sweaters, and handbags, says the training equipped her with digital, communication, and networking skills needed to nurture and grow Candid Craft Card. She said a sweater goes for Shs 50,000, handbags Shs 45,000, swimming customs for ladies Shs 35,000, and children's clothes at Shs 25,000 each. “I also embraced online marketing for our products to reach out to customers who would not have been reached at the time due to the coronavirus pandemic,” she said. Nandyose says she has been able to train other girls in her neighbourhood on how to make crafts as well as market their products online. She Sen siti vity : Pu blic revealed that three of her trainees are now earning a living out of making crafts. “I recommend MTN Youth Skilling Program to other youths since it is inclusive and looks at youth as people who need to gain the skills and take them further,” she said. She added: “I would like to thank MTN Foundation for the opportunity they have given us as a youth. I am so grateful that they took it upon themselves to implement this project and they have done a good job. I am so thankful for everything they have done.” Bruno Oluka, the team leader at Ubunifu Systems that implemented the project, said he believes the skills acquired are very essential for the youth to run their businesses. “This has been one of a kind opportunity and I believe the skills acquired should be able to help participants in their lives and that of their communities.”  Bryan Mbasa, senior manager at MTN Uganda Foundation said they are proud of the success recorded in the course of implementing the program that has not only empowered the youths but transformed their lives. “The youths constitute the largest percentage of our population and there's a need to equip them with the necessary skills required in this 21st century to thrive and contribute to this economy,” he said. MTN Foundation Uganda launched its Youth Skilling Program under the foundation arm of youth empowerment in 2020 benefiting at least 100 out of 1,993 youth who submitted applications in preparation for the evolving digital world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program implemented in partnership with Ubunifu systems, a software development firm based in Uganda, involved three phases including the International Certificate of Digital Literacy which is recognized in various countries around the world. The second phase centred on technical skilling which included finance, accounting, human resources, and sales among others, and the final phase Sen siti vity : Pu blic covered incubation and pitching. MTN Uganda has over the years committed to integrating the youth into its programs so as empower them economically.  Last month, MTN Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, The National ICT Innovation Hub, Centenary Technology Services, Refactory, MUBS Entrepreneurship Innovation, and Incubation Centre, as well as MTN's Fintech subsidiary, MTN MoMo Uganda Limited, launched a nationwide youth-centred economic empowerment initiative dubbed the MTN ACE.  MTN ACE initiative brings to the public three MTN Foundation programs that include; the MTN ACE Tech program which focuses on upskilling the youth interested in tech-related innovations under which MTN has also equipped the national ICT hub with state-of-the-art equipment to allow innovators to prototype and incubate their ideas into a feasible business. The second program is the MTN ACE Career program that seeks to empower fresh graduates with workplace skills and internship placement, and the third program is the MTN ACE Skills program that is tailor-made for the youths who are in or out of school to equip them with entrepreneurial skills. The MTN foundation has earmarked UGX 1.5 billion towards this initiative this year in line with the corporate social responsibility agenda to boost the livelihoods of the communities in which MTN operates.

MTN Uganda awarded as the fastest mobile network in Uganda

25 th January 2023 - Kampala, Uganda: MTN Uganda has been recognized for the top position as the mobile operator with the fastest internet speed in Uganda, according to user-initiated tests completed on Speedtest® by Ookla®, a global leader in mobile and broadband network intelligence, testing applications, and technologies.   MTN Uganda emerged as the winner of the Speedtest Award for mobile network speed in Uganda for the third and fourth quarters of 2022.    This follows more than 12,980 user-initiated tests on the Speedtest iOS and Android mobile apps from all the major mobile carriers including Airtel and Lyca to determine who showed the fastest mobile network speeds.   MTN Uganda achieved a Speed Score of 34.55, providing faster internet speeds to its users compared to other major mobile providers who registered 32.21 and 4.34 as their Speed Score.     The telecom company also achieved the highest download speeds of 34.26mbps and upload speeds of 14.55mbps in Kampala City during the period under review.

MTN Uganda Chief Technical & Information Officer, Mr Ali Monzer, said this new award serves as validation that the telecom's efforts to provide superior internet services to the customers have been acknowledged and are on the right track.   “We are dedicated to ensuring that our network is constantly meeting the expectations of our customers, to provide them with an exceptional experience when they choose MTN as their service provider,” he said. “Our network is designed to deliver unparalleled speed and reliability. Whether you're streaming or browsing, you can expect fast speeds and crystal-clear connections. We're proud to offer this service to our customers and are confident that it will meet or exceed their expectations.”   MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer, Ms Sylvia Mulinge, said they are delighted as a company for the award as their investment in the network is having a positive impact on the quality of services rendered to its customers.   “Our aspiration as MTN Uganda is to ensure that every person across Uganda has access and enjoys the benefits of a modern connected world and therefore we continue to invest in our network with the latest technologies to ensure that we provide these services to our customers at a quality experience,” she said.   MTN Uganda is investing approximately US$ 300 million since 2021 with the hope to expand its geographical network coverage to at least 90% countrywide. “Speedtest Awards, presented by Ookla, are an elite designation reserved for the fastest and top-performing fixed broadband and mobile operators around the world. It is our pleasure to present MTN with the award for Fastest Mobile Network in Uganda. This recognition is a testament to their exceptional performance in Q3-Q4 2022

MTN Uganda's open API empowering youth

As a child, Martin Tumusiime watched households and businesses frustrated with uncollected wastes in Kampala suburbs that sometimes could end up in water channels, streets, or burned. His experience inspired him and his four colleagues – Gideon Mpungu, Lubowa Enock, Namuli Brenda, and Rogers Kibuule – to develop a waste management mobile app known as Yo-Waste in 2018. The app allows anyone with a smartphone phone to instantly request for garbage collection and is connected to the nearest available garbage truck collectors in their communities. But Tumusiime's dream, whose company now serves more than 1,300 customers in Kampala and Entebbe, only came to reality when MTN Mobile Money Uganda Ltd granted the team access to the MTN Mobile Money Access Programming Interface (API) upon emerging as one of the winners of MTN MoMo Hackathon in 2019. MTN Uganda's open API platform unveiled in 2018 enables developers and programmers to get free access to MTN mobile money's proprietary software platform to create products that ease payment options, leveraging on MTN mobile money clients. “Payment for waste collection is the biggest challenge in this business. The collection is usually only about 70%, and it is expensive,” said Tumusiime, who now leads a team of 26 staff. “With the integration of our system to that of MTN Mobile Money, we are able to collect almost 100% of our generated revenues because invoices and payments are made via mobile money and this helps us minimize operational costs.” Tumusiime said the Yo-Waste app earns them an average of Shs 10,000 and Shs 30,000 per month from each of their customers based on the volume of their waste, frequency of collection, and location. Uganda has in the past three years recorded growth in start-up businesses ideas making progress following MTN Uganda's bold decision to grant them access to MTN Mobile Money Access Programming Interface (API) to develop new digital products and services to improve efficiency, productivity and income. These among others include; Easy Matatu – a mobile app that enables carpooling using matatus, AppAbout – an online platform that enables customers to make reservations in cinemas, bars and restuarants for a perfect day or night with friends, and Powell Pay – a virtual wallet that enables schools to receive fees payments from parents by transferring the fund to the School's registered bank account via mobile platform. Sensitivity: Public Easy Matatu has since received support from Renew Capital, an impact investment firm focused on developing small and medium-sized enterprises in Africa, to help expand minibus ride sharing app in various African cities. Easy Matatu customers use smartphones to reserve their rides on well-maintained vehicles with experienced and well-paid drivers who take them on a faster, safer and more comfortable commute. AppAbout, meanwhile, is currently serving five cinemas, 35 bars and 40 restuarants mostly in Kampala whereas Powell Pay is serving tens of schools in fees collections across the country. The recent innovation ideas that won the 2022 MTN MoMo Hackathon – E-wage system, MpaMpe and E-Pay –are also expected to graduate into viable businesses riding on the MTN Mobile Money Access Programming Interface (API). The e-wage payment system is a web-based application that seeks to facilitate single payment of casual workers via their mobile phones. MpaMpe is a digital hybrid crowd-funding application that seeks to bridge the gap between the needy or campaigners and funders or sponsors to support their ideas through a transparent model and accountability of funds while M-Pay seeks to enable MTN Uganda subscribers to make bulk payments to different people with a single click of a button. Richard Yego, the Managing Director at MTN Mobile Money Uganda Ltd said the company is proud that the MTN Mobile Money open Access Programming Interface (API) is empowering the country's youths to be self-reliant at the time access to jobs has become limited. “We are so happy that our decision to have prospective innovators access our MTN Mobile Money platform to create new solutions is yielding fruits,” he said. “We are seeing many youths now riding on our platform to come up with new solutions that have been monetized and now employing more other youths and thus help address the current challenge of unemployment.” Yego said MTN is currently implementing the Ambition 2025 Strategy premised on leading digital solutions for Africa's progress.

New developments Rethinking financial Inclusion

New developments in the financial sector have forced a rethink of how the sector should be developed to ensure it helps build a thriving economy that works for every Ugandan, according to Moses Kagwa, the Director of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Kaggwa, who spoke during the conference on reshaping the tax system to support the financial sector development strategy, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Ramathan Goobi, underlined the importance of the financial sector to any economy and hence its need to keep with the times. “The financial sector fosters growth by mobilizing and pooling savings for the allocation of capital in productive investment. It ensures that resources go where they are needed and all of society is included. It is no surprise that countries with mature financial sectors enjoy stronger and more inclusive economic growth,” he said. He observed the government came up with a strategy, the Financial Sector Development Strategy (FSDS) to ensure the financial sector plays its central role in the planned transformation of the economy. The FSDS's three strategic objectives are to ensure, financial services for all, financial services for markets, and financial services for growth. Under the strategy, the government has set a target of having up to 80 percent of Ugandans formally financially included by increasing the range of financial products, expanding delivery channels, improving financial education, and strengthening low-tier financial institutions.

In addition, the government wants to improve access to long-term finance as a way to help companies raise capital and help families overcome life cycle challenges. Under this plan government will be looking to develop the capital markets, introduce infrastructure and municipal bonds, increase insurance penetration and improve the environment for the issuance of corporate equity and debt. Strengthening innovation and supporting infrastructure is the third intervention envisioned under the strategy. This will help create an enabling environment for the development of the FinTech sector, and expand the coverage of the credit reference bureau and other relevant legal and policy frameworks required for the fast-changing sector. And finally, the strategy provides for interventions to ensure the sector inspires trust and is a pillar of the economy through improved regulatory and supervision capacity, compliance with international standards, and better coordination with domestic financial service providers. Kagwa also said improved consumer protection through improved consumer awareness and ensuring compliance with the Financial Consumer Protection Guidelines are key to driving financial inclusion. He also thanked the International Center for Tax and Development for a report on taxation in Uganda, which formed the basis of discussion at the conference. “That's why we commissioned Dr. Christopher Wales to produce a report on “The taxation of the financial sector in Uganda”. Its remit was to identify opportunities to improve the design and function of the Uganda tax system, specifically as it relates to providers and users of conventional and digital financial services.”

DIAMOND TRUST BANK (DTB) JOIN HANDS WITH MATERCARD TO DEEPEN FINANCIAL INCLUSION IN THE WEST NILE REGION

Diamond Trust Bank – DTB AND Mastercard have embarked on a drive to increase financial inclusion in the eleven Districts of the West Nile region. These districts include; Arua, Koboko, Yumbe, Zombo, Maracha, Nebbi, and Adjumani among others. The drive intends to increase the usage of formal banking services in the region through use of affordable banking services backed by state of the art-technology cards – The DTB Platinum Debit Mastercard. Communities in the West Nile region will be transformed to appreciate and utilize formal banking services and with minimal cash handling while doing business or any form of financial transaction. Customers will be utilizing the DTB Platinum Debit Mastercard to make payments locally and internationally. At an event in Arua District, DTB Managing Directed revealed that over 50 people have been recruited to sensitize and enroll communities in the region into formal banking. These will be signed up on the DTB Digital Banking savings account which will automatically give them a DTB Platinum Debit Mastercard. The DTB Platinum Mastercard offers a vast array of benefits, the value that they provide to cardholders falls into one of four categories namely, access, safety and security, convenience, and control, and lastly recognition. The DTB Platinum Mastercard is no different and offers more distinguished and personal services that have been hand-picked for its customers, including lifestyle, travel and peace of mind benefits.

While launching the drive at Hotel La Confidential DTBU Kampala road today, DTB's Managing Director Mr. Varghese Thambi committed to ensuring quality banking services and access to everyone in the West Nile Region and Uganda at Large. “We believe Financial Inclusion and access to banking service is a right that everyone should enjoy. The products we are introducing in the region are accessible and usable by everyone.' Thambi said. “These will change your financial experience as they are very affordable for all to utilize.” He adds. The Minster in charge of Investment and Privatization, Hon. Eveyln Anite was the first signed up customer at the roll-out event. She was recieved a DTB Platinum Debit Mastercard. She urged communities in West Nile to embrace banking services and utilize cash free facilities like Mastercard for ease of doing business that are secure for customers.

Mastercard provides world-class safety and security benefits that help keep the consumer protected, whether paying online in-store, via mobile or a wearable device. Mastercard's sophisticated technology has tools that detect and fight fraud at every step of the purchasing process which protects customers against fraud. As part of the peace of mind feature of the card, we provide some of the most comprehensive protections to take care of our cardholders both at home and away, including an array of travel insurances (Inconvenience & Cancellation, Medical, Lost Luggage) as well as purchase protections (extended warranty and price protection).Customers who sign up for the launched services will be able to access financial services at over 10,000 agents across Uganda, 34 DTB Branches and other Bank ATMs branded with Mastercard. Mastercard service is available in over 210 countries.

Hundreds Tipped on Financial Management

Hundreds of young people who turned up for season eight of the Men's Business Convention initiative, were tipped on the importance of financial management and record keeping. The three-day training, which was held at Victory Church Ndeeba on Saturday, sought to promote a culture of mentorship among young men in the business space. Themed: “The hands-on experience,” the initiative focused on providing young entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to improve how they operate their businesses aiming at beating losses. The Executive Director of Diamond Trust Bank-DTB, Maina Kariuki, said young entrepreneurs should always first evaluate their business cash flows before taking loans. He said many people didn't have the knowledge on how to run enterprises and whether they actually needed the money they are borrowing. He emphasized double-checking the capacity to repay the loan, the contribution to the business, security coverage, the character in terms of integrity or creditworthiness, and the viability of the business in the environment. Kariuki also opined on looking out for banking covenants once loans are approved to avoid misunderstandings once the payment grace period elapses. Some of the covenants include period, disbursement covenants, collateral required, insurance costs, and annual returns submissions, among others.

While sharing her successful story, Justine Thomas Nassiwa, an agribusiness expert, from Buzibwera Charity Green Acres Farm said young businessmen should pick a leaf from the operations of the highly established businessmen in the country. “The businessmen and women you see in the limelight know how to control their money, spend time exploring new business ideas, and read on how best to grow their businesses. If you waste time and money spending on family contributions and attending every function, your business can not grow. Do yourself a favor,” said Nassiwa. Nassiwa cautioned the entrepreneurs on having a passion for their own invented business, time management, and working hard for their future. The annual convention that was attended by over 5000 people was also tipped on government securities that have investment opportunities such as treasury bills where one can invest within 3 to 12 months at a discount and recoup face value at the period end of the investment. Also, treasury bonds which are meant for long-term savings for up to 20 years and have got 6 months of coupon interest ranging between 12-16% interest rate.

DTB RELOCATES IT'S MASAKA BRANCH

The new outlet located on Sena House, on Elgin Street Masaka opposite Buddu FM, comes 13 years since the lender opened its doors in the city. DTB Managing Director, Thambi Varghese, said the move which coincided with International Customer Service Week, is meant to ease banking for customers. “This branch will also be operating from 8:30 am to 6 pm from Monday to Saturday so that all the business people can do late banking and go home peacefully.” Most of the country's commercial banks open their doors to customers at 9 am and close at 5 pm. Varghese said customers can also optimize the online channels to carry out banking activities rather than visiting physical offices. “What we want to see is that everyone in Masaka should bank with us at least by Digital banking option. More than 90% of the transactions can be handled by this branch and mobile banking or Internet Banking,” he added.

Customers such as Jane Nandutu, a businesswoman residing in Masaka say the new branch is a great relief. “Now with the branch closer to the street I use every day, I will be able to bank quickly and continue with my business, says Nandutu. Fred Kayemba, also said he was tired of long queues taking a lot of time at the previous branch. “Now I thank DTB for easing this issue,” said Kayemba. In addition, Samuel Matekha, the head of communications at DTB, says that with a touch of excellence in customer service delivery, the bank has added MTN float purchases to the menu to ease Mobile money transactions in Uganda and Masaka in specific. The bank has now a total of 34 branches and over 900 Agent banking locations in the country.

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