Uganda promotes SMEs, and seeks to have a joint process of raw materials at the 2nd DRC-Uganda Business summit

Joint processing of raw materials can be done from here by the EAC member states. Odrek Rwabogo the senior presidential advisor-special duties highlighted this as one of the key priorities that the EAC states can look into to achieve tremendous growth and outcompete others. He is part of a 200-strong delegation in Goma taking part in the Uganda-DRC Business summit that is aimed at Investment Promotion and Market Access - By John Kusolo

Uganda promotes SMEs, and seeks to have a joint process of raw materials at the 2nd DRC-Uganda Business summit
Odrek Rwabogo

By John Kusolo

Below is his speech while addressing the participants;

"Last week we completed the first leg of our business mission with the western and central parts of DRC. Today we start our session with a lot of hope and optimism our second leg in Goma, an area with a strong historical links to the greater eastern Africa.

Lake Kivu, one of Africa's and perharps one of the world's deepest lakes lies on the extreme western side of the Albertine Rift Valley-holds many historical secrets in culture, customs and trade with east Africa in the last 500 years.At the beginning of the 19th century for example, trade in iron products (spears ,hoes, bracelets) agricultural commodities such as cattle and goats from Masisi hills, legumes, fish etc flourished here. That trade along with the southern lake of Tanganyika, connected the western tribes of Uganda and Northwest Tanzania-the Banyambo, the Baziba,the Wagaba all of Tanzania today and the Banyoro, Batooro, Banyankore; and even northern groups of the Alur, Lugbara, Acholialong the Baganda of present day Uganda. The lake connected all of us with the lacustrine tribes in Rwanda and the peoples of mid-eastern Congo. There are the forest people called Lega, the Tembos and Nyanga societies that led trade from DRC.

The trade in Ivory, Iron, food products which we know often ended supporting the small kingdoms of Busongora and Nkore making them richer than they were meant to be, was very autonomous of many of the political entities and kingdoms of the great Lakes and it flourished regardless of who was in control.

Trade on this lake where the towns of Goma and Gishenyi are situated, was the earliest expression that money knows neither kings and queens nor boundaries. Money only follows trade and stability. Trade here also connected the east coastal Swahilli groups from Mombasa, Pemba, Kilwa, Zanzibar and Malindi, thriving towns Pre-Portuguese invasion in 1505- with the Congo and the Uganda hinterland. This connection is very much alive today and even more needed given the increase in our population and demand for stability and wealth for Africa.

There are three strategic positions we bring you today in this summit leg in Goma as part of the DRC that carries 60% of our trading relations:

1.We bring you a number of Ugandan SMEs that will share products (dairy, meats, coffee, tea, cement, sugar, cables, poultry etc) and services such as Accounting, tech, medicine, education etc. Together we can build skill, good partnerships and trade that will give us a better capital base for both our countries. In this market, consumption, prices and demand is high yet the need for patents and R&D is still very low which allows us to grow together.

It means our businesses can grow organically and at a good pace together with yours! When we become stronger together through this exchange, we will build a base that multinational capital (MNCs) which tend to stop local capital formation in developing countries, loses that incentive to come and constrain our growth. When they come as they will be our partners not our competitors. Let me give you an example, In Kinshasa, we were driven in executive Hyundai cars from Korea for the last five days. I know about the early Hyundai brand car that in 1976, was slightly better than a motorcycle for a car. Koreans worked with their local firms to borrow and assimilate car technology and today, western car makers cannot penetrate this market. Korea is number five among the top world car makers yet they beagan when I was already a school going age child. Do you really think Koreans have better brain cells than Africans?

Not at all. They simply know their interest and work together to achieve it. Let us unite our companies so that we can grow together.

2.When we achieve the first objective, above, now we enter a new phase, a very critical one-that of joint processing of raw materials from here. The best timber, fish, coffee, dairy, and beef, fruits and vegetables lie along the 700km border line from Arua to Goma on both sides of our border. Let me show you why this is important. In 1985, President Reagan of the USA, threatened Brazil with sanctions to force it open the market to the US computer manufacturers saying Brazil is guilty of extreme protectionism. Brazil was saying "we need to build our computer industry first before opening to you". Brazil stood strong with her neighbors against this pressure and today, the country exports not just computers but aircrafts with those computers that run them. They also sell beef and grains at 60% Lower price than Uganda here! How did they do it? They stood firm, united in action and scaled their businesses. The west always wants to keep us in primary products-minerals, crude oil, timber etc. Can we not really stand together as businesses and pursue policy change in this space so we can make batteries for example from here, now that we are all EAC? It all starts with thoughts of cooperation at business level to force this change. This summit should be a good start. Let us work when the sun is up. These are good days and they might not return for Africa if we miss this window.

3. Finally, we need a point of contact to keep our business relationship working and growing. To have spent time here and study the market and we don't leave a point of unity for trade, would be wrong! I have, therefore, asked the leadership of Private Sector Foundation of Uganda, FEC in DRC, our ministries of trade and MEACA, to find and fund a joint Uganda/DRC cold chain or warehouse to allow industrial and agricultural products to be stored longer here for the market to taste and adapt to them. There are first class business firms I have seen here that can participate in setting up and managing these facilities.

We could start with Goma and then Beni and eventually Kinshasa. This will facilitate trade and introduce such things as insurance, export credit fund and make banking easier for businesses here and Uganda. It will also answer the matter of demand versus capacity of the market here and out businesses.

I thank the security of our two countries for standing shoulder to shoulder to protect our region, it's trade routes and the lives of people and property, making it safer to do business. When we keep working together we will free young people from temptation to be used in religious and tribal wars and we will build better societies in both our countries.
I thank Pastor Kasereka and wife for praying for this event.
Work in the natural is done in the spirit first. I thank them for this.
Have a great start of the second leg of our summit.

The summit comes to a close on Wednesday 8th June 2022.