KAMPALA- In an initiative to open up the business relationship between Uganda and DR Congo, the business community in the two neighboring countries have organised a series of business summits to strengthen trade ties between the countries.
The first summit runs from Monday to Friday this week under the theme “Boosting Trade and Investment between Uganda and DR Congo”. Two cities Kinshasa and Goma are the hosts of the summit.
The summit organized by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda [PSFU] and its equivalent body in DRC has drawn the participation of over 240 companies and business individuals from the two countries.
DR Congo was admitted to the East African Community [EAC] block recently opening up business cooperation with the other Member States including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan.
Uganda has been trading with DRC for decades, although the two countries had not formalized the relationship to enable the business community fully engaged in business.
The Uganda delegation to the summit is being led by Chairperson of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Export and Industrial Promotion Odrek Rwabwogo, who acknowledged that this relationship is an opportunity to make business linkages between the two trading communities.
Rwabwogo said the summit would provide a platform where participants would start a process to build intra-trade linkages that would strengthen this trade for generations.
“The biggest strategic intent for us here is to start preparing for a generation that would stand in business, speak to each other directly not through colonialists like China, the Europeans and the American intermediaries,” Rwabwogo said while speaking in Kinshasa.
He noted that the summit would go a long way to create the needed platform for the people to get involved into different levels of trade and fight poverty in the households.
He argued the business community in DR Congo to interest themselves in venturing into other regional markets especially in Kenya and South Sudan to lessen the dependence on the West. He says this would help build stronger partnerships between countries and companies as well as improve productivity in the region.
“I am a diary processor, but our dairy plant is 180km from the Uganda-DRC border. I would want to expand our production by partnering with colleagues from DR Congo so that we can jointly produce in Congo,” he said.
Rwabwogo noted that the best way to do regional business is by partnering which would enable us to scale our businesses and thus create value. He adds that this is the only way to supply the market, but also kick out other products that invade the local market from overseas.
The Summit is aimed at generating a working partnership between the trading communities in Uganda and DR Congo, to enable the two sister countries to supply the available market sustainably.
The Minister for External Trade in DR Congo Lucien Bussa pledged his Country’s commitment to creating a suitable environment for trade and ensure safety and security for all is guaranteed.
“We are committed to creating African billionaires through trade and change the lives of our people,” he noted.
Uganda has controversially constructed roads inside the DRC territory to create a smooth movement of goods and services as well as to create sanity and security in the war-troubled Eastern Region.
This followed a series of diplomatic talks and improved relationships between the two neighbors, culminating into a border meeting between Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and his DRC Counterpart Felix Tshisekedi at Mpondwe. The two principles signed agreements that would see Uganda construct at least 220km of roads into DR Congo.
Roads including Kasindi-Beni to Butembo was constructed to enable goods to reach Beni and Butembo which had earlier been difficult.
The Nebbi-Goli to Bunia stretch was for long being used by warlords and terrorists to recruit and attack Uganda as well as create insecurity inside Congo. Others include Rwebisengo-Budiba-Buguma-Nyiyapandam and the Budiaba Bridge across River Semuliki, which had claimed several lives during rainy seasons making the region impassable for long.
Following the relative tranquility in the Eastern DR Congo following the launch of operation Shuja by the UPDF inside Congo, trade has relatively improved with minimized attacks by rebel ruminants and reduced cases of highway robbers.
Uganda takes the lion’s share in terms of exports into DR Congo due to its proximity compared to other East African Countries, with agricultural products taking like cereals, poultry products, sugar and grain, Coffee, Cement, steel products, beef, and dairy products, fruits and vegetables taking the lead. Others include automotive spare parts, plastics, and other domestic utensils, furniture, bananas, tourism, and human skilled labor.
In 2021, available data indicate that Uganda exported vegetable fats and oils, sunflower seeds and cotton seeds as well as smoked fish and other consumer goods totaling at least US$ 267.20 million.
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