The Uganda Diaspora in Agribusiness Network (UDAN) has urged the government to engage with Ugandans, particularly the youth, who want to invest in their country’s agribusiness sector. At a one-day workshop held at Serena Hotel, UDAN members called for better information sharing and communication from the government to enhance production, product quality, and sustainability.
Although the government has created markets, Mukasa Mu-Awiya, the proprietor of Kapeeka Agro and Livestock Farm and a UDAN member, argued that there is a lack of information about the products that the government is creating markets for, resulting in poor quality, quantity, and sustainability.
“Government has created a market, but what is it doing on the ground to enhance production? There is a lack of information about the products that the government is creating a market for. Our product quality is too poor because of bad harvesting and storage practices. This is also caused by a lack of information,” said Mukasa.
Mukasa explained that UDAN is linking people abroad who have money to come and invest on the ground. But he was quick to add that government must prepare the people at home to be ready to receive the investment and have the knowledge and capacity.
Mukasa further revealed that the Ugandan government needs to come closer to the youth if there is going to be sustainable production in agriculture.
“When a youth moves one step towards the government, the government should move two steps closer to the youth. Government should also focus on Uganda’s diaspora investors when they come home. Share information with them so that they know where to invest and with whom,” Mukasa added.
UDAN aims to link Ugandan investors in the diaspora to those back home and build a bond of trust between the two parties. Andrew Bemugye, the Executive Secretary of UDAN, said the network focuses on market, technology, skills, and finance, and has been a game changer for youth in Uganda who have benefited from its connections to investors.
“We build a bond of trust between Ugandans in the diaspora and the market here at home. For those in the diaspora, I cannot talk about how much money they have lost in the last 15 years. Whether it is your relative or friend, money does get lost between the diaspora and Uganda. So, UDAN now comes in as an honest broker and bridge to try and enable the element of trust between the two parties,” said Bemugye.
During her opening remarks at Serena Hotel on Thursday, Priya Gujadhur, Deputy Country Representative of FAO Uganda, highlighted the organization’s efforts to strengthen the policy environment in collaboration with the Ugandan government through the Harnessing the Positive Effects of Immigration project.
This project aims to ensure that the contributions of the diaspora community are impactful to the agribusiness sector and empower Ugandans abroad to invest in agriculture.
According to Ambassador Elly Kamahungye, Uganda still has a challenge of low production which he says the diaspora investors can help narrow down.
He narrated to the participants how Uganda lost a golden opportunity to supply cows and beans to the UAE some years ago.
Amb Kamahungye narrated that the Ugandan Ministers of Agriculture held a meeting with UAE leaders a few years ago, during which they were requested to supply 5000 cows monthly due to concerns about the quality of Uganda’s meat.
However, recognizing their inability to meet this demand, the ministers suggested exporting 1000 cows monthly instead. The UAE leaders graciously offered to provide planes to transport the cows every month. Regrettably, Uganda was only able to export 500 cows on one occasion and was unable to fulfil the agreement.
In addition, the UAE leaders expressed interest in importing 200 metric tonnes of beans monthly. However, the Ugandan ministers could only offer to export 50 tonnes of beans, and the deal was approved. Unfortunately, only two individuals were able to export 20 metric tonnes of beans each once, and no further exports were made.
“We met with Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum the leader of Dubai and a deal was given to us but we failed, can you imagine? So, we have a very big problem and that’s why the diasporas are going to be helpful to us. That’s why we are here to find means of working together to increase capacity,” said Kamahungye.
He applauded FAO for organizing such gatherings that bring together stakeholders from government and the private sector to find solutions, and for funding such important projects that boost agriculture in the country.
“The presentations have shown that while things are moving well, there are also challenges. I am glad that government officials are also here and the challenges that have been identified will be worked out and I pledge that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will submit a written document which will be shared with all highlighting the challenges and opportunities that are available,” said Kamahungye.