TUSKON has accelerated its trade relations with Uganda by organizing the Turkey-Uganda Business Forum in Kampala, the capital of this African country.
The Turkey-Uganda Business Forum hosted about 40 Turkish businessmen, and national delegations from Uganda also showed great interest in the forum. The forum was organized at the same time as the first term meeting of the Turkish-Ugandan Joint Economic Commission (KEK), whose co-chairman is Minister of State Bülent Arınç.
Uganda borders Africa's biggest lake, Lake Victoria, and its neighbors are Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Uganda, with a population of nearly 33.5 million, consisting mainly of young people, has rich natural resources and a quickly developing economy that presents important investment opportunities for foreign investors. Moreover, the country witnessed economic growth of 7.1 percent in 2009 and is ranked the 83rd biggest economy in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $16.7 billion. Uganda's yearly exports are around $3.7 billion, while its imports amount to $4.2 billion. Main trade partners of the country are the EU with 26.7 percent, Sudan with 14.3 percent, Kenya with 9.5 percent and Switzerland with 9 percent, while its trade volume with Turkey is only $22 million, representing 0.003 percent of Uganda's total foreign trade volume.
Uganda's Investment Authority Director Maggie Kigozi mentioned that positive political relations should be reflected in the trade between the two countries during her speech at the Turkey-Uganda Business Forum. “We have rich underground and aboveground natural resources, and the weather conditions in Uganda are suitable for agriculture and livestock breeding for the whole year. Since there are 60 universities in this country, we have no difficulties in finding educated and experienced people. Poverty is rapidly decreasing; Uganda is the fifth biggest economy in Africa,” said Kigozi. She added that Uganda attracted a total of $800 million in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2009 from the UK, India, Kenya, China and Singapore, while FDI from Turkey -- $23 million in 2009 -- was extremely low compared to these countries.
Kigozi also touched upon the natural resources of Uganda and said the economy's growth is expected to continue due to a recently found oil reserve of about 6 billion barrels. She noted that there are various business opportunities in Uganda, especially in fields like trade, machinery, manufacturing, agriculture, health and the pharmaceuticals sector. Inviting Turks to invest in Uganda, Kigozi mentioned that the state provides tax and investment incentives. She also praised efforts of Turkish businessmen to construct and operate Turkish schools in her country and added that they expect more investments in the field of education.
At the business forum, Minister of State Bülent Arınç also stated that trade relations between Turkey and Uganda are not as good as the political relations. He said Turkey is not satisfied with the current level of trade with Uganda, since there is much more potential to grow. Currently, Turkey is ranked 148th among Uganda's exporting countries, while it is ranked 126th in terms of importing countries.
“Our main goal is to support the economic development of the people in Uganda,” said Arınç. He pointed out that Turkey has the sixth biggest economy in the EU and noted they would like to sign a free trade agreement with the East African Community (EAC), of which Uganda is also a member. “We could pave the way for Turkish businessmen if the legal arrangements take place,” said Arınç. He also stated that Turkish contractors rank as the world's second largest, after China, adding that Turkish construction companies have won contracts for projects valued up to $31 billion in Uganda.
Turkey's ambassador to Uganda, Melih Ulueren, touched on Turkey's rising interest in Uganda and said increasing economic relations between the two nations depends on a win-win situation. He added that the embassy in Kampala opened last March and that Turkish Airlines (THY) has started making direct flights to Uganda's largest commercial and military airport, Entebbe International Airport.
During his speech, TUSKON's General Secretary Dr. Mustafa Günay mentioned that TUSKON has become Turkey's largest business union, with members numbering up to 15,000, and emphasized their interest in various African countries, including Uganda. Moreover, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Ali Bayramoğlu, chairman of the Turkey-Uganda Interparliamentary Friendship Group, who also made a brief statement at the meeting, said they will carefully analyze investment opportunities in Uganda and determine strategies towards increasing trade relations with the African nation.