Businesslike Musaweni works Colombo’s corporate crowd
As the visiting Ugandan President Yoweri K. Musaweni called Sri Lanka to use African bloc COMESA’s trade facilities through his country, Sri Lanka, in turn, invited the Pearl of Africa to jointly explore African continent’s promising growth.
“Uganda is an active member of Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMSA), the combined Africa Free Trade Zone (AFTZ) and East African Community (EAC) all of which we see as promising growth markets. Sri Lanka and Uganda can work together to jointly leverage these growth segments for mutual benefits (in the medium and long term)” said Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce on 13 November.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the first Sri Lanka – Uganda Business Forum on 13 November in Colombo facilitated by his Ministry’s Export Development Board with the participation of the high level delegation led by Yoweri Kaguta Musaweni, President of Republic of Uganda joined by the First Lady, Madam Janet Musaweni.
Also taking part were Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena (Minister of Agriculture), Karunatilaka Amunugama (Secretary, External Affairs), Anura Siriwardena (Secretary, Industry & Commerce) and Janaka Ratnayake (Chairman-EDB). Nimal Karunathilleke (Deputy Director of Commerce of Sri Lanka’s Department of Commerce) made a thorough presentation on investment and trade opportunities in Sri Lanka to the eager Forum.
“I am pleased to learn that according to the IMF, Uganda is expected to record strong economic growth through next year and also that the UNDP's human development index puts Uganda's household incomes, education and health indicators above the regional average. Sri Lanka too, consequent to the leadership of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa has shown progress. We registered 8.3% GDP growth rate in 2011, the highest in the country’s post-independence history. We expect to sustain growth momentum of at least over 7% for the coming years which is of course much higher than that of world average. The result is that now we are placed among emerging economies” Minister Bathiudeen said, addressing the event.
“We are here to talk about development through making money, and not here to talk charity” said Musaweni, whose business-like outlook was quite pronounced. “The COMESA market of which we are a member of has the 500 million population market capacity. The EAC is also another market of more than 500 million. And we are also working towards the African common market which is one billion markets with great potential. Apart from the internal African market, you can also export 6500 products to US, tax free and quota free. Same type of access to EU and China. Therefore when you invest in Uganda, you secure duty free access to US, EU and China with low labour cost but skilled workforce.”
Janaka Ratnayake, Chairman/CEO of EDB, said: “Sri Lanka’s exports to Uganda mainly consist of electronic, electrical products, parts and machinery, rubber products and paper. Sri Lanka increased her exports to Uganda remarkably during the past six years almost 50 fold. Our imports from Uganda is US $ 487000 in 2011. It has been identified that there is huge potential for garments, pneumatic tyres, printing and packaging, footwear and confectionery exports to Uganda.”
• Says SL can invest & use combined Trade agreements with US & EU through Uganda
• Rishad calls for African COMSA, AFTZ & EAZ synergies through Uganda
• ‘Uganda attractive but we need more details’ - Lankan Manufacturers
Several Lankan private sector participants at the forum appeared excited about Ugandan opportunities but stressed that they need to ‘know more’. “We have high expenditure on hiring and retaining human resources at present. As an operator of five garment factories, Uganda’s low cost human resource availability and tax free trade arrangements with US, EU and China in are attractive to me” said Ramya Weerakoon Chairman / Managing Director of Ramya Holdings Pvt and an award winner of Lankan Woman Entrepreneur of Y2012.
“But Uganda’s trade regime needs to be further relaxed and opened more. Their tax regimes, for example, appear somewhat restrictive compared to the rest of African region. Therefore more formal level bilateral trade links and a clear framework is needed before we step in.” Ms Weerakoone’s Ramya Holdings is involved in apparels & horticulture exports and operates five garment factories across Sri Lanka with a workforce of 5000. In its 2009/2010 brief, the World Banks said that Uganda's trade barriers are more restrictive than ‘those of its comparators’.
- Asian Tribune -