India-Uganda bilateral ties yet to reach true potential:Ansari

Kampala,  Vice President Hamid Ansari today termed business ties of India with Uganda “dynamic” and key to bilateral relations but said the trade between the countries is yet to reach its “true” potential.

Ansari was speaking at a India-Uganda Business Forum where he met President Yoweri Museveni and Vice President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and held bilateral talks with them.

“Our commercial and business ties with Uganda are dynamic and form a key pillar of our bilateral relations. It is a matter of satisfaction that India is one of the largest trade partners of Uganda but at USD 615 million, our bilateral trade is yet to reach its true potential,” Ansari said.

At the forum, Ssekandi pitched for greater investment from Indian companies in the resource-rich country, and termed his country as a “business destination for India”.

“I came away from that meeting with a reinforced confidence in the desire of the two governments to continue to engage with each other and a send a powerful message to the business community in both of our countries that here are the business opportunities which have to be availed of,” he said.

“The President was particularly emphatic in pointing out that the Indian manufacturers in a wide range of areas can benefit very considerably, and what the minister (of Trade and Industry, Uganda) said a few minutes back, my factoring in the thought that they are not looking at a modest market in Uganda only, but on a much wider market of the Eastern African community and surrounding areas,” he said.

“So, you are looking at the market of not just 28 or 30 million people (Uganda) but 350 million people (East Africa),” he said.

Ansari met Museveni in the afternoon and the two leaders held talks on a wide gamut of bilateral issues. The two leaders discussed that automobile companies should think manufacturing and assembling vehicles in Uganda, rather than sending them as finished products.

“This thought (wider East African market) has to sink-in because many of the things which are manufactured in India and transported here can just as well be manufactured here. This is the message I am taking back, I and my delegation to the government and the business in India, and this is something on which we are going to work together jointly for mutual benefit,” Ansari said on the penultimate day of his three-day visit to Uganda.

“I am told that every month, more than 70 Ugandan businessmen travel to India to explore business opportunities with India. Uganda’s expanding economy offers opportunities in a variety of sectors. Uganda is blessed with natural resources, including fertile soil and a strong agrarian base, deposits of minerals, and now even, petroleum that has been discovered,” Ansari said.

“Recent economic reforms have ushered in rapid growth. We encourage our companies to remain engaged and invested in the opportunities that the Ugandan economy presents,” Ansari said.

The Vice President also emphasised that India and Uganda have “similar demographic profiles” and disease burden and face similar challenges related to health and well-being of populations.

“India has been a source of affordable pharmaceuticals and specialised healthcare for people of Africa. Several Indian hospitals have developed facilities to serve medical cases referred to them from Africa, including from Uganda.

Many of them have also shown interest in setting up integrated healthcare facilities in Uganda, providing high quality medical and nursing services across a wide range of specialties,” he said.

Uganda has a thriving Indian community of over 30,000 people and both Ansari and Museveni say they add significantly to the local economy.

“The Indian community in Uganda is vibrant and holds an important position in Ugandan economy in manufacturing, trade and service sectors. Indian businesses employ thousands of Ugandans and are among the largest contributors to tax revenue in Uganda,” Ansari said.

“Over the past few years, India has emerged as one of the largest investors and trading partners of Uganda. This has been possible due to the continued and positive support of the Ugandan government. I thank the Government of Uganda for welcoming Indian entrepreneurs who have sought business opportunities in Uganda and I request that the Ugandan government continues with such support and encouragement for our companies seeking business in Uganda,” he said.

“I am confident that bilateral relations between the two countries will keep growing and scaling new heights in future,” he said.