The Lands, Housing and Urban Development Minister, Judith Nabakooba has asked the business community in Uganda and Burundi to focus on agro-processing and infrastructural development, sectors she says are still fertile for business investment.

She was Wednesday speaking at the first ever Burundi-Uganda Business Forum now happening in Bujumbura where she is representing Francis Mwebesa, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.

She said Uganda and Burundi have a long history of business and trade which has mostly been informal and done by individuals or firms who on their own, identified markets for their businesses or sources of the goods and services in each other’s countries.

Nabakooba also noted that Business between Uganda and Burundi has been oscillating over the years which sometimes register significant growth and at other times register decline, depending on the prevailing situation in the two countries and the region.

“In the recent past, the political situations in the countries, regional security and political realities as well as the recent Covid-19 pandemic, have all in one way or the other negatively affected business between Uganda and Burundi,” she says.

“Despite these challenges, there has been resilience on the side of the business community, to continued business even during the tough times”

“This means that if deliberate actions and efforts are made by both governments,, then the business could thrive much more.”

According to statistics, Uganda’s exported to Burundi goods worth 82 million USD in 2009 and grew to 92 million USD in 2012. Imports from Burundi were valued at 0.8 million USD in 2009 but grew to 2.8 million in 2012.

By 2021, Uganda’s exports to Burundi were estimated at over USD 50 million having increased from USD 37.03 in 2019.

“I am glad that there is visible presence of several business firms from both Uganda and Burundi in each other’s markets,” says Nabakooba.

The Minister also implored the business community attending the forum to as well focus on investments in agro processing, consumer goods, steel and cement for construction of both houses and infrastructural development.

“Both countries still a deficit in housing and infrastructural development,” she noted.

According to Nabakooba, the potential for business between Uganda and Burundi is very big since both countries are potential markets and sources of goods for each other and export to the rest of the world.

She said the two countries share borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, which itself is very big market.

“Please take full advantage of the benefits of the recent developments in DR Congo as it joins the East African Community,” remarked the Minister.

She revealed that both Governments of Burundi and Uganda are fully committed to assist the private sector grow the business partnerships between the two countries to help ease, identify and resolve challenges of trade through comprehensive agreements under the Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) that is on-going.

“These two events were preceded by the official commissioning of the Uganda Embassy Chancery in Bujumbura, where the Special Envoy Rt. Hon. D. Ruhakana Rugunda and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation of the Republic of Burundi, who emphasized the role played by the private sector in development,” she added.

“You may recall that in May 2021, during the visit of President Evariste Ndayishimiye to Uganda, he and his host President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni reiterated this commitment and gave instructions to their respective governments to do all that’s s possible to assist the private sector grow trade and investments,” she noted.

The Minister says there is strong goodwill from the leadership in both countries to grow trade and investment relations, and that governments will do their best to support the traders by creating an enabling business environment as well as address infrastructural and bureaucratic challenges still hindering development.

“Currently, there are prevailing factors which the business community can take advantage of. The availability of direct flights between Entebbe and Bujumbura is a good incentive for business”

“I therefore implore the business persons assembled here to utilise this forum and the two governments’ goodwill to grow trade and investments between our two countries,” she added.

She further asked the traders to strengthen business contacts, explore markets and investment opportunities and challenges for Governments to be able to address those that need policy decisions.

Kungu Al-Mahadi Adam is a Ugandan Journalist with passion for current African affairs.

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