Organisers of the 3rd Ugandan UK Convention hope for a  hat-trick

Willy Mutenza, chairman of the Ugandan-UK Trade and Investment Forum is optimistic; despite being landlocked, having poor road maintenance, lacking a fully functioning railway and constant power cuts, Uganda is among the countries benefitting from a flourishing private sector and natural resources which have become the hallmark of current high growth rates in Africa, and Uganda’s diaspora is being encouraged to get on board, through the Ugandan UK Convention, annual event taking place for the third time this year on Saturday 14th September.

Organisers say that the basic premise of the trade fair is that the future of Uganda is in “trade not aid, and there’s no better group of people to attract investment to the country than its expatriates. Mutenza says, “The focus is on engaging the diaspora to invest in our homeland. It is a winning formula that has proved effective in other countries such as Israel and India.”

He expects the event to attract over 1000 delegates; though Mutenza says many attendees will be from the Ugandan diaspora community, there will also be commercial interests from sectors such as banking, real estate, communication technology, energy supply and construction. All of the delegates will be looking to get a piece of Uganda’s natural resources and fill the infrastructure gap.

With an average annual growth rate of over 5 percent in the last five years and even more impressive projections, Uganda is fast becoming a regional hotspot for investment, “this year the World Investment Report revealed that Uganda’s FDI inflows had increased over 92 percent to US$ 1.721 billion from US$ 894 million in 2011 ahead of neighbours Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda” says Mutenza.

The organisers are also hoping to make sure the perspective and interests of young Ugandan diasporans are also addressed; according to Mutenza, during the event’s Youth Forum, conversations are more candid and upbeat with talks by a host of young Ugandans on the future of the country.  The forum does attract big name speakers, in previous years; the trade fair has brought out the likes of Uganda’s finance minister Maria Kiwanuka, the First Lady Janet Museveni, and the President and Director of Tullow Oil Uganda, Elly Karuhanga. This year the audience will be addressed by Uganda’s Vice President Edward Ssekandi, and Dr. Frank B. Sebbowa, Executive Director of the Uganda Investment Authority and as well as multi-millionaire entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar.

It’s not all business, there is also some philanthropy and Mutenza says “a delegate donated more than $50,000 to build a school and buy two tractors for the women of Karamoja. This was given to me and I remitted it to the 1st Lady foundation.” And there are many more stories like this. After the speeches, presentations and networking, there will be an after-party headlined by popular Ugandan musician Jose Chameleon.

The convention has had many success stories, Mutenza reveals, “one delegate has successfully started a health and safety consultancy in Uganda and has contracts from private and government sector, and another set-up a liquefied petroleum gas distributing centre.”  He adds, “Last year a consortium agreed to invest more than $3million in a maize processing plant in Gulu”

Organisers say that part of their success has been the opportunity for delegates to liaise with and directly influence government officials, with resultant impact; they cite the creation of Diaspora Desk in Uganda to help co-ordinate the diaspora activities when they go to Uganda, and Diasporans concerns over dual citizenship will be addressed at the Convention by Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament, Rebeca Kadaga.

There are few other annual gatherings of this scale that Ugandans can participate in 4, 000 miles from home, and if the past success of the event, and its guest list are anything to go by, this year’s event promises to be worth the participation.

The ‘3rd Ugandan UK Convention takes place on Saturday, 14 September 2013. Tickets are available at: http://3rdugandaukconvention.eventbrite.co.uk

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