A one-stop centre for investment in UgandaApril 29, 2021
Lawrence Byensi, director-general of the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), talks to The Energy Year about how UIA has made it easier to do business in Uganda and the role of industrial parks in adding value to the local economy. UIA promotes and facilitates both FDI and domestic investment in Uganda.
What are the key mandates of UIA?
We operate as a one-stop centre for investment-related needs. Our efforts as an investment promotion agency are focused on looking at investments irrespective of where they are coming from. We are set up to promote investment, not just foreign direct investment (FDI), and this role has always been very clear. For various reasons, many people assume that we are solely focused on FDI, but that is not true.
In 2000, we were tasked with establishing and managing industrial parks and in 2009, tasked with the added function of facilitating and nurturing small and medium-sized enterprises.
How has UIA made business easier to conduct in Uganda?
From the outset, each official institution was set up by law but each institution was guarding its own territory. Due to this, processing and approvals were in the hands of various government agencies located on different premises, and they had their own setup and procedures. Due to this, the government decided to create UIA as a first step.
Then they realised that the institution charged with promoting investment cannot work in isolation from other institutions. They needed to bring key institutions that are involved in the approval and enhancement of investments under one roof: the Uganda Registration Services Bureau for company registration; the Uganda Revenue Authority for tax identification and registration; the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development for matters relating to land; and the Immigration Directorate for work permits, etc. Bringing them together would ease the efforts involved in doing business.
Thereafter, the Uganda Investment Authority realised that going electronic (automating) would be a step forward. The automation process started in 2014. We procured a company with the expertise to set up the ebiz system which has been in use since 2017. To date UIA has 16 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) operating at the One Stop Centre physically. The 14 institutions at the One Stop Centre that operate online services have also made tremendous progress.
To register a company now takes hours instead of days. If you compare the 2020 edition of the World Bank’s Doing Business report to the one from 10 years ago, you will see that it used to take 30 days to register a company in Uganda, while today it takes a couple of hours. So, our target is to keep moving in this direction and improve our ranking into the double digits.
How important are industrial parks for Uganda’s industrialisation strategy?
Our Strategic Plan comprises 27 different industrial parks, but the objective for this year is to get the Namanve Industrial Park done. In June 2020, the Uganda Investment Authority secured funding to build the infrastructure needed in the park. It is about EUR 215 million that is planned to be utilised.
In terms of size, the Namanve Industrial Park is 2,200 acres [8.9 square kilometres]. It is 11 kilometres from Kampala. Currently, all of the land has been allocated between 310 companies. Some have up to 5 acres [around 20,200 square metres]; larger companies have up to 40 acres [around 162,000 square metres].
Out of the 310 companies that have been allocated land, there are around 62 operational businesses there, while another 141 are under construction. This is our flagship project and our target is to make sure that it is progressing well. It was the first land that UIA acquired and we need to complete it to send a signal.
The government is also encouraging companies that come here to promote products that are made in Uganda. In the recent past, the government of Uganda passed a policy called BUBU: Buy Uganda, Build Uganda. So, industrial parks are a priority at the national level.
What would you say the signing of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project agreement means for the oil and gas sector and for Uganda in general?
Now that the Host Government Agreements (HGA), Tariff and Transportation Agreement (TTA) and the Shareholders Agreement (SHA) have been signed, we look forward to the Host Government Agreements (HGA) being ratified in both Uganda and Tanzania through Parliament.
As soon as Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) is able to financially participate in the joint venture partnership and the Petroleum Authority of Uganda approves the EPC for the recommended contractors and the FID is concluded, the investment environment in the oil and gas sector will become very attractive for all the other auxiliary sectors. These will create the much-needed employment and economic growth that will push Uganda faster to the middle-income status that is the goal of our National Development Plan.
UIA is ready to facilitate domestic investment, especially, into the auxiliary opportunities within the sector. UIA’s One Stop Centre services have been enhanced to support potential and existing investors through the business regulatory environment.