Presidnet John Magufuli and his Ugandan counterpart, Mr Yoweri Museveni, have agreed to maximise business opportunities in a move that aims at boosting the economies of their two neighbouring countries.
The two leaders, who met at the State House in Dar es Salaam yesterday, also asked TOTAL, an investor in the project for the construction of the 1,443-kilometre pipeline to transport crude oil from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga Port, to start the work immediately. President Museveni is in the country for a two-day state visit following an invitation extended to him by Dr Magufuli.
Speaking at a joint press briefing at State House after a closed door meeting, the two heads of state said they also held an intensive discussion regarding the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
According to Mr Magufuli, Tanzania was against the signing of the EPA deal, insisting that it was another form of colonialism. “We discussed this in detail with President Museveni and agreed that as we continue with discussions, a team of experts should go to Uganda to give further clarification on the matter on March 18,’’ he insisted.
Mr Museveni said that it was prudent to have one stance maintaining that strengthening the relationship between the two countries was much more important than extending relationships with Europeans. “I decided to come and hold discussions with Mr Magufuli because we need to come out with a proper and clear stance,’’ insisted the Ugandan leader.
On maximising business opportunities, Dr Magufuli invited Ugandan businesspeople to come and invest in Tanzania urging Tanzanian traders to equally explore investment opportunities that are available in Uganda. “In 2016 business between our two countries stood at 178.19bn/- and now it stands at 193.59bn/- but I think we need to expand these figures further,’’ said President Magufuli.
In maximising business, Mr Magufuli added, Tanzania was currently implementing a project for construction of a Standard Gauge railway from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza, Isaka, Rwanda and Burundi.
He added that the two leaders agreed to establish a dry port in Mwanza for Ugandan businesspeople only, as well as repairing MV Umoja so that it can ferry goods from Mwanza to Uganda, in order to reduce the cost of transporting cargo.
The move was welcomed by his Ugandan counterpart who said it was the second liberation offered by Tanzania to Uganda after the support it offered Uganda in liberating the country from the Leadership of Idd Amin Dada.
“I salute the government of Tanzania for the envisaged construction of a standard gauge railway and modernising the Mwanza port as the services will now be cheaper, faster, more efficient and modern,’’ Mr Museveni said.
Regarding the oil pipeline, the two leaders said an investor should put measures in place for the inauguration of the project by laying a foundation stone and avoid senseless reasons that were delaying the implementation of the project.
Mr Magufuli further said that he requested Mr Museveni to allow Tanzanian aircraft to launch direct flights to Entebbe Airport so as to help the ailing Uganda airline industry, a request that was accepted by the Ugandan leader.
Earlier, Uganda and Tanzania through the foreign Affairs ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for strengthening diplomatic relations between the two countries. The signatures were appended to the documents by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga, on the Tanzanian side and Ugandan Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Oryemu Okello.
President Museveni arrived in the country yesterday morning. He was received by Dr Magufuli.
At the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA), he received a 21-gun salute from members of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) and inspected a special guard of honour before receiving entertainment from various traditional dancers.
Today, Mr Museveni is expected to visit a Vingunguti based factory owned by the Bakhresa Group, one of Tanzania’s largest conglomerates with investment in Uganda and other African countries before leaving the country later in the evening.