Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni yesterday underscored the importance of agro-processing industries as the best way to reduce dependence on imports while increasing foreign exchange reserves.
Citing the Bakhresa group of companies as a test case, he said such firms were key to a country’s economy because “they integrate different levels of production” under which something from the farm, for instance, is processed for sale in the market before the same lands on the family dinner table.
“These industries are saving money for Tanzania, for Uganda, and they also enable the country earn foreign exchange through exports,” he quipped, during his visit to the mills of Bakhresa Group in Dar es Salaam yesterday. His remarks come at a time when Tanzania is currently stepping up efforts to industrialise.
President Museveni who was in the country for a two-day state visit which ended yesterday said Africa was losing a lot of money to foreign markets through imports of both goods and services, noting that Uganda was, for instance, literally giving away to India some $1.5 million every year in the form of imports.
He added that for want of agroprocessing industries, his country was being forced to export raw maize, hence getting less money from the produce. He therefore encouraged the Tanzanian investors to explore investment opportunities in the Ugandan industrial sector, saying: “So I welcome you (Bakhresa) to Uganda …to come and process (our) maize.” Data indicates that Uganda produces four million tons of maize every year but consumes only a quarter (one million tons); the rest is exported.
He also took a swipe at the businesspeople within East Africa who only think of importing goods instead of investing in the manufacturing sector to enable the region export commodities.
The Ugandan leader commended the Bakhresa Group, saying: “a group like this is very good because if I recall what I read at the University (of Dar es Salaam where he studied), you would be what we used to call the impact of national bourgeois,” meaning these are capitalists who are good for the country because you are adding to the wealth of the country, this is different from another type of capitalist, we call a comprador bourgeois …the ones who are importing from outside.”
“The capitalists who only import are turning our countries into markets, they are agent-capitalists, and in Uganda I have a lot of those, but recently we had a conference and they confessed their sins and they say they are going to change,” he added.
The Minister for Industries, Trade and Investment, Mr Charles Mwijage, said Museveni’s tour was a result of a recent meeting of the African Heads of State held in Addis Ababa, at which they agreed that by December this year the African countries should have agreed to trade among themselves under what is called ‘Continental Free Trade Area.
’ “We and Uganda can produce and trade among ourselves. For instance, Uganda produces abundant maize and we import from them,” he said.
Mr Hussein Sufian, Director of Public Relations at the Bakhresa Group, expressed gratitude to the government for giving it opportunity to host President Museveni, saying they have had the opportunity to brief him on their investments in Uganda.
Mr Sufiani explained that the company has invested $60 million on a wheat processing plant in Uganda which is currently milling 1,100 tons per day, adding that the company now seeks to double its daily processing capacity to at least 2,000 tons of wheat.
There are also plans to invest $50 million on another plant to process at least 5,000 tons of maize daily. Meanwhile, president Museveni assured his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli that he was ready to lay a foundation stone for construction of the crude oil pipeline from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga port in Tanzania.
He made the assurance shortly before departing at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) after his two-day state visit in Tanzania. “We have had fruitful discussions with President Magufuli; we have discussed many issues including the envisaged construction of the pipeline and agreed to lay a foundation stone for its implementation,” Mr Museveni stated.
Other leaders who were present to see-off Mr Museveni included Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa in addition to heads of security and defense forces, among other officials.