The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said government would use the first ever Uganda- South Sudan business expo to help create awareness for its citizens to tap into business opportunities as well as investments in neighbouring South Sudan.
The Uganda-South Sudan business forum will run between July, 18 and 20 at Beijing Hotel in Juba.
Addressing a joint press conference in Kampala, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary, Vincent Bagiire said government would also seek to increase the volume of exports to South Sudan and that the expo is a great opportunity to see how this can be done.
“We shall use it to ensure our business community in Uganda can explore opportunities in South Sudan. We have in excess of 4500 factories in Uganda which produce goods to serve both the local and regional market. What we are doing is create a platform that these factories can access markets in the brotherly country of South Sudan so that to increase our exports,”Bagiire said.
A recent report by the Bank of Uganda released in February indicated that the country’s exports to South Sudan increased from $39.7 million(about shs145 billion) to $50.6 million(aboutshs185 billion) in the past one year.
Uganda’s exports to South Sudan mainly include cereals, sugar, beverages, vegetable oil and building materials among others.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary however noted that government seeks to use the joint Uganda-South Sudan business forum next month to increase this trade volume.
“With this activity (joint business forum), we are hoping it will be springboard for us to increase our volumes to a tune of around $1billion,”Bagiire told journalists in Kampala.
He explained that their role as the Foreign Affairs Ministry is to promote and protect the country’s interests abroad and that through this, they are involved in commercial and economic diplomacy.
Uganda’s Ambassador to South Sudan, Brig Ronnie Balya said the joint forum will bring together government and the private sector to share their experiences, explore investment opportunities across the borders, create business-to-business networks and to identify and discuss challenges.
“Both Uganda and South Sudan are both land locked with almost 500km border between them. As one of the largest importers of Ugandan goods, South Sudan is a big and strategic partner for Uganda. Bilateral trade and investment between the two countries has created enormous benefits for both countries through employment creation and market access as well as increased revenue for both businesses and governments,” Brig Balya noted.
He added that as South Sudan continues to grow and stabilize, many opportunities for both South Sudanese and Ugandans continue to sprout, adding that it is high time citizens of both countries tap into them.
Uganda’s Ambassador to South Sudan said both countries had planned to hold a Joint Permanent Commission meeting shortly after the business forum to listen to concerns and recommendations but revealed this will not be possible since it requires consultations between ministries, departments and agencies from both countries.
He however noted it will be held soon.
According to South Sudan’s ambassador to Uganda, Simon Michael Duku the joint business forum presents opportunities to be exploited by both countries.
“There are so many areas where Ugandans can invest including agriculture. South Sudan will be making 11 years in July and there are a number of projects in coffee, vegetables, rice, tobacco and tea that need to be implemented and Ugandans can invest in,” Duku said.
He noted that there are also opportunities in oil and gas sector and mining among others.
“We heavily depend on oil sector but it is not fully utilized. The energy sector in Uganda is still virgin and Ugandans can invest in it. Tourism is another sector which is still virgin whereas in mining, most of the players are artisanal miners.”