Submitted November 5, 2001. News.
Ssempala: AGOA investment my No. 1 priority
By Carl Bialik
New York -- "We need to find investors and attract them to Uganda," Edith Ssempala, Uganda’s ambassador to the United States, told The Monitor. "That is my No. 1 priority."
Uganda was officially accredited into the African Growth and Opportunity Act scheme on October 25. Now the U.S. market has been opened to Ugandan goods ranging from cotton and footwear to fish. The next step, Ssempala said, is to convince investors from outside Uganda to put money into businesses that will take advantage of the act.
So far, 10 African nations, including Malawi, South Africa, and Kenya, have gained access to open U.S. markets through the act. At the AGOA Forum in Washington, DC, last week, Ssempala heard reports from some of the countries that have quickly attracted millions of dollars (U.S.) in investments. Lesotho, with a population of barely 2 million, reported attracting US$100 million in investments in only four months.
Now Ambassador Ssempala realizes that Uganda must act quickly, before other countries become eligible. At the Corporate Council for Africa’s U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Philadelphia, which followed the AGOA Forum, Ssempala and three ministers visiting from Kampala courted investors. She said they met with a big player in the textile and apparel industry, and they were hoping to convince him to make an investment.
According to an earlier Monitor report, the first companies in Uganda to benefit from AGOA will be Phenix Logistics (U) Ltd and Southern Range Nyanza Textiles, which both expect to start exporting textiles to the U.S. "very soon."
The ambassador thinks it is important to raise awareness in Uganda of the Act and its implications. "I want to build an AGOA movement in Uganda, so that Ugandans can understand what is at stake, so that they can work hard and know that the benefits are there," she said.
As Uganda competes for investments with other AGOA-eligible countries, Ssempala hinted that success should come by right. She, along with a few ambassadors to the U.S. from other African nations, spearheaded the campaign for a U.S. act to open the world’s richest nation’s markets. And President Museveni was the first African head of state who came out in support of AGOA, at Ssempala’s behest. "I think the fruits of AGOA must benefit Uganda," Ssempala said. "We were fighting so that we can benefit; we were not fighting so that others benefit and we don’t."Copyright © 2002 Carl Bialik
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