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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Corruption is now Slims (HIV/AIDS) in Uganda says Ambassador Scott DeLisi


Remarks for Buy America Expo
By Ambassador Scott DeLisi
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Sheraton Hotel, Kampala, Uganda

Esteemed Guests, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, All protocols observed.

Good Afternoon. Let me begin by saying what a thrill it is to be here at the Buy America Expo—the first of its kind in Uganda and a testimony to the ever-growing economic ties between the United States and Uganda. This event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the American Chamber of Commerce and I’d like to particularly thank President Abhay Agarwal and Vice President Meg Jaquay for their leadership in AmCham. The partnership between the U.S. Embassy and AmCham has never been stronger.

And it is because of that leadership and partnership that we are here today. It was just about a year ago that Captain Agarwal told our Economic Office that Uganda needed a forum to showcase the many American companies and products that are available in Uganda. Today's Buy America Expo is the direct result of that discussion.

I’d also like to recognize and welcome Chip Peters, our Senior Foreign Commercial Service Officer and Carol Kamau who works for the Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Both Chip and Carol are based at the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi and we’re happy that you’ve joined us today to learn more about the opportunities available to American companies in Uganda.

But most of all, I’d like to thank all of our exhibitors here today. I was able to visit some of the exhibits this afternoon and what struck me most of all was the sheer diversity of the American business community in Uganda. We have Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and Citibank; companies that are recognized all over the world.

But we also have smaller companies started by American entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity in Uganda—companies like Pulse Village Transport that provides transportation solutions for rural communities, including an ambulance that’s pulled by a bicycle. Or Bead for Life, an organization that is processing Ugandan shea nuts into high-quality shea butter products. Or JFL, a company that is exporting Ugandan fruit to the United States to be made into healthy snacks – something Americans should eat a lot more of.

And there are a few surprises as well—I imagine that some of you might be surprised to learn that Game, one of Kampala’s largest retail stores, is owned by Wal-Mart. Or that the Protea Hotel is now part of the Marriott Hotel family.

We have companies representing the IT, agricultural, energy, and health sectors. We have companies like KFC and Crown Bottling whose products nourish or refresh us and companies like AIG, PWC, Re/Max, and Aon that provide services that enrich our lives. It’s a long and impressive list.

The investment that the American private sector makes in Uganda is critical for the future of the country. It’s through this investment that U.S. companies are creating jobs for Ugandan citizens and helping us to move closer to realizing our vision of a peaceful, prosperous, healthy, and democratic Uganda.

And although we have a very impressive collection of U.S. companies in this room today, we’re not going to stop there. Strengthening economic ties between Uganda and the U. S. is one of our top priorities, and we want to see more American companies doing business in Kampala. We want to see more American firms investing in agriculture and energy. We want to see increased trade between Uganda and the United States. And we hope that the next time we hold a “Buy America Expo” we will need a much bigger room to hold all the American companies working in Uganda!

The Buy America Expo couldn’t come at a better time, as it follows on the heels of last month’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, where we saw hundreds of American companies taking renewed interest in the economic opportunities available in Africa. As a result of the attention generated by the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, some companies that might have overlooked Uganda as a place to do business are now saying “Let’s take a closer look at what Uganda has to offer.”

Two decades ago, major companies were chided by their shareholders if they didn’t have a “China plan.” One decade ago, companies had to have an “India plan” to be taken seriously. And now, boards are being encouraged to have an “Africa plan.” We agree. We want to see more American companies doing business here and more American products being sold in stores, not just because it’s good for America but because it’s also good for Uganda.

Business is about making choices. And we think that--when given the choice--many Ugandans will choose American-made products. American companies offer products that are high quality and backed by years of innovation and expertise. They may sometimes be more expensive, but the reliability, quality and customer service that come with American products make them the most sensible, the most cost-effective and the most popular choice time and again. Making a cheap product is easy, but making the best product with the best value for the price is a challenge at which American innovators excel.

But a key question remains: how do we encourage more U.S. firms to actually come to the Pearl of Africa? Many American companies might see Uganda as being too far away, too small, or presenting too challenging a business environment. However, although there may be an element of truth in all of those points, the companies here today have shown that these concerns need not be a bar to investment, to growth or to profits.

But if we truly want to attract American investment and grow this economy significantly there is one overarching challenge that is cited by virtually every business person I talk to and that is the single greatest deterrent for potential investors.

Now this is the point where I could rhetorically ask "and what is that greatest challenge?" but you already know the answer. Corruption, corruption, corruption. Corruption is routinely leading serious major investors, who have their choice of investment destinations, to turn away from Uganda. And why wouldn't they? Corruption distorts economic activity, reduces competition, eats up profits, erodes trust, and sullies corporate images. Potential investors need only to look at the press to see daily reports of corruption in government ministries and throughout the society at every level. Just as sadly, Uganda has slipped even further in Transparency International’s index on corruption -- the nation now ranks 140th out of 177 countries worldwide. And if that isn't discouraging enough, very few of the people I meet have faith that corruption will be punished and perpetrators held accountable even in the most blatant cases.

Just yesterday, Parliament grilled representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office who were unable to account for over 27 billion shillings from their 2012/2013 budget. Unfortunately, these scandals go much farther and wider than the few people who are punished, and continue to undermine faith in the government.

If we truly hope to fill even bigger rooms with American products in the future and if we really want to fuel economic growth that will create the jobs desperately needed for this very youthful population, we need to change the picture.

Twenty years ago, the government of Uganda saw Slims disease, which we now know as HIV/AIDS, as an existential threat to Uganda's future. Corruption is now Slims. It is also an existential threat to the nation and we must treat it with the same determination, commitment, and energy that we bring to the fight against HIV. We need to change the mindset that accepts theft of public resources or donor funds as an acceptable norm or an inevitable cost of doing business. We need to treat corruption as the pervasive and destructive evil and abuse of power and trust that it is, rather than allowing it to hide behind far less damning terms like "rent seeking".

We need visible and resolved leadership from the government and we need businesswomen and men -- like all of you -- to champion honest, transparent investments, to expose corrupt practices, and to ensure that integrity is at the heart of your transactions.

If we can change the underlying ethos that encourages and accepts the culture of impunity when it comes to corruption, we can make Uganda's tremendous potential a reality. And that’s where you come in. I believe that the American business community, led by AmCham, is now at a point where it can take a much more active role in advocating directly to the government on behalf of the international business community. In fact, I think this is the perfect time for AmCham to take on this role as we seek to build on the momentum created by the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

The time is right. President Museveni is meeting in New York this week with our Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and I know he wants to talk with her about AGOA, about trade, about infrastructure, and about economic growth and investment. He and I have discussed frequently the importance of more American investment, of more U.S. companies coming to set up shop in Uganda and I know that he, and Prime Minister Rugunda, will both be partners willing to help make that happen. And all you have to do is look around this room, to see the many U. S. companies who are already doing well here. You can feel the buzz of new contacts being made, new economic connections being discovered, and new opportunities being explored.

Now, more than ever, we need to encourage the public-private dialogue that can help to energize policy and spark action. Government leaders need to hear your voice and so do I. We need to know the challenges you are facing and how government can help to create a better business environment. We need your thoughts on how we can work together to reduce corruption and on what policy initiatives can help to draw more American companies to Uganda. You are the ones with the knowledge and expertise on doing business in Uganda and you can pave the way for more companies to come here.

I remain committed to working on behalf of American companies already invested in Uganda, as well as with those interested in doing business here. In my two years here I have been an unrelenting advocate on behalf of American companies competing for contracts with the Ugandan government and am pleased to say we have had some notable successes. I want to see more.

I also want to continue to build on our already stronger partnership with our American Chamber here, of which I am so very proud. Thank you again for your fine work.

Thank you once again as well to all of the American companies represented here at the Buy America Expo. We wouldn’t have been able to hold this event without your energy and enthusiasm. All of you play a vital role in strengthening the economic ties between Uganda and the United States and I look forward to working with all of you to find ways to encourage stronger business ties between our two nations.

Together we can help improve the business climate in Uganda and I know that when we combine quality American products like those on display today, with American values, energy, and talent, success is virtually guaranteed.

Thank you very much.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A new Africa wide programme to boost the seed sector

PRESS RELEASE

[NAIROBI, KENYA, September 18, 2014] 
Access to quality seed remains a great challenge for smallholder farmers across Africa. This affects their agricultural productivity, income and resilience. Addressing this challenge is a complex task and cannot be done at national levels alone.

A new Africa-wide programme aims to support the development of a vibrant, market oriented and pluralistic seed sector in Africa. Launched on 18 September in Nairobi, it will use an Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) approach to address the challenges.

The ISSD approach is endorsed by the African Union Commission as contributing to the implementation of the African Seed and Biotechnology Program (ASBP) program and the seed agenda of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

The Comprehensive Programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD Africa) aims to enhance reliable access of smallholder farmers to sufficient quantities of quality seed of superior varieties at the right time and at an affordable price.

The programme — supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dutch Government — will be conducted in phases.

The Piloting Phase of ISSD Africa -running from September 2014 to August 2016, will contribute to the development of the five-year Comprehensive Programme.

During the piloting phase, ISSD Africa will work with existing seed programmes in 8-10 countries to explore how seed sectors can be integrated at local and national level. The organisers hope to draw out lessons that will inform international dialogues on seed policy.
Four priority themes have been identified:

· Promoting entrepreneurship in the seed value chain
· Access to varieties in the public domain
· Matching global commitments with national realities
· Supporting African Union programmes and seed sector development

Addressing these themes will be done through action research, innovation trajectories, policy dialogues, capacity strengthening, and joint learning in eight to ten pilot countries.

The project aims to set up an Africa-wide network of experts, seed programs and related organizations, and encourage those working in the seed sector to learn from each other and work together.

“A well-functioning seed sector is vital to food security and farmers’ livelihoods, but making it work is a complex challenge. Governments, businesses, farmers and researchers all need to work together to make Africa’s seed sector more vibrant, dynamic and resilient for many years to come,” said Marja Thijssen, ISSD Africa Coordinator based in the Netherlands.

The project will be coordinated by a consortium of an African-based secretariat working closely with the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI) of Wageningen University and Research Centre (Wageningen UR), the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC).
The Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development — a policy research institute of the Kenyan-based Egerton University — will host the African-based Secretariat.

ISSD Africa will operate under a set of Guiding Principles on seed programs and policies. These stress the importance of pluralism, diversity and interaction between formal and informal systems. They also focus on entrepreneurship and markets, policies to support a dynamic sector, and high-quality evidence.

Media contact:
Beatrice Ouma,
Mobile: +254 721463952
Email: b.ouma@future-agricultures.org

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Uganda's 2014/15 budget ‘out of step’ with voters’ health priorities says Poll

Press Release

(KAMPALA) Civil society organizations working for access to essential health services in Uganda today released new data on Ugandan voter priorities revealing that during the course of the 9th Parliament, health has surged forward as the most prominent voter priority—more important than crime, education, or unemployment.

Moreover, the research revealed the vast majority of voters will not support an MP who does not prioritize health issues, such as correcting medicine stock outs or increasing health financing. CSOs called for MPs to take action based on these data, specifically that Parliament not approve the FY2014/15 national budget unless it includes dramatically scaled up investments in recruitment and motivation of front line professional health workers, alongside expansion in primary health care (PHC) funding for health facilities.

“A nation of sick Ugandans cannot benefit from economic development,” said Dennis Odwe, Executive Director of AHGA Uganda (the Action Group for Health, Human Rights and HIV/AIDS).

“These data show clearly: MPs cannot ignore the health priorities of their voters. Without expanded funding for these priorities, pregnant women will continue to suffer preventable deaths and complications, people with HIV will wait in line for life saving treatment, and Ugandans will continue to suffer without access to essential health services. For too long, health workers have toiled without adequate remuneration, leading to demotivation, attrition, and lack of accountability for poor quality service delivery.”

Coalition members also demanded an increase for PHC funding—the resources health facilities use to pay for electricity, clean water, fuel, and other priorities. “The Current PHC non-wage recurrent funding levels are only 41bn instead of the required 82bn,” said Samuel Senfuka of White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood Uganda.

“Government is failing to deliver on its commitment to ensure access to emergency obstetric care in all Health Center IVs, and women are dying as a result. Our health facilities cannot respond to the leading causes of preventable maternal death—post partum hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labor, unsafe abortion and eclampsia—unless they are equipped to provide essential health services. Government must match their promises with the funding levels needed to save the lives of pregnant women, newborns and children.”

The 2014/15 Budget Speech indicated that “government will enhance health workers’ remuneration and improve their skills through capacity building” and that “health facility infrastructure at both local government and referral levels, will also be expanded, in addition to the construction of additional staff houses in lower level health facilities to minimize absenteeism.”

However, according to civil society, it is unclear what portion of the UShs 450 billion announced for enhancement of civil servants’ salaries will be invested in health workers. UShs 215 billion is already ring fenced for a raise in teachers’ pay; civil society is calling for the balance of UShs 235 billion to be invested in production, recruitment and retention of front line health workers, particularly priority cadres such as midwives working at Local Government health facilities.

Civil society called for government to expand funding for HIV treatment as well, consistent with prior years’ increases. “This year’s budget proposes a flat line in funding for lifesaving anti retroviral treatment,” said Margaret Happy of the International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICW EA).

“Yet more people are waiting in line for treatment because Uganda has changed the clinical eligibility criteria so that more people with HIV can benefit from the clinical and prevention benefits of treatment. We call on government to increase investments in HIV treatment by 50%. Civil society is recommending:
(i) Dramatically enhancement PHC by 41.2bn in the priority areas of administration of health facilities to cater for immunization, supervision, coordination, hygiene inspection, and health education.
(ii) Prioritized enhancement of wages for midwives and other critical cadres of the health workforce is estimated to cost UShs 13.3 bn
(iii) Completing the recruitment exercise of 3,371 health workers a will cost UShs 28.3 bn in annual salary and allowances.
(iv) Increasing investment in HIV and TB treatment by 50% to UShs 150 billion.
For more information, contact: Dorcas Amoding, AGHA Uganda, 0782585305
Asia Russell, Health GAP asia@healthgap.org, 0776574729

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tanzania Innovators win Canadian Cash

By Esther Nakkazi

Tanzania has won three of the 13 innovators grants from Grand Challenges Canada. Among the innovations are an application linking traditional healers to medical health workers through the mobile phone to recognise psychosis, using a smart phone to rapidly measure kidney failure in any setting for less than $1 and using electronically-monitored referral system to speed diagnosis and reduce transmission of tuberculosis.

In six rounds of funding since 2011, Grand Challenges Canada's Stars in Global Health program has provided $43 million in seed grants to 392 projects.

"The difference between a human life burdened by serious health challenges and a life lived to its full and healthy potential may be a bold idea developed by an innovator in Canada or abroad,” said Dr. Peter A. Singer, Chief Executive Officer of Grand Challenges Canada:

"Through our Stars in Global Health program, we are proud to identify these exceptional global health innovations that aim to have a far-reaching and positive impact on the well-being of individuals and communities in developing nations.” The Tanzanian innovations are;

The Cell phones and psychosis: a pilot study connecting traditional healers and bio-medical staff in rural Tanzania to be implemented by Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania

Due to cultural beliefs and lack of rural medical services, over 60% of Tanzanians seek mental care from widely accessible traditional healers who tend to treat the spiritual causes of psychosis - an easily recognizable and prevalent condition. Without integrated systems of care, biological symptoms of psychosis may go untreated and reach chronic stages, leading to severe, long-term disability.

A mobile psychosis screening and consultation app for both traditional healers and medical practitioners will harness the power of the nation's ubiquitous mobile devices to bridge treatment of psychosis between Tanzania's rural traditional healers and urban medical practitioners -- improving diagnosis and management, increasing referrals and reducing stigma. Website: http://bit.ly/1sxSoBL

The Tanzania acute kidney injury project: to be implemented by Pamoja Research Centre, Tanzania. Acute kidney injury (AKI) is caused by other conditions such as malaria, HIV-related infection, diarrheal disease or pregnancy-related complications. It is a neglected global health issue and a significant cause of illness and death in low-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to early diagnosis and timely access to therapy are lacking.

This project will develop and test a system that uses a smartphone biosensor and two drops of blood to rapidly measure kidney failure in any setting for less than $1. Website: http://bit.ly/1xT10WC

Using pharmacists and an electronically-monitored referral system to speed diagnosis and reduce transmission of tuberculosis; to be implemented by Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania

Tuberculosis (TB) is rampant in Tanzania and the detection rate is low (50%). People who potentially have TB tend to go to pharmacies to purchase antibiotics before getting a proper diagnosis. A training and referral system from pharmacies to facility-based diagnostic/treatment centres will increase early detection rates and reduce transmission by shortening the diagnosis delay. Website: http://bit.ly/TT2AZr

Thursday, September 4, 2014

UN and Uganda Government Align Priorities for Development

By Esther Nakkazi
SO, I, was invited for by the United Nations for a week long workshop (1-5 September) in Entebbe to participate in the formulation of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), which constitutes the overall strategic framework guiding the assistance provided to a country by UN agencies.

If all players participate in the making of the UNDAF, there is government ownership, meaningful evaluation, clear theory of change, a dynamic transformational approach and alignment of priorities.

For the first time as was noted by the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Uganda, Ahunna Eziakonwa, the UN intended that the UNDAF this time would be a nationally-led process and all-inclusive with participation from not only the UN agencies, but also with participation from the Media, CSOs, field staff, youth and government.

“It is a moment that signifies that the government of Uganda and the UN are ‘Delivering as One’ on the priorities of Ugandans,” said Eziakonwa of the UNDAF process. Since Uganda uses the National Planning Authority (NPA) www.npa.ug for long term planning, its staff at this meeting were key to assess the alignment between UNDAF and NDP II.

First of all, everything seemed bizarre to me. The terms, the process, the references to previous UNDAF meetings and I took a back seat soaking in everything and wondering about this laborious process. I just thought well I did know much about how the UN operates even if I had reported about its activities but I was here to learn. On the second day, stuff started sounding a bit familiar and the group discussions helped.

My whole role in the whole process, meanwhile, was to identify gaps and how the UN could close these gaps, what and how it using its comparative advantage for the benefit of the citizens and development. More importantly for me in this case, how the UN would enable or empower the media to achieve its set goals.

It is really important to note that a country needs to get the UN focus on governance, human capital and a sustainable economy. Also it would be important to leverage coordinated support – shifting from sector-focused planning to vision-focused planning, the former leads to a disconnect with the vision leading to results that are costly and untraceable to the vision.

While for vision-driven planning, the government and UN agree on the pathway to transformation and have a partnership arrangement and focus on structural and operational bottlenecks to define sector roles.

But most importantly, if a government and the UN work together they ‘Deliver as One (DaO)’ which reduces duplication of efforts; shifts funds from aid to development effectiveness and there is focus on development that empowers communities, local and central government agencies.  

I am still attending this meeting and will update this post with a take home message plus how the UN can work with the government for development.
ends-




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Ever Beauty Pageant for Young Positives in Africa

Press Release:
Kampala, Uganda:
As the young men and women took to the stage to showcase their talent, no one except the event organizers could tell their HIV Status. Their blazing faces beaming with a future captivated the cheering audience, a reassurance to everyone that contracting HIV/AIDS was no more a death sentence as it were in yesteryears. 

And when the Guest of Honor, former Uganda Vice President Dr. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe took to the stage to make her remarks, the message was clear-cut; “You are very beautiful, very handsome”, she told the hundreds of youth gathered for this year’s Y+ Beauty Pageant at the Golf Course Hotel in Kampala (Aug 29). “What you are and what have, no one else has, because you are unique”, she added. The Y+ Pageant concept, the first of its kind on the African Continent, was developed by a team of actors to celebrate Beauty with Zero Discrimination, in essence, to fight stigma.

Dr. Speciosa re-assured the youth that “Sex is the most pleasurable thing you can ever have”, but regretted the fact that many people do not want to talk about it. She shared her experience when as minister for Youth in the early ‘90s, she was castigated by the Church and Mothers’ Unions for speaking out openly about the use of Condoms, yet people continued to die due to unprotected sex. She commended the youth for carrying forward her cause, and said to them, “Count me in your struggle”. 

Dr. Speciosa is one of the first Champions against HIV/AIDS in Africa and until recently, served as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy on the same cause.

In his remarks, the Chairman Uganda Aids Commission Prof. Vinand Nantulya had no kind words for members of Parliament agitating for the criminalization of HIV/AIDS. “Criminalizing HIV/AIDS is wrong, unacceptable and nonsensical. MPs made a mistake and we’ll not let them go away with it”, he said angrily. “The issue of intentional infection is nonsense,"  he emphasized.

The annual function also doubled as a fundraising for a Youth Centre aimed at empowering young people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS with life skills and guidance; and inspiring them to contribute to both social and economic development. It was organized by Marie Stopes Uganda (MSU), Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) and HIV Bible Movement (HBM). Dr. Speciosa contributed 2 Million Uganda Shillings towards the Youth Centre project.

Sharifa Nalugo Kyomukama (19 years ) and Ronald Juan Kaganda (20 years) emerged Miss and Mr. Y+ respectively .The Winners (Mr. and Miss Y+) will be Ambassadors for the Zero campaign that will spearhead National campaigns towards “Getting to Zero” – Zero new HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination, and Zero AIDS-Related Deaths. They will also represent the Y+ team at high level meetings and workshops.

Tumusiime K. Deo
Communications Assistant to
Dr. Speciosa Wandira-Kazibwe
Member, African Union Panel of the Wise (PoW);
Senior Presidential Adviser Population & Health/
Vice President Emeritus-Republic of Uganda