Friday, October 2, 2015

What will Uganda get out of the Innovation Africa 2015 Forum?

By Esther Nakkazi

Nothing seems to work out right in Uganda, except for a few things that are hard to come by and you have probably heard that phrase many times. So its nothing new you say to yourself.

So I am attending this Innovation Africa 2015 Summit with the theme ‘Developing Skills for the 21st Century Africa’ organized by Africa Brains. The host, Hon Maj Dr. Jessica Alupo Rose Epel – Minister of Education, Science Technology & Sports, opening speech started as usual with Uganda is open for business.

She said ‘there is no better gathering than Innovations Africa for government and industry partnerships’ and yes it was such a well-organized conference but it made me curious to know if Uganda has clinched any deals during such forums.

We got talking after listening to Rwanda. Of course, it has to be Rwanda. On the sidelines of the Innovation for Africa conference held in Kigali in 2014, Rwanda signed an agreement with Positivo BGH, a Latin American multinational, which manufactures laptops, computers, tablets, and other electronic gadgets, to put up a production plant in Kigali.

What my source- a government official by the way- told me is that Positivo BGH had first approached the Uganda government officials before going to Rwanda. Everyone they talked to in Uganda was happy with them and they have a real profile, the firm has an annual turnover in excess of $2.5 billion annually and with over 40 years of experience.

When I say happy, all the Ugandan officials including the Ministers in charge and the Uganda Investment Authority who the Positivo BGH company approached agreed that indeed it was a good investment but no one could take the decision to approve it.

That is the problem they say no one takes the initiative and there are no clear guidelines as to how approval should be done. So while Ugandans were going round in circles, which took forever, the Rwanda government was approached.

In three days, the deal was done and approved. 20,000 hectares of land were immediately allocated to them. Right now, the assembly factory is in place and operational. It produces 12,000 laptops per month with the capacity of increasing production as we have heard at the Innovation Africa 2015 Summit happening now in Uganda.

They have given thousands of Rwandans jobs who do not have to import computers or phones anymore and they are thinking of supplying the whole of East Africa said Dr. Celestin Ntivuguruzwa – Permanent Secretary for Education, Rwanda.

So I do not know how to end this blog without envy for Rwanda but I think Uganda should style up. I am waiting for the deals Uganda will clinch at this Innovation Africa 2015 conference. I am sure as usual there will be none but we will be happy that we hosted the Summit.

And I see it happening for other 26 countries in attendance like Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, DRCongo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Cameroon, Tunisia, Zambia. They will all unlike Uganda take something tangible out of it.


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