H.E. Mr. Yoweri Museveni
President of Uganda
In Nairobi, JAPAN and the WORLD conducted an interview with H.E. Mr. Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda to get an insight on Uganda’s strategies to increase its export to Japan.
—What in your opinion does TICAD mean for Africa?
TICAD is all about prosperity and security. I think these are the two most important words. Prosperity, in a modern sense, means business. I produce something and you buy it, and by doing so, you are supporting me. You are supporting my ability to get money and create jobs. Similarly, if I buy from you, I am supporting you in the same way.
TICAD is all about prosperity and security. I think these are the two most important words.
Therefore, this is one of the most important points in this relationship. Then you have security. There are groups, which pursue other interests, who do not want stability and therefore disrupt the legitimate interest of other people. So, this gathering of Japan and Africa is really important in those two contexts. The contexts of enhancing prosperity for everybody and guaranteeing the security of the peaceful and peace-loving people is how I look at TICAD.
I am one of the most senior officials of TICAD, having attended all TICAD conferences since 1993, missing only one, so I can say that knowledge has been achieved through the TICAD process because part of the problem in the world is that people are not well informed; therefore these meetings help to understand one another. As time goes on, issues are defined more clearly and the clearer the issues are, the lesser the chances for misunderstandings to arise.
—And what about for Uganda? Are there any key sectors that you would like to see the Japanese more involved in through TICAD?
There are so many. First of all, market access for Uganda goods in Japan. We have been buying special vehicles and machinery from Japan, and so we want Japan to also buy products from Uganda. So market access is number one, then investments by Japanese companies in Uganda, which would be good for them and also good for us. Japan is already supporting us in infrastructure. They build roads, power transmissions, and they are building a bridge across the Nile. I also proposed having Japanese tourists come to Uganda. So, those four areas: market access, infrastructure, private sector investments, and tourism, are where we would mutually benefit from.
Japan has good technology and, in fact, Uganda is going to buy earth-moving equipment from Japan. They gave us a credit, so we are buying and paying a down payment on the equipment.
—How does Uganda work to get more products into the Japanese Market?
At the just concluded TICAD VI Conference in Nairobi, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I held a bilateral Summit meeting, in which we discussed issues related to infrastructure, trade and investment, and tourism, as well as Human Resource Development.
We both agreed for the technical officials to have working level discussions on the implementation of these issues. We are preparing for these meetings already.
The Japanese market is big and well organized, but still not particularly open to some African agricultural products.
However, the Japanese market is big and well organized, but still not particularly open to some African agricultural products. Agriculture is the backbone of many African countries, employing 60% to 70% of the population and contributing to about 32% of the GDP. Market accessibility and the removal of trade barriers would certainly increase exportation of Ugandan products to Japan. Japan is amongst the top five importers of Uganda and this is an indication of good relations. However, Trade remains unbalanced in favor of Japan.
Cooperation between the private sectors of both Uganda and Japan can help ease the trade imbalance. A case that can be cited is the joint venture between Uganda Garment Industries Limited and Yamato Japan that was established in 1965 and was very successful. Smiley Earth, a towel producing company, for example, has a reliable and stable team of excellent organic cotton producing partners in Uganda. This indicates that, our country is stable and its partners are assured of a conducive business environment.
Compliance to commodity standards remains a challenge for potential Ugandan exporters. There needs to be an upgrading of production technology and a field in which Japan has expertise. We hope to enlist the technical support of Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) in this aspect. Contract farming and identification of supermarket chains would assist in ironing out the trade barriers by ascertaining conformity to standards and improving product quality. Sasakawa Global 2000, Jali – Uganda (Far East), Smiley Earth, Crystal Coffee and a few others have been instrumental in this, but more companies need to come on board.
The Ambassador of Uganda to Japan, H.E. Ms. Betty Grace Akech-Okullo, in conjunction with Ideologie International launched a project titled “EAST X EAST” that aims to facilitate Japanese SMEs access to Uganda. The Embassy is wide open to receiving more Japanese companies and traders.
—What type of products would be a good fit for it?
Agricultural exports still form a big percentage of total exports from Uganda to external markets. Top exports from Uganda are coffee, cotton, tobacco, fish, sesame, sheer-nuts, tea, and fruits, as well as horticultural and dairy products, which can be exported to Japan.
Agricultural exports still form a big percentage of total exports from Uganda to external markets.
Uganda also has minerals and other related precious metals that can be exported to Japan.
Labor externalization to Japan could see some Ugandans employed in Japan’s industrial sector. This does not only mutually benefit both countries, but also is an avenue for technological transfer and could enable good mutual cooperation between the two countries.