ENTEBBE, STATE HOUSE:
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has told a delegation of Ambassadors from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland (NORDIC) who are accredited to Uganda, that without the East African integration we have got no future.
The President was speaking at a meeting held yesterday at State House, Entebbe when he received and met the delegation of 4 NORDIC envoys resident in Uganda including Ambassadors Elin Østebø Johansen of Norway, Per Lindgarde of Sweden, Nicolaj Hejberg Petersen of Denmark and Unnur Orradottir Ramette of Iceland.
During this year’s annual meeting in which the President and the envoys exchange ideas on various issues of mutual interest, the envoys sought to know the progress of the East African regional integration; benefits of the Democratic Republic of Congo joining the regional body and the strongest values bonding the East African nations, among other things.
“Without the East African integration, we have got no future. It gives us a market for our products. If Africa does not integrate economically, it will collapse. Economic integration of Africa is a must,” he told the envoys.
President Museveni was highly optimistic that one day, the integration of East Africa and Africa will succeed.
He observed that Uganda’s milk production was 200 million litres per annum in 1986 but today it has increased to 2.6 billion. He told the envoys that given the situation of abundant production, ‘we will collapse without the East African market.’
Mr. Museveni informed the envoys that the current target is to work for the common market of Africa adding that a Government of the whole of Africa is not feasible. He revealed to the envoys that the recently launched Continental Free Trade Area was moving very fast and that a Summit of leaders in Africa would be held in May this year with the aim of working on how to defend Africa. The President is a strong advocate of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) which was endorsed by nearly all African countries in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.
The AfCTA seeks to progressively eliminate tariffs on trade and drive up investments to the continent and its coverage would make it the world’s largest free trade area.
The President told his guests that Uganda today is enjoying surplus production of various goods such as maize, milk, sugar, bananas etc. He, therefore, reiterated that because of such developments, integration cannot be avoided. He also stressed that no country can attract investments without infrastructure because infrastructure is a vital component of development that enables accessing markets at a low cost of doing business.
Regarding the issue of the feasibility of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo joining the East African Community (Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan), the President said that ‘our region has got a lot in common with Congo.’ He observed that the Eastern Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo uses Kiswahili that is the main language in East Africa. He, therefore, expressed strong optimism that the D.R. Congo would join the EAC.
The Swedish Ambassador to Uganda, Per Lindgarde, while thanking President Museveni for meeting them, observed that Uganda and Nordic countries enjoy long standing relations. He revealed that the Nordic countries are keen to have more trade and culture exchanges with Uganda.
The meeting was attended by Major General Kahinda Otafiire Minister of East African Affairs, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. David Bahati Minister of State for Planning, Dr. Chris Baryomunsi Minister of State for Housing and Uganda’s Ambassador to the Nordic countries Nimisha Madhivani.