UGANDA can greatly reap from trade and the myriad of investment opportunities if we strategise to take advantage of the now independent South Sudan.
Already, there are millions of Ugandan traders in the South Sudan capital, Juba, but mainly operating small scale businesses like bars, restaurants and dealing in produce.
To fully take advantage of this virgin market and protect our interests, the Government needs to enter into agreement with the leadership in Juba to develop the infrastructure to ease this trade. With South Sudan as a new state, we are almost certain our annual exports to this new country will double.
However, we need to remember that we are competing with bigger economies like China, Japan, India and Kenya who are already in Juba.
Kenya has already signed a number of trade protocols with South Sudan and is seeking investors to fund a $22b planned corridor connecting Ethiopia and Sudan to the Kenyan coast with railways, roads, telecommunication cables and a 1,400 km pipeline.
These are the kind of strategic investments our government should partner in if we are to reap from the independent South Sudan.
Therefore, developing a rail network connecting South Sudan to Uganda and Kenya should be fast-tracked to facilitate trade and investments.
South Sudan is of strategic importance not only because of its proximity, but is projected to become the biggest economy in the region in 10-20 years. Official figures show that South Sudan is Uganda's main export market in the region, importing goods worth $184.6m in 2009.
Strategic policy interventions should be made to expand the existing plants or establish new industries to feed this virgin market. The establishment of the sh3b industrial park in Gulu for manufacturers targeting South Sudan should be expedited.