London — Uganda must speed up decision making in the economic sector and make manpower development a priority if its to take advantage of the many opportunities.
These were some of the remarks by participants at the 2nd Ugandan UK Convention at the Proxy Arena in London over the weekend.
The Ugandan delegation to the convention was led by First Lady and Minister in charge of Karamoja affairs Janet Museveni, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka, and agriculture minister Tress Bucyanayandi among others.
One of the highlights of the convention was a presentation by the First Lady on developments in Karamoja, where she concluded explained government programmes in the region.
"Uganda's development cannot be complete without the development of Karamoja," she stressed.
Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga promised to create a desk on the Foreign affairs committee to address complaints of Ugandans in the diaspora.
These included US$300 fee for Ugandan national Identity cards, whose processing has never taken off.
Others included allegations of harassment of the people in diaspora when they return to Uganda.
Independent politician Gerald Karuhanga stirred the convention by lashing out at the cancer of corruption.
"We have a massive problem with corruption in Uganda," Karuhanga charged. "How do we develop when we have all this corruption? We must address it ourselves and implore our government to change the situation," he said.
"We should not just remain spectators but demand accountability. Our country can only develop if we ask for accountability," he added. The day was crowned by a show by Ugandan musicians.
Former US State Secretary for Africa Baroness Lynda Chalker, expressed the view that the discovery of oil, a good climate, tourism and agriculture are areas that will give Uganda a huge advantage over many African countries. She however noted that success will only be achieved if barriers to investment in the country, and marketing, are stepped up.
"I would like to see a little more focus put on reform in Uganda Investment Authority practices, which should include strengthen its staffing in areas of information technology, areas of agriculture and also preparation for oil, power and gas developments."
"Agriculture is critical not just for Africa, but the rest of the world. Unless we add value, and are ingenious, we will not keep up with Uganda's own needs," she warned.
Chalker challenged government to task the Uganda Investment Authority and Ugandan embassies and High Commissions across the world to play a leading role in marketing the country.
"People around the world still have a very warm and positive attitude to Uganda. You have to keep that going and don't let up on making the positive news well known."
"The Uganda Government should act fast as several neighboring countries offer the same products to the world. So take the crucial decisions quickly and get on with it. Uganda must not delay to take the opportunities you have."
Chalker has been a regular visitor to Uganda since she served as Minister of State for Overseas Development at the Foreign Office.
The UK convention was organized by William Mutenza. It is supposed to be a forum to interest Ugandans in the diaspora to invest at home and also show UK-based investors the opportunities available in the East African country.
Senior immigration officer Alenyo Marshall created a stir when he told Ugandans who hold British passports that they are not Ugandans.
Alenyo outlined the benefits of dual citizenship and announced that Ugandans in diaspora seeking citizenship will from next month be able to register in London and also get national IDs at US$300.