The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Italian Companies to Open Shop Locally

More Italian companies are set to open shops in Uganda following the opening up of a new networking club which brings together all Italian businesspeople, the Business Club Italia.

The club, officially launched in Kampala last week at the Italian ambassador's residence in Kololo, started its work by bringing 20 new Italian companies to this year's Kampala International Trade fair.

According to Giorgio Petrangeli, the CEO Sobetra Uganda Limited and president of the club, the 20 companies were here on a fact finding mission to establish partnerships with Ugandan businesspeople and to understand the Ugandan market.

Italy and Uganda have a long tradition of working together stretching over 150 years ago.

In fact the two countries are warming up to celebrate, in three years, the 100 years of St Joseph's hospital in Kitgum, founded by an Italian in 1915.

"Many Italians have been working in Uganda when very few people believed that Uganda could have done it. We will continue doing this -showing the Italian quality and capacity, working together, not imposing, hand-in-hand teaching each other. We have to learn from you as well," said Staffan de Mistura, Italy's minister of state for Foreign Affairs who officiated at the launch.

According to Stefano A. Dejak, the Italian ambassador to Uganda, the formation of the club is to rebuild ties and rekindle the relationship between the Italian and Ugandan community.

"This relationship needs a change now," Dejak told The Observer. This change according to Dejak is epitomized in a new book titled Italy in Uganda; From Aid to Growth.

"This is exactly the message. Growth is the present and future of Uganda. Italy is excellent in knowhow and will contribute to making sure that Uganda develops the many oils. The biggest oil that Uganda has is the amazing fertility of its soil -agriculture has an enormous potential in Uganda," Dejak said.

"Agriculture in Uganda needs to make a quick move from subsistence to commercial agriculture."

Dejak says there is potential for Uganda to export fruits, vegetables, fish and flowers to Italy, and the Italian companies will play an instrumental role in helping Ugandans process their agricultural products to have them exported.

Currently, there are about 22 Italian companies in Uganda among which is Salini (which built Bujagali dam), Draco (involved in construction of boreholes), Stirling, Wood Machinery, and Pizzeria Mamba Point.

According to Mistura, Uganda, which has just celebrated 50 years of independence, has shown capacity of rebuilding itself, of stability, and financial stability -something that would attract more Italian businesspeople with the opening of the club.

"We have a saying: 'Being together makes you stronger and efficient.' The Italian community in Uganda and abroad is unifying themselves into a club to be better, effective in responding to the needs of Ugandan market and to help Uganda business to come to Italy," Mistura noted.

Italians in Uganda are a community of about 600 people mainly involved in entrepreneurship, governmental and non-governmental cooperation and religious missions. According to Dejak, apart from agriculture, the Italians are interested in investing in sectors like energy and tourism.

For example, Dejak noted that the Source of the Nile is one area that needs to be developed, and Italy would be willing to rescue the precious site.

"It lacks infrastructure. A tourist goes to the source of Nile and sees water, which is beautiful but there is such a long history to this place," he said adding: "All tourists instead of going there take a picture and go away, they would settle and have a nice cafeteria, go into a nice museum explaining the long history of the search for the source of the Nile."

With a population of 60 million and a GDP of $2.1 trillion, Italy is the world's seventh largest economy. The country has a diversified industrial economy, divided into an industrial north and an agricultural south.

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