The Observer (Kampala)

4 March 2014

Uganda: Umeme Woos Local Firms to Share 'Cake'

Umeme last week held their first ever suppliers and contractors' conference, bringing together more than 400 local and international firms.

Held at Serena hotel's Victoria hall, the two-day conference aimed at encouraging local companies to invest in the energy sector. According to Charles Chapman, the managing director at Umeme, the company intends to invest more in Uganda.

"Over the next four years, we will invest $440m and we want to ensure our local suppliers and contractors have a clear understanding of our strategies," Chapman said.

Umeme would support the country's different sectors such as industry and agriculture by ensuring prompt supply of power. Irene Muloni, the minister for Energy and Mineral Development, lauded Umeme for a job well done especially with the targets they set for them eight years ago.

Muloni encouraged Ugandans to build capacity so as to involve themselves in the sector.

"It's important to promote transparency and participation of the local partners," she said.

Umeme said they were excited in passing on the benefits of their expansion plans to local contractors.

"Umeme is committing to give local businesses a sizeable share of the cake that we have to offer in terms of contracted business support," said George Van der Merwe, the general manager for capital and contracts, Umeme.

He added that in 2013, Umeme spent Shs 59bn through engagements with local suppliers and contractors. Umeme board Chairman Patrick Bitature urged Ugandans to stand up to the challenge and invest in the sector.

"We want to see more Ugandans come on board. Umeme wants to give equal opportunity to both local and foreign companies to participate in the sector," he said.

Bitature, however, warned contractors who planned to supply fake products.

"We are running a clean system that holds no room for fake partners," he said, adding that Umeme was working to see that they hit the government target of electrifying most homes by 2040, the year government believes Uganda should be a middle-income country.

"Currently, much as a lot has improved, many are still in darkness with just 15 per cent of the population accessing power. We want to electrify the remaining 75 per cent before 2040," Bitature said.

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