JOLLY KAMUGIRA KAGUHANGIRE has been appointed the new executive director of the Uganda Investment Authority. She takes over an organization that has been accused of failing to attract investors amid allegations of mismanagement. She told Ali Twaha that UIA needs a total policy review to function better.
How would you describe your strategy in line with promoting investment as you take on this position?
I want to see that this organization comes out as an organization that is vibrant; an organization that is able to bring out the capacity of Uganda and to make it competitive to be able to attract investors. We have a vision where we need to see Uganda as a middle-income country by 2020.
So, using UIA as a gateway, that's why we need to be transformed in our process and culture of the way we do things. To achieve all this, we can't remain the same. So, my main focus is to see that we come up with re-engineered processes.
What exactly do you mean by re-engineered processes?
By re-engineered process, we mean that we have been having paperwork. Now, we are going to electronic services. On e-services, we are starting at the one-stop centers [OSC] where an investor comes and he is able to get registered, get a license, work permit, generally all the clearances.
And then, even the bank payments, you find that investors have to come physically to pay. But we have a plan to reach a point where you can pay from wherever you are in the world. You don't need to come. It's a matter of working out with other banks internationally and UIA will be able to receive it.
I believe you have been following events of alleged corruption and fraud at UIA while you were still at Uganda Revenue Authority. In your view, what are some of those critical challenges you hope to face here?
There are mainly three areas that need intervention. One area which is causing most of the challenges is the funding. It has not been good at all. It [UIA] has been really underfunded and that one cripples everything you have planned to do. It will demoralize staff, affect the management and affect the investors. If there is no money, nothing can happen. So, it was causing most of the problems.
And then the second challenge was that the services were not good. Still because of lack of proper funding, [it] demoralized the leadership. [In such a situation] you cannot dream and innovate at the same time. So, it made the whole organization go into a sleeping mode. The poor services, funding and the organizational structure has not been strong.
You are laying much emphasis on the funding aspect, how are you going to address it ,though? Do we see new policies come in?
Yes, very much. After one month of review of the situation analysis of the organization, we are coming up with recommendations of what we are supposed to do.
If it means changing the structure, it will be changed. Yes, the board has come up with the structure which we are going to review. It has to be in line with our business and processes... There is now an electronic system, but how many people would want to use this?
So, it would help form a ground for me to know how many staff I need and how the structure should be designed, basing on the functions of the organization.
We are still importing more than we export. The blame, some say, lies with UIA. What can Uganda do to address the trade deficit?
The plan is to have investors who are going to add value to us, not just any investor. Because what we lack is that we don't produce enough. We depend a lot on imports. But we need to produce more goods locally, and we should find those investors that are producing the things that we need.
We need to convince them to come. That's why government gives free land to the investors. You can imagine the [premium] fee on land has been removed by the president since November last year. It seems to be like extravagance but we need them [incentives] for the time being.
There is a threshold set by government for one to be considered an investor. Some experts say it is very low and partly contributes to the country having fake investors.
Yes, as I told you, the review that we are doing will look at almost everything. And that's where our mandate is; it is not only to attract investors but also to advise government on the right policies. There are things that I want to know. For instance, who our investors are at the moment? And how many do we have?
Yes, on the record I see them, but on the ground what is there? So, I need to do that review and see what type of investors we have and in what categories.