Give a brief background of European Union-Uganda relations?
The European Union and Uganda have partnered in development for more than four decades now since the start of diplomatic relations in 1975. What started as a bilateral relation in development cooperation has since developed into a relationship that covers nearly all the areas of human endeavour. It is a relationship of equal partners who are working together to counter our collective global challenges; climate change, peace and security, migration, job creation, economic growth, human development and many others.
Uganda is a relevant and key player on the global stage and we count on our continued partnership based on an open dialogue and mutual respect.
What are key areas of the EU's development cooperation in Uganda?
Our development cooperation with Uganda is designed together with our Ugandan partners to offer support in key areas, which have been jointly agreed. The main instrument of this cooperation is the European Development Fund, dedicating the sum of 558 million Euros (Shs2.3 trillion) to Uganda until 2020 covering support to sustainable development, good governance and the inclusive green economy.
It is important to recognise that our support is in the form of grants, which come without any obligations for repayment or interest or strings attached as some would like to say.
In many ways, this represents a true mark of trust and partnership. We are also leading the support to Uganda's refugee response through programmes run by the EU Delegation. But, together with our Member States, we are supporting Uganda across all the sectors - health, education, to jobs creation, private sector growth, infrastructure development, the environment, climate change, peace and security and so on - so together, we provide much more.
How is Uganda benefiting from the EU programmes?
The European Union's partnership with Uganda is multifaceted. We work together in political matters, development, and security, and the EU also provides humanitarian aid to Uganda. And of course the EU is Uganda's biggest trading partner outside Africa. As regards development cooperation, it is provided through various channels: the Government of Uganda and local authorities but also the private sector and civil society organisations.
These programmes support first of all good governance; the rule of law, democracy, accountability, financial management, justice, anti-corruption, and human rights, and secondly the green economy: renewable energy, clean transport, climate-smart agriculture and sustainable natural resources management. Finally, we also support refugee response in Uganda, providing assistance both to refugees but also the host populations who are showing such incredible solidarity to refugees.
How much monetary support have you committed to Uganda?
On average, the EU commits 140 million euros annually (about Shs590 billion), only for development cooperation. If you consider not only direct EU funding but also our member states, 11 of which are present here locally, we are Uganda's biggest development partner. In 2017 alone, we provided more than 900 million euros (Shs3.7 trillion) of development cooperation aid and humanitarian assistance to Uganda. Let us not forget as well that the EU is Uganda's biggest trading partner outside of Africa.
All products of Ugandan origin (except for arms) can enter the EU market duty free, quota free. No other market in the world buys more Ugandan products than the EU. Actually no one buys more products from the whole East African Community (EAC) market than the EU. This is important as Uganda shares a customs union with its EAC partner countries. In 2018, Uganda recorded a positive trade balance with the EU, exporting goods worth Shs2.1 trillion ($560million) to the EU market while importing goods worth Shs1.9 trillion ($530) from the EU.
What lessons does EU draw from its activities in Uganda?
The EU, being a major partner, is usually seen as able to intervene in all sectors of the society and the economy. In order to deliver better results, a lesson learnt is to focus more our support to a limited number of actions and to seek better complementarity within our portfolio and with other partners. Another lesson is the need for us to open our cooperation to the private sector. We are a traditional partner of the government in order to set a conducive environment for development. Partnering with the private sector will allow us to contribute more to job creation and sustainable economic growth.
Finally, what do you say about Europe Day?
Let me tell you the brief history of this day. On May 9 in 1950, Robert Schuman, the French Foreign minister, presented a declaration that took a decisive step towards what we now know as the European Union today. At the time, the nations of Europe were still struggling to overcome the devastation wrought by World War II, which had ended five years earlier. Determined to prevent another such terrible war, European governments concluded that pooling coal and steel production would - in the words of the Declaration - make war between historic rivals France and Germany "not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible".
It was thought - correctly - that merging of economic interests would help raise standards of living and be the first step towards a more united Europe. And today we are a vibrant union of 28 Member States, which of course has its problems, but which works together every day to ensure peace and prosperity, not just home in Europe but also the rest of the world. We are happy to celebrate all of this on Europe Day and to share our celebration with our Ugandan friends.