Uganda has been continuously opening up trade linkages across the world. Indeed, the country seems to be taking up every opportunity that promises to deliver trade and export opportunities. Therefore, it would be interesting to see how Uganda opens up to Czech Republic, which recently appointed Stephen Kaboyo its first consular in Uganda. In a discussion at his office in Kampala recently, Kaboyo told Justus Lyatuu that he will mostly focus on trade, investment, political, social and cultural relations between the two countries.
You are the first consular of the Czech Republic. What should we expect?
As I take on this responsibility, I look at it from three main perspectives. One from a consular point of view, which mostly defines my job over the appointment period.
The main task here is providing consular services, assistance, and protection for Czech nationals and institutions. This involves safety and wellbeing of citizens as well as safeguarding their interests.
Secondly and most importantly, I will focus on promotion of trade and investment between Czech and Uganda.
I will do this through enhancement of bilateral relations in trade, economy, culture, education and science, among others.
I will specifically pursue both outward and inward trade and investment opportunities.
Thirdly, I will work towards enhancing international and multilateral relations between the Czech Republic and Uganda at all levels, more especially in the public sector where there is a lot that we can do for the mutual benefit of both countries.
Why has it taken Czech Republic this long to realize that it needs to operate a consulate in Uganda?
When you take a closer look, the Czech Republic and Uganda have cross cutting interests. Czech offers great opportunities in tourism and agriculture, two sectors where Uganda has a competitive advantage.
Therefore, the time is now to build cross-cutting linkages such as agriculture mechanisation. Czech companies produce low cost, high quality agriculture equipment for both small and large scale farmers. I find this as an opportunity to bring this equipment for the benefit of our farmers.
How do you plan to make the two countries benefit from this bilateral relationship?
According to the numbers, Uganda carries a negative trade balance with Czech Republic. This means that Uganda imports much more than its exports.
The time is now to narrow this gap and my job is to quickly embark on plugging the gap over the coming years.
How much do we export to Czech Republic and how much do we import?
Figures of 2019 indicate that the Czech Republic exports to Uganda goods worth $14.9m against Uganda's exports to Czech of $1.6m.
During the period Czech exports included agriculture machinery, defense equipment, electronics, medical apparatus and aircraft spare parts. While Uganda's commodities were coffee, tea, spices and grains
Where are the opportunities for Ugandans in Czech Republic?
Czech Republic offers enormous opportunities. As a strategy, Czech Republic has taken deliberate efforts to reduce dependency on European markets and has decided to explore markets outside Europe, especially in countries with faster growth.
This in itself creates opportunities for Uganda for both outward and inward trade, investment in areas of agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing.
Furthermore, Czech Republic has top notch medical innovations and an illustrative education system in Europe. Therefore, Ugandans should look at these sectors for twining opportunities and cooperation.
Away from Czech Republic, Uganda has placed so much emphasis of oil. Are on the right path? And how can Czech Republic help us in this regard?
With respect to oil sector developments, Czech has large companies that are specialised in construction, logistics and transportation.
As oil production gets into focus in Uganda, many of the Czech companies are keenly following the development.
Oil is a big sector but we should be cognizant of the contribution of other sectors such as agriculture and tourism. We need to invest hugely in such areas to supplement the enormous growth expected from oil.
Tell us about the structure of the Czech economy. Isn't it leaning so much on the European Union?
Czech is a developed export-oriented economy that relies on three main pillars including manufacturing, innovation and services. It is a highly industrialised country with manufacturing accounting for 38 per cent of the economy.
Its economy is highly diversified with the key sectors such as automobile, aerospace, high tech engineering rail, IT software, defence systems, agri-business and tourism. The gross domestic product of Czech Republic is in the excess of $250b with an investment grade credit rating. It is also the fastest growing economy in Europe averaging 4.4 per cent for the last couple of years.
So, away from some of the specifics that seem to focus on the long term, should we expect any immediate benefits resulting from this new relationship?
Clearly there are synergies that we can build between Uganda and Czech. A good example is our commodities. The Czech imports significant quantities of raw materials, which presents a ready market for some of our exports. We do not have to look very far. There is some much potential in the immediate.
Czech Republic is open for business. The government has placed its focus on intensifying trade and investment, promotion of political, social and cultural relations.
I have also had a chance to interact with the Czech private sector, they are keen to open and create closer dialogue with Uganda's business community at all levels. I will do this through creation of true economic and business partnerships. Therefore, I would like to say that this is an exciting opportunity for me to play a part and contribute towards building solid economic and trade ties through a coherent approach.