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Expo 2020 Dubai: Uganda and Its Wider Economic Development

The Fintech Times takes a look across the world in terms of wider innovations centred around Expo 2020 Dubai and now highlights Uganda.

Uganda is participating under the Opportunity sub-theme and the theme of the country is ‘Uganda – Right Place, Right Time.’ According to the country’s Expo 2020 website, the objectives of Uganda’s participation are to promote the following:

  • The country’s exports connect with new export opportunities and investors in value-addition. Target products include coffee, tea, fruits and vegetables, fish products and minerals;
  • Its tourism and wildlife attractions for increased tourism receipts;
  • To showcase investment opportunities, attract and connect with potential investors to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into sectors of interest to Uganda, which notably include agriculture, industry, energy, minerals, oil and gas to name a few;
  • Foster and enhance bilateral relations between Uganda and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Expo organisers, and other countries participating at the World’s Fair.
Robert Mukiza is the Director General for Uganda Investment Authority (UIA)
Robert Mukiza

Robert Mukiza, director general for Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), says: “Uganda is a strategic commanding base for regional trade and investment and grants access to 1.3 billion people across the continent.

“We’re part of a fast-growing common market, the East African Community (EAC), a single customs territory with a 200 million population and over $200billion gross domestic product (GDP), and a member of the 19-country trade and investment block- the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which has a combined 560 million population and GDP of $768billion.

“We’re a member of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA), which brings together the Partner States of COMESA, EAC and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and access to an 800 million market whose GDP stands at $1.4trillion.

“We are also part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a 54-member bloc with a population of 1.3 billion with a GDP of $3.4trillion that aims at creating a single continental market for goods and services.”

Mukiza further comments: “Beyond Africa, Uganda provides preferential access to key global markets including the United States of America under the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) which grants access of over 6,000 products to the United States market, duty and quota-free, the European Union (EU) with whom we have a favourable trade agreement that allows ‘anything but arms’, as well as an agreement with China – the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) mutual recognition agreement – which aims at expanding trade between the two countries and trade agreements with the UAE – amongst agreements with other countries.”

In terms of activities centred around Uganda’s wider tech and digital innovations, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance recently launched a campaign dubbed ‘Discover Africa’s Innovation Powerhouse’ whereby five innovators would represent Uganda at the Expo.

Partners of this innovation include Huawei, Airtel Uganda, MTN Uganda, Vision Group, NBS and UBC. The five innovators are Prisms, Emvigo Technologies, Oncaplanta, Badaye Technologies and Xente App – the latter being a fintech.

The lucky five were the ones that were successfully filtered following a call for submissions by the ministry in January.

In addition, there have been other events surrounding Expo. For instance, there is the recent Uganda UAE Road Show that ended in Dubai on 26 March, whose theme followed ‘connecting nations through business.’

As highlighted in The Fintech Times: Middle East and Africa (MEA) Report 2021, in terms of wider economic development, Uganda has Uganda Vision 2040.

In 2007, the Ugandan cabinet approved the national vision statement: ‘A transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country within 30 years.’

Similar to other countries, its priority to upskill its human capacity, build infrastructure – to name a few – are key points in the national economic development strategy. Continued digitalisation in MEA is key to advancing financial inclusion.

This is especially relevant in regions, such as East Africa, where International Monetary Fund (IMF) research found that even where financial inclusion through traditional banking services was declining, expanded access to digital tools and services increased financial inclusion.

This trend looks to happen not just in the present but the future.

Despite the challenges that the pandemic brought in the global economy, the world last and this year have slowly been recovering and, hopefully, can move on. In Uganda, the government has been at the forefront to promote e-commerce and digital solutions for faster recovery from the crisis.

Uganda has also been improving trust in online transactions. In 2020, it enacted a data protection and privacy law to enhance the security of these transactions.

The country has seen a boom in e-payment solutions in recent years where, between 2015 and 2019, mobile money transactions in Uganda more than doubled in value, from about $9billion to $20billion, according to the country’s central bank. The pandemic amplified the uptake of e-payments and the growth of local fintech solutions.

In parallel with the country’s solutions that have happened in both the pre and ongoing pandemic, its participation at Expo 2020 Dubai showcases its wider innovations and aspirations for the future.

Authors

  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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