The new executive director of the Uganda Investment Authority, Jolly Kamugira Kaguhangire, says she wants to transform the authority into a “robust organisation” with the capacity to make Uganda a globally competitive investment destination in her first 100 days.
But to achieve this, the authority will have to deal with some roadblocks, she says. These include lengthy and expensive registration processes for businesses requiring investors to clear with several government entities; a lack of “comprehensive and documented business processes” to guide operations; the authority’s limited budget and staffing; and a sedate reputation among the investor community.
How does she hope to overcome them? A statement issued by the authority on Tuesday outlines the new executive director’s plans.
To build and sustain investor confidence, Ms Kaguhangire says UIA will work to raise Uganda’s ratings in the ease of doing business. The latest World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranks Uganda at No. 115 out of 188 economies in the ease of doing business.
Although Uganda improved in the ranking after undertaking a number of business regulatory reforms recently, it performed poorly on getting electricity and starting a business. The report found that it takes an average of 13 procedures and 26 days to start a business, and costs about 37.1% of Uganda’s per capita income.
The UIA chief, however, has that in her sights: she says the authority will simplify regulations and administrative procedures to “achieve quality service that meets investors needs.”
She adds that the authority will add to the capabilities of the One Stop Centre for starting a business and minimise delays. The online project started operating last year and currently offers only five services – far less than is required to achieve its aim of bringing the business registration process online, to its portal.
Other stated aims are evaluating current investor incentives to improve them and streamlining data collection and distribution. In particular, Ms Kaguhangire says the authority will do a better job at collecting and communicating data on investments attracted, their worth, and the number of jobs they create.
“Functional industrial parks covering four regions of the country will be developed by the end of four years,” the statement says. The process will start with the completion of the Kampala Industrial Business Park at Namanve, and then move on to Nakasongola and other parts of the country.
However, the authority still has challenges with completed industrial parks. A parliamentary committee recently said that Mbarara Industrial Park – built to cater for small scale enterprises – was not generating a return on its investment, largely because of administrative failures on UIA’s side. It also found that some investors allocated land in other parks had fallen back on their payments.
The Auditor Generals’ Report for 2016 also found that 387.5 acres of land allocated to 88 investors in Namanve was unutilised. It also mentioned a verification exercise which found that UIA currently owns only 896 hectares of the land in Namanve yet government handed over to the authority an approximate area of 1006 hectares.
The statement also promises a rebranding exercise for Uganda to “strengthen the strategic promotion activities; to take Uganda to investors and bring investors to Uganda.”
Meanwhile, domestic investors will benefit from services tailored to their needs, the statement says. But, the services are not mentioned.
Ms Kaguhangire was appointed to the position on 1 April, replacing Frank Ssebowa whose contract expired last October after serving a four-year tenure. She was previously assistant commissioner in charge of service management at the Uganda Revenue Authority.