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Uganda Must Push Harder to Be Competitive in TradeWednesday, September 10, 2014 > 09:02:39
Uganda must address key trade concerns to boost its competitiveness both in the region and globally, analysts have said.
A Global Competitive Report (GCR), released last week, ranked Uganda 122nd out 144 countries, indicating that the country had failed to endear itself to investors. In East Africa, Uganda only beat Burundi. Published by the World Economic Forum, the report cited corruption, poor-quality education and health care, and inadequate infrastructure as the main turn-offs to investors eyeing Uganda.
GCR also said Uganda's tax rates were unfriendly to entrepreneurs. Investors rely on the GCR to decide on which country to invest their money. The easier it is for them to access key services to boost their investments in a host country, the higher the chances of going there. Enabling factors such as skilled labour, reliable electricity, security, and developed financial systems come handy.
Rwanda ranks the most competitive in the region at 62nd place globally. Kenya was ranked 90th while Tanzania came in at 121. Gideon Badagawa, the executive director for Private Sector Foundation (PSFU), told The Observer that the country had many things to sort and it would take some time.
"We have seen some efforts to address the energy problem. Issues of corruption and procurement delays remain problematic," Badagawa said.
He added that Uganda had particularly failed to have strong institutions that would put public officials to task to account for the resources under their watch.
"Strong institutions, available talent, and a high capacity to innovate hold the key for the success of any economy. These elements will continue to be even more essential in the future," the GCR report said.
Godfrey Ssali, a policy analyst at the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), said: "We must do our homework well if we are to compete for investors globally." "Uganda still has so many turn-offs, including irritating procurement procedures to get electricity and register a business."
It takes one about three weeks to get connected for electricity from the day of application. Currently, entrepreneurs spend more than 15 days - moving from one office to another - to have their businesses fully registered. According to Badagawa, it is in such movements that corruption flourishes. Badagawa said while the country wanted to attract investment, there was no labour with basic skills.
"The hospitality industry is growing fast, but how much have we put to train people to work there?" Badagawa wondered. "We must promote vocational education; it is not about sending people to school - they must be getting a certain skill from there."