President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has appealed to the people of the Republic of Serbia to support Uganda to achieve its economic agenda of adding value to its raw materials.
According to the President, if Uganda adds value to its products, it will be able to generate a lot of revenue and in turn, the East African country will attain the much-desired socio-economic transformation.
President Museveni, who is on a two-day official visit in Serbia, made the call today while addressing a business summit at the Presidential Palace in Belgrade.
“Our climate enables us to produce all sorts of things. There’s nothing on earth that we cannot produce in Uganda that is produced anywhere. Therefore, we produce a lot of raw materials like crops. We have food. You have heard that there’s a problem with food in the world but for us, we don’t have that problem. We are net exporters of food because we produce so much food; bananas, potatoes of different types, maize. millet sorghum, beans, peas all those we produce and then we have livestock products like milk and beef. Everything is there,” he said.
President Museveni said that since Uganda produces a lot of raw materials, what they want now from their friends of Serbia, Europe and other parts of the world, is a working relationship premised on adding value to those raw materials such as coffee, tea and cocoa among others.
“Our big interest is adding value to these agricultural products because when you don’t add value, we lose a lot of money. If you take a kilogram of coffee and sell it unprocessed you get 2.5 USD, if you process, roast, grind and package it, you end up getting 40 USD. So, you can see by selling unprocessed coffee we are losing a lot of money,” H.E Museveni told the summit.
He also wondered how a non-coffee-producing country like Germany can earn more money than all the coffee-producing African countries, combined. He said this was a very unfair business model that needed to be changed.
“I was telling His Excellency that the global coffee business is 460 billion USD. However, all the coffee-producing countries in the world like Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Uganda, and Indonesia among others, out of the 460 billion USD, we share only 25 billion USD and Africa shares only 2.4 billion USD out of that. A non-coffee producing country like Germany earns 6.85 billion USD from coffee,” President Museveni asserted.
“I know you Serbians are Orthodox Christians, this is not Christian behavior in the world and I want to go to Germany and talk to the Catholics and say please you have departed from the teachings of Christ because he said love your neighbours as you love yourself. You are now loving yourselves more than loving us,” he added.
The President further attributed the rampant problems in Africa like wars, poverty and insecurity to the inability of Africans to get real value for their products.
“What is true of coffee is true of cotton, is true of minerals. My people wanted to export our iron ore for 47 USD instead of 700 USD a tonne to India. Now that means we would be losing money but also jobs because Indians would take away all the jobs and the money. Therefore, you may hear that this old man has banned the export of raw materials of unprocessed minerals from Uganda, I have banned them. I’m working for heaven so I don’t mind, I’m sure God will be happy with me. So I don’t allow the export of iron ore, or lithium because lithium is another thing that is coming up because of electric vehicles. They think I’m stupid that I should export lithium and then somebody makes electric batteries, cars and then I buy from them. I said no, you come and make all those here (Uganda).”
President Museveni assured the businesspeople of Serbia of a ready market for their products once they set up industries/factories in Uganda.
“Once we add value, then the next thing is transport and market of the finished products. You have heard that Uganda has a population of 46 million but the Ugandan women are very active, this population will be 100 million in the next 30 years. But that is not all, we belong to the East African Community of seven countries with a population of 300 million people and we are part of the African Continental Free Trade Area with 1.5 billion people who will be 2.5 billion in the next 30 years,” he emphasized.
“Therefore, there is an internal market for Uganda, the regional market of East Africa and the continental market of Africa. We have also got agreements with the Americans. Sometimes we pull strings with the Americans using our relatives who are there, and we get some trade concessions. Some years ago, we negotiated with Mr Clinton and Obama and others who have maintained that free access to the American market through AGOA. Then we have also got agreements with the European Union. We also have relations with the Chinese.”
On the issue of power that is used in production, the President convinced the businesspeople that Uganda cannot lag because it has got plenty of energy sources.
“We have all the inputs but what we want from friends is entrepreneurship and capital. Our Chinese friends are very active, they come and see an opportunity and utilise it. I would like that good spirit of eyesight to also infect our European friends starting with our Serbian friends because you are from Marshal Tito who was a very good friend of Africa.”
The President of Serbia, H.E Aleksandar Vucic first thanked President Museveni for honouring his invitation to visit the European country. He praised him for being an outstanding leader with experience.
“By talking to him directly you learn a lot. I have learnt a lot from President Museveni. I thank him and the people of Uganda for supporting the integrity and territorial sovereignty of Serbia,” President Vucic said.
He also reassured Uganda of Serbia’s continued bilateral cooperation.
“With a speed of African growth with a population of 1.5 billion much bigger than India, Africa is developing and in 30 years it will have a population of over 2.5 billion making it become one of the biggest and most important markets in the world after Asia,” H.E Vucic noted.
He also pledged that he will ensure that Uganda Airlines starts operations in Serbia before the end of this year.
President Vucic further confirmed his attendance at the Non-Allied Movement (NAM) summit slated for next year in Uganda.
“It is my honour to attend the meeting in Kampala.”