After 11 years at the helm of the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), Prof Maggie Kigozi has left office.
She leaves a rich legacy of having been the first and longest-serving female executive director of UIA who brokered deals of over Shs 30 trillion worth of investment that created about 4,000 direct jobs and 3.2 million indirect jobs. Milly Kibombo talked to her about her tenure. Below are excerpts:
Your exit from UIA sparked off speculation that you were forced out of office over non-performance. True?
I had intended to retire from UIA in my ninth year but the board asked me to stay to oversee some recruitment and other important things and I agreed after making some considerations.
So, at the expiry of my three-year extended contract, I was ready to move on. Eleven years is a long time in such a stressful office and I really had to go. If you talk of non-performance, my legacy speaks for itself.
My job involved attracting investors both domestic and foreign and during my term, foreign direct investments grew from $200 million in 2000 to $845 million by 2010 with total planned investments worth $2.2 billion in 2009. Total direct jobs stood at 4,000 and 3.2 million indirect jobs were created as a result of setting up successful investments.
Plus, we made many trade linkages although this was not our direct mandate. I have left at a time when Namanve Industrial park has taken off with 275 investors allocated land. The only snag we hit with Namanve is infrastructure development but the delay was totally not on our side.
The Word Bank, our co-funder failed to execute its part; so, we could not have moved on infrastructure. We have also managed to acquire land upcountry for industrial parks and in some areas like Soroti and Mbale, the feasibility studies are done, awaiting funding from government.
Well, some people question the quality of investments Uganda attracts, especially those run by foreigners. What is your take on this?
That is not true. But it also depends on how you define quality. At the level of our economy, we needed everything. What we were promoting cut across all sectors, from manufacturing to creative entertainment. We have attracted very good investments in agriculture where we have seen commercial farming build up.
We have seen the entry of development projects like Tilda rice, Bidco, Mukwano vegetable cooking oil where over 180,000 smallholder farmers are benefiting from growing sunflower. Today, we have 23 mills adding value to the whole agriculture value chain. Coffee, cotton, fish are doing well, earning us a lot in foreign exchange.
We boosted tourism by promoting the hospitality industry.
Today, we have 300 hotels with a 70% occupancy rate and Uganda has become a conference hub because we have the facilities. We have seen the number of tourists growing to 800,000 from less than 200,000 in 2000. We have tremendous projects going on in the energy sector like the construction of power plants at Bujagali and Karuma.
I mean the list of successful investments is long and Ugandans need to learn to give credit where it’s due. Tell me any internet or mobile phone user in Uganda who doesn’t enjoy them. So, you can’t talk of poor-quality investments when we have good hospitals with some nice facilities. Nakasero Hospital, Kampala International Hospital, Kololo Hospital and many others came as a result of our encouragement.
See how education has improved with the introduction of private schools. Parents don’t have to take their kids to foreign countries in search of better education because good education is here.
You know our efforts have a multiplication effect to the extent that even those projects that we were not directly involved with, we indirectly provided them a platform like security, infrastructure, utilities, and so on.
So, where are you now?
Two weeks after I left, I took up a consultancy job with the United Nations Industrial Development Oragnisation (UNIDO) where I work as an investment promotion expert.
The project I am handling, AfrIPAnet, is an investor monitoring platform for the development and implementation of UNIDO’s investment related activities, helping Africa find investors and also seeking to give support to existing investors. Nineteen member countries are involved now from the initial four when it started in 2001.
My job is almost a direct replica of my previous job only that this time, the project is narrowed to pointing out obstacles existing investments are experiencing to relevant authorities and also suggesting practical, hands-on solutions.
I am also a director at Pepsi; so, I do some work there as a well. This is on top of trying to develop my 300-acre farm land, 10 kilometers away along Masaka road. I feel this is the time to do agriculture because food supply shortages have become such a big issue.
Do you have any regrets?
Not really. I made my contribution and I am happy to have left. That job is too stressful. There are so many interests at play from various stakeholders. But generally I enjoyed the job, learnt a lot, met wonderful and important people, interacted with several presidents, diplomats and politicians at different levels. I made friends with business people and I have travelled widely, but everything has to come to end.
If you went back to UIA today, what would you do differently?
I would work better with the World Bank to develop Namanve and I would ensure I get industrial land in 22 districts with major towns. I would also shift my focus and concentrate on developing Masaka and Jinja, as towns that would take on the overflow from Kampala.
With Masaka, I wouldn’t go wrong with agro-processing and Jinja has a lot of tourism potential. These two towns are also major linkages to neighbouring countries, so with the East African Common market in offing, transporting goods to these countries would be less costly.
Do you miss anything about this job?
No. Maybe my colleagues and investor friends I made over the years. Otherwise I am getting all the privileges my UIA job gave me and the remuneration is better here.