Despite receiving official invitations in advance, Ugandan representatives—including two ministers—did not attend a significant African Union (AU) meeting, the Monitor understands.
Uganda’s decision to skip the meeting in Niamey, Niger, without citing any “serious” justifications, according to AU and government sources, will have far-reaching effects on the nation.
The Monitor has seen copies of invitations by the AU to Finance minister Matia Kasaija and his Trade, Industry and Cooperatives counterpart Francis Mwebesa. The invitations were sent on October 10 for the events that started November 3 and ended November 5.
The two ministers were also supposed to designate a “senior official for the technical meetings”, while the ministers would participate in the ministerial segment. The respective ministers or their designated technical officials did not attend the AU meetings.
Their attendance as well as that of the technical officials was to be sponsored by the Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) through the AU.
“Uganda missed the opportunity to lobby directly with the financial institutions such as Afreximbank, BADEA (Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa), and AfDB (African Development Bank), which have pledged to pool resources together to finance national industrialisation transition processes,” a top AU official privy to the proceedings told Sunday Monitor.
The source added: “Since no representatives were present, it would be difficult to catch up with the discussions and how, who and when they can engage in the lobbying process. Secondly, since this is the first summit to develop Africa’s industrialisation strategy, it could have been an opportunity to lay out strategies on how Uganda would benefit from alignment of the country’s industrialisation strategy to continental strategy.”
The source wondered how the ministers would effect the 10 percent national budget allocation to industrialisation.
“It will be difficult to lay such a proposal to Parliament for a vote to be included in the National Budget when both the ministers of Finance and Industry did not attend the meeting and they have no clue what discussions took place during the ministerial and presidential meetings,” our source added.
Hersi in Niamey
Another official, part of the organisers, told Sunday Monitor that they were shocked to find in one of the sessions someone they thought was an official from Somalia presenting something related to Uganda.
The delegate mistaken for an official from Somalia was Amina Hersi Moghe, the chief executive officer of Horyal Investments Holding Company Ltd.
Ms Hersi participated in a session tagged African Women in Processing (AWIPO) and attended in-person by bosses of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), and president of Africa Business Council (AfBC) among other officials.
Ms Hersi called for inclusive industrialisation to ensure that no one is left behind, especially women.
She argued that it is essential to include women in Africa’s industrial push because it promotes gender equality, which is a fundamental human right, as well as speedier economic growth aspect, creates shared wealth, and sustainable development. She said access to funds continues to be a barrier to advancing women’s rights and development.
To rally support for women, Ms Hersi used the story of her journey into industrialisation to call for the support of women. She explained her struggle raising capital to venture into a sugar project in Atiak, including having to stake her properties to raise finances and being turned down by international lenders.
“I got a lot of challenges whereby I was almost bankrupt. Then I cried to the government. I should pause to say thank you to the president of Uganda and his government for realising that the women are supporting me and I have brought them together. The land which I had leased, I gave them 5,000 acres and I said this one no will disturb you, you will grow cane and sell it to me,” she said.
She added: “I asked the government to do affirmative action for the women because they don’t have money and no bank is willing to give them money so you can give them a grant to grow the cane so they can sell to the factory and that is what was actually done.”
Rwandan President Paul Kagame chaired the summit on the request by the Chairperson of the African Union, Mr Macky Sall, the president of the Republic of Senegal.
All the other East African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo had representatives. Asked why he did not honour the AU invitation or send a representative, Mr Kasaija declined to comment. He instead accused this newspaper of negative coverage. “Monitor…Monitor. I am shy to talk to you because you always write negative stories about me. You have accused me of stealing billions of shillings and I have never received any apologies. If you want to find out, you ring State House…,” he said.
Attempts to speak to Mr Mwebesa were futile.
About the summit
The AU Summit on Industrialisation and Economic Diversification is now a fully dedicated continental platform that refocuses the attention on accelerating Africa’s industrialisation as a key to unlocking the continent’s productive capacities which also ensures the successful implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Among the decisions, include accelerating a commodity-based industrialisation as an engine of growth, productive jobs and economic diversification, massive investment in infrastructure and energy with the support of financial institutions and partners to reduce production costs, and boost the competitiveness of the African economies.
Delegates also called for the enhancement of domestic resource mobilisation to ensure sustainable financing on Africa’s industrialisation, and allocate a minimum of five to 10 percent of the national budget dedicated to industrial development and reserve a minimum of 10 percent of public procurement to local enterprises, in order to strengthen the private sector development and Industrialisation.