Local investors call for level playing field

UNCCI members met Edith Nakalema

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Local Ugandan Investors, represented by the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UNCCI), are urging the government to treat them on par with their foreign counterparts and to curb the detrimental behaviors exhibited by politically affiliated business entities aligned with the ruling elite.

These sentiments were expressed during a meeting between UNCCI members and officials from the State House Investors Protection Unit, led by its commander, Colonel Edith Nakalema.

The gathering presided over by UNCCI President Olive Kigongo, aimed to assess the local investment landscape.   Barnabas Kiisa, UNCCI Chairperson for Mbale City, voiced concerns about the allocation of land in the Mbale industrial park, citing the exclusion of local investors. Kiisa highlighted his own experience, stating that despite meeting all criteria, he was denied land allocation due to alleged non-compliance with certain expectations.

“When we were receiving the Mbale industrial park, we expected that it would give maybe 50 percent of the land to local investors for them to invest. Surprisingly, they don’t own even 20 percent; it is largely the Chinese, and it was out of a deal that was between them and the Uganda Investment Authority. I personally applied but I was never given because I was not responding to the language that they wanted to hear. I presented all my documents, my company is as old as the guidelines required, but still, the corruption in the system could not allow,” he explained.

Kiisa advocated for equitable tax incentives for all investors, regardless of origin, suggesting a maximum tax holiday period of five years. He raised concerns about foreign investors benefiting from extended tax breaks, often without yielding substantial results, and exploiting incentives by reassigning them under different entities.  He also highlighted disparities in tax obligations, noting preferential treatment afforded to influential figures such as politicians and military officials.

“There is blatant tax evasion among top-ranking officials, while law-abiding investors bear the brunt. This inequity undermines the collective contribution to Uganda’s development,” he emphasized.   The investors further called for streamlining the myriad investment facilitation systems and agencies to mitigate corruption and streamline procedures. Olive Kigongo emphasized UNCCI’s role as a facilitator for both local and international investment, criticizing the proliferation of intermediaries and their unethical practices.

“In many countries, the chamber of commerce is the sole facilitator of business, but here you go UIA, URSB, and many others, which breeds corruption in a way. And with due respect, many law firms have also started facilitating investors, and most of them are quacks. These many centers are confusing and time-consuming,” she said.

Responding to the investors’ grievances, Edith Nakalema commended their proactive approach and assured them of government commitment to safeguarding local investors’ interests.

She affirmed the government’s duty to safeguard local investors while promoting foreign investment, pledging to address the concerns raised through appropriate channels.

“The government has the mandate to protect local investors, and we are in talks with the security agencies about those foreign investors who turn to retailing. I also request you to put all the concerns you have presented today in writing, and I assure you I will forward them to the relevant offices and follow up for action.”



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