The Uganda-Germany investment symposium has come with a lot of expectations, enthusiasm and a general feel-good factor across circles in the West Nile region of Uganda
Many have called it historic and a door opener to countless opportunities to come, Muni University being the host of the two-day high-level event is positioning itself as an institution to reap from the symposium.
West Nile Web’s Rimiliah Amandu caught up with Prof. Christine Dranzoa, the University vice chancellor for an interview about the different aspects of the symposium and the expected benefits to the Institution she heads, West Nile and Northern region of Uganda; here are some excerpts.
How prepared are you as an institution to host this high-level event?
We are always ready to receive guests and so the symposium is only one of those many avenues of hosting guests.
For an event of this magnitude, we are not the only people to run the show. We have the national organizing committee in Kampala where a number of meetings have been held, the regional organizing committee and the local organizing committee that is supported by the district.
We have been working in this since April when we were given the mandate to host and manage the symposium and it's now coming to four months, even if the guests come tonight, we would be able to host them, so I can say we are 99% prepared.
Are we talking about the same level of preparedness across board, hotels, transports etc.?
I tell you what? this is business coming to Arua and West Nile so I expect all the hoteliers and the small businesses to prepare to host the guests, for our working figure we are looking at 1000 people including us of course but largely the guests will need where to sleep, what to eat and what to buy; I also ask the hotels to pay maximum attention to quality service because the guests coming here are going to be ambassadors to the facilities here.
Our technical team did map the facilities within the region and well over 900 rooms are available from Nebbi to Koboko that is the range. But our VVIPS will have to be accommodated within the capital city so they can experience the ambiance of the region.
I am hoping that everybody will go out there and clean the city and make it welcoming to our international guests as well as our regional guests from DR Congo, South Sudan and other regions from the country.
What is your general assessment of investment opportunities in the West Nile region as compared to the rest of Uganda?
Well, what makes us unique as West Nile, we have resources here that can give us a competitive edge over other regions because we have our culture, that is unique and a lot of other tourism potentials in the region which is not developed yet.
We are in the oil-rich Albertine graben and there are oil and other mineral prospects, water tourism, Agriculture and agro-processing industry let alone Muni University that is here.
There are opportunities in infrastructure development, many people are doing business from across the boarders up to central Africa.
So, the business partners coming from outside will open the door for quality because if you have a product made locally, the local communities will consume but for it to go beyond the local standard, we must be able to go beyond the local borders it must meet some standard.
So, where does Muni University as an institution stand to benefit from this symposium?
The immediate thing I can say is we are going to sign a memorandum of understanding with a number of organizations.
As a learning institution, our area is limited but expanded through the community, we take this as a cardinal mandate to support the local community.
As a university, we are going to develop a partnership with a network of organizations in Germany that do very skilled training in various fields and we hope to be able to develop curricula at various levels for short courses certificate, diploma level, etc.
We are going to sign an agreement with Uganda investment authority to promote our investment portfolio, sign another with operation wealth creation, we are also going to set up a post-harvest training center supported by the private sector of Germany.
How best can the local person in the West Nile region be mobilized to tap into the opportunities that come with the symposium?
Our hope is that those who have ideas will open up and sell their ideas to interested partners, businesses like the expected tea factory in Zombo district; The smallest tea factory can be sustained may be on 5-6 sq. miles which need out-growers. so, ask who is supposed to grow the tea? The community member can grow the tea which becomes a life changer.
There is a prospect of setting up a sugar factory in Yumbe, once that kicks off, the out-growers will grow sugarcane and sell it but even if you are not an agriculturalist, the person who grows crops will be interested in other tradeable goods.
But let us challenge ourselves to positive thinking, embrace opportunities of this nature, when you don’t have friends you cant grow, let us change our attitudes, we must take action to transform our lives by welcoming the opportunity as individuals, families, districts, the region, and Northern Uganda.
Let us think big but to think big you must work with others.
What next after the symposium?
Our hope is that a couple of people who will come here will be interested in partnering with either individuals or institutions.
There is a company interested in estates, others in agricultural products, etc. but once again I am hoping our people are prepared, because it is one thing to prepare but it’s another to present yourself well, because partners look for legitimate, truthful and reliable people, no one wants to invest in vain.
I am asking northerners to go back to our values, sometimes I feel sad because certain values for which some of us were chosen to do what we have done are disappearing, trustworthiness, integrity, whether you sleep hungry, you don’t pick someone's penny, you earn after work.
We must have first things first, we need a mindset change, we must have a great attitude towards new things, West Nile boarders stretch over 400 kilometers and all suitable for trade. Because the geographical location is God-given, we just need to be organized, embrace the opportunities and work hard.
Any last words professor Christine?
I want to thank the government for choosing Muni University to host and manage this historic event, the first of its kind in our life span. I want to thank our other partners
All friends, volunteers and everyone working behind the scenes, the West Nile elders and of course the West Nile Web.
Thank you, big time!