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Africa now at a “turning point,” says Ugandan president

Published date:
Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Africa stands today at a “turning point” in its history, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told an audience in Washington October 31.

Addressing business executives, investors, diplomats and Africanists, Museveni said, “Africa is breaking old paradigms in order to integrate itself profitably into the global economy and to liberate itself from the charity of strangers. …

“More and more people are talking about the emerging new Africa and that most African governments are now the product of democratic elections. They are talking about how the region as a whole is enjoying the highest growth rates in 30 years,” he told his audience. “They are talking about the remarkable returns to be had on African investments.”

Museveni was invited to deliver the address, entitled “Building the Financial Infrastructure to Transform Africa,” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Whitaker Group, a Washington consulting firm that works to advance business in Africa. On October 30, he had met at the White House with President Bush and then on Capitol Hill with senior members of the U.S. Congress. (See related article.)

The Ugandan leader said that the international community is attributing Africa’s higher economic growth not just to higher commodity prices and other cyclical phenomena. “There are other less reversible forces at work,” he said, such as improved governmental economic policies and better political governance across the continent.

“There is growing regional stability as conflicts are successfully resolved, thanks to bold initiatives like the African Growth and Opportunity Act,” he said. The act, known as AGOA, is the U.S. initiative that enables products from eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.

Thanks to initiatives like AGOA, Museveni said, a new market for African products is opening up in the United States. He reaffirmed Africa’s strong support for AGOA, saying trade and not aid is the long-term solution to Africa’s problems.

“Expanded trade and access to markets is essential,” Museveni said, but cautioned that those steps are not the entire solution. Much more needs to be done to empower the people of Africa and their companies to generate wealth and growth, he added, “and to make it much easier and more attractive for outside investors to include Africa in their portfolios.”

People wanting to invest in the United States can choose from a plethora of options, he said, but in Africa an opposite investment climate exists, one limited in scope and only available in a handful of countries.

“Only one in three African countries have an organized securities market,” he said, but added: “This is changing. We are growing, and Uganda is among those in Africa leading the way.”

Uganda began implementing financial reforms in 2003 to bring itself into compliance with international banking and financial standards, Museveni said.

One key element of that process, he said, is full disclosure and transparency, to help bolster investor confidence. “In short, we are now poised … for the public to invest in a wide range of instruments that are now available on the market,” he said.

Additionally, Uganda and its neighbors are working to create a single monetary and political union in East Africa to help streamline trade and investment throughout the region. The nation also is working to make it easier for Ugandans to access capital and become part of the country’s ever-growing financial network.

“Even the poorest possess assets that can be miniaturized under the right conditions,” he said, and for that reason, they can be worthy of gaining attention from business.

The Ugandan leader closed his remarks on an optimistic note. Although there is much work to be done, he said -- with only one in five adults in sub-Saharan Africa having a bank account -- “there is a new day and a new way in Africa” dawning on the horizon.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Uganda’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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