Uganda’s agricultural industry has received an open invitation to forge partnerships with a group of French companies in what could be the start of new opportunities in a sector that has for long been neglected.
During the first Franco-Ugandan Agribusiness forum at Kampala’s Protea hotel yesterday, officials from some French agricultural and processing firms said they were excited to partner Ugandan firms, and that their ambition was to participate in the development of Uganda rather than to “fill the banks [with money].”
Sophie Makame, the French ambassador to Uganda, said “it was a matter of time before France and Uganda started collaborating in such a crucial sector.”
There is a number of French companies operating in Uganda, such as Total in oil, Orange in Telecom, Veolia in the water sector, just to mention a few. France, Europe’s second largest economy, has also financed Uganda’s energy industry. Hardly any firm is involved on a large scale in Uganda’s agricultural sector.
Agriculture remains the backbone of Uganda’s economy. At least three out of four Ugandans are engaged in agriculture – many of them being women and the youth.
However, the sector’s contribution to Uganda’s $24bn gross domestic product is less than a quarter of the total output. Perceived to be highly risky, Uganda’s agricultural industry faces such challenges like low access to cheap credit, a poor infrastructure network like bad roads and unreliable power, among other issues.
Efforts by government to have the sector thrive, such as the launch of the agriculture credit fund, have fallen short of expectations. The first Franco-Uganda agribusiness forum opens a new window for the sector. According to a press statement from the forum, France is one of the biggest producers of wheat and maize in Europe. The country is also a massive producer of milk and wine.
If the partnerships are deepened, the statement noted, “the Pearl of Africa has the natural potential to become the granary of East Africa.”
Alain Reocreux, who headed the French delegation to Uganda, said the country should not worry about the challenges of quality.
“You can develop food in quantity and quality. It does not cost that much money,” he said, as he referred to the new technologies on food safety that the French companies are ready to bring to Uganda.
Some of the French companies that participated at the forum included Adepta, CEDAP, OYSTAR Erca, and Clauger, which are in any of agricultural processing, technologies, and production.
Source : The Observer