By Farooq Kasule
Former Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has encouraged companies from Saudi Arabia to invest in the processing of Uganda’s coffee.
Rugunda, currently Special Envoy for Special Duties, Office of the President, said if companies from Saudi Arabia invest in the processing of Uganda’s coffee, it will not only create more jobs but it will also help to bridge the benefits Uganda gets out of coffee from $2.5 (about sh9,354) per kilogram to $40 (about sh149,679) per kilogram.
Rugunda, appealed while presiding over the celebrations of the 93rd national day of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia organised by the Saudi Arabia embassy in Uganda at Four Points hotel in the city suburb of Kololo in Kampala on Friday.
The colourful event brought together Muslims from different establishments in the country, Government officials and diplomats from different missions in Uganda.
Significant milestone in coffee industry
In June 2023, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) reported that Uganda achieved a significant milestone in its coffee industry earning a record sh330.5b from coffee exports.
This revenue was derived from the sale of 489,597 bags of robusta coffee valued at $73.88m and 74,235 bags of arabica coffee valued at $16.68m.
The overall export performance witnessed a 6.31% increase in quantity and an 8.08% increase in value compared to the same month in the previous year.
Specifically, Robusta exports saw a significant boost of 10.22% in quantity and 21.16% in value compared to June 2022. However, Arabica exports experienced a decline of 13.85% in quantity and 26.89% in value during the same period.
The remarkable increase in both quantity and value of coffee exports indicates a positive trend for Uganda’s coffee sector fueled by favourable global prices and a bountiful harvest in specific regions.
Besides investing in the processing of coffee, Rugunda said there are numerous investment opportunities in Uganda in the sectors of agriculture and agro-processing, oil and gas, minerals, ICT and human resource development, tourism and infrastructure which Saudi Arabian companies and individuals should take advantage of.
Rugunda saluted the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud for strengthening bilateral relations with Uganda.
He said Uganda is pursuing an ambitious transformation agenda defined under Vision 40 which sets the long-term aspirations for transforming Uganda from a predominantly peasant to a modern and prosperous country.
“Your excellence, the bilateral trade and investment cooperation will play a pivotal role in delivering this target, however, there is a need for both countries to clear the way for enhanced flow of trade, capital and technology transfer,” Rugunda noted.
Rugunda saluted Saudi Arabia for equipping the Uganda Heart Institute saying this will help to support the healthcare sector in Uganda and assist the Government in achieving its third National Development Plan (NDPIII), which aims to enhance productivity and social well-being of the citizens.
Uganda through the minister of finance and economic planning, Matia Kashaija, has since signed an agreement for a loan worth $30m to fund the construction and equipping of the Uganda Heart Institute at the Mulago National Referral Hospital.
Rugunda reaffirmed Uganda’s readiness to start implementation of the agreements that have been signed between Uganda and Saudi Arabia.
They include the externalisation of labour and a memorandum of understanding on political consultations among others.
Rugunda said Uganda is behind Saudi Arabia in the fight against terrorism all over the world saying the fight against terrorism calls for collective action as members of the United Nations.
“Uganda highly appreciates Saudi Arabia’s support of the international community, especially at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the United Nations. Uganda will continue to support Saudi Arabia further in the international arena to strengthen the ties between the two countries,” Rugunda affirmed.
Rugunda also saluted Saudi Arabia for this year’s successful pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca which brought together Muslims across the globe including Ugandans.
‘Friendly relations since the 1970s’
The Saudi Arabia envoy in Uganda Jamal Mohammed Al Madani observed that the current friendly relations between Uganda and Saudi Arabia date back to the 1970s and since then several bilateral relations in several fields have been penned.
He noted that in the past two years, agreements such as a $30m loan agreement for construing and rehabilitating the Uganda Heart Institute, increasing the number of scholarships for Ugandan students to study in Saudi Arabia and increasing the number of Uganda workers in Saudi Arabia have been achieved.
Regarding the fight against terrorism, Al-Madani said the scourge of terrorism and extremism has affected the entire world and Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries targeted by terrorists.
“The Kingdom’s firm policy continued to affirm its rejection, condemnation and denunciation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and it cooperated with international efforts to combat terrorism and contributed $100m to the United Nations to establish the United Nations Center for countering terrorism and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2015 established the Islamic military counter-terrorism coalition to confront and eliminate terrorism and in 2017 it held the Arab-Islamic-American summit, which established the global centre for combating extremist ideology,” Al-Madani noted.
The Saudi Arabia National Day
Saudi Arabia National Day is a public holiday in Saudi Arabia that is celebrated annually on September 23 to commemorate a proclamation that renamed the Kingdom of Nejd and Hejaz as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 through a royal decree by King Abdulaziz al-Saud.
The celebrations of the day followed a royal decree that was issued by King Faisal on August 21, 1965, that declared the Day to be celebrated at official levels as per the Gregorian calendar.