RENEW Strategies

Recent U.S./Uganda Investment Forum in Chicago

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Tim Shirk
| September 23, 2009

There is an ever-increasing voice within the African Diasporas to find common strategies to financially engage their home countries. The Ugandan Consulate in Chicago, Ugandan Embassy in D.C. and the Ugandan Investment Authority recently responded by hosting the first annual U.S./Uganda Trade and Investment Forum this September.

For a first-time effort, the response was powerful. The Office of the Mayor of Chicago, the Ambassador of Uganda, the Governor of Illinois and State Department representatives were among the voices supporting a pro-active investment strategy. Additionally, six members of Parliament flew in for the event and shared their support from all reaches of Uganda. The room was committed to creating an enabling environment for trade and investment opportunities between businesses and government agencies located in the United States and their counterparts based in Uganda.

There was also a significant private sector presence as the Bank of Uganda director, Ugandan investment bankers and fund managers mingled with dozens of small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs from both the U.S. and Uganda. Some were just getting the lay of the land while others were agreeing on specific action items between the parties.

I was surprised by the frank, yet polished discussion and clear desire by the participants to stop simply talking about the potential and start doing something. The group heard from a variety of entrepreneurs who provide services or products and need linkages to build their business to the next level. Both the private sector and public officials were able to provide real value-add feedback to these business owners in terms of relationships, tax ideas, AGOA strategies, and further marketing. The government speakers outlined public benefits and programs that would enable investment or jump start current businesses.

Although I didn’t see any contract signed in the room, it was clear that a wave of energy had inspired the parties. As I said goodbye and collected contact information I couldn’t help but note a real sense of excitement and hope for the path forward. The presence and meaningful participation from high level decision makers from both the public and private sector gave confidence to the men and woman from both the U.S. and Uganda who will be putting their money on the line to open the door for a vibrant trade relationship between the two countries.