Fellow Community Members.
This year UNAA will be hosting the 10th Annual Trade and Investments Forum at its 30th Annual UNAA Convention in Seattle, Washington. But let me start with a question. What have been the “measurable” outcomes of all of these Trade and Investment Forums? By this I mean can we quantify new or additional trade between Uganda and North America, or can we point at some new significant investment made or new company formed as a result of these forums.
I ask this question because I believe that we should always work towards measurable outcomes in these forums and build upon them in subsequent conventions.
You see, in hosting this annual event, UNAA creates the environment for attendees to meet, network and (hopefully) form dynamic business relationships that promote trade and investment between Uganda and North America. Let me give you an example of one such relationship from a previous year.
At what was then called the “Business and Entrepreneurship Workshop” held during the 2004 convention in Seattle, I challenged attendees to raise money to buy a building in Uganda. This challenge raised $80,000.00 with which we formed a company in Uganda and bought a building that we have very happy derived rental income from for the last 13 years.
In response to a presentation at the 2009 UNAA convention in Chicago, my company here in Los Angeles entered into a partnership with a local Uganda company to provide technical support services. This relationship has been a tremendous success and continues to grow with each passing year.
In response to a presentation by the Chancellor of Gulu University at the 2011 UNAA convention, a Ugandan doctor from Canada built 2 student hostels units near the campus and is enjoying very profitable returns.
These are just some of the more visible outcomes of past workshops at UNAA conventions.
By the time we host the UNAA Trade and Investments Forum in Seattle this year, two other similar forums will have already taken place – one in Seattle and another in Toronto. It is planned to incorporate and add to that which was achieved at these other forums.
This year the forum will address trade and investment separately.
The morning will be dedicated to trade and discussions will focus on identification of products Uganda can realistically export to the US (besides coffee) and products made in North America (other than heavy machinery, used clothes and such) for which a market can be found in Uganda. Discussions will also include such ancillary aspects like AGOA, the challenges of transportation, import/export taxation, distribution, etc.
The afternoon will be dedicated to investments and feature discussions on specific “achievable” investment opportunities (real estate, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, etc.) in Uganda. Seattle being the home of Microsoft and other tech giants, there will be significant discussions about tech investment opportunities in Uganda. For example, high speed internet service costs about $800 a month in Kampala. The very same service in Nairobi costs only $400 a month. I see tremendous opportunity here.
Uganda has a large population of highly educated but under-employed young people. I even know a Makerere graduate who drives a boda-boda. I believe that this is a very important discussion to have with an end to seeking employment solutions for some of them. India, China and the Philippines have done a great job of attracting call centers. So is this a viable option for Uganda? How about medical data entry and other book keep-type services? Indeed, how about support services in architecture and engineering? The licensed professionals could practice over here and outsource some of their tech-level work to Ugandans back home.
A presentation is also being planned on strategic investment planning for retirement in North America. More information about this will be posted in the near future.
As a final feature, the forum will end with something new – an event somewhat modelled after the American TV show “Shark Tank.” Attendees who wish will be invited to stand up in front of the whole forum and make presentations on projects and investment ideas for which they seek partners or investors. For example, my partners in the investment group I mentioned above and I plan to present a proposal in which we will seek investors to purchase a 2nd building in Kampala. I am thinking that folks from Uganda will be particularly interested in this forum as it may give them an opportunity to attract partners for projects they have back home. I know of at least two other real estate proposals and one agri-business proposal being planned.
So plan to come and attend the Trade and Investments Forum on Friday August 30th from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM – a whole day dedicated to discussions on how to make and grow money.