The Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) is the Business arm of the Government of Uganda. Dr Patrick Birungi, the Executive Director, spoke to BUBU Expo Magazine about their vision and operations. Excerpts
Please give us a brief background about UDC?
UDC was founded in the 1950s to be the business arm of the government. In the 1960s, it was the second largest employer in Uganda after the Public Service. It had interests in agro-processing industries, hotels and produce. In the 1970s, the policy of nationalization of industries was introduced, which weakened it. The 1980s were years of political instability then in the 1990s the policy of liberalization was introduced with the privatization of public enterprises. There was a change of heart in the 2000s when the UDC was re-established under the framework of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. The UDC Act of 2016 was eventually enacted by Parliament creating the UDC. The Board was fully constituted in 2018.
How many people are employed by UDC?
We have 35 staff at the headquarters but there are hundreds of direct and indirect jobs in our various industries across the country.
What are some of the industries you’re involved in?
UDC owns some of the industries such as the Soroti Fruit Factory while others are operating under a concession and others are operating on leased equipment.
These include tea lines in Kayonza in Kanungu and Zombo District. We also run the Kalangala Infrastructure Services which operates a ferry and supplies electricity and water in Kalangala among other things.
What plans do you have ahead?
We have launched our 10-year strategic plan with a vision to be a strong business arm of the Government. We aim at creating jobs in the different regions of the country and addressing market failures across the board.
What do you see as the main challenges facing BUBU companies and the local industrial sector generally?
One of the main challenges is competition from dumping of cheap materials from other countries, which is a problem in an environment where people consume products depending on the price and not the quality.
The other problem is that of getting the whole government system behind BUBU.
Also, there is a need for an appropriate tax regime that incentivizes local producers.
Where do you see UDC in the next 10 years?
In accordance with our strategic plan, we will focus on agro-processing in the various rural districts such as Zombo, Yumbe, Kyenjojo, Nwoya, Gulu where we are setting up a cassava and Shea nuts factories. We’re also focusing on mineral beneficiation such as the cement factory in Moroto, sheetglass factory in Masaka and a salt factory at Katwe in western Uganda. In services, we’re looking at a mass transport system for Kampala and later a facility for international meetings. A construction enterprise is also in the pipeline but at a later stage.
What were your impressions of the inaugural BUBU Expo?
I think it was an eye-opener on the potential the local market. It showed that there is a lot that we can do. Going forward, more actors should be able to showcase. There is also need to cluster the actors in their various industries. There’s also need for more media coverage and a catalogue so that people who are not able to attend the expo don’t miss out completely.
Last word for our readers?
I urge all Ugandans to continue supporting BUBU. Also, the Government should offer even more support to the local producers so as to develop the economy.