At the end of April, Uganda for the first time hosted the 31st General Assembly of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA). The ICCIA is an organisation of chambers of commerce of 57 member states of the Organisation Islamic Countries (OIC).
By some quirk of history the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (UNCCI) is a member of the association and the only one in the East African Community.
That we have a voice in this forum is important for our businessmen and our country in general. We would like to extend our gratitude to the ICCIA for allowing as this opportunity to host the event and the government of Uganda for being instrumental in its eventual happening. It is a moot point that for Uganda to develop its private sector has to be strengthened not only through the individual efforts of our businessmen, but also through the efforts of government to create an enabling environment and also through the various partnerships it can forge regionally and internationally.
Our involvement in the ICCIA is one of many endeavors to foster mutually beneficial relationships whenever and wherever we can. The OIC from has a combined GDP of more than $6 trillion with a population of nearly two billion people. It does not take a genius to recognize the potential market that this suggests.
Despite its size this economy remains largely unexploited because of low media coverage and unfortunate stereo types, not unlike our situation on the African continent as a whole. However the OIC is not a back water with its members on the cutting edge of advances in medicine, geo-engineering, aeronautics, logistics, hospitality and agriculture. The benefits to Uganda go beyond being a market but as source of valuable technological transfer that can improve our productivity as a nation and enhance our standing in the region.
In addition since the vast majority of the members of ICCIA come from the Arab world and Asia they can provide a useful launching pad into the region and beyond.
Challenges abound but the high level participation of the our government – President Yoweri Museveni officially opened the assembly and the Trade minister Amelia Kyambade gave a keynote address, means our government is aware of the potential and are committed to leveraging our position in the ICCIA for all Ugandans.
During the event our businessmen made invaluable contacts with their counterparts from around the Islamic world and the momentum for further collaboration was set in motion. The UNCCI’s doors are open to facilitate contact with members within the ICCIA for our businessmen.
Uganda stands at the cross roads of history. We are faced with challenge of a growing population, which demands a lifestyle comparable with any around the world. Thankfully we are well endowed with natural resources, a trainable workforce and our central position on the continent.
To exploit our natural endowments for the benefit of our people will take hard work on our part and meaningful, mutually beneficial collaborations with our various partners.
As the apex body of business community in Uganda we will continue to lobby our government and regional leaders for greater improvements in the business environment. Through our effort we hope to facilitate the creation of business community that compete at home and abroad for the benefit of our people.
The ICCIA general assembly came and went but it left us with many things to ponder.
How for instance can we take advantage of this unique opportunity? How can we improve our members readiness to maximise the opportunity? And what about our positioning in the ICCIA needs to be tweaked and improved to enhance the above?
We hope we are up to the task at the UNNCI but we don’t intend to fail for lack of trying.
The author is the president of the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry