The East African Community (EAC) this year expanded to include the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) as the newest member of the bloc. This new addition to the EAC presented the bloc with economic opportunities to do business in the DR Congo market that boasts of a population of about 90m people.
Uganda acted quickly and the Uganda – DR Congo Business Summit was organized in DR Congo. At the end of the Summit, Ugandan delegates returned with a lot of optimism. Generally, Ugandans believe DR Congo is a golden opportunity.
Now, speaking at the second Bi-Annual Private Sector CEO Forum sitting in Ntungamo district, the executive director of the National Planning Authority Joseph Muvawala highlighted that the Ugandan private sector faces four challenges in its attempt to do business with DR Congo – security, infrastructure, border checks and ICT leverage.
These four, Muvawala said, are deterring the private sector from directly exporting and doing business in DR Congo. This means that traders in DR Congo have to come to Kampala.
To facilitate Ugandans to ably do business in DR Congo, Muvawala wants the government to construct and upgrade roads in eastern DR Congo for smooth movement of goods and services. Other related roads on the Ugandan side must equally be worked on.
“The roads are dilapidated and impassable. Using these roads consumes time and raises the cost of doing business,” he said.
He proposed that roads like Fort Portal Kisangani should be made a highway that can bring in toll returns. Muvawala named other similar roads at several border entries that he advised are worked on.
In the long run, Muvawala proposed that a Standard Gauge Railway can be erected to link the two countries. He also proposed that the capacity of Uganda Airlines and Uganda Air Cargo is improved and extended to DR Congo. The other to solve transport constraints and accessibility, vessels on Lake Albert and River Congo are options.
To avert the problem of insufficient ICT, Muvawala proposed that government works with their counterparts in DR Congo to enable Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) to air in DR Congo. Also, he says, Ugandan telecom companies can be allowed to provide services in Eastern DR Congo.