South African President Jacob Zuma arrived in Kampala Thursday for a two-day state visit, heading a large delegation expected to explore investment opportunities in Uganda’s new-found oil wealth.
“The visit is a big opportunity for Uganda and South Africa, now that our country has discovered oil, they can help because they have the expertise in that field,” Uganda’s junior foreign minister, Isaac Musumba said.
“Other than oil, we have a lot of potential in many areas which I am sure the South African delegation will be interested in,” he added.
Mr Zuma, whose delegation includes several Cabinet ministers and business leaders, received a 21-gun salute in Entebbe before going into a one-on-one meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
South Africa has a relatively small indigenous oil and gas industry but is exploring for more offshore and has several companies offering consulting services in refining and processing.
Uganda does not yet produce oil but is believed to have a large potential and giants such as France’s Total and China’s CNOOC are vying for a share of the country’s existing oil fields.
The South Africa leader later addressed Uganda’s parliament and is due to unveil the cornerstone of the Oliver Tambo Leadership Institute on Friday.
The school was named after one of Nelson Mandela’s late comrades to honour 14 ANC anti-apartheid heroes who are buried in Uganda and in recognition of Museveni’s historical support for the ANC.
Speaking at Parliament, Mr Zuma challenged African leaders to work towards unifying the continent as key ingredient for development.
Mr Zuma said Africans can only be liberated from economic slavery if they stand together as one, telling MPs that economic integration is a key remedy to the dire situation that the continent finds itself today.
Although the African continent is rich with natural resources, the SA leader said Africa remains the poorest continent in the world.
“It is only by unity our people and pulling our economies that we will overcome this devastating legacy,” he said.
Mr Zuma said South Africa will expand its business and investment portfolio in Uganda.
The African National Congress leader heaped praise and thanked Uganda for what he described as the “sacrifice, solidarity and support” the country extended to South Africa during the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980’s.
“Our relationship is based on that strong comradeship. The bonds of solidarity endure,” he said.
“Uganda is a country with great economic potential and an important destination for South African trade and investment,” he said.
He told MPs that although a high level of South African investments exist in the country, “a tremendous scope exists for further expansion particularly in the areas of technical and human resource development.”
There are more than 50 South African companies doing business in Uganda, with mobile communications giants MTN Uganda leading the pack of top taxpayers and pours into the government coffers more than Shs 200billion annually.
South African imports from Uganda are worth UShs 20billion (R98million) annually, Mr Zuma said, while exports to Uganda total Shs 375billion (R1.3billion).
“I have discussed with President Zuma two areas we want to concentrate on,” said host President Museveni. “One area is infrastructure especially energy and the other area is agro-processing.
Mr Zuma said he carried a message of gratitude from the people of South Africa, for Uganda’s role in harbouring the military wing of the ANC when other countries closed their doors on them.