President Yoweri Museveni has said the manufacturing sector plays an important role in the development of economies through employment creation and value addition for both domestic and export markets.
He said the launch of the manufacturing business summit was an important milestone in the implementation of the East African Community industrialization policy which recognizes manufacturing as the driver for economic transformation and wealth creation.
The President’s remarks were contained in a speech read for him by the Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda at the opening of the 1stEast African manufacturing business summit and exhibition at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Tuesday.
The first ever East African manufacturing business summit has been organized under the theme “Unleashing the manufacturing potential for accelerated development and employment creation in East Africa”
President Museveni said manufacturing was the only way for sustainable structural transformation of any economy.
“The contribution of the manufacturing sector has not been impressive as the sectors share of the GDP contribution has remained stagnant at just below 10% of GDP with average growth rates of about 4%,” Museveni said.
The President said new strategies must be put in place to achieve the regional target of 25% share of GDP as per the EAC industrialization policy.
He said the continued slow growth in the manufacturing sector will compromise the attainment of structural transformation of the East African economies.
The President said commodity dependence will derail the region from achieving economic transformation objectives, job creation and attendant improvements in the standards of living desired by the citizens.
Mr. Museveni challenged the summit participants to aim at attracting both foreign and domestic investments into sectors with high potential for job creation, as well as promoting growth of small and medium enterprises and start up entrepreneurs.
He said the East African community had given high priority to the development of infrastructure and energy, which are critical for efficient operation of the manufacturing sector, facilitating business and cross border investment.
The Secretary General of the East African Community Dr Richard Sezibera said it was time to make tough decisions such as turning East Africa into one economic entity, adding that all barriers to movement of goods, inputs, capital and labour must be removed.
He said the recent attempt by some Kenyan opposition politicians to discourage Ugandan sugar from accessing the Kenyan market was unnecessary because the region was under a single customs territory.
“As long as a product in produced in East Africa, it has a right to freely access markets throughout East Africa,” Sezibera said.
Key note speakers at the summit included Dr Mukhisa Kituyi the Secretary General of United Nations conference on Trade and Development,Vimal Shah, the Chief Executive officer of BIDCO and Dennis Karela the Chairman East African Business council.
Their presentations focused on un- unlocking the potential of the manufacturing sector in the region with particular emphasis on global competiveness, removal of trade barriers, harmonization of domestic taxes, improving export of processed high quality goods and investment in transformative infrastructure.
Also present were the Minister of Trade, industries and cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of State for East African community Affairs, Shem Bageine and Chairman of Uganda Manufactures association, Amos Nzeyi.