The Gateway to Africa

Oslo, 13 May 2015

State Secretary Hans Brattskar's address at the Uganda Business Forum in Oslo 13 May.

  • Mr Vice-president, Minister of State, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: Good morning, everyone! I would like to start by saying how pleased I am to see such a good turnout this morning. The Uganda Business Forum is an important initiative by the Ugandan Embassy and its partners, and I appreciate the invitation to speak on behalf of the Norwegian Government.
  • I would like to extend a particular welcome to Vice President Ssekandi, Minister of State Hon. Omach, Ambassador Kibedi Wanume and the rest of the Ugandan delegation, who have come so far to be here today. I hope your visit will prove to be a fruitful one.

Global economy / Africa

  • As we all know, the global economy is changing. Africa has become one of the world’s engines of economic growth. Despite alarming predictions about the impact of Ebola, the commodity price slump, and volatility in the oil and gas market, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa outstripped the global average once again last year. The average growth rate on the continent was a solid 4.5 %.
  • Economic analysts identify Africa as the second fastest growing consumer market. The continent is also continuing to grow as an investment market, and is considered to be the second most attractive investment destination worldwide, after Southeast Asia.
  • African regional economic integration is moving forward, for instance through the efforts of the East African Community. This organisation has considerable potential to strengthen intra-African trade and encourage cross-border investment by international businesses.
  • Norwegian business are therefore increasingly looking to Africa for opportunities. Although Norway is a relatively small country, we are heavily involved in international trade, particularly in the energy and maritime sectors. The Norwegian petroleum industry can offer world-class technology, expertise and experience. New and growing markets in Africa are attractive to Norwegian companies in the petroleum supply industry.

Norway and Uganda

  • Against this backdrop, Uganda can indeed be viewed as the gateway to Africa, and is emerging as an interesting economic partner for Norway. With an estimated growth in GDP of 6.3 % last year, which is expected to reach 7 % within the next couple of years, Uganda is making rapid economic progress. The country still faces some tough challenges, but it has a young and growing population that is eager to work, an improving business environment and steadily developing infrastructure, all of which are drivers of economic growth.
  • To take advantage of this, the Norwegian embassy in Kampala and partners from the Norwegian public and private sector are working together as Team Norway to promote trade and investment between Uganda and Norway. This work has already yielded results, and I am sure we will see more in the years ahead.
  • There are similarities between the Ugandan and Norwegian economies, and this can provide a basis for fruitful partnerships. The energy sector is a good example. Uganda has a considerable unused hydropower potential as well as potential for producing other forms of renewable energy. Uganda is also expected to become a petroleum producer in the near future. Over the years, Uganda has invited several Norwegian energy- and petroleum-related institutions to share their experience of developing Norway’s energy sector. This has created important ties between our countries.
  • Norway and Uganda have worked together on energy for more than 20 years. This cooperation has included support for the development of Uganda’s electricity legislation, its national oil and gas policy, and its upstream and midstream petroleum legislation, all of which has established a firm foundation for the further development of the energy and petroleum sector. A number of Norwegian companies, investors and public institutions have been involved. Trønder Energi constructed the Bugoye hydropower plant and Jacobsen Electro the Namanve oil power plant. These plants provide Uganda with a significant proportion of its electricity supply. Norfund is an important investor in the Ugandan energy sector, and also in the agricultural and financial sectors.
  • People need electricity supplies where they live and work. Norway has contributed substantial funding for transmission and distribution lines in Uganda. Recently, eight rural distribution lines were commissioned, and are now providing electricity for thousands of households in four districts. This has also made it possible for many small businesses to start up.
  • At present, less than one in ten households in Uganda has access to electricity. The Ugandan Government’s target is one in five by 2022.
  • This year, construction of the 226-kilometre high-voltage transmission line to Uganda’s “oil capital” Hoima will start. This will provide enough electricity for the establishment of a number of new industries in the region. Uganda and Norway are sharing the costs of constructing the new line.
  • Norway is now focusing on attracting private investors and encouraging private-public partnerships in the energy sector. This is in line with Uganda’s own strategy. One excellent example is the GET FiT programme, which is encouraging businesses to invest in renewable energy. We are very happy to see that a number of Norwegian businesses are now actively looking to invest in hydropower and in small- and large-scale solar power.
  • Norwegian companies are also involved in the petroleum sector. The East African Petroleum Services has established a logistics base near the oil fields, and a smaller Norwegian company (Petrica Energy) is preparing an application for an exploration licence in the new areas that have just been opened.
  • The Oil for Development cooperation between Norway and Uganda was formally established in 2006, and Uganda has made great progress in establishing modern institutions and legislative frameworks to ensure responsible management of its petroleum resources.
  • But there is no reason why the Norwegian business presence in Uganda should be limited to clean energy and petroleum.Norwegian companies are already involved in Uganda’s large agricultural sector, the construction sector and other areas.

Private sector development and development aid

  • Another reason why I am pleased to be invited to this event is that it gives me an opportunity to speak about the Norwegian Government’s strong emphasis on development assistance as a catalyst for sustainable growth and jobs.
  • The private sector is one of the main engines of growth and job creation. As many as nine out of ten jobs in developing countries are in the private sector.
  • The Norwegian government will soon be presenting a white paper on business development and private sector cooperation. It will outline how development funding in Africa and elsewhere can support and promote sustainable and responsible economic growth.
  • Norway will work both globally and with regional and national partners in Africa to mobilise and facilitate private sector investment with a view to increasing productivity and creating jobs.
  • We hope this will generate good results in our cooperation with Uganda.

Enabling environment

  • I would also like to say a few words about the importance of an enabling environment in attracting investments and boosting growth.
  • Good governance and a predictable legal framework are key factors in generating financing and investment, and are important elements of an enabling environment. The Norwegian embassy and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources have initiatied a dialogue on how the efficiency of the procurement processes can be improved.
  • Investment in education, vocational training and social protection is also vital to promote growth and entrepreneurship. Strengthening women’s opportunities for participation and economic leadership can also have a strong positive effect on growth and development, as we have seen in Norway.
  • Norway and Uganda have been cooperating extensively in these areas as well, and I know that Uganda has made a great deal of progress here too.
  • Finally, I would like to underline the Norwegian Government’s strong emphasis on corporate social responsibility. The government expects all companies, regardless of form of ownership and whether they operate in Norway or abroad, to act responsibly in their business operations and to take into consideration the people, societies and environment affected by their activities.

Concluding remarks

  • In conclusion, Uganda is a country that offers great economic opportunities, and there is considerable potential for increasing trade and investment between our two countries. I congratulate you on organising this event, which brings together Norwegian and Ugandan businesses and other actors, and provides an opportunity for exploring business ideas and developing ties.
  • I hope today’s business forum will bring our two countries even closer together to our mutual benefit. Thank you for your attention.
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