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Singapore tells Uganda to forget oil, concentrate on agriculture

The Singaporean minister of state for trade and industry has advised Uganda not to be excited by the potential prospects the oil industry seems to present and told the country to focus on its agriculture

According to Dr. Koh Poh Koon, much as oil has the potential to turn around Uganda's economy, agriculture remains the country's strength because it is where Uganda has a natural comparative advantage.

He added that the government of Uganda should not lose sight of the agricultural sector to the mining and extractive industry as a result of the newly discovered oil deposits.

Dr. Koon, who was on a state visit to explore growth opportunities as well as strengthen the trade relations between his country and Uganda, was speaking during a meeting with his Ugandan counterpart Amelia Kyambadde at her office in Kampala last week.

In a statement issued last week by the ministry, Dr. Koon said, "Uganda is doing a good job in carrying out organic farming and I encourage the country to develop its agricultural sector, market the agricultural products so that it becomes the world's market for organic products."

He continued, "The benefits of oil mining and refinery are numerous, but be cautious about its challenges or risk factors."

In response, Kyambadde said Uganda is an agricultural based economy and its location at the heart of regional economic blocs such as the EAC-Comesa-SADC, a tripartite Free Trade Area, provided it with vast market potential and increased trade opportunities for the country and its trade partners.

She said, "Uganda also boasts of numerous investment opportunities in the sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, Information and Communications Technology, infrastructure, including storage and housing construction, renewable energy production, tourism, oil and gas exploration and mining."

The minister encouraged her counterpart to interest the business community in Singapore to explore investment opportunities in Uganda in the areas of value addition for agricultural products, agro processing, tourism, minerals and petroleum, manufacturing, fisheries and services industry such as education, health, and financial services, among others.

Dr. Koon, who led a delegation of investors with interests in investing in Uganda, noted that Singapore would like to explore the possibility of having a bilateral investment treaty between Uganda and Singapore.

He said that there are many Singapore companies with interest in investing in Uganda especially in the areas of urban planning, water recycling, warehousing, infrastructure development, and technology transfer. Dr. Koon asked the Ugandan business people to penetrate the market in Singapore by exporting coffee and cotton, and also open business ventures there, saying the country has an advantage of being linked to about 600 ports and benefiting from investment treaties with different countries.