The instability and conflict seen in Africa over the years have had profound effects on the continent’s development and stability. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has identified the root cause of this instability: the exploitation of Africa’s resources by foreign states and multinational corporations. In his recent address, President Museveni highlighted the link between resource exploitation and coups and wars in West and Central African states.
Museveni argued that the colonialists and neo-colonialists are to blame for the ongoing political turmoil in Africa. He highlighted the need for African countries to protect their resources against foreign interests. Museveni cited the example of France, which has been extracting uranium from Niger. Instead of using the resources to benefit the country, France failed to invest in Niger’s local infrastructure, such as building power plants. This is a clear case of resource exploitation without any visible returns to the country and its people.
The situation is not limited to uranium or Niger alone. Museveni emphasised that the same pattern occurs with other commodities, such as coffee and various minerals. The colonisers and multinationals often prioritise their self-interests over the welfare of African nations. They exploit the resources without any regard for the development or improvement of the local economies.
One crucial element that allows resource exploitation to continue unchecked is the lack of strong armies in affected countries. Museveni argued that the failure of these states to build robust military forces has allowed the colonisers and multinationals to operate freely. Without a strong defence system, African nations become vulnerable to external interference, manipulation, and the looting of their resources.
Furthermore, Museveni reiterated his stance against the exportation of raw materials, particularly unprocessed minerals. He emphasised that Uganda, under his leadership, will never allow the exportation of uranium in its raw form. This approach aims to ensure that Africa benefits from the value-added processing of its resources, creating jobs and driving economic growth within the continent.
In addition to foreign states, Museveni criticised multinational companies operating in Uganda. He pointed out that many of them prioritise profits over the welfare of the local population. These companies have been making substantial gains from their presence in Uganda but have failed to reinvest in the development of the country and its people.
The summit was organised by state agencies from the two countries and sponsored by South African companies in Uganda, including MTN, Nile Breweries, Stanbic, and Absa Banks.
MTN and Stanbic are prominent equities listed on the Uganda Securities Exchange, with a significant number of Ugandans owning shares in these companies. President Museveni expressed his appreciation for the positive impact these corporations have had on ordinary Ugandans and stated that he has forgiven them for past grievances.
However, President Museveni urged companies in the services sector, particularly those present at the summit, to support the government’s efforts in integrating everyone into the money economy. He emphasised that this approach would not only benefit the people and government but also enhance companies’ profitability through increased purchasing power among consumers.
During the event, Mcebisi Hubert Jonas, Group Board Chairman at MTN, raised concerns as a foreign investor regarding obstacles to investment growth. These challenges included corruption, unclear trade policies, limited access to finance, difficulties in contract enforcement, and high costs of doing business such as tariff-related issues. He provided an example illustrating how it is more costly to transport cargo between two African countries compared to shipping an equivalent amount of cargo between India and the East African coast.
The summit concluded with the issuance of “The Kampala Declaration,” which outlined various resolutions and recommendations. These included a commitment to enhance transportation and logistics infrastructure between the two nations, as well as maintaining favourable cargo rates for Uganda Airlines’ upcoming seven-day service between Johannesburg and Entebbe starting in October.
According to John Mulimba, State Minister of Foreign Affairs, the participants also reached agreements on increasing South African tourist arrivals by fourfold and establishing an electricity transformer factory in Uganda through a partnership. These outcomes highlight the positive steps taken during the summit towards fostering collaboration and development between the two countries.