Remarks for Generation Agripreneur Expo and Summit
Ambassador Deborah Malac
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Uganda Manufacturers Association Show Grounds, Kampala, Uganda
Thank you Captain Abhay Agarwal , for your introduction. Under your leadership, the American Chamber of Commerce does an excellent job promoting U.S. business interests here in Uganda. I appreciate your leadership, energy, and vision of what the American business community can accomplish here in partnership with Ugandans.
Although I am only recently arrived, I am impressed with the incredible work being done by the American Chamber, or AmCham, and this event is a prime example of how the organization is bringing U.S. and Ugandan companies together. I would also like to thank Minister Kyambadde for being here today. I hope she has had the opportunity to meet our U.S. companies as well as the agricultural innovators who are displaying their products at this expo.
The U.S. Mission is excited to partner with the American Chamber of Commerce to strengthen ties between U.S. investors and one of the world’s most dynamic and fastest growing regions. Putting together a successful expo requires an incredible amount of hard work, energy, and planning, and I know many people have contributed to the success of this year’s Generation Agripreneur.
I would like to thank two key drivers behind this week’s expo—Meg Jaquay and Angela Forcier. We are all here today thanks to your efforts. There are few people more passionate about sustainable agriculture than Meg and this event would not have been successful without Angela’s management skills. I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of last year’s event, so I’m impressed that you all were able to take this year’s expo to the next level.
I would also like to thank our sponsors, especially our gold sponsor, Stanbic Bank, and our silver sponsors, Vision Group, the East African Trade and Investment Hub, and Ben and Jerry’s. I thank these companies not only for the resources they have provided, but for recognizing that Uganda’s future success depends on prosperous farmers. By supporting this year’s Agripreneur event, our sponsors recognize agriculture as the backbone of the Ugandan economy and they are committed to seeing it grow. These companies know that a flourishing agricultural sector that creates wealth and provides sustainable livelihoods will also promote growth in other businesses like banks, manufacturing, media, and trade.
It is not just our large sponsors that we have to thank, however. This event was driven by entrepreneurs like you, and the American Chamber of Commerce. Together, you have the capacity to unlock the full potential of Uganda’s agricultural sector.
Last August, the ‘Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’ ranked Uganda as the most entrepreneurial country in the world. Entrepreneurship is about being proactive and taking chances. Entrepreneurs create jobs and are at the forefront of finding new ways to tackle problems. But entrepreneurs also need access to finance, high quality inputs, and fresh ideas—which is exactly what I hope the Agripreneur Expo provided for you this week!
But don’t take my word for it, our keynote speaker, Andrew Rugasira from Good African Coffee is a great example of Ugandan entrepreneurship. Thirteen years ago, he decided that it was high time for Africans to process and market their own products globally. He led a small team of dedicated coffee experts to train Ugandan farmers on the best practices for producing quality coffee beans. Today, he has over 14,000 farmers supplying his company.
Andrew is not alone – there are many young Ugandans just like him ready to take their businesses and dreams to the next level. Right now our embassy is in the process of selecting 10 young Agripreneurs for a three-month mentoring program to enhance their understanding of modern agribusiness techniques and develop their own business plans.
As we heard this week, there are many opportunities in agriculture, not just coffee, available to young people. I encourage Ugandan youth to take your education, your experience and your skills and apply them in a field where you can make a true difference—in agriculture.
I know from personal experience that agriculture matters. As a child I spent some of my summers at my great uncle’s dairy farm in east central Texas. I have vivid memories of collecting eggs from chickens, picking figs from the tree in front of the house and watching the milking of cows and the collection of milk for further processing. Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to spend time working with farmers and food processors to address the important issues of food security and agricultural development. I know where food comes from and the amount of work, market ingenuity, skill, and capital it takes to get food to our tables. I also understand the importance of high quality inputs, and the ability to tolerate a high level of risk. I have come to see farmers as conscientious stewards of our environment and some of the most business savvy people in our economy. I am repeatedly reminded of the central role that farmers play in helping to stabilize their communities, nations, and entire regions. Farmers and agriculture matter – it is a profession of pride and absolutely essential to human well-being.
As we all know, agriculture remains the backbone of the Ugandan economy, employing over two-thirds of Uganda’s workforce while accounting for half of Uganda’s exports and 25 percent of the gross domestic product. Uganda’s incredible natural resources—a young population, fertile soils, an ideal climate, and plentiful water—provide the perfect opportunity for rapid economic growth. With the right investments in technology, training, irrigation, and farm-to-market infrastructure, agriculture can power the Ugandan economy of the future. Investing in high-value crops and value-added processing can allow farmers to hedge against market and environmental fluctuations. This additional income allows farmers to grow their investments and secure a better future for Uganda’s population, which is poised to double within a generation.
With world-class expertise, cutting-edge technology, and access to finance, the U.S. private sector is ready to help Uganda make these crucial investments. In fact, look no further than some of the companies before you.
When it comes to technology, we heard from Dr. Benson from Cornhusker Hybrids and learned about his 51 patents for breeding maize seeds that combine high yield with drought tolerance. Considering the numerous reports of counterfeit seeds, I am sure you will agree that Cornhuskers is just what Uganda needs.
Some of you may also remember another return speaker, Craig Pollington, from last year’s event. His work in livestock genetics is already helping Ugandan farmers improve the quality of their livestock.
We also heard from Merle Smallegan, who brings 35 years of expertise in drilling for water. He has come to Uganda to demonstrate how to build water well drilling equipment that is portable and affordable—a win-win for Ugandan farmers.
Farmers need financing, and that is why I am pleased that XPSG and GreenStone Farm Credit Services attended this year. XPSG is hoping to expand into East Africa this year to be your partner in financing the purchase of U.S. equipment and help farmers expand their yields across the agribusiness value chain. Greenstone is a leader in farm credit, a model for sustainable and profitable financing that helped drive the development of U.S. agriculture over the last century – a model that could be applicable here.
As you pursue your Agripreneur dreams, I hope you will continue to engage the American private sector because they have a lot to offer, and as you know, entrepreneurs in any field, whether it’s agriculture or information technology, benefit from exchanging ideas with one another. That’s how you continue to learn and grow your business.
The U.S. Mission to Kampala understands the critical role agriculture will play if Uganda is going to achieve its vision of becoming a middle income country. We want to strengthen people-to-people links between our two countries through business. By combining American technical expertise with Ugandan’s energetic entrepreneurial spirit, our two countries have a shared interest in seeing each other prosper. This is why the U.S. Mission in Kampala partnered with AmCham in support of this year’s Generation Agripreneur Expo and Summit. We share your vision of a better future for Uganda. We hope that today’s event brings us one step closer to making that vision real.
I am delighted that you were able to join us here today and, to our U.S. investors and all of our aspiring Agripreneurs, I wish you a bountiful harvest.