As prepared for delivery
Remarks for the Agribusiness Forum
Ambassador Deborah Malac
Friday, July 15, 2016, 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Silver Springs Hotel, Kampala, Uganda
Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here today to participate in the Agribusiness Forum on the theme of “Women and Youth as Catalyst for Agribusiness Development and Growth in Uganda.”
I would like to thank the organizers of this Agribusiness Forum, including Shamirah Namutebi, director of the Ugandan Muslim Women Civilization Initiative, and Farid Karama, director of Sulma Group and the FK Youth Mentoring Network. Putting together a two-day event requires an incredible amount of hard work, energy, and planning, and I know many people have contributed to the success of this event.
I would also like to recognize the other speakers and exhibitors who are encouraged more young women and men to get involved in agribusiness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences today.
Before I address the theme of this forum, I would like to share a brief history of the U.S. Mission’s relationship with the Uganda Muslim Women Civilization Initiative.
Last year in October, the Embassy hosted Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat, a Syrian-American imam who visited Uganda for the second time on a U.S. speaker program. Imam Arafat met with Muslim communities and interfaith groups, both here in Kampala and out in eastern Uganda, to speak about youth empowerment, religious tolerance, and interfaith dialogue.
During his visit, we organized an event for young professional Muslim women at the Embassy. I understand that many of you were there. Imam Arafat encouraged those present to channel their resources, efforts, and enthusiasm to support and empower women from less advantaged communities. Shamirah Namutebi and the other founding members of the Uganda Muslim Women Civilization Initiative responded to his call.
In December, Chargé d’Affairs Patricia Mahoney participated in the launch of the Uganda Muslim Women Civilization Initiative. Since then, the organization has organized and contributed to a variety of women’s empowerment activities. Through outreach activities, volunteer work, and events like this one, we hope they will continue to make a difference in women’s lives.
Returning to the topic of this forum, we are here today to promote agribusiness as a viable livelihood for women and youth. Over two days, you will learn from experts about business opportunities in agriculture, interact with established agribusiness owners, and tour a model farm to develop a practical understanding of how a successful agribusiness operates. This forum is a great opportunity, and I am thrilled to see so many young eager people here to participate.
On my recent trip to eastern Uganda, I participated in an event in Mbale to promote youth livelihoods in agriculture. AGRIKOOL-YOUTH is part of a U.S. Agency for International Development and Feed the Future program to provide economic opportunities in agriculture-related fields for nearly 350,000 youth across the country.
During the event, I spoke with several young Ugandan entrepreneurs who are already succeeding in agribusiness. They reminded me that Uganda’s agriculture industry today is very different from the country’s agriculture sector of the past. It is now an exciting international business that offers numerous new and rewarding careers for young women and men.
Having a career in agriculture doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be working in a field. You may work in finance, marketing, planning, communications, quality control, human resources, transport logistics, and numerous other fascinating, challenging jobs. You may have the opportunity to use exciting new technologies and do business within the East African Community, as well as with clients around the world.
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.
The U.S. Mission believes that with the right investments in technology, training, irrigation, and farm-to-market infrastructure, agriculture can power the Ugandan economy of the future. 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.
We understand that agriculture will play a critical role if Uganda is going to achieve its vision of becoming a middle-income country. This is why we partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce in April to support the Generation Agripreneur Expo and Summit. The week-long event brought together key stakeholders in the Ugandan agricultural sector, especially those interested in developing partnerships with U.S. investors and companies.
As you will learn from other speakers and exhibitors at this forum, there are many opportunities in agriculture. I encourage you, and all 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.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak today. I am honored to take part in this Agribusiness Forum, and I look forward to learning more from the speakers and exhibitors. I wish you all the best.