Remarks by U.S. Ambassador William Popp to 14th National Competitiveness Forum

Remarks by U.S. Ambassador William Popp to 14th National Competitiveness Forum

Kampala | September 21, 2023; 
U.S. Ambassador William Popp at 14th National Competitiveness ForumGood morning! It is an honor to stand before you as the new U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and to participate in today’s 14th Annual National Competitiveness Forum with the support of USAID. Thank you all for being here.

As President Biden highlighted at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December 2022, the United States is committed to investing in Africa’s people and providing support to build sustainable and inclusive economies.  In the spirit of the Summit, the United States is excited to promote this work with the people of Uganda.

The United States believes strongly that a competitive economy will boost economic growth for all Ugandans.  For this to be successful, however, the business environment and investment framework must be open.  This begins with key components including a good regulatory framework, investment in human capital, and a clear commitment to the rule of law.  But today it goes further for international investors to include protecting democratic space, fighting corruption, and respecting the human rights of all members of society.  This is one reason why so many countries and international companies have expressed concern that the Anti-Homosexuality Act harms all Ugandans.

U.S. Ambassador William Popp at 14th National Competitiveness Forum2Countries that combine market-based economic policies, investment in people, support for transparency, and adhere to the principles of democratic governance are maximizing not only their competitiveness but also are ensuring the benefits of the economic growth reach the greatest number of their citizens. Your dialogue today in this forum between the public and private sectors is an important building block to create an inclusive, sustainable economy that can benefit all Ugandans.

Without a doubt, Uganda’s private sector is vital to the country’s future success and prosperity.  A few quick numbers demonstrate this point clearly.  For example, the private sector generates 77 percent of formal jobs in Uganda and contributes 70 percent of its gross domestic product.  It funds 60 percent of all investments, employs approximately 2.5 million people (most of whom are women and youth), and provides more than 80 percent of domestic government revenues.

U.S. Ambassador William Popp at 14th National Competitiveness Forum3Given this importance, the United States firmly supports efforts to partner with the private sector to strengthen competitiveness.  We’re helping to make this a reality in myriad ways. For example, over the course of 2023, USAID trained 25 private sector industry associations to better serve their members.  For example, support to the Uganda Seed Traders Association to improve the security of their website, directly led to significantly increase visitor engagement  on important issues such as the dangers of counterfeit agricultural inputs.  Similarly, USAID-supported training to the communications team at the Uganda National Farmers Federation provided photography and videography skills that were in turn used to showcase how the organization is promoting food security through new farming technologies that improves productivity.

U.S. Ambassador William Popp at 14th National Competitiveness Forum4At the same time, USAID helped in the formulation and implementation of the National Grain Trade Policy Implementation Strategy, which has seen grain exports increase from $2.5 million in 2016 to $4.1 million in 2020.  And just last week, the Uganda Investment Authority, with USAID support, launched the National Small and Medium Enterprises Portal.  This digital solution provides a dynamic marketplace.  It fosters collaboration among businesses and public service providers such as the Uganda Registration Services Bureau and Uganda Revenue Authority, among others.

This National Competitiveness Forum today embodies the principle that a transparent and vibrant economy is built upon true public-private dialogues that create a strong operating environment for both Ugandan and international businesses operating here. So, as you participate in various sessions, I encourage you to think critically about how we can collectively increase economic competitiveness from one sector to another.  And also to consider how you can implement those changes in your daily work.

Thank you again for attending this important forum.  The United States looks forward to working with all of you to advance the competitiveness of Ugandan businesses and increased prosperity for both of our countries!