- Uganda can harness its central location in the East African region to promote regional integration and development, and offer greater opportunities for its people, the President of the World Bank Group Robert B. Zoellick said yesterday.
At the end of his three country visit to Africa, Zoellick said that though Uganda was landlocked, it was a critical player in regional integration and the Bank was going to support it in developing its access to the sea to ease trade and promote economic development.
“As a partner for the Government of Uganda, the Bank shall continue to support Uganda’s growth agenda, especially to improve infrastructure that will facilitate regional integration, ease trade and shore up economic development,” Mr Zoellick said.
“If it has the right infrastructure, such as efficient roads and railways, then Uganda is well placed to overcome the hurdles of being landlocked and promote regional trade, especially through the northern and eastern corridors,” he added.
The World Bank president arrived in Uganda on August 12 after visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
In a meeting with senior government officials, Zoellick welcomed Uganda’s vision to structurally transform the economy from subsistence farming to manufacturing and services, also saying improved infrastructure can be of great assistance for growth and regional integration.
“I am particularly impressed with the government’s vision for commercialising agriculture especially in the face of the global crisis and higher food prices. This will not only increase food production and agro-processing for regional export but gives Uganda a great opportunity to take advantage of its two harvests a year, to increase production, particularly in Northern Uganda,” he said.
While in Uganda, Mr Zoellick visited the Tilda Rice plant in Bugiri which was privatised in 1996 with the assistance of a loan from the private sector arm of the Bank, the IFC. Tilda currently produces 20,000 metric tons of rice a year, both for domestic markets and for export, accounting for about 20 percent of Uganda’s total rice yield.
“I am glad to see this project, apart from providing food to the region, has also improved land use, including irrigation, supports local schools, dispensaries, and health care clinics, and provides a livelihood and market for more than 1,000 small outgrowers. This is evidence of Uganda’s great potential to becoming a food basket for the region,” he said.
Mr Zoellick also visited the Malaba border post where he got a first-hand impression of the challenges related to regional trade and integration. He also held discussions with senior government officials on the importance to regional integration of railway development.
“The World Bank Group clearly understands the complexities in achieving financially viable options for in-country and regional rail networks, and we have already been engaged in easing this through trade and transport projects,” Mr Zoellick said, further announcing that the Bank would be considering financing the rehabilitation of the existing railway line from Kampala to Mombasa, and the railway extension to South Sudan, and Tanzania, where there is great trade potential.
In the meetings he had with senior government officials, Mr Zoellick also wanted to know how the Bank could help in the fight against corruption, and help modernise and reform the public sector to get more effective service delivery, and create budgetary resources for infrastructure investments needed to address the economy’s binding constraints.
He specifically called for transparency in revenue management for newfound oil resources and pledged the Bank’s support through value chain management.
Mr Zoellick’s visit was said to have come at a strategic time when the Bank is preparing a new Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Uganda covering fiscal years 2010-13. The CAS will be based on Uganda’s National Development Plan, which is under preparation.
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