The discovery and exploitation of extensive oil reserves is unlocking the potential of Uganda, a destination in the east of the continent that has yet to be discovered for Spanish companies.
Although this expression is often attributed to Churchill, it was not him who baptized Uganda as the “Pearl of Africa.” In the 19th century, explorer Henry Morton Stanley first coined the term, marveling at the astonishing diversity of animal and plant life. Although the country’s history has not been uneventful since then, it has finally managed to leave its past behind it to distinguish itself as one of the most stable countries in East Africa.
It is a landlocked country but has a distinct geographical location, covering nearly half of Lake Victoria and bordering Kenya and Tanzania, the other two main drivers of development in the eastern part of the continent. Without making too much noise, Uganda has become an attractive destination: in the past three years, it has been the country that has received the largest amount of foreign direct investment in the region.
In 2006, the discovery of oil reserves in the interior of Lake Albert opened a great opportunity for Uganda’s development. Two years ago, the country concluded exploitation agreements with foreign companies and began pre-extraction studies. To participate in future tenders related to these projects, registration in the supplier register opened by the Uganda Petroleum Authority is a prerequisite.
On the other hand, tourism is clearly a thriving activity, although it is not as popular as in some neighboring countries. Travelers’ interest in it is due to its ten natural parks and the sources of the Nile in Lake Victoria, which are among its most prominent tourist attractions.
However, agriculture remains the country’s economic engine. Ugandan soil is very fertile and particularly suitable for growing coffee, tea and cotton. The country also has diverse natural resources, as there are deposits of gold and copper, in addition to other minerals.
Among the main opportunities available to Spanish companies is participation in transport and energy infrastructure projects, which are largely financed by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank.
Trade exchanges between Spain and Uganda are rare, although their volume has exceeded 15 million euros in recent years. In 2018, Spanish exports amounted to €17.7 million, most of which came from semi-finished goods and capital goods.
When doing business, you must take into account the country’s British heritage and the fact that the majority of its population is Christian. Formalism and education are essential, and appearance is important: it is a hierarchical society, so it is recommended to take care of your clothes without being ostentatious. Finally, it is necessary to adapt to the pace of life so as not to have a bad time on a continent where deadlines are always flexible.
Local staff, key to understanding a different culture
“Good advice is to have qualified local staff from the beginning, involve them in the project and allow yourself to get advice from good lawyers,” says Patxi Rodriguez, general manager of Mogambo, a travel agency specializing in the Spanish-speaking audience. He and his wife, Iria Dumonti, chose the country in 2010 for three reasons: “less tourist crowding than its neighbors, the richness of its landscape, and the friendliness of its people.” Additionally, Rodriguez highlights that Uganda is home to most of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet. When implementing projects, “you have to take into account their culture: they live every day and don’t think much about the future.”
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