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Amb. Kabonero leads charge to boost tourism and economic growth through Commercial Diplomacy

Ambassador Richard Kabonero, Head of Regional Economic Cooperation, and Lilly Ajarova, CEO of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), shake hands during a joint regional economic and commercial diplomacy retreat. The two leaders discussed ways to leverage Uganda's missions abroad to boost tourism and attract investments, with a focus on promoting economic growth and development in the region.

Ambassador Richard Kabonero, Head of Regional Economic Cooperation, and Lilly Ajarova, CEO of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), shake hands during a joint regional economic and commercial diplomacy retreat. The two leaders discussed ways to leverage Uganda’s missions abroad to boost tourism and attract investments, with a focus on promoting economic growth and development in the region.

Ambassador Richard Kabonero, Head of Regional Economic Cooperation, is spearheading an initiative to promote economic growth through commercial diplomacy, with a focus on leveraging Uganda’s missions abroad to boost tourism and attract investments.

Speaking at a joint regional economic and commercial diplomacy retreat, Ambassador Kabonero emphasized the importance of addressing non-tariff barriers and promoting economic growth through exports, foreign direct investments, and tourism. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to come up with a framework under which we can guide our missions abroad to market the country in three main areas: increasing our exports, attracting foreign direct investments, and attracting tourists,” Ambassador Kabonero explained.

“The initial phase of the program will involve 10 missions and two consulates in areas with high potential for investment, such as ATM, agriculture, tourism, mineral development, and science and technology. We need to measure results and then scale up to all other 37 missions that Uganda has abroad,” Ambassador Kabonero noted.

He also emphasized the importance of addressing non-tariff barriers, including standards, competition, and lack of compliance with regional trade protocols. “Our missions are charged with addressing those NTBs,” he said.

The retreat brought together heads of Uganda Missions stationed in neighboring countries, including Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, and Burundi, to enhance economic growth and development.

Other speakers at the retreat included Ms. Julianne Mweheire, Director of Industry Affairs and Content Development at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), who noted that there has been a significant shift in data consumption trends, with an increasing number of users opting for video communication, leading to a substantial change in the way data is utilized. “The cost of data has significantly decreased by 51% since 2019, with mobile operators reducing data prices,” said Mweheire.

Vincent Bagiire, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that the 40% tax on smartphones is counterproductive, as telecom companies generate more revenue from data usage than voice calls. “We need to rethink the 40% tax on smartphones,” Bagiire emphasized.

The initiative is seen as a significant step towards boosting Uganda’s economic growth and promoting regional trade, with plans to establish a regional data framework to improve data affordability and access to the sea cable.

“We look forward to a summit of heads of state to harmonize data rates, cross-border payment systems, and increase trade,” Ambassador Kabonero said. “We need to discuss data affordability and access to the sea cable. Most of our traffic to the sea goes through Kenya, but it’s a bit of a risk. So, we need an alternative route,” he explained.

Abel Kagumire, Commissioner for Customs, Patricia Bageine Ejalu, Deputy Director, Standards at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, and Ben Kajuna, Director of Transport at the Ministry of Works and Transport, also presented at the retreat.

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