It is sad to see companies exiting Uganda! Finance Minister Kasaija begs foreign firms to stay

The Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija (PHOTO/Courtesy).

KAMPALA – The Minister for Finance Matia Kasaija has asked distressed companies to approach government for help instead of existing the country.

He told reporters that companies which quit in times of economic hardships lose their credibility as far as being a partner in economic development is concerned.

Kasaija however maintained that Uganda is not the only economy affected by hard operating environment, but said it is sad that foreign companies are exiting the Ugandan market at this time.

“I’m concerned because they have been working with us here and they have been employing our people. So when they go away ofcourse we lose jobs. That is why im saying, please, don’t go away, stay. We can work out some mechanisms that can allow you to survive until the economy begins to pick up,” Mr. Kasaija said on Monday.

Africell and Smart Telecom Uganda announced that they stopped operations in Uganda over stiff competition and high indebtedness.

They join Game Stores, Shoprite supermarkets and Alliance One International a global tobacco merchant company servicing the world’s cigarette manufacturers that are also exiting Ugandan markets.

On its part, Africell said on Tuesday it was ending operations in Uganda where it has faced tough competition from the local units of African telecom firms MTN MTNJ.J and Bharti Airtel.

With operations in Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia and Sierra Leone, Africell entered the Ugandan market in 2014 after acquiring the local operations of France’s Orange.

But it has struggled to expand against South Africa’s MTN, which has the largest number of subscribers in Uganda at more than ten million, and India’s Bharti Airtel.

“Africell … will end operations in Uganda on 7 October 2021,” the firm said in a statement, adding that its decision was “based on a careful assessment of the long-term commercial outlook for the business” and how Uganda fitted within its strategy of driving digital transformation.

Africell had 2.3 million subscribers in Uganda, according to the firm’s website.

Continent-wide it has 12 million and is planning to launch operations in Angola by the end of this year, Sam Williams, the firm’s communications was quoted in media reports as saying.

The news is likely to benefit MTN which is preparing for an IPO in which it intends to sell 20% of its shares to the public.

The government last year mandated all the telecom firms in the country to list at least 20% of their shares as a way to allow its citizens to share a slice of profits.

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