By Elias Biryabarema and Karin Strohecker
KYANKWANZI, Uganda (Reuters) – Chinese private investment in Uganda is increasing as Westerners lose their appetite to invest money in the country, President Yoweri Museveni told Reuters and pledged to step up efforts to fight corruption, which have been slow .
Museveni, in power since 1986 and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, said Uganda was working on signing a series of contracts with Chinese private sector lenders in sectors such as agro-fertilizer processing, minerals processing and textiles.
“The western companies have lost their glasses; You no longer have your eyes to spot opportunities. But the Chinese see opportunities and they come and they knock, they come very forcefully, ”Museveni told Reuters. “But (Western companies) are saturated with wealth. You don’t mind. “
Chinese government agencies and private companies have long been a driving force behind investing in Africa https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/african-nations-mend-make-do-china-tightens-belt-road- 2021-11 -22, Loans to countries on the continent under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
According to the Uganda Investment Authority, the country ranked third in Africa for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China in recent years.
However, the connections were not free of conflict.
A parliamentary inquiry in October concluded that China had placed aggravated conditions on a $ 200 million loan to Kampala, including the possible confiscation of the East African country’s only international airport.
Museveni flatly denied using the airport as a security.
“I don’t remember mortgaging the airport for anything,” said Museveni, adding that Kampala would pay China what it owed. “No problem, they get paid.”
The Museveni government, trying to fund its infrastructure construction program and back political support, has secured large lines of credit from China over the past decade https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-uganda-debt-idUSKBN2AB1BU .
Differences over the terms of the contract also contributed to the fact that Kampala had not yet signed a deal with Beijing for the 1,000 km (620 miles) super-fast rail link from Kenya’s port of Mombasa to Uganda, although talks were still ongoing, the president said.
BELIEVE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Regarding the fight against corruption, Museveni admitted that more efforts were needed. Transparency International has rated Uganda in its Corruption Perception Index 2020 with 142 out of 179 points.
“We’re still fighting. I don’t want to boast that we’ve improved – we didn’t really focus on corruption in the beginning, ”said the 77-year-old.
His administration was focused on recruiting from faith groups the country had plentiful of to have enough manpower to fight corruption and would provide an assessment of progress on the matter in two years, he said.
“This is our fight: to get clean people to implement – otherwise the laws are there, the institutions are there,” said Museveni.
Regarding the November 16 bombings in Kampala that killed three people and blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), allied with the Islamic State, Museveni said there was evidence of overseas coordination with the Men who carried out the attack.
The explosions in the heart of the capital shocked a nation known as a bulwark against violent Islamist fighters in East Africa, prompting Museveni to dispatch 1,700 soldiers to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the ADF maintains training camps. But Museveni said the foreign connections extended beyond eastern Congo.
“The bombs that they recently exploded in Kampala, we have some evidence that they were coordinated with groups in Kenya and Somalia,” Museveni said. “Maybe not command and control, but cooperation.”
He was coordinating the operation with the President of the Congo, said Museveni, but did not answer whether there was coordination with Rwanda, which also had security interests in eastern Congo and had previously fought with Ugandan troops there.
Uganda said Friday that its troops sent to the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week would stay as long as necessary to defeat Islamist militants.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema in Kyankwanzi, Karin Strohecker in London, Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Hereward Holland in Kinshasa and Tommy Wilkes in London; editor Alex Richardson)