In November 2010, the day before I hit the road to Uganda I received an email inviting me to a business luncheon organised by the Uganda Manufacturer’s Association (UMA). I had never heard of them and the lunch was the day after my arrival, so I was a little apprehensive about going but the person who sent me the email insisted that I go. the Reason- as you are thinking about coming back to Uganda to live, it is best you get an insight as to how society is organised and this is the best place to start
I couldn’t argue with that, I fought back the jet lag and joined the good folk at UMA and must say I was impressed and glad that I had gone.
The highlight for me was the presentation from the Deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya on the East African Integration and the opportunities that presents for both consumers and provider of services and goods.
At the event I didn’t get a chance to speak to any of the organisers to get a clear understanding of UMA so I recently emailed them some questions to enable me to do just that and here is that conversation
What is UMA and what role does it play in Ugandan business
Uganda Manufacturers Association is an umbrella body for all industrialists and manufacturers in Uganda. It represents the interests of manufacturers and lobbies Government for policies that favor a conducive business environment. UMA also offers other services to industrialists and members i.e. marketing opportunities through organizing International trade fairs, regional trade fairs and trade missions, business information through publications, training, amongst others.
How is it structured?
UMA has an Advisory council of 6 members which is Headed by Mr. Abid Alam. Under the council there is a Board of 18 Directors, below which is the secretariat with 6 departments. The Secretariat is headed by an Executive Director Mr. Sebaggala M. Kigozi. UMA also has Sub committees that focus on specific areas namely: Marketing, Education and Skills, Membership and Networking and Economic Sub committees.
When and how did it get started?
UMA was originally formed in the 60’s but due to political unrest in Uganda, it was not sustainable. It was later revived in 1988 by Dr. James Mulwana.
Who can join and why.
Any industrialists, manufacturer, service provider can join UMA. UMA offers a wide range of benefits to her members including a very good platform for networking. For this reason, any business entity can benefit from UMA membership.
What are the benefits of being a member?
UMA mainly does advocacy for a conducive business environment and every members benefits from this. UMA members can also obtain tax waivers from a range of raw materials and industrial machinery.
Why should the man on the street be interested in UMA
Anyone can become a manufacturer! Many potential manufacturers come to UMA to find out about business, manufacturing and some eventually become manufacturers. It is not out of place for a man on the street to be interested in UMA.
What about young manufacturer’s? Can they join too? Is there a programme to mentor them to become successful manufacturer’s?
Young Manufacturers can definitely become UMA members at Small Scale level. Anyone who joins the field of manufacturing realizes that manufacturing has challenges and some cannot be tackled on an individual company basis. They need to come together and form a stronger voice that is audible to Government. UMA provides a range of training courses to enhance the skills of her members.
What advice would you give them (young manufacturers)?
Young manufactures need to embrace best management practices right from the start. They also need to know that they are better off united for a stronger voice rather than tackle their problems by themselves.
What are your views about cheap imports from China?
They are a challenge to us to improve our efficiency and innovate ways to lower cost of production while producing good quality.
How do you protect the Textile producer’s interests against the second hand clothing market and cheap imports from china.
Uganda is a liberalized economy and any one from without can compete.
What advice would you give to Ugandan diaspora wanting to return home?
There are still many investment opportunities in Uganda that they can take advantage of.
Something that I find interesting about this and perhaps a question for African in general
Do you buy African products or are African Manufacturers wasting their time?
I didn’t get the sense that anyone was overly concerned about the Chinese dumping products in Uganda and the impact of this on the members of UMA.
What is the situation in other African countries?
Should producers and or the likes of UMA fight back or are cheap Chinese goods good for Africa?