Ugandan minister lectures Zimbabwe on black market

Godfrey Marawanyika

UGANDAN Minister of Tourism, Trade and Industry Edward Rugamayo this week offered Zimbabwean businessmen and government officials a few tips on how to deal with the black market.

Rugamayo was responding to businessman Steve Margolis who wanted to know if Uganda had foreign currency shortages and what incentives foreign investors got for investing in Uganda.

“We do not have any restrictions on foreign currency or what you can get from the banks,” said Rugamayo. “We do not even need receipts or to know how much forex you have or what you have purchased,” he said.

“We now have a problem with the shilling appreciating against the United States dollar. But all I can say is that we have plenty of forex.”

The revelations by Rugamayo stunned Zimbabwean business executives who were attending a breakfast meeting organised by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries.

“Uganda had inflation figures almost comparable to what you have here. We had two foreign currency markets – the official one and the black market,” he said.

“We have unbundled some of our enterprises, such as the electricity and hotels. We said we want to liberalise the money sector, it was really painful. For example, we had 1 000 000 shilling, but government decided to delete two zeros from that one million and we were left with 10 000 shillings.”

From the 10 000 shillings, he said, government took 30% of the value, leaving 7 000 shillings.

“That wiped out the black market.”

Rugamayo was part of a Ugandan delegation that accompanied President Yoweri Museveni to Zimbabwe this week.

Museveni was in the country on a three-day state visit.

Rugamayo told the meeting that they wanted investment in the leather, aviation, pork and textile industries.

“We have two million pigs in Uganda which we roast in the pubs everyday. We would be glad if we could develop a pork processing plant,” he said.

“All our leather is exported mostly to Pakistan as raw hides, we lack value addition,” he said.

“I am told that Zimbabwe’s national airline has plans to go to Teheran, and we would be glad if it can make a stopover in Uganda because we also do a lot of business with Iran.”

At the meeting, Native Investment Africa chief executive Phillip Chiyangwa complained that because of the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in which Zimbabwe and Uganda fought on opposing camps, he had lost a contract to supply 500 wagons to Uganda.

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