President Museveni has reportedly ordered that the on-going campaign for Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) should not discriminate against businesses owned by foreign nationals.
This, according to people familiar with the order, came after a group of foreign investors approached the president and told him that the BUBU policy was working against them.
“The president has said that [the policy] should not be allowed,” Bank of Uganda's executive director of research Dr Adam Mugume said while addressing the Africa Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in Entebbe this week.
AERC was hosted by Bank of Uganda as a forum that supports research-based policy implementation. BUBU is a policy government had adopted to ensure Ugandans buy products produced by citizens to boost local enterprise growth and innovation.
The policy was also in response of the fact that most supermarkets in the country stocked foreign products, including basics like fruits which are produced massively locally.
The policy quickly sparked controversy with Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, the Bank of Uganda governor, saying it was ill-advised. Mutebile said last year that the policy was inconsistent with the East African common market and customs protocols.
He said Uganda would be in trouble if its peers in East Africa where it sells most of its goods also asked their nationals not to consume foreign products. When the investors approached Museveni, we have been told, he accepted that the policy implementation and wide marketing be stayed.
He said all companies registered as Uganda, regardless of the roots of owners, should be supported. Last year, Julius Onen, the ministry of Trade permanent secretary, said the campaign would be rebranded to Zimba Uganda and then be re-launched. This has not happened.
Meanwhile, the AERC meeting said effective regional integration on the continent was being hampered by national interest, with a lot of countries failing to give concessions.
Bruce Byiers from the European Centre for Development said the ongoing squabbles among some EAC members explain that. Tanzania burnt day-old chicks being imported from Kenya in November last year and January this year; Kenya has also refused wheat flour from Tanzania.
Burundi does not see eye-to-eye with Rwanda. At the EAC summit in Kampala last month, these rifts were not discussed. This cannot allow effective implementation of common policy in the region, Byiers said. He added that countries must go through a self-discovery process and try to first understand where there is a commercial value.
Prof Lemma Senbet, the AERC executive director, said regional blocs on the continent should embrace research-based policy implementation.