Like many other countries, Uganda is increasingly coming at the center of rivalry power competition with China, the US, India, Russia, EU, and to a smaller extent South Korea and Japan all looking for influence in this small East African country of about 40 million people but with vibrant politics and to some extent limited influence in the region due to its military engagement in many regional conflicts and having the longest-serving president in the region who has been in power since 1986.
The main purpose of his visit is to further bolster excellent bilateral relations between the two countries which has been elevated to the status of a Comprehensive cooperation partnership (CPC) according to Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry.
He is to meet with president YK Museveni of Uganda after meeting Uganda’s foreign minister Sam Kutesa at the State House to discuss ways of strengthening and consolidating bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of both China and Uganda.
China is by far the biggest single-country investor in Uganda with 607 million dollars in 2017 which accounts for about 45.1% of all foreign direct investment in the country.
China is also the largest trading partners of Uganda with two-way trade reaching over 1billion dollars in 2017 according to the available data, also China takes number one spot as Uganda’s biggest owner of its debt at about 1.6 billion dollars accounting for about 20% of the total debt of Uganda and most of that money has built the good roads you see, hospitals, schools, electricity transmission and construction of dams.
Its said that about 75% of all goods used in Ugandan homes are made from China.
We can talk about China’s relationship with Uganda and the projects involved until morning but for now, let’s stop here and see what the USA has offered Uganda except exporting its culture and democracy.
The two-way trade with the US was about 185 million dollars by the end of 2019 and that’s made Uganda the 149th largest trading partner of the US in goods, goods export to Uganda totalled 104 million dollars and 80 million dollars in imports from Uganda as of 2019.
US trade surplus with Uganda was about 24 million dollars as of 2019 and US FDI ( foreign direct investment) in Uganda is about 42 million dollars as of 2019 which is like a small fraction of what China has invested in Uganda.
US signed Trade and investment Frame Work Agreement with East African countries (EAC) in 2008 and common market and southern Africa (COMESA) in 2001 of which Uganda is a member.
A recently simple poll was conducted in Western Uganda asking people to name one project funded by the USA let it be schools, electricity, hospitals, roads, markets, dams, or any other project but surprisingly not a single person could name anyone known project done by the US but when the poll asked about China at least more than three projects could be named from roads, hospitals, and dams.
But when it comes to politics and military, US is well known known.
Let’s talk about another big player in Uganda which is the EU ( a 27 member block of countries in Europe) EU is collectively the biggest foreign direct investor in Uganda with more than 1.337 billion dollars which comes with huge influence as many companies from France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and many other runs to invest in Uganda’s health care, industries, and road construction.
Let’s talk about India which in recent years has also started believing that it can actually become the most powerful country in the world and has been busy looking for allies and signing trade agreements around the world after its rivalry with China increased after the India-China border clash that killed 20 Indian soldiers and 4 Chinese soldiers in June 2020.
The history of India or Indians with Uganda is a long one as they were brought here during colonial rule to help in the construction of Uganda railway line of which many remained after to start businesses but were later chased by former Uganda’s president Amin Dada shortly after India established its relationship with Uganda in 1965 but when president Museveni took power in 1986, he called all Indians who were chased by Amin back to the country and returned their businesses to them.
India’s foreign direct investment in Uganda was at 58 million dollars as of 2019 and the two trade between India and Uganda is almost 600 million dollars trading mostly in goods, medicines, and medical equipment.
We also have a large Indian community in Uganda and last year Indian government donated trucks to Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF)
As for Japan, it has been increasing its investment in Uganda. Japan has also provided loans and the most traded Japanese item in Uganda is a car because a big percentage of all different cars owned in Uganda are from Japan.
Uganda had a GDP of 30.7 billion dollars by the end of 2019 growing at 4.9% and with a population of about 40 million people