Libya has invested at least $375 million (about Shs 900billion) in Uganda through its multi-billion dollar investment arm—the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio. In Africa, Uganda is considered a hub of Libya’s foreign investment.Under the regime of the Late Col Muammar Gaddafi—Libya invested heavily in sectors such as agriculture, telecommunication, hotels, health, construction, and finance.The range of companies includes: The National Housing and Construction Corporation, Uganda telecom, Soluble Coffee Plant, Tropical Bank, House of Dawda, Uganda Pharmaceuticals, Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe and Tamoil, an oil refinery company. Following the six months Libyan revolution that saw an end to Col Gaddafi’s four decades rule: Libya’s business investments across the globe came to halt after a declaration by the United Nations froze its business operations.
In an effort to renew its operations and affirm the presence of the new government, the new Board Chairman, Libyan African Portfolio (LAP), Wafik Shater, was in Uganda last week to among others assess the conditions and management of Libya’s business interests in Uganda. Prosper’s Ismail Ladu spoke to Wafik Shater.
You have been having a number of closed door meetings with senior managers and technical teams of your operations in Uganda. What did you discuss?
Uganda is the hub of our investment. And we thought it is important to review our operations. We need to know their plans and how they would want to move forward in the next 12 months. Then we can evaluate the situation and make professional decisions that will help stabilise the operations in Uganda.
Also, the last six months have been tough because of the United Nations sanctions on our operations and the war (in Libya), denying our businesses access to the parent Company—LAP—the management research and support. But with a new board in place we believe it is important that we carry out strategic reviews of all our investments in Uganda and in Africa as a whole. This will help us get support from our operations back home—in Libya.
What is the position of the new government on Libya’s African investments—particularly in Uganda?
Personally I am in favour of maintaining our investment in Uganda and beyond. And as far as LAP GREENN-the mother company- is concerned: Libya’s investment in Uganda will not be relocated or brought to a halt.
However, we need the support of our shareholders-Libyan people and this is why this review is important. We have indications that operations in Uganda and beyond will be supported and made successful businesses. And with the right management and strategy I am convinced that our operations will succeed.
What can Uganda offer the new Libya in terms of trade and investment?
With stability taking root back home, we will nurture more local talents to deploy across our operations in Africa-just as we have done in Zambia where we have a Ugandan as the CEO of one of our operations. And he is doing a good job there.
How are you recovering from the civil strife and how is the transition going?
Libyans people are overall relieved that the strife is over and they are now looking forward to a democratic future. And we hope to see competent people assume the right places of responsibility. Of course there are challenges but I believe the government will engage with the people to ensure a smooth transition and a fully democratic society.
How far have you gone with the UN sanctions that saw Libya’s investment in Africa frozen?
Things are moving in the right direction. We are talking with the Ugandan government in that regard. I was at the UK treasury last week over the same matter and we are also talking with Americans officials and the signals have been positive. Sanctions on our parent company have already been partially lifted.
After going through turmoil what do you think your operations in Uganda and across Africa will look like in the next 12 months?
We would like to focus on stabilizing operational issues. And then look for growth and expansion in the second half of 2012. I cannot give you the investment that we will sink into these projects, because we are still reconciling our books, but ultimately, it will be considerable and sufficient to sustain our operations throughout 2012.
(Source: Daily Monitor)