China-Uganda Trade row:
Chinese envoy fires back at critics over unfair trade practices
China’s Deputy Ambassador to Uganda Chu Maoming fought back tears as he complained at what he called mistreatment of his countrymen by Uganda’s local business community that has recently turned hostile against the Chinese business community.
Although he was meant to inaugurate a study tour programme supported by telecommunications equipment manufacturer Huawei, contrary to guidelines by the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) that restrict investors from engaging in retail trade.
He was was officiating at the inauguration of “Seed for the Future 2017, ” an apprenticeship programme for the best ICT students from Public universities in Uganda supported by the Chinese company Huawei.
Maoming argued that the hostility demonstrated by Ugandan traders towards his fellow nationals is a sign that they do not appreciate the contribution of the Chinese government towards Uganda’s development.
“It isn’t appealing given the contribution from China to Uganda’s development and the traditional friendship between China and Uganda,” he said.
He added that Uganda is an open market; a similar approach concept embraced by the Chinese and the best model for development.
He emphasized that the Chinese embassy has always encouraged its nationals to pay taxes and obey the laws – which, he said they have done.
Ugandan traders have however raised persistent complaints that the Chinese nationals dump products on the Ugandan market and out-compete them. The leadership of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) has on several occasions accused the Chinese businessmen of hiking rental fees forcing land lords to expel locals from the most strategic business areas such as William Street.
The Chinese official did not however address himself to recent reports of environmental degradation by some Chinese companies, who were recently engaged in a fist fight with political leaders of Wakiso district that were trying to uproot them from shores of Lake Victoria, where they were mining sand illegally.
Ambassador Maoming argued that Ugandans and other investors must accept to compete with the Chinese in business because Uganda is an open market economy.
But economists argue that it is a grave mistake for the government to expose the nascent local manufacturers to China’s very developed manufacturing and commercial power in name of liberalisation.
Indeed, some economists have compared Uganda’s liberalisation process to plucking out the door instead of opening it progressively.
Speaking about Huawei’s Seeds for the Future Corporate Social Responsibility programme that was launched at Makerere university Faculty of Computing, the Chinese envoy said such policies are encouraged for all Chinese enterprises in Uganda.
Uganda’s Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) and National Guidance, Frank Tumwebaze, lauded Huawei for the “Seeds for the Future 2017” programme, noting that the program is in line with the “Digitization Uganda Strategy” that is to be launched soon.
“I thank Huawei for the great contribution to the ICT sector. ‘Seeds for the Future 2017’ programme helps cultivate and pool together ICT professionals and students who are crucial to industry development, thus boosting ICT industry growth, driving the development of different sectors and contributing to lower unemployment rates over the long term.” He appealed to the beneficiary students, to take such opportunities seriously to become better by gathering useful experiences.
The Seeds for the Future programme was initiated in 2008 by Huawei with over 2700 talents from all over the world on study trips in China. The programme was flagged off by President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda in 2016, with ten ICT-talented students, visiting Beijing and Shenzhen.
These were trained in the Chinese culture such as language, calligraphy and painting. They were taken on a historical tour of China and the cutting-edge ICTs lessons, enterprise management, experience-sharing and laboratory practices at the Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen.