60 Years of Diplomacy: Uganda and China Are Comrades

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By Alan Collins Mpewo.

After 9 days of Uganda having attained independence from Britain, China and Uganda formalized diplomatic ties on 18’th October, 1962. It’s perhaps one of the first countries to have formally straightened diplomatic relations with Uganda.

This year, 2022, the two countries are celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations. Last week, the Chinese Embassy of Uganda jointly with Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Affairs held a conference on the successes of Uganda and PRC for the 60 years they’ve held diplomatic relations. Importantly, there was endless reassurance of continued diplomacy for the many years ahead. Zhang Lizhong, the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda made highlights to some of the major achievements reached as a result of this diplomatic relations.

Tracking Uganda – China successes, the Chinese Ambassador reminded participants of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758 that saws China regain its rightful position in the UN. When it came up to a vote, Uganda was among the many countries that voted in favor – PRC to become to the legitimate representative of China to the United Nations. Since that significant undertaking, the two countries have reached tremendous successes to now recently, and perhaps Uganda’s greatest project with PRC yet, the oil exploration in the Lake Albert Graben. With PRC’s contribution, Uganda is destined to decades of impactful oil export while both countries respectfully benefit from the arrangement.

The Oil exploration being carried out by the Chinese North Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) has already been steadfast and with much confidence from the two partner states that commercial Oil works will commence by 2025. Besides the estimates of the proceeds that will transform the standard of living of majority of the Ugandans, the job creation that the project has so far created cannot be overemphasized. The jobs are not only limited to technocrats, but also for the informally skilled that provide additional required support and resources mainly in Uganda’s socalled oil districts. CNOOC in the same arena has had contributions on the education in Bunyoro Kingdom.

CNOOC has for over 6 years been providing scholarships to top excelling pupils and students in Primary Leaving Examinations, and Uganda Certificate of Education. Over 200 of the top excelling students benefit annually from this project. As a matter of corporate responsibility, CNOOC has also impacted major health centers area and also constructed modern houses for people affected by oil exploration in the area.

The energy sector does not only however, have impacts felt in the Oil and gas industry. Hydroelectricity, a main propeller of Uganda’s industrialization has seen Chinese input. China funded the Karuma Hydropower Plant that has an electricity generation capacity of 600 MW. Another is Isimba Hydro Power Plant which generates 183MW. When their employment capacity is combined, they employed over 9,000 Ugandans majority of whom were youths.

A significant importance of the increase in the electricity transmission capacities has been the foundation for running numerous industries which are located in the various industrial parks located in Uganda, some of which were built by China such as Uganda-China (Guangdong) Free Zone of International Industrial Cooperation, Kehong Uganda Industrial Park, and Sino-Uganda Industrial Park located in Mbale district. These industrial parks are one stop centers for a number of industries broadly dealing in both simple and complex machinery.

In the highlights from the Chinese Ambassador, another major achievement was underscored as far as countering challenges by both countries in arms. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it huddles whose effects if not for the intervention of China, would still be ravaging majority of Ugandans. Uganda had reached a hard time getting the COVID-19 vaccines purchased, into Uganda on time since there was much competition from global purchasers for these vaccines as most of developed countries choose vaccine nationalism. The first batch of Sinovac was delivered by China in July, 2021, with 300,000 doses, whereas the second batch was delivered in October, 2021. Alongside the vaccines, emergency medical equipment was delivered along in order to secure protection of the health workers who were tirelessly fighting to save lives in Uganda.

A lot more can be said for China’s contribution in its partnership with Uganda, but so has PRC benefitted. The first of such is the ever-growing market base for Chinese products. Whereas the two countries continue to further deepen their relationships in order to have more market penetration availed for Uganda into PRC, the present revenue attained by PRC from their exports in Uganda is of commanding value. More similarly can be said for the other partnerships that have been formed such as the Oil exploration in Uganda and grant of tenders and contracts to Chinese companies especially in industrialization and construction. A lot can be said equally via agriculture, the road and belt initiative, vocational trainings, education, and many other alike.

The exchange programs on both diplomacy and culture have however been the strongest foundation as the citizens of the two countries keep sharing experiences, lessons, and solutions to present challenges. Some of these are the China-Africa Friendship Association Uganda, Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation.

In 1962 when the relations commenced, neither of the two countries would have believed they’d register their current successes in 2022, at the time of first formalization. It is a precedent set for the future of PRC and Uganda, and a reflection for ways to buttress the relations already existing. It’s therefore a kind hope to the future, that another additional 60 years will be celebrated by Uganda and the People’s Republic of China as the two nations strive to achieve common prosperity by building a common of shared future for mankind.

Alan Collins Mpewo is a layer and Research Fellow, Sino-Uganda Research Centre.



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