China-Uganda Cooperation: Building of a Community of Shared future for Mankind in the New Era

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By Allawi Ssemanda

For over six decades, relations between China and Uganda have been growing from strength to strength and in 2019, the cooperation between the two brotherly countries reached a new level with the two sides upgrading their bilateral ties to a comprehensive cooperative partnership. Four years later, looking the practical cooperation between the two countries, the relations have grown in all aspects and improved social-economic conditions of Uganda.

For example, looking at the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a high quality public good initiated by China and jointly built by involved partners whose benefits are shared by the world, like the other 149 countries in the project, Uganda is one of them enjoying projects’ sustainable and livelihood-enhancing outcomes.

Today, Uganda is enjoying all the “Five Connectivities” promoted by BRI; Policy connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, financial connectivity and People-to-people connectivity. While China underscores importance of other sovereign countries like Uganda taking development path with of their own, in this case with Ugandan characteristics suitable to its national conditions, under the BRI, the economic cooperation between Uganda and China is producing much desired outcomes which are important for Uganda’s social and economic development especially China’s support to Uganda’s infrastructure and energy sectors which are key in sparking social-economic development.

Looking at Trade Connectivity which is promoted under the BRI projects, the good relations between the two countries have seen increase of trade volumes in five consecutive years. For example, in 2022, bilateral trade volumes increased by 6.6% reaching 1.13 billion USDs while in first quarter of 2023, the bilateral trade volume between Uganda and China grew by 28.8% reaching 293 million dollars.

Relatedly, last year China introduced preferential trade arrangement for Ugandan products granting zero-tariff treatment to at least 98% of Ugandan taxable items that will be entering Chinese market. With such arrangements, Ugandan products especially from agriculture sector will enjoy Chinese market which will in the long run grow Uganda’s foreign exchange earnings.

From financial connectivity front, Chinese enterprises continue to invest in Uganda’s economy which has seen China’s direct investments into Uganda growing to a whooping 131 million USD as of December 2022, putting Uganda in the 10th position in regard to Chinese investments on the continent. According to Uganda Investments Authority and the Chinese Embassy in Kampala, this year alone, 17 new Chinese Enterprises in sectors such as food processing, textile industries and home appliances entered into Uganda’s Liao Shen Industrial Park and China-Uganda Mbale Industrial Park. These investments only brought over 84 million USD of new capital injections which is a boast to Uganda’s economy on top of creating employment opportunities to over 2,200 for locals.


On the other three connectives, namely; Policy connectivity, and infrastructure connectivity, and People-to-People connectivity have equally and largely been realised. For example, in regard to People-to-People connectivity, it is one of a major success story between China and Uganda. Indeed, while updating Ugandan media and think tanks on the practical cooperation between China and Uganda, Zhang Lizhong, the Chinese ambassador to Uganda observed that since 2016, more than 6000 Ugandans have attended training and seminars in fields of agriculture, medical care, public administration, infrastructure among others.    Also, hundreds of Ugandan students have been given scholarship opportunities by Chinese government in an effort to support Uganda’s human capital development.

The other arguably most important practical project signifying the practical cooperation between China and Uganda is the China-FAO-Uganda South-South Cooperation project. In its first two phases (Phase I and II), on top of sending 47 agricultural experts into the country to train and equip Ugandans with modern farming skills and techniques, China contributed 3.33 million USD to support agriculture sector. Today, in the on-going Phase III, with a budget of 2.39 million USD, more than 9600 farmers from different parts of the country will benefit from this project with focus on women and youth. Also, under this project, at least 200 Ugandan technical officers will be trained and equipped with agricultural skills so as to further train Ugandans.

As a result of China-FAO-Uganda South-South Cooperation project, during their two years stay, the 47 Chinese agricultural experts and technicians are expected to train Ugandans to improve technologies used in production with focus on rice, grapes, cherry tomatoes, foxtail millet, and apples among others. If critically analysed, this project will help improve on exchanging mechanisation, agro-processing and value-addition expertise in Uganda’s agriculture sector. Indeed, Rice farmers in Butaleja are already seeing practical results of such cooperation with a China donated two million USD Rice Farming and Processing Machinery and Equipment donated to the rice farmers in the district.

With all the above contribution, it is evident that working with China is no threat, but rather a source of win-win cooperation as the world moves to build a shared future of shared prosperity for mankind in the new era. With examples of visible benefits from Belt and Road Initiative, as Chinese ambassador to Uganda recently observed, it is clear that “China is a major global contributor whose engagements with and outputs to the international community bring opportunities rather than crisis, facilitate cooperation rather than conflicts and create stability rather than uncertainty.”

Allawi Ssemanda is a Research Fellow at Development Watch Centre



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