Malaysia last year appointed Al Haj Habib Kagimu as the country’s Honorary Consul in Uganda. Nnyonyi Magazine met him at the consulate located at Plot 18 Wampewo Avenue, Kololo, Kampala. Where he shared his view of on trade and investment opportunities available for the people of the two nations.
You were appointed Honorary Counsul last year, what is the background to this development?
The appointment was made in April 2019. In September, the Malaysian flag was hoisted to officially open the Honorary Consulate at Plot 18 Wampewo Avenue, Kololo in Kampala. The event was attended by several Members of Parliament from Malaysia who were in Uganda to attend the 64th Annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly.
Why does Malaysia need a presence in Uganda?
Malaysia is a highly developed country, but so similar to Uganda in so many aspects such as the tropical climate, hospitality of the citizenry and family values. In terms of population size, the two countries are not far apart. Malaysia is slightly above 30 million people and that of Uganda is just above 40 million. Malaysia gained independence five years before Uganda and we share the experience of having been colonised by Britain. However, after independence, Malaysia was not interrupted in its economic development by unending wars which happened in Uganda. That’s where the problems for us started and as a result, Uganda’s economic progress stalled. But overall, it’s important to have a relationship between Malaysia and Uganda mainly to exchange ideas on sustaining national development and expanding trade. Also note that at USUS$200 billion, Malaysia is one of the leading exporters of electronic products in the world. So, Uganda can learn a lot from the Malaysians by way of technology-transfer as we pursue other links between the two states.
But you must agree many Ugandans are not aware about Malaysia’s economic success or the potential trade opportunities?
That’s true, because Malaysia is quite far from here. There are no direct flights and if there was, the journey would take you about 12 hours. Today, you have to go via Addis Ababa and connect to Singapore and then Kuala Lumpur. Otherwise, you can travel from Entebbe to Dubai and then onto Kuala Lumpur which is an even longer journey. Since Uganda Airlines has now been revived, this is one of the areas we should look at to ensure that we secure direct flights to Malaysia.
The Honorary Consulate is also exploring the organizing of a major 2020 exhibition or expo designed to inform Ugandans of the tremendous trade and other opportunities available in Malaysia.
What has changed since the Consulate was opened?
The number of people flying to Malaysia has increased. Many Ugandans are going to the country for trade, tourism and study, among other reasons.
My son was among the first four Ugandans to study in Malaysia as a group. Today, there are hundreds of Ugandan students studying in the county, which tells you that a number of Ugandans knows what Malaysia has to offer.
By the way, Malaysia is a country where Ugandans can travel without a visa, which is wonderful.
Could you please comment on the further education options available in Malaysia?
Malaysia has many advanced schools in sectors like ICT and computer engineering. They are very advanced in this area. The country has its own “Silicon Valley” where advanced computer related courses and studies are developed. They are also exceptionally good in providing medical education and health sciences. What I can say, is that you will find all the courses you can think of are on offer in Malaysia. Any course you find in the US, UK, Canada, India and anywhere in the world can be found in Malaysia and at favourably competitive tuition fees. It’s important to note that Malaysia is represented three times on the list of the 200 leading universities of the world. We hope to encourage student exchange programs so that Malaysian Students can study specialist subjects like HIV-AIDS for which Uganda is a lead in research centres.
What about trade and manufacturing?
Trade is our main work here at the Honorary Consulate. Most of the products that Uganda needs from countries in Asia can be found in Malaysia.
Those traders complaining about low quality products from some Asian countries, can avoid the problem if they start dealing with Malaysian companies and businesses.
The country is also famous for its palm oil and the extraction of oil and gas. Their national oil company, Petronas, has become a world superpower in the resource sector. Petronas is currently developing a considerable percentage of the oil and gas fields across Africa. This is an area where Uganda, which has oil and gas reserves, can co-operate more closely with Malaysia. Ugandans also import a lot of motor vehicles spare parts from Japan. But it might interest you to know, that several Japanese car manufacturers make these spare parts in Malaysia. Therefore, Ugandan importers should begin focusing on Malaysia as a new source for these parts and further trade opportunities. Malaysia manufactures its own vehicles, notably the Proton brand. The brand is as good as those imported from Japan and South Korea. It’s reliable and more affordable to purchase and maintain. Malaysians also love coffee and drink a lot of it. Uganda grows plenty of coffee. This implies that in future we can look at Malaysia as a serious coffee market.
What else can Uganda sell there?
We can export our tea. Cotton is also vital for the flourishing Malaysian textile industry. In fact, everything that is grown in Uganda can be sold in Malaysia.
Malaysia is the largest producer of surgical gloves in the world because of their rubber industry.
There is a Ugandan that has started a good partnership with a Malaysian company. They will soon start producing surgical gloves, syringes and related products here in Uganda.
The company has sent a team of 13 Ugandan engineers to be trained for three months before they can start the production of these medical essentials here.
Malaysia is the world leader in Halal certification of beef and other foods. They have a programme which co-ordinates other countries in certifying Halal products. If Malaysia certifies Uganda beef products then there is a huge international market for Halal consumers.
Uganda signed an agreement of co-operation with Malaysia during the Commonwealth Conference in Perth, Australia. I witnessed that signing between the Vice President of Uganda, H.E. Edward Ssekandi and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Rt. Hon. Najib Razak. This agreement, however, has not been implemented to date. Yet it was a very important step for Ugandan beef producers who could take advantage of having their products certified as Halal. We have a huge market potential in countries like Indonesia, Pakistan and others in the Arab world. There are so many outlets that need Halal products.
Do we have the capacity to supply large Halal markets?
Whatever quantity you produce, you can be able to export it to bigger markets. The reason why we are poor as a nation is because we don’t export enough.
If you export, you can get high returns and expand your production capacity. Anything that can make our products wanted and accepted by others, we should take advantage of.
Uganda signed an agreement to co-operate between the Halal Standards of Malaysia and the Uganda National Bureau of Standards with the encouragement of President Museveni and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.
There are a lot of things we can do between the two countries.
My job here is to encourage Ugandans to trade with Malaysia, because they can get high quality products at affordable prices. And I want Malaysians to supply these products to Uganda. I am bringing in many Malaysian companies that are coming here. One of them is Armadillo Envotech which produces electronic cargo tracking systems (ECTS). Any cargo consignment can be tracked from Mombasa to wherever it’s going. With electronic cargo tracking systems, when you declare the goods are going to South Sudan and you decide to dump them in Kenya without paying taxes, you will not be successful. So, countries are able to get their tax dues from businesses. Malaysians have electronic tagging systems which are used globally. Companies like SGS use Armadillo Envotech technology.
Is the Honorary Consulate targeting large scale, small scale or start-up traders and manufacturers?
Every Ugandan business person is welcome to trade with Malaysians.
Whatever product you want from Malaysia, you will get it. All products from countries like China, India, Europe can be sourced from Malaysia. If you want clarity on how to proceed, come to the Honorary Consulate.
We are exploring the possibility of establishing SME Corp Uganda which would operate in tandem with SME Corp Malaysia to encourage and promote trade and investment between small and medium enterprises.
How accessible is the Honorary Consulate to the public?
Not so many embassies and consulates are open on weekends. But you will find us here on weekends. We are available. There is a team of people who handle all matters related to trade. And our lines are available everyday.
We are here to facilitate trade and other development agendas between Malaysia and Uganda.
What opportunities are available for players in the tourism sector?
The people of Malaysia like to travel. Many of them have visited Uganda and places like Mt. Rwenzori.
They are not poor people, so, they can afford to travel for leisure to countries like the United Kingdom. If you can go to places like Newcastle and Cornwall, it means you are interested in travel. These are God-given tourists. Ugandans can also travel to Malaysia. The people there are very humble and friendly. 70% of Malaysians are Malays, the indigenous people. The Chinese who settled there, account for 14% . About 15% are Tamils and there are some Aborigines. All these people have different cultures, lifestyles and food dishes which are wonderful. Their flora and fauna is extremely amazing and the magnificent transport infrastructure makes it fun for all visitors. Ugandans can also visit the country for medical tourism, because whatever health issue that may force you to travel to Europe or the US for advanced care, can also be found in Malaysia.
About Habib Kagimu
- Al Haj Habib Kagimu is the Honorary Consul of Malaysia in Uganda. He was born in Itendero, Sheema District in Western Uganda. He is one of the few Ugandan scholars with vast knowledge and wisdom in Islamic sharia (jurisprudence) from schools in the Arab world.
He has, through his main company, Habib Investments Limited invested in real estate, petroleum, telecommunication, security and agriculture.
- He played a central role in the visit of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Tun Mahathir Bin Mohamad to Uganda in October 2012. The Prime Minister was in the company of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Alboukhary from Mining Corporation Berhad (MMC) and H.E. Mohamed Alabbar, the Chairman of Emaar Properties PJSC, UAE.
- This kind of exposure has helped him to promote foreign direct investment throughout the East African region in particular and the African continent as a whole. He is an active member of SMART Partnership Movement partner and was instrumental in co-coordinating the signing of the MOU between Uganda and Malaysia on standards during the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia in 2011.
- Al Haj Kagimu is a philanthropist who supports various causes both at personal and corporate levels and is a staunch advocate of cultural diplomacy. In August 2008, he funded the visit of twenty children and three officials from the SOS Children’s Home for Orphans to Trinidad & Tobago and is the recipient of the 2008 Sunshine Award for the many Humanitarian Contributions to Society. The Award was conferred on him by the Sunshine Awards Organization, in New York – USA in October 2008.
- He is married with children.