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Business opportunities up for grabs as Uganda hosts Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference

Hon Cecilia Ogwal (2nd right) chats with Seychelles Consular General to Uganda during the breakfast meeting with High Commissioners. Parliament is hosting Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference late this month (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – Over 1,000 parliamentarians from 53 Commonwealth countries will on September 22 convene in Kampala for the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC).

Delegates will come from Asia, Australia, the British Islands, Canada, the Caribbean, India, South East Asia, the Americas, and the rest of Africa for the conference that is to be held at the Commonwealth Resort Hotel in Munyonyo, Kampala. The conference will run-up to September 29.

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) organises its annual CPC each year as one of the largest gatherings of Commonwealth parliamentarians. It is an opportunity to network with legislators for shared-learning and to build diplomatic relations.

The conference will include the landmark 30th Anniversary Conference of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP). There will be elections for the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP), the CPA Treasurer and the CPA Small Branches Chairperson for new three-year terms.

There will also be a number of additional conferences and meetings including 37th CPA Small Branches Conference; 6th triennial Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Conference; 64th CPA General Assembly; meetings of the CPA Executive Committee; and the Society of Clerks at the Table (SOCATT) meetings.

The conference programme will include conference plenaries and 10 workshops for parliamentarians, with some workshops focusing on gender, youth, and the CPA’s Small Branches.

The conference will be held under the theme: ‘Adaption, Engagement and Evolution in a rapidly changing Commonwealth’.  Issues to be discussed will include climate change, youth unemployment, innovations in Parliament and the role of parliaments in facilitating people with disabilities. The challenge of urbanisation, separation of powers and post-legislative issues are also on the cards.

Uganda last hosted a CPC in 1967. It is the biggest commonwealth event to be held in the country since the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (CHOGM).  It has, however, hosted a number of high-profile Commonwealth conferences, including the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2011 and Commonwealth Youth Parliament in 2018.

According to an official statement from the CPA, the event is happening at a time of increasing focus and greater scrutiny of parliamentarians and overall distrust of parliaments. Delegates will, therefore, have an opportunity to benefit from professional development, supportive learning and sharing of best practices from colleague.

The CPA connects, develops, promotes, and supports parliamentarians and their staff to identify and benchmark good governance and implementation of enduring values of the Commonwealth.  Founded in 1911, it comprises 180 parliaments and legislatures.

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has in recent weeks been traversing the globe in last-minute efforts to rally colleagues from other parliaments to converge on Kampala for the CPC. She was recently in Islamabad, Pakistani, for the Asia region Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference that ran from July 29 to August 2. Earlier on July 22, she was in Morocco where she invited her counterpart, Habib Elmalki, and others to come to the conference.

Locally, Ms Kadaga is selling the conference as a not-to-be-missed business, tourism, and investment opportunity. Her team is arranging visas, hotel accommodation, transport, and exhibition spaces for Ugandans to sell locally made products to the delegates.  Ms Kadaga’s team has organised excursions for groups of delegates to various parts of the country to see the beauty and enjoy the hospitality of Uganda.

“There is going to be money in the economy,” she said at a recent meeting with media managers where she appealed for their support. She said the conference is also an opportunity to market Uganda for tourism and investment.

Ms Kadaga said ordinary citizens should position to earn from their talent, including through sale of souvenirs since many of the delegates will fly in with their families.

“Some of the guests plan trips to the national parks, engage in nightlife, enjoy local cuisine,” she said.

Ms Kadaga also said the CPC conference will oversee the election of parliamentarians to take charge of international offices, key among which include the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Chairperson.

“It is, therefore, our strategic interest as Africa region to take lead in decisions that shall be made during the 64th CPC, which will determine the future role of Africa within the CPA,” she said.

She said the conference theme presents an opportunity for countries to review the use of ICT in their Parliaments, with a call to share experiences for improved output.

“We should learn from each other with a view of setting up or improving existing laws, institutions and resources for use of ICTs in our legislatures,” said Ms Kadaga.

Some delegations, such as the UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) are already organising additional visits to Uganda.

As the head of the host country, President Yoweri Museveni is the deputy patron for the conference, with the Queen of England serving as a permanent patron.

The President has also rallied parliamentarians, staff and decision-makers from across the Commonwealth to attend the conference.

According to Mr Museveni, Uganda is glad to host the conference. He also highlights the role of parliamentarians towards development.

“In their representative, legislative and oversight roles, parliaments are key in the growth and development of a nation. They give voice to the wishes and aspirations of the people and superintend over the activities of the government to ensure it is accountable to the people,” the President said in a recent statement.

He also commended the CPA for championing good governance in member states.

“Your efforts in promoting women’s representation in parliaments and in participation in governance is an ideal we cherish and practice as seen by the affirmative action in Uganda’s Constitution and its policies, which have given women more opportunities to run for elective office,” the President said.

Mr Museveni said the conference theme, “speaks to the need for parliaments to reform, promote two-way communication and rebuild trust with the population whose interests you represent in the legislature.”

He urged the delegates to explore the country’s tourism, hospitality and culture.

Mr Chris Obore, the director of communications and public affairs at Parliament, said the conference will act as a platform for promoting Uganda’s tourism potential to the world.

“This conference is going to boost our tourism sector. All the delegates will be paying in dollars for where they will be sleeping. Many have already booked to go and visit various national parks such as Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi,” he said.

Mr Geofrey Dhamuzungu, the Budiope East, said of the conference. “It is an opportunity that we shall interact with our colleagues from other countries. On the issue of tourism, the delegation will also visit my constituency in Budiope East for Kagulu Hill climbing, hence it will boost our tourism sector.”

With a number of opportunities flagged, lawmakers under the Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA) look at the conference as a landmark chance to benchmark and share experiences for women-driven legislation.

Ms Pamela Kamugo (Budaka, NRM), the UWOPA chairperson, shares women prospects.

“We think this is our chance to speak about our pending legislations such as the Marriage and Divorce Bill, the Sexual Offences Bill as well as matters involving the Succession Bill and Labour laws, among others. We have prepared a presentation on issues such as gender-based violence. But we look at the conference as an opportunity for women in business. This is the time for them to showcase what they do,” she says.

Mr Thomas Tayebwa, the Ruhinda North MP, says: “This conference is a vote of confidence in our country, our leaders and our people. With millions of dollars set to be spent by various delegates, I hope many Ugandans have positioned themselves to benefit by providing services.”

Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala MP, says. “The torch is on the country. It demonstrates stability and reliability of Uganda since we are hosting such a big conference. The country is peaceful, therefore, our guests will enjoy the hospitality hence economic benefits for us.”

Mr Macho Geofrey, Busia Municipality MP, says: “I am waiting to learn new policies concerning urbanisation, employment creation and immigration. I want to hear new information on cross border policies because the British are trying to build back the confidence of their former colonies.”

Mr Michael Bukenya, Bukuya MP says. “This is the best advert for Uganda because we are going to have many people, and they are coming at a time when we have good weather. We are ready to cater for the health of our visitors. A team of health experts from all levels have been formed.”

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