KAMPALA – The Belgium-Uganda week, a calendar event will this year, fall when the Embassy of Belgium in Uganda is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
It starts on November 15 with the King’s Day Reception.
The event will run under the theme “Sharing more than Colours” and revolves around expounding the development agenda, sharing business opportunities and exploring the cultural heritage between Uganda and Belgian communities.
PML Daily‘s ABRAHAM MUTALYEBWA, on November 1, spoke to His Excellency Hugo Verbist, Belgium’s Ambassador to Uganda about the background, preparations of the week-long event and what both Uganda and Belgium should expect at the event.
QN: When was the Belgium-Uganda week started and what are the objectives of this event?
ANS: The Belgium-Uganda week started two years ago, and it will be going into the third edition this year.
The uniqueness about this years’ event is that we shall be celebrating 20 years of close cooperation with Uganda.
The Belgium Embassy was first in Nairobi, Kenya and in November 1998, we established the one here. Uganda and Belgium have a lot in common and share much more than just the colours of our flags.
We shall have the promotion of cultural diversity and appreciating the uniqueness for both countries[during the week].
QN: What are the key activities around the 2018 Belgium-Uganda week, and what should the Ugandan business community expect?
ANS: There are various activities lined up starting on November 12th, to November 27th.
On 15th November, we shall have The King’s Day Reception at Serena Hotel Gardens, [at which event], we shall have spectacular music performances, savory foods including the various famous Belgian beers.
We shall have speeches from the designated Guest of Honour and myself. The event invites only.
From November 12 to 17th, there will be the Belgian Food week. The Kampala Serena Hotel will organize a special Belgian food week for the public to go with the King’s Day. Belgian chefs, Dries Cloet and Bart Denys will prepare classical Belgian dishes as part of knowledge exchange and a delectable blend of culinary culture between our two countries.
On November 17th, there will be a children’s and puppet show at Ambrosoli School in Bugolobi from 1:30 pm – 6:00 pm. This is aimed at having the children involved and they will get to know the wonderful world of children’s literature by great Belgian authors in French, Dutch, and English. November 19th to 27th will be for the entrepreneurs.
This is a segment that the youth shouldn’t miss because we shall have a delegation of entrepreneurs and professors who will visit innovative projects and also launch the first Sus Tech for Africa Contest, and the best will be given an opportunity to pitch their project to potential investors.
On November 20th, we shall have a two-panel discussion at Hotel Africana. The first about Economic Transformation and jobs.
This one will focus on the role of Belgian development cooperation policy in bridging the gap between private-public partnerships, non-state actors and skilling the Ugandan youth, develop local enterprises to create decent jobs, promote technological innovations and gender equality.
The second will be for the Alumni network. This one brings together all students who have studied and lived in Belgium to share experiences and knowledge. We have many Alumni that are doing extremely well and one of them is a minister.
All this is geared towards strengthening the relationship between both countries. It’s an opportunity for the Alumni to meet each other and we are encouraging them to have regular gatherings.
November 21, will be the climax and we shall have IntergalacticLovers and Kasozi in a live performance band session at the Design Hub Kampala on 5th Street, Industrial Area at an affordable fee of Uganda Shillings 10,000.
Intergalactic Lovers is a Belgian indie-rock band formed in 2008 which has travelled the world.
QN: Basing on the previous events, what milestones have been achieved as a result of organising this event?
ANS: We have gotten visibility. The Belgium-Uganda Week is just a seven days event but the two countries will have a longstanding relationship and will keep working together beyond the Belgian Week.
QN: What are the key projects of public interest has Belgium’s cooperation with Uganda brought to existence?
H.E Verbist: We share a sustainable and excellent development cooperation with Uganda, through bilateral projects, NGOs, research institutes and humanitarian support which started in 1995.
Building on this solid base, Belgium decided in 2003 to select Uganda as one of only 18 partners countries globally, for direct bilateral cooperation focused on health and education, implemented in co-management between the Ugandan partners and Enabel, the Belgian development agency.
In education, our major area of focus has been through proper training and skilling. This has been done in partnership with our implementing partner Enabel which has trained teachers, refurbished their colleges around the country, improving the curriculum and management.
In the Health sector, we are the pioneers of results-based financing and are dedicated to improving the quality of health standards in the country.
QN: The Belgium Embassy has been supporting vocational training in the country — a key ingredient in skilling Uganda’s youth population. How have you gone about this?
ANS: Vocational training is done by Enabel the former Belgium Development Agency (BTC). They have worked in areas of Western Uganda, Karamoja, and Arua and they have attracted great partners besides Belgium like Ireland, the European Union, and other donors. Areas that have benefited. Immensely are refugee settlement areas like Adjumani and many others.
QN: In regards to Tourism, Agriculture, Investments and Trade, how is Belgium and Uganda Cooperating?
ANS: In tourism, Uganda is a very endowed country and the sector is blossoming but there are gaps in the skilling and training, so that’s why most of the experts in the hospitality industry are brought from Kenya and neighbouring Rwanda. There are very many investors that have set up Lodges in Uganda and hospitality businesses like Le Chateau restaurant. Brussels Airlines and before Sabena has flown to Uganda uninterruptedly since independence.
In agriculture, most of the farmers take part in subsistence farming and have not gone commercial and we are setting up projects to help them to switch from subsistence to commercial and this will be in partnership with Belgian NGO’ s and the private sector.
In trade, last year over 45 investors from Belgium in various sectors like Energy, Agribusiness, Logistics among others, came and so far two of them have signed contracts and are doing well. For example, Tiger Power is dealing in Solar Power to help solve the issue of power outages.
QN: Any other message for the public?
ANS: I call up all Ugandans to attend our activities that at least cater for everyone. I am very grateful to our partners that have agreed to make this event memorable like MTN, Quality Hill Mall, Brussels Airlines, Bank of Africa, Stanbic Bank, DAS, Nile Safari Lodges, SafeBoda, Zetes, Bollore Transport Logistics, Serena Hotel, Ter Duinen Hotelschool Koksijde, Chemiphar, KK Security, Radio City, Pearl Assist and Post Media Ltd as we celebrate 20 years of working closely with Uganda.