Interview between Susan Eckey, Norway’s ambassador to Uganda and The Independent’s Ronald Musoke on the growing bilateral relations between the two countries.
Tell us about your impressions of Uganda since you arrived in 2015?
Uganda is my first posting as a bilateral ambassador. I am a career diplomat and I started my foreign service in 1991. I have brought family and friends here to see all the beauties of Uganda. I love it very much here. My biggest impression has been meeting and speaking with people around Uganda to get an idea of what life is like for Ugandans and I have found that very interesting.
How would you describe the current relations between Norway and Uganda?
Our bilateral relations are excellent. We opened our embassy here in 1996 but we had had relations with Uganda since the 1960s when young Norwegian Peace Corp volunteers came here and made life-long friends. Uganda is a well-known country (in Norway) and there are many families and private citizens who have friends and relations with their counterparts in Uganda. We cooperate very well at the United Nations and in the regional organizational frameworks. In terms of bilateral cooperation, we have supported Uganda in many sectors; especially in the energy sector, and also have engagements in human rights, good governance, democracy and women’s and girls’ rights. In terms of trade and investment, that too is increasing. We see more Norwegian companies, in particular those in the renewable energy field, looking for opportunities in Uganda. We have had several trade and investment delegations to Uganda over the past two years. We have a Norwegian company that has shown interest in exporting Ugandan coffee to Norway in an innovative way – by subscription. They want to have as much as possible of the value added here. Instead of just exporting the beans, they want to roast the beans here, package and market so Norwegians can pick the coffee in their mail boxes. There is also a company with Norwegian investors which provides sophisticated software to the financial sector in Uganda and in Norway.I am very much excited about all these commercial contacts.
How else have you been promoting trade between the two countries over the time you have been here?
In Norway, there is what we call the Nordic African Business Association (NABA) which gathers high level participants from Africa every October. This association is very active and they really try to promote Africa in the Nordic countries. I know that Uganda gets invited and Ambassador (Zaake Wanume) Kibedi who is based in Copenhagen is very active. In 2016, Hon. Peter Lokeris, the Minister of State for Energy represented Uganda as well as the State minister in charge of Kampala. This year the Minister for the Presidency was among the invited dignitaries. We have had trade and investment delegations come here in both 2016 and last year. But don’t forget that many more Norwegian companies come in just on private initiative. In Uganda, the Nordic Embassies (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland) cooperate very well with the Nordic Business Association (NBA), composed of Nordic business interests.
Norway has been an integral part of Uganda’s oil story. How would you describe the journey so far?
We have had the Oil for Development Programme in Uganda since 2008. It consists of technical cooperation, expert training and other advisory services. We are currently in the second phase and the third phase will start in April this year (2018-2021). Many countries are interested in learning from the Norwegian petroleum experience through our experts.You have already established many professional entities and seeing from outside we think that Uganda is well prepared. The Ugandan managers and experts the Norwegian experts meet here are highly professional, very serious and very much interested and dedicated to hearing about the Norwegian system in order to adapt and then implement elements of it here. As a result of Norwegian advice, the Uganda National Oil Company, the Petroleum Directorate and other agencies in this field have been inspired by Norway although I know that your experts have also gone to other countries like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, and Angola.
Uganda’s oil sector is on the right track but it is important that the rules and regulations; including the environmental and societal aspects, are respected as you move forward. Transparency on issues related to this sector is a priority in Norway, an element that also Uganda supports.