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Decade of growth betweem China and Uganda (2)

By Liu Xiangrui  (China Daily)

08:17, October 23, 2012

In 2005, Chinese investment in Uganda was limited to a few hotels and restaurants. But within just five years, China had become the country's second-biggest trading partner after the United Kingdom.

Statistics from the Chinese customs department show that China-Uganda trade was worth $400 million in 2011, and their planned investment portfolio is now estimated at $2 billion.

Ugandan national statistics show that in the same year, the country's gross domestic product was $18 billion, a 5.9 percent year-on-year rise on 2010.

They now suggest that more than 260 Chinese companies have opened in the country, across different sectors, and have created 30,000 local jobs.

Sam Kutesa, Uganda's minister of foreign affairs, recently said that large State-owned enterprises from China have been instrumental in improving the country's infrastructure.

China Communications Construction Co Ltd, for instance, has been in the country since 1996, and will play a major role in building the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway — Uganda's first tolled highway connecting the capital to the country's most important international airport, which is expected to open within five years.

The $476 million project benefited from a $350 million low-interest loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, with the rest raised by the Ugandan government, says China Communications Project Manager Zhang Weidong.

The construction was an enormous challenge, not least because most of the raw materials needed — such as iron, cement, and much of the machinery — had to be imported, he explains.

But crucially for the local economy, 90 percent of the employees on the project will be Ugandan, with some expected to take up important management positions.

After many years working for Chinese construction projects in Africa including Uganda, Zhang says local workers praise the training they have been given by their Chinese employers, and many have become highly experienced as a result.

"Many have picked up good Mandarin, and say they take pride in working for a Chinese company," he adds.

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