African Business editor Anver Versi attended a recent investment promotion conference on Uganda which was held in London. His main aim was to find out just why the country's President, Yoweri Museveni, is causing such ripples in Europe and the US. Here is his report.
You can't help but admire Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni' style. He was in London mid-April to sell his country as an investment destination. Some 150 potential investors had turned up at the 'Uganda means Business' conference organised by UNIDO through its host office in Britain, Nimtech, the Uganda Investment Authority and the UK's Department of Trade and Industry.
Investment promotion tours by African countries are all the fashion nowadays and have begun to lose their ability to attract effective audiences. Most delegations arrive (with or without Heads of State in tow) bristling with micro-economic statistics and voluminous data on various sectors of their economies. Sharply suited and booted ministers make often turgid speeches crammed full of facts.
Someone should tell them that there is nothing more boring than having to listen for hour after hour to tedious speeches on growth rates and economic indicators. Any serious investor will have already done his homework and will have got a good feel of the country through specialised publications like your own African Business.
What investors look for during these promotional conferences is a feel of the people they might have to do business with.
President Museveni appears to have grasped this and his style has been winning him not only friends but also hard investment wherever he has gone in Europe and the US.
He came in wearing a sports jacket and a jumper to ward off the chill of the London air. There was no drawn out ceremony before his entrance nor was he accompanied by stiff ADCs or a phalanx of ministers. The immediate impression he gave was that he had been out walking and would probably go on to walk to his next destination.
The effect was to relax the audience. Here was a man with no pretensions. He had come to talk and to listen. Instinctively you felt you could trust this man.
But it was when he spoke that you felt the full strength of his charisma -- a charisma that has successfully won over some of the most powerful people in the world, including the US President.
The secret of his success is his ability to express complex ideas in the simplest of language. He makes people laugh with his observations -- but if you listen carefully, you realise that he is making important and serious points.
He started by alluding to the London weather -- which on that day was dull, overcast, cold and rainy -- and saying that in Uganda, they had sunshine everyday of the year. "They tell me that in Europe you can only grow things in the summer and that in winter you have to eat what you grew in summer. In Uganda everything...