Uganda to reap big from CPC

September 23, 2019 | Denis Owiny | CPC 2019

Uganda has a lot to benefit from 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference




From start on September 22 to the end on September 29, all international eyes will be anxiously turned to the Parliament of Uganda, the host of the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference (CPC).

The conference returns to the country exactly 52 years after Uganda hosted the 13th CPC from October 26 to November 2, 1967.

In 1967, just five years after attaining independence from the British colonial government, the country had to marshal forces to put up an unforgettable event. To prepare, the government invested in hotel infrastructure like Apolo hotel, which hosted the main conference. The Chobe Lodge at Murchison Falls national park was also built to cater for tourism. Other hotels were spruced up to meet standards to host high-level delegates. Additional investments were in the broadcasting and transport sectors.

The greatest takeaways from that conference were the publicity for the young Uganda and goodwill from both developed and developing nations. With all eyes on the nation at the time, Uganda reaped some benefits but also gained lessons and experience to boost its ability to plan for other major meets.

Hosting conferences of this magnitude has both tangible and intangible gains for the host country and its people. Broadly, the return on investment is evident in terms of democratic governance, physical infrastructure, improved capacity to host major events, boost to the economy (tourism and hospitality, foreign exchange, investment, among others), and the local population.


Democratic governance and parliamentary excellence

The value returns on the democracy and governance front are among the benefits that are not immediately tangible, but they cannot be denied. The peer-to-peer nature of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association forms an accountability network for legislators in the member states. They hold each other to the basic principles of democracy, human rights, rule of law and transparency through topics chosen for discussion.

One of the key purposes of the CPC is to foster diplomatic relations, best practice in accountability and good governance. During the various meetings, delegates challenge one another on these issues and find workable solutions, for the benefit of the citizens. Ultimately, this brings benefits of better governance, freedom, stability and social development to the nations, including Uganda. Host governments have the chance to highlight particular issues they would like the Commonwealth’s support on. For instance, highlighting the huge refugee burden that Uganda carries could spur action from member states in the form of humanitarian aid or putting pressure on leaders of destabilised states to work for peace.


Infrastructural development

The infrastructure invested in when tasked to host a major conference goes on to serve through the decades. For example, the Apolo hotel built for the 13th CPC, now called the Sheraton Kampala, is regarded as a major hospitality player in the country. The media and broadcasting investments served for decades, bringing the world to Uganda and taking Uganda to the world.

Similarly, when Uganda hosted the Organisation of African Unity general assembly in 1975, the government constructed the Nile hotel and Conference Centre to accommodate the delegates. That conference building has been used over the years to hold other conferences, state functions and events.

Infrastructural gains manifest in the transport sector, with roads upgraded to ease movement of delegates, which Ugandans are still enjoying. Dirt roads have been tarred, while narrow roads have been expanded with additional lanes and pedestrian walkways. The airport at Entebbe got a facelift alongside the weather station, and these have improved the lives of Ugandans.

Government invested Shs 3.7bn in the health sector, including buying ambulances and renovating major hospitals like Mulago National Referral Hospital.

With the CPC on the horizon, government gets to check on these previous investments, ensuring that they still meet the standards for international delegates.


Capacity to host major conferences

The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Secretariat, based in London, helps host countries to prepare for the conference, by checking on facilities and other signs of readiness for international delegates. This enables the host country to improve on many of their facilities and builds confidence in the business and logistics of hosting such major events. This is why Uganda can now confidently offer to host over 500 diverse international delegates, and this capacity will only get better.

Some of the highlights from hosting CHOGM, for example, include; the improvement in ability to handle protocol appropriately, with dedicated VIP vehicles that are still in use. The country got a security boost as well, with equipment (such as cars and marine boats) and skills added to the security forces.

Emergency services, such as fire response vehicles and persons, were also enhanced.


Benefits to the private sector

Ugandan businesses will be big winners when the country hosts the CPC. Some of the service providers include public relations and media agencies, catering and hospitality services; and the entertainment industry.

Spurred by government enthusiasm and support, the prospect of hosting a major event stimulates private investors to improve their facilities to meet the required standards. For example, as part of preparations for CHOGM in 2007, new hotels came up, while others upgraded their facilities and services. In critical cases, the government granted businesses tax exemptions on items that would be needed for CHOGM.  For example, the main conference venue for CHOGM (Speke Resort Munyonyo, which is also hosting CPC 2019), used the chance to build a marina for boats to dock, thus easing water transport from Entebbe where the airport is located.  This marina remains a big earner for the resort to date.

In addition, Ugandans trading in souvenirs and other items will have a chance to exhibit their wares at the venues, hence putting money directly into their wallets. Guests going out of the hotels on individual and group excursions will also spend on various items of interest, hence putting money into the economy.

On the other hand, visiting Uganda is likely to highlight investment opportunities to the delegates. To those who may have imagined a tiny country in a dark continent, this is an opportunity to see the thriving economy.


Tourism destination

Uganda’s unique tourism sites and attributes have been praised by international media and industry gurus. To the conference guests, visiting Uganda presents the perfect opportunity to explore what the country has to offer in terms of wildlife safaris, adventure, sport, food, culture and entertainment. The CPC 2019 website provides lots of information about Uganda’s exceptional tourism. An information pack has already gone out to all prospective delegates and it includes details on hospitality, tourism and entertainment that visitors can enjoy while they are here. Delegates have been encouraged to add extra days to their itinerary for such purposes.


Social development

By hosting the CPC, Uganda also plays host to the Commonwealth Women Parliamentary Conference, a platform that has helped address issues of gender equality in all member states. The deliberations and resolutions of women parliamentarians, including Ugandans, will bring social, cultural and economic gains for especially women and girls. The gender and equity message is about inclusion of all marginalised persons, including persons with disabilities, in social, economic and cultural spheres, and not least, their own governance. Uganda’s leaders will be in a unique position to lead by example as all focus will be on the host to ‘practice what they preach’.

Similarly, the Youth Round table will open doors for young people, mostly Ugandans, to raise their concerns for consideration by the larger CPA.


Goodwill and visibility

One of the less tangible benefits is the general building of peaceful relations with other nations, including on individual and institutional levels. The manifestations of goodwill could come in the following form: openness to visa applicants from Uganda; favour when sponsorships, project proposals and scholarships are being considered; invitations to participate in international forums, such as speaking engagements, artist collaborations and education exchange programmes.

What remains clear is that hosting CPC will put Uganda on the radar of over 53 countries that belong to the Commonwealth. This will open up opportunities for investment, tourism, education and other benefits for Uganda.


Raising Kampala’s profile 

Hosting CPC in Kampala city will definitely raise awareness of Kampala city and earn it international recognition not only as a city but also as a destination for international conferences. For a city like Kampala to host an international conference, this will go a long way in raising Kampala’s international standing, gain greater international acceptance and change perceptions.


Job creation

Typically, a major international conference like the CPC leads to the creation of jobs, both temporary and permanent, for the local economy before, during and after the conference. These extra jobs help create a positive multiplier effect within the local economy.


Short-term economic benefits

Hosting the CPC will result in an increase in spending and injection of money into the local economy. The attendees of the conference will spend money directly into the local economy through the purchase of locally available goods and services.

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