by Ronald Ssekandi
KAMPALA, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- It has been a fruitful year for China-Uganda ties as the two countries agreed to lift their relations to a comprehensive cooperative partnership and inked a series of cooperation documents in June.
Zhao Xiufen, economic and commercial counselor at the Chinese embassy in Uganda, described the elevation of the relationship as a milestone, adding that those agreements has injected fresh momentum into bilateral cooperation.
Robert Okodi, commissioner for cash policy at Uganda's finance ministry, highlighted technical and financial support from China at an event where 90 Ugandans started a three-week China overseas training program aimed at sharing experiences in wetland conservation and management technology, and architectural engineering.
According to figures from the Chinese embassy, about 4,500 Ugandans have attended training courses backed by China, covering various subjects including public management, social organization, education, economy and trade, mineral resources, agriculture and health, among others.
Early this year, Uganda's education ministry introduced the teaching of Mandarin in secondary schools. The move followed a nine-month training of over 35 language teachers. The country's top university, Makerere University, also launched a Bachelor of Chinese and Asian Studies program late last month. This is aimed at helping Ugandans understand China more and also widening their opportunities.
On Nov. 26, Uganda became the first African country to sign an agriculture project worth 2.4 million U.S. dollar worth of under the UN Food and Agriculture Organization-China South-South cooperation framework.
The funds, according to Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda's minister of agriculture, would be used in efforts to boost agriculture production and productivity over the next three years.
Ssempijja told Xinhua in an interview that the agriculture project, which is now in its third phase since 2012, was designed to upscale and commercialize agricultural production with a target of increasing exports to Chinese markets.
Agriculture remains Uganda's major economic activity with the vast majority of the population deriving its livelihood from the sector, according to the ministry of finance.
In March this year, Museveni inaugurated the Chinese-built 183-megawatt (MW) Isimba Hydropower Plant.
Irene Muloni, Uganda's minister of energy and mineral development said recently that the Isimba Hydropower Plant has increased the country's total installed capacity to 1,202 MW.
At the peak of the construction of the 568-million-dollar Isimba Hydropower Plant, there were over 3,000 workers, of whom 85 percent were Ugandans, according to the China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE), the construction contractor of Isimba.
Several Ugandan engineers were sent to China to receive further training, while those who remained behind were also able to have hands-on experience, the CWE told Xinhua in March.
Museveni is optimistic that once there is adequate and cheap electricity coupled with the government's enabling policies, Uganda's massive industrialization will kick off.
Over 20 industrial parks have already been created in different parts of the country, whose cabinet ministers earlier this month approved a plan to extend power transmission lines to the industrial parks in the central and eastern part of the country with the support of China.
China also supports Uganda's ongoing upgrading and expansion of Entebbe International Airport, Uganda's main gateway to the rest of the world, as well as the construction of Kampala-Entebbe Expressway which links the capital Kampala to Entebbe International Airport. Chinese road construction contractors have also been involved in building several roads in the country.
From the economic perspective, trade between China and Uganda is booming, according to the Chinese embassy here.
In the first nine months of this year, the volume of trade between China and Uganda totalled at 558 million dollars and China has become Uganda's third largest trade partner, according to embassy figures.