Gulu and Mbarara City Councils have lost the bid to host the 22nd East African Community Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Tradeshow.
The two cities had been listed among those identified as the next possible venues for the rotational trade fair that brings together the seven East African Community partner states. The other cities were Kampala and Mbale.
Gulu City Council in particular has been lobbying for the event since March this year and had committed about 200 million Shillings to win the bid. But Gulu City Mayor, Alfred Okwonga told Uganda Radio Network in an interview today that they have received a letter indicating Kampala city had been selected to host the prestigious event.
The August 15 letter was written by Dr Peter Mutuku Mathuki, the Secretary General of the East African Community. Okwonga says they are surprised by the sudden shift in the position since the Trade Ministry had earlier made assurance the event would be hosted outside Kampala.
According to an official from the Confederation of Micro and Small Enterprises Organization Uganda Chapter Limited that took part in assessing the four cities, Gulu city ranked the best after Kampala. Other teams that took part in assessing the cities included officials from the Ministry of Trade, Industries and Cooperatives and the East African Community Affairs Ministry Uganda.
According to the source who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals, Mbale city was dropped at an early stage after the assessors found it unfit to host the event leaving the race for Kampala, Mbarara, and Gulu. He notes that Kampala defeated the two cities in assessment scoring 83 per cent above the 75 per cent required points needed to host the event while Gulu scored 80 per cent.
“After our assessments, we recommended Kampala and Gulu cities to our superiors to select the best. Indeed, Kampala was selected to host the trade fair,” the source told Uganda Radio Network and added that the assessment was based on the quality of infrastructure, availability of hotels, lodges, population, and ease of access to an Airport which Kampala city had scored in ranking.
“Gulu city had the capability because it had most of the requirements listed on the guidelines, but somehow Kampala city was much better and also interests from other people influenced the decisions,” He says.
Okwonga however argues that the decision to have the event hosted in Kampala is a huge setback to the regional cities that needed exposure. He says that having such an event hosted only in Kampala city which is already well-known limits other regional cities from expanding their trades to the regional and international markets.
This year’s East African Community Trade Fair will be held from December 8 to 18 at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala.
Last year, the event was held at the Rock City Grounds in Mwanza, Tanzania under the theme “Promoting Quality and Innovation to enhance EAC MSMEs Competitiveness and post COVID -19 Recovery’. It attracted over 1,500 artisans from the six EAC Partner States, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and the host country, Tanzania.