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Ugandans In Turkey Seek Help As Traders Hope For Minimal Impact

Christine Nalweyiso and a friend explaining their ordeal

Uganda’s business community is hopeful that the earthquakes that devastated eastern parts of Turkey earlier this week, will not have effects on trade and travel with Uganda.

Uganda has found the Central-Southern European country a convenient trading partner in recent years, mainly for garments, as well as agricultural machinery, among others. The country is also increasingly becoming a source of investments for Uganda, in both private and public sectors, including education, medical, transport and infrastructure, including a special economic zone in Nakasongola.

But the country suffered a series of earthquakes on Monday which have led to the mass destruction of cities and towns mainly in southeastern parts of the country, including buildings, factories and infrastructure like airports and roads. More than 20,000 people have so far been confirmed dead after the catastrophe.

This poses challenges to business activities there and generally the Turkish economy that has over the years drawn global attention due to its fast industrialization. For example, Turkey exports to the world goods worth 250 billion US Dollars, while total trade with the world is just more than 500 billion US Dollars.

Uganda imports goods worth more than 40 million US Dollars and exports to the country are about 30 million US Dollars, bringing total trade between the two to slightly over 70 million US Dollars, according to the Turkish Embassy in Kampala. But Uganda’s trading community says they are yet to assess the impact of the earthquakes on their business because no one has so far reported any losses to property or failure to travel or transport goods.

“For now we have not got any reports from any of our people who trade with Turkey and we are yet to see how the developments will affect trade,” says Thaddeus Musoke Naggenda, the Chairperson, Kacita Uganda.

Most of the imports are got from the country’s business hub of Istanbul in the northwestern part of the country, which also hosts most Ugandans in Turkey. This was not directly affected. Musoke says Turkey’s growth as a power in Ugandan trade is because of various reasons but mainly because Turkey has recently become aggressive in its economic and foreign policies.

On why Ugandans would prefer Turkey to the traditional trading partners, Musoke attributes it to, among others, the production of genuine goods and the honesty of the Turkish people compared to the other countries. He says, for example, that there are Ugandans who have lost businesses trading with China because of dishonesty.

There are Ugandans who are said to have been caught up in cities most hit by the earthquake but are suspected to have been employed and staying there, one being Sandra Nantumbwe a football player at Hatayspor FC in Antakya, one of the most devastated cities.

Her Ghanaian male compatriot, Christian Atsu, who had been reported rescued is still missing according to news from Turkey, along with Sporting Director at the same club Taner Savut, after a complex where they resided collapsed.

Two Ugandans have appeared in videos on social media saying they were in the devastated cities including Diyarbakir, appealing for help from the Ugandan embassy in Ankara. They point at destroyed buildings in the background saying that those were their residences where they lost all their belongings including travel documents, adding that police there referred them to their embassy.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Kampala said the number and locations of Ugandans in Turkey were not known because they hardly register with the authorities, making it hard to plan for them.

State Minister for International Relations, Henry Okello Oryem appeared on a local TV channel saying they were ready to help anyone in distress, but that there were no plans for repatriating Ugandans from Turkey since the danger has passed. According to him, those who wish can be helped to return home but said it would be imprudent because they could fail to go back for their livelihood.

-URN

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