UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The government and businessman Sudhir Ruparelia are finalising their collaboration on a joint venture to build a modern Convention Centre of international standard at the Commonwealth Speke Resort Munyonyo to host the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in November 2023.
The executive meeting discussing the project was convened by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja on Saturday 11th March 2023 and was attended by Sudhir, and officials from the Ministries of Finance and Works led by their respective permanent secretaries.
The meeting was also attended by Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, who lobbied for Uganda to host the NAM summit.
Although the architectural designs and bill of quantities for the engineering works are still being prepared, multiple sources say the construction is estimated to cost $40m (USh140b).
Minister Kasaija said after the Saturday 11th March 2023 event that “mistakes” were made during preparations for Chogm, and that they are this time taking proactive action to ensure a facility befitting 100-plus heads of state and governments is in place ahead of the NAM summit.
“We are expecting 126 heads of state for the NAM conference. We have to set up a befitting conference centre where they can deliberate. We are planning, and we will be successful,” he said.
In the run-up to, and after the November 2007 Chogm, big corruption scandals broke out, leading to prosecutions and imprisonments.
Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said the government cannot afford to build the convention centre on its own and a partnership with Sudhir is the best option.
He said, “It is an urgent project, and a lot of money is needed which will be difficult for the government [to muster at short notice]. The government does not have all the money. There are many things we have to do; so, if we find a partner, it is easier.”
He added: “We are undertaking the project in partnership with Sudhir. [The government puts in] and Sudhir puts in money. The architects are still calculating, and then we will know how much the government and Sudhir are going to pay. If we go together in business, when it starts to make money, we share the profits.”
Officials are racing against the clock to finalise a memorandum of understanding, and joint venture contract.
The project is set to include a 3,500-seat ultra-modern auditorium, and a suspended restaurant overlooking Lake Victoria, with additional presidential suites and smaller conference rooms for sideline meetings during the NAM summit.
Hosting the NAM summit is an opportunity for Uganda to showcase its readiness to accommodate international guests in a modern facility.
The government’s collaboration with Sudhir Ruparelia mirrors the 2006 agreement when the government advanced about USh8.8b to Meera Investment, the property development arm of Sudhir’s business conglomerate, to build 59 presidential suites to accommodate Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) delegates in November 2007.
The new joint venture is happening without a public bid call or parliamentary scrutiny, just like the 2006 arrangement.
The Non-Aligned Movement comprises 120 countries that are not aligned with any of the rival eastern and western power blocs. It was founded during the Asian-Africa meeting in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, and pursues decolonisation.
However, it has in the post-independence period become a powerful bloc advocating for political and economic rights and canvassing positions of member countries on global affairs.
The NAM summit, set to take place in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2023, was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and was last held in Baku, Azerbaijan, in October 2019.
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