Uganda Day: Bridging Business Frontiers for Finnish Investors


Uganda was in the spotlight at The Uganda Forum: Harnessing Diaspora and NGO know-how for opportunities for businesses event organised by the Partnering for Change project of the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry, and Finnpartnership. The event focused on demystifying Uganda as an investment destination for Finnish entrepreneurs. 


Speakers from Uganda and Finland, both in-person and online, shared their experience and expertise with the audience. Her Excellency Margaret M. Otteskov, Ambassador of Uganda to Denmark was also in the virtual audience and expressed her thanks to the participants for joining the forum. She said events such as the Uganda Day would help Uganda speed up in terms of economic growth.

Team Finland network provides support for Finnish businesses in Uganda

Several important themes emerged from the day’s discussions. The first was that support is available for Finnish businesses and investors in Uganda.

Maria Halava-Napoles, Team Leader for Kenya, Uganda and Seychelles at the Ministry for Foreing Affairs of Finland stated that the new governmental programme puts a lot of emphasis on increasing investments and trade with Africa. She explained that the trade figures with Uganda are still pretty low so there is plenty of space for increasing investment and exports. Halava-Napoles emphasised that the Team Finland network is available to support Finnish businesses and investors hoping to expand their activities to Uganda.

Halava-Napoles also mentioned that there are both Finnish and international civil society organisations who are very experienced in working in Uganda. “Cooperating with them might open opportunities for businesses”, said Halava-Napoles.

Partnering with civil society creates new openings

Wycliffe Nsheka, Director at Finn Church Aid Uganda, gave a presentation on the partnership between Finn Church Aid and Omnia which has resulted in tangible impact in Uganda’s education sector which also works to the advantage of Finnish businesses. He explained that the partnership has created a large pool of youth skilled in business and entrepreneurship who are available to work with Finnish investors.

Nsheka also stressed that Finland has government representation in Uganda and several large NGOs receive funding from Ministry for Foreign Affairs, both of which can facilitate a Finnish investor’s endeavours. “We know the business environment,” he offered “we are more than happy to give you information and to also give you a broader perspective of the business environment in the country.”

Within the same theme, Jussi Laurikainen from World Vision shared his NGO’s experience with working with five Finnish companies to test and pilot technological solutions in renewable energy and water purification among others. He said NGOs can offer Finnish entrepreneurs time, resources, local knowledge, connections with authorities and established relationships with donors and grant makers.

Local connections are crucial

The necessity of local knowledge and having links with local decision makers was raised by both Viljami Kettunen of Foxley Consulting and Yvonne Akiding, a renewable energy sector specialist. “It’s important that you find the right people,” said Kettunen explaining that before entering the Ugandan market he began by learning from the diaspora about how to do business in Uganda and its culture.

Akiding agreed that running business remotely is not easy and that local representation was important “for a business to survive and thrive,” In his presentation, Laurikainen said from his experiences it is important to know your local partner well and to engage that partner as early as possible.

The final theme was that Finnish businesses should aim to be socially responsible in their investments. Hani Almeghari, Chief Business Development Advisor at Finn Church Aid Investments gave an overview of how his organisation invests in impact-driven Ugandan companies creating decent jobs and improving livelihoods while promoting responsible and inclusive investment.

Pierre Jallow from Remode also emphasised relationships for sustainable and responsible investing, speaking about the role of the private sector in creating sustainable impact. He used the example of Remode’s work in South Africa where Remode, through a partnership with the Ministry of Education, are training 300,000 teachers to teach entrepreneurial skills to their students.

Opportunities for Finnish investors

The Forum also proposed areas ripe for Finnish investment. Akiding suggested rural electrification especially as off-grid businesses as well as hydropower, biomass and waste to energy while Kettunen emphasised collaborating with other international investors based on a successful experience he had working with investors from China.

The event ended with thanks from Paula Pihlava from Finnpartnership. Pihlava mentioned that there are many ways, including financial grants, Finnpartnership can support Finnish companies hoping to enter Ugandan markets.

Several guests left feedback expressing appreciation for the interesting presentations and panel discussions and for having provided an opportunity for networking.


Partnering for Change is implemented by the Deaconess Foundation and Filantropia ry.

Finnpartnershipin logo.

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