Your Excellency, Shri Narendra Modi;

Excellencies;

Distingushed visitors;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Uganda and on my own behalf, I wish to welcome Your Excellency, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India to Uganda.

I am happy to be here in the midst of our Indian Community in Uganda.  I thank the community for organizing this event today.

Africa and India are separated by the Indian Ocean. The geographical proximity between Africa and theIndian subcontinenthas played an important role in the development of the relationship since ancient times.

Our two peoples have a shared history in many ways. From the ashes of Mahatma Ghandi, at the source of our River Nile, to the hard work of the Indian workers who built the Uganda Railway, as far back as the 1890s, and the many business men and women who have been established in Uganda and East Africa for very many years.

The earliest accounts of the Indian presence on this continent and Eastern coast in particular are found in the Periplus of the Erythaean Sea, written in the First Century AD by an anonymous author. It is said that Indian merchants had been plying their trade through the Indian Ocean since the days of ancient Babylon and had even established trading posts along the coast of East Africa.

The railway opened up East Africa for trade and large numbers of “free” emigrants from India, mainly from Gujarat and Punjab, followed in the years after the labourers on the railway line had left. They set up trading posts deep in the interior (including Ntungamo my birth place) and became the traders and merchants of East Africa.  They helped us to access merchandise as we were mainly people of cows and crops.

To date, there is a sizeable community of people of Indian origin living in Uganda.   The Indian community is vibrant and holds an important position in the economy and political life of this country.

Over the years, Indians have made their mark on Uganda’s economic and business landscape. They have established industries, banks, hotels, insurance firms, agro-processing plants that have provided employment and tax revenue to the Government.

Most of the major companies — almost 80 per cent of the top-level companies — are either owned by Indians or people of Indian origin who settled here for many, many years

Idi Amin, in 1972, ordered tens of thousands of people of Asian origin to leave the country within 90 days.  The anti-Indian policies of Amin were reversed when the NRM leadership came to power in 1986.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasis that the economic and commercial ties continue to form the pillar of our bilateral relations.  We value the contribution that the Indian community continues to make to deepen and strengthen our ties.

Once again, Your Excellency, I welcome you to Uganda – the Pearl of Africa.

I thank you all.