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80 workers poisoned at the Royal Van Zanten Flower Farm in Uganda. The Royal Van Zanten is an international company based in the Netherlands dealing in nursery plants and flowers. It has production sites in Uganda. According to the report in the Daily Monitor of 25th October 2016, 80 workers at the Royal Van Zanten flower farm in Wakiso district were poisoned as a result of exposure to poisonous chemicals (Metam sodium). Exposure to this pesticide causes allergic dermatitis and respiratory allergy; and in the long term cancer and mental illness. In addition to the low pay, the workers do not have protective gear. Uganda Horticultural Industrial Services Provider and Allied Workers Union (UHISPAWU) and the Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA) have protested against this mistreatment of the farm workers most of whom are women.

There is an urgent need to address the legal framework within which investors operate in Uganda. The legal framework is provided under the Uganda Investment Code 2000 which is under review and specifically with regard to investments from the Netherlands under the Uganda – Netherlands Bilateral Investment Treaty, signed on 30 May 2000 and came into effect 1st January 2003.
Unfortunately both the investment Code and the Uganda –Netherlands BIT do not address issues of workers’ rights. It is imperative that investors observe minimum human rights, environmental and labour standards.
Fortunately, the Uganda –Netherlands BIT is coming to end in 2018 as it was to last for 15 years. This is an opportunity for Uganda to renegotiate the terms of this Treaty, mobilize stakeholder views and come up with a Treaty which will promote sustainable human development and protects the environment in both Uganda and the Netherlands. The review of the Investment code should ensure that human rights and the environment are protected.
The Royal Van Zanten phenomenon should not be allowed to happen again.

By JANE S. NALUNGA (Country Director SEATINI-Uganda) 1-11-2016

Tanzania pulls out of East Africa common visa planTanzania has dealt Kenya another blow by distancing itself from the common visa launched between Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. The common visa is meant to, among other things, enable the members states to jointly market their tourism as a single product.

Tanzania also wants nothing to do with the joint marketing strategies pushed by Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda and will not participate in the East African tourism platform events being pushed for by the neighbours.

The joint visa has been issued to 4,000 tourists who will be visiting the three countries, now dubbed ‘the coalition of the willing’. In a media briefing Wednesday, Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said Tanzania was wary of competition from Kenya.

“Tourists who will be moving between the three countries that form the coalition will now be using a common visa that will be charged at $100 (Sh10,122) instead of $150 (Sh15,183) that each country charged before,” Mr Balala said.

Harmonized standards can sharpen EAC competitive edgeStandards are a vital element in trade, because they help business interaction and access to markets in the economy. 

Standards and compliance can also encourage trade by providing valuable information about product requirements or consumer preferences which all add to competitiveness. 

A standards regime helps open-up markets. It allows customers to compare offers from different suppliers, making it easier for smaller and younger enterprises to compete with larger and stronger companies. 

They also give small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) a competitive advantage by enabling them to compete on a level playing field with bigger enterprises internationally and to increase market share.

With a total population of about 146 million people, the East African Community (EAC) offers fertile ground for companies to do business.  By doing so, this leads to economic growth generated by higher levels of intra-East African trade. The EAC has developed East African Standards to harmonize requirements governing quality of products and services across the Community.