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National Day  October 09

Her Excellency Ms Nimisha J. Madhvani 
High Commissioner
Uganda High Commission
58-59 Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 5DX
T: 020 7839 5783
E: admin@ugandahighcomission.co.uk

High Commissioner for Uganda Her Excellency Mrs Nimisha Jayant Madhvani returns to the UK, which she refers to as “my second home. I first came here as a refugee when I was 12 years old.” She stayed in England to complete her secondary education before completing university in the United States. “My background has made representing my country here even more of an honour. I am a proud representative of President Museveni.”

Arriving in August last year, she admits she was expecting a quiet couple of months to settle in. “But Britain was in political turmoil last summer. And then there was the sad demise of Her Majesty the Queen. It was remarkable to see how even in death she unified the whole world to bring everyone to London to see her off.” These sad circumstances also meant that as a representative of a Commonwealth country, she was fortunate to meet the King soon after her arrival. The High Commissioner was also invited to the new Prime Minister’s first official function at Downing Street “to celebrate our Hindu ceremony, Divali. To witness these great changes was an interesting start to diplomatic life in London.”

The international exposure during her formative years, meant that joining the diplomatic service after university seemed a natural progression. High Commissioner Madhvani’s first major overseas posting was to Uganda’s Embassy in Washington DC (1993-2006), starting as First Secretary and climbing to become Deputy Ambassador. It was during this time that she was fortunate to witness “the signing of the Arab-Israeli Peace Process in the Rose Garden at the White House.” Nevertheless, her day-to-day role in the US was rather different. She recalls how when Idi Amin took over her country in 1971, Uganda’s GDP was higher than South Korea. “But it soon turned to ashes. There was no salt, no clean water, no bread, eggs or any basic items – the economy had collapsed. About 500,000 Ugandans were killed during the regime that ended in 1979. So as diplomats, our job was to rebuild a nation, to get investment, trade and get industry going, and rehabilitate the properties and businesses that had been destroyed.”

As High Commissioner in India (2007-13), again sourcing investment was Ms Madhvani’s priority. “President Museveni had the vision that continues today: we need investment to bring employment, which provides stability and income, and a strengthened economy. Then we need security to keep our people and money safe. When those structures were in place, attracting investors and tourists is the next step.” As a result, she spent much of her time travelling to different areas of India, as well as the countries she was concurrently accredited to: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Bhutan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Maldives. “The Asian tigers were roaring at the time. Our job was to attract investment to Uganda. We were also strengthening our oil and gas exploration at the time. We have a similar hot, sticky oil to that in Rajasthan, which requires a heated pipeline. So we tried to collaborate on that technology.”

As Ambassador in Paris (2013-17), High Commissioner Madhvani was also accredited to Spain and Portugal. She also worked closely with multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, OECD, UNESCO and Agence France de Development, ensuring their increased funding for Uganda development projects. “My portfolio was huge!” she recalls. She also worked closely with the Ministry of Energy officials and Total France to ensure smooth transactions in the implementation of heated oil pipeline between Hoima (Uganda) and Tanga (Tanzania).

Prior to her appointment in the UK, High Commissioner Madhvani was Ambassador to the Emirates and the Nordic and Baltic States (2018-22), postings which again focused on trade, investment, energy and also dairy, “both huge issues in Scandinavia. And also focused on our large Ugandan diaspora in the Nordic countries.”

Now in the UK, the High Commissioner discusses her major priorities for the role. “This is a historical relationship that is getting stronger by the day,” she notes. “But during this period of great change, we want to strengthen the Commonwealth even more under the leadership of His Majesty. As a group of 56 countries, we are a massive economic tower of strength.” She is already working closely with the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, Lord Popat, a Ugandan Asian, and numerous other East Africans who are members of the House of Lords, as well as members of the House of Commons. “This gives me confidence, especially as they have already been working in Uganda. And we can build on that.” She continues: “I also want to push for Britain to give us a bilateral treaty for our products – 100 per cent duty and quota free, just like we have with the US under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, and like we had with the UK when it was part of the EU. We need to work hard to get that established.”

High level visits are also on the agenda.  “We would like His Majesty King Charles III to visit Uganda, as well as the UK Prime Minister.” Her country is also “looking for development with conservation support, as Uganda is housing 1.5 million refugees from the region. We are looking for investment to build, teach and develop these communities in agriculture in particular.”

Reflecting on her career so far, the High Commissioner notes, “it’s been fascinating to see the world change through a diplomatic lens and the private sector from the time of President Clinton to today.” But one of the highlights “has been the opportunity to see Uganda alight again. Following the end of the dictatorship, it is fabulous to see my home country be rebuilt and succeed. However,” she continues, “we want people to know that Uganda is a safe investment destination. We must mobilise the Ugandan Asians to know that Uganda is a safe place to find opportunities for growth. Uganda is a wonderful place to visit. It really is heaven on earth!”


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