Drito Global Corporation: Mining Industry, Agriculture and Health Sector in Uganda

Martin Andi Drito shares his assessment of the mining industry, agriculture and health sector in Uganda, and presents Drito Global Corporation’s activities. He also discusses competitive advantages and shares his vision for the country.

Interview with Martin Andi Drito, CEO of Drito Global Corporation

Martin Andi Drito, CEO of Drito Global Corporation

What is your assessment of the mining sector in Africa? What are the challenges?

One of the major challenges that we have in the mining sector in Africa is the lack of financing that relates to poor production techniques. As a continent, we cannot go far unless we invest in technology so that we can exploit our mineral resources adequately. We need a financing sector that is responsive to the requirements of the mining industry. That is really lacking across the board in Africa. On top of that, even if the financing was available, we would have to address the interest rates. The interest rates in Africa in general, especially here in Uganda, are very prohibitive. These are issues that need to be addressed at a policy level. We need to regulate the mining industry. There are cases in Africa where the artisanal miners could actually be the bedrock of our economy. That would really help income levels across the board from the miners to us as the middlemen to the economy reflecting in taxes, etc. At the policy level, Uganda and the continent need to adopt policies that protect both the artisanal miners and the big companies that are coming on board. Especially here, where you can see the artisanal miners being pushed off from their concessions, it is creating a lot of distress in the people. We need to properly look out for both the artisanal miners and the companies coming in so that the industry is beneficial to everyone. We want both the people and the country to gain from the resources that we have.

What do you do in mining? What are your competitive advantages? How do you distinguish yourself from other consultants and traders?

Uganda is a country that is very well endowed. We have a good climate, fertile soil, minerals. The country itself can take off easily. What I would want for this country is democracy.

We ensure the security of both parties. We ensure that the legal processes are followed. We ensure that the seller and the buyer are protected. We stand in the middle of the buyer and the seller and make sure that in bringing the two parties together that it is a win-win situation. In the mining industry there are a lot of unscrupulous dealers. You will find that there are sellers that are not above board as well as buyers who come and try to cheat the sellers. We make sure that the product the seller says they are selling is there and is genuine. We look at the product, test it, assay it, and give it to the Central Bank to test it, assay it, and all expenses are paid officially to the Central Bank of Guinea and exported officially by the Central Bank. We make sure that the buyer pays by depositing money into the account of the Central Bank. It is very difficult to cheat this system. This is the same thing I would like to introduce into Uganda. Here, we do not have a well-regulated export trade. Because of this, we find buyers losing their money and sellers losing their product. We need to streamline the system in Uganda so that there is a one stop point where buyer and seller can meet and get a contract from there. The buyer knows his money is safe, the seller knows his product is safe, and our job is to be that person in the middle. This structure is something that the government should create. I tried to get this introduced so that the Central Bank of Uganda would get involved in regulating the gold trade, but unfortunately, I have not received a very positive response. Unreliable buyers and unreliable sellers are the major challenges that we have in the mineral industry. It is affecting our economy at a huge level. Even products that are exported do not reflect back into the country, especially in Uganda. We have exported over half a billion bars of gold but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The actual gold that has gone out is well over one billion bars. Why is so little reflected in our economy? It is because it is not controlled. If the country is going to benefit from our mineral resources, money must come into the banking system.

What is your international reach?

We are strong in Guinea, Mali, Uganda, DRC. We were present in South Sudan, although there has been a lot of insecurity there so we have stopped working there. Next week I will be in Tanzania to try to make a foothold. We want to be present in South, East, and West Africa.

Is it a buyers’ market or a sellers’ market?

Now, it is more of a buyers’ market for gold and diamonds.

Are you looking for international investors?

We need technology in this industry, not only at the production level but also at the evaluation level. For example, gold production comes with a lot of risks. Mercury is used and it is extremely dangerous to people’s health. We need technology that can help us phase that out. At our lab in Africa, we have not gotten to that level. We need technological transfer from other countries which means we need partners from developed countries to work on ensuring that we have technology for production, ensuring our health, and ensuring access to international markets. We definitely need partners.

What do you do in the agricultural sector? What are your competitive advantages?

We are completely organic. We grow cashew nuts, sesame seeds, etc. Organic products are already premium. We need to go beyond growing and get into processing to add value to what we are producing and that involves technology. These are the areas where we need association. Our cost of production is far lower than you would find in most other countries because our labor costs are lower and we do not need greenhouses. Production levels are very good.

What are you doing in the medical marijuana sector?

Medical marijuana is a growing industry in the health sector. Last year, we became the first country to receive a concession in Comoros. We applied last year for the permit and we were not able to secure it. Other companies did but then the legislation has not been put on board. We were working in association with a Canadian firm. We were going to deliver about 1,500 jobs in this country and a 20 million dollar investment. There was going to be a national testing laboratory. Unfortunately, despite our capacity to do this, we have not been given a permit. Other companies have been given permits but no one is producing. Uganda is not UN compliant so we were planning on bringing in consultants from Switzerland and Germany to make sure we were narcotics compliant. Even if we grow marijuana now, we cannot export it.

What is your vision for the country? What do you want to bring to the people here? What do you want to achieve?

Uganda is a country that is very well endowed. We have a good climate, fertile soil, minerals. The country itself can take off easily. What I would want for this country is democracy. Democracy has a dividend of FDI. We are democratic now, but we can do better. We already have peace and stability in this country so we should be able to draw in investment. My dream for this country is for both the opposition and the government to sit down together and look at the general interest of this country rather than political affiliations. I would like Uganda to be a country where there is a meritocracy. People should be given things based on their merit. Corruption is one of the biggest impediments in this country. We are failing to hit targets. The government also needs to control government expenditure. Money needs to be reflected back into the economy through the development of agriculture, the development of value addition, setting up factories, and setting up good financing facilities for the ordinary people instead of pouring all the money into the administrative costs of the country.


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