UGANDA – African Export–Import Bank, also referred to as Afreximbank, a pan-African multilateral trade finance institution, has signed a deal with Uganda to open its first East African branch in Kampala.

The Kampala branch will be the fifth in Africa after Cairo, Abuja, Abidjan and Harare and It will serve 11 countries: Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Comoros.

According to the East African, the Pan African lender is looking to expand both its portfolio and relations with the region by recruiting more institutions.

The deal was signed by President Yoweri Museveni and Benedict Oramah, Afrexim’s president. The agreement also guarantees Afrexim and its senior officials diplomatic immunity in dealings in Uganda.

Prof Oramah said the establishment of an East Africa branch would deepen the bank’s involvement with the region’s institutions.

The Pan African lender, which has different classes of shareholders, including African ministries of finance and central banks, is looking to expand both its portfolio and relations with the region by recruiting more institutions.

Afrexim is in talks to get Uganda’s National Social Security Fund. The plan, according to Kudakwashe Matereke, Afrexim East Africa chief operating officer, is to have NSSF join others in the region like Rwanda’s social security board to become one of the lender’s institutional investors.

If such an investment is approved by the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA), it would provide a window for NSSF to invest some of its $3 billion asset base in ventures outside East Africa.

Currently, Ugandan laws do not allow NSSF to invest money in institutions domiciled outside of East Africa. While this has sometimes created challenges that make it hard for NSSF to diversify its investment portfolio, URBRA chief executive officer Martin Nsubuga said the law protects savers’ money.

Mr Nsubuga said that for URBRA to allow such an investment, the Pan African lender would have to register its Uganda branch.

In East Africa, Afrexim’s investment portfolio includes Kenya Airways, construction of the standard gauge railway in Tanzania and for the construction of the Kigali Convention Centre and the Radisson Blu Hotel in Rwanda.