By Simon Abaho
Uganda Investment Authority handed a free investment licence to Jena Herbals Uganda Limited, the company that produces Covidex and is owned by Prof Ogwang.
“Our focus is on supporting local investors. We believe that our country can be built by ourselves. Our goal is to make sure that we can support the local investors to set up and register their businesses as soon as possible,” said Evelyn Anite, the State Minister in charge of Investment and Privatization during the function on Wednesday morning.
“We congratulate you for listening to the call of the president. You have registered your company and that you have expressed a desire to put up a factory, we had to assist you.”
She added that “UIA will provide 5 acres of land in Soroti Industrial Park to enable Prof. Ogwang set up a factory to enable him develop his and other solutions to enable the growth of the pathogenic economy.”
Minister Anite said the government had chosen Soroti Industrial Park for Prof.Ogwang’s factory since the area is near some of the raw materials for the Covidex drug.
“We are happy you are close to natural resources. Ugandans are testifying for Covidex to have helped them get relief from Covid. We will give you support since our job by law is to facilitate investment. We will always be available in case of any challenges.”
The Investment minister also announced a ten year tax holiday for Prof. Ogwang’s plant and machinery as part of incentives for his factory.
Speaking at the function, Prof. Ogwang said he was ready to hit the ground running with the new factory for his Covidex drug.
“We have already mobilized resources. We are ready to start construction as soon as the environmental assessment report is out. I want to thank the government for putting more emphasis on local investment,” Ogwang said.
“This(factory) is not for Ogwang or Teso region but Uganda and Africa at large.”
He added that “The first Investment one must take advantage of is their brain- that’s how we can advance as Uganda.”
The development comes on the backdrop over the fight for Covidex ownership since the drug was cleared by the National Drug Authority to help in the treatment of Covid-19.
As the war raged, Prof.Ogwang threatened to sue Mbarara University for using three of his products including Jena DS Xtra, Artemune and Covidex to solicit funding from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation but also evaluated the products without their consent.
Ogwang said if the university doesn’t abandon all its plans and intentions of using the products, they risk being sued for shs100 billion.
Consequently, he has placed a notice of trademark in the Uganda Gazette for Covidex to ensure he acquires rights to the trademark from the Uganda Registration Services Bureau.
Earlier, Mbarara University had asked Prof.Ogwang to back off manufacturing Covidex until cleared by the university.
The university said they host the Pham Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine Centre(PHARMBIOTRAC) which is one of the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centres for Excellence in Uganda that is fully sponsored by the government to help support the development of herbal products in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the country and that it is through the arrangement that they came up with Covidex.
“Any third party interested in production, distribution, or sale of Covidex without prejudice is hereby asked to desist from negotiating any deals with any individual, other than the university authority, who is the holder of the Intellectual Property Rights for this product, and for the avoidance of any doubts, in this case, Mbarara University of Science and Technology authority,” Prof Celestino Obua, the Mbarara University vice-chancellor said in a letter to Prof.Ogwang.
However, in response, the defiant Ogwang said the Covidex formula had been developed by himself and had consequently undergone laboratory tests by his team of scientists, adding that no one has ownership on the product.
On Wednesday, the Investment minister confirmed that President Museveni is leading negotiations between Prof Ogwang and Mbarara University over the Covidex drug.
Mbarara University is a government institution and the president is interested in the matter and consequently leading the discussions to arbitrate. He has made it clear that the legal gymnastic should be set aside,”Anite said.