Forum points to risks for Uganda in Tripartite free trade area
Kampala November 7- Uganda risks losing whatever little industrial estate it does work out a clear strategy ahead of acceding to the Tripartite Free Trade Area converging the EAC, SADC and the COMESA, into a single trading bloc.
During a SEATINI Uganda organised meeting on the process, issues and implications on Uganda’s industrialisation and development, trade experts pointed out that unless the country has clear cut process on how it intends to enter and benefit from the tripartite, it risks losing even the little that exists.
“Uganda’s industrial picture has not changed in the last five years. Most of the companies are underperforming because of high operation costs. If the market space is opened up, what kind of products are going to sell the country?” Henry Nyakoojo an advisor at the Private Sector Foundation Uganda asked.
Nyakojo argues that Uganda can only benefit from the TFTA if the private sector is equipped to compete. “The TFTA will provide a market but the private sector players should have the goods to sell in those markets. We lack the kind of products that we can sell to these markets. The TFTA brings on the table a new market and competitor in South Africa. How equipped is Uganda against big markets like South Africa if we have failed to live up to the competition with Kenya under the East African Community arrangement?” He added.
Economist Fred Muhumuza says now is the time for Uganda to address serious issues concerning the TFTA like what the country will trade in and the quality of the products to be traded before talk about a larger market.
“We need to understand Uganda’ entire trade profile and the underlying significant issues such as financing facing trade and all the issues affecting Uganda’s industrial sector. We also need to be clear on what it is that we are taking to the negotiation table. What is Uganda’s niche?” Muhumuza asked.
Dan Irumba the Executive Director at Seatini says that if the country fails to come up with a proper industrialization strategy, then Uganda will lose out in the end because countries such as Egypt, Kenya and South Africa will get a larger share of the market since they already have a comparative advantage over Uganda.