November 1, 2018—Member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) are Uganda’s leading export destination, but just two of them, Kenya and South Sudan, make up 60 pc of the annual total.
Amelia Kyambadde, trade and industry minister, told participants at the annual sector review on Wednesday, “We have in place a lot of support systems for exporters. However most traders lack information on what is available and that’s why we are now focusing on training and spreading information on available products.”
Overall, Uganda has a limited export profile. Kyambadde listed poor quality, lack of access to affordable credit, a large informal sector, an under-performing manufacturing sector and lack of information by traders on available markets or understanding of the export trading processes by the farmers as leading constraints.
She said the Ministry is working towards improving export trade through the implementation of the National Export Development Strategy that seeks to identify priority export goods while also emphasing value and quality. TradeMark East Africa, the non-profit consultancy based in Nairobi, has been providing both technical and financial assistance with money sources from multilateral and bilateral donors.
According to Ministry figures, during financial year 2017/18, Uganda increased export earnings by 7.23 percent to $2.8 billion from $2.69 billion but still less than half of imports.
The export-to-import ratio stands at 52.6 pc meaning that Uganda spends $100 when it has only earned $52.66. Asian countries are the biggest contributors to Uganda’s trade deficit. China exported to Uganda goods worth $854.2 million. Behind China comes India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Japan. These top five countries are responsible for 80% of Uganda’s imports.
Uganda’s exports were mainly agricultural produce and minerals topped by coffee ($492.4 million) and gold ($337.2 million). Kenya and South Sudan bought nearly $940 million worth of merchandise and produce, with the latter a top market for cereals, especially maize until recently due to a regional surplus.
Other destinations for Ugandan exports are the European Union, the Middle East and Asia. Uganda has improved its trade deficit with all EAC countries except Tanzania and Burundi. In 2017/2018, Uganda exported goods worth $628.4 million and imported about $505.7 million from Kenya. This is the first time in many years that Uganda is exporting more than its importing from Kenya. South Sudan imported $322.3 million and exported only $14.54 million, Rwanda imported $197.4 million and exported $20.2 million to Uganda while Tanzania exported goods worth $210 million against export of $46.7 million from Uganda.