Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), a government agency tasked with promoting and marketing the country’s exports, will in the next five years concentrate on marketing Uganda’s exports in the region.
According to the executive director of the board, Mr Elly Twineyo Kamugisha, the consumption of Uganda’s exports in the East Africa region far exceeds the ones shipped beyond the regional borders.
Speaking at a media networking meeting in Kampala yesterday, Mr Kamugisha said statistics support the need to focus the country’s exports in the regional countries and Africa.
He believes this can be realised through trading with regional partners in East African Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) countries.
“Regional markets are getting bigger by the day,” said Mr Kamugisha.
He continued: “Before, European markets used to be the biggest but we are seeing a shift in that. There is now over $1b (Shs3.3 trillion) export market in the region and it is easy to promote our products within the region because we have similar lifestyles.”
According to UEPB data, Uganda’s total merchandise exports in 2014 was $2.6b (Shs8.7 trillion) and by close of last year, it had hit $2.7b (Shs9 trillion).
Statistics futher indicated that last year, the regional market is Uganda’s top export destination, with $1b worth of exports shipped from Uganda to the neighbouring countries. This means that 54 per cent of Uganda’s exports are consumed regionally. The European Union comes second, consuming $502m (Shs1.74 trillion) worth of the country’s exports.
Explaining the disparity, Mr Kamugisha said: “Market familiarity, proximity, growing demand, less stringent standard requirements and adding value to our products explains why the regional markets consume more of our products than elsewhere.”
It also emerged that informal export trade is an untapped gold mine. To harness the informal trade which is worth billions of shillings, UEPB thought it wise to focus on promoting regional trade.
Last year, products such as fish, maize, beans, sugar, bananas, sorghum and industrial products exported informally to neighbouring countries such as Kenya, DR Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania were worth Shs790b, according to UEPB statistics.
However, for that to happen, there should be a change of mindset towards exports, meaning quality issues and formalisation of businesses will have to be at the forefront.
Capacity building for producers and traders, increased value addition and continued government support is a necessity.
While swearing in recently, President Museveni re-emphasised commitment to exporting more value added products in his next five years.
Private Sector Foundation Uganda and Uganda Manufacturers Association have repeatedly said the government is not putting its mouth where its money is as demonstrated by continued underfunding of sectors responsible for marketing and branding the competitive advantage and products of the country.
Trade budget. Ministry of Trade ministerial policy statement presented to Parliament for the debate on the Budget estimates for the Financial Year 2016/17 indicated that the ministry budget is slightly more than Shs40 billion, an allocation that the industry players and analysts describe as minimal.
The sector has received additional resources for financial year 2016/17, including Shs2 billion for the Uganda Export Promotion Board to promote exports; Shs1.5 billion for the Uganda National Bureau of Standards to provide Quality Marks and Product Certifications to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to export their products.
The amount worth of exports that Uganda exported to the region last year, according to the Export Promotion Board.