Leave small businesses to locals, Juba City mayor tells Ugandans

It is estimated there between 900,000 and 1.5 million Ugandans involved in business in South Sudan. PHOTO | file 

What you need to know:

According to Mr Micheal Allah-Jabu, the Juba City Council Mayor, Ugandans should instead invest in bigger businesses that are more profitable and create value for both Uganda and South Sudan

The Juba City Council Mayor has asked Ugandans to leave small businesses to South Sudan nationals.

Speaking at the start of the Uganda - South Sudan Business Forum in Juba, Mr Micheal Allah-Jabu, the Juba City Council Mayor said, Ugandans should instead invest in bigger businesses that are more profitable and create value for Uganda and South Sudan.

“I am appealing to you, Ugandans, we would wish the Ugandan community to provide bigger businesses, which can employ South Sudanese, so that we are also able to improve our economy and household income,” he said at the first ever business forum between the two countries.

Uganda is one of South Sudan’s largest source of exports and a large number of Uganda, estimated at between 900,000 and 1.5 million work in the country.

Many of these are involved in businesses that have a combined value of more than $900m.

It is estimated that only 1,200 Ugandan are involved in professional works mainly in the service industry sector, non-governmental organisation, ministries and industries.

Mr Allah-Jabu noted that Ugandans must also avoid getting involved in business that contravene the law, noting that a number of people have previously got in trouble with authorities for engaging in dubious businesses, which sometimes strains relationships between the two countries.

South Sudan remains one of the biggest destination of Uganda’s exports.

In April, according to data from the Central Bank, Uganda’s exports to South Sudan recorded a monthly average of $50.6m in February, which was an increase of more than 21 percent from $39.7m (Shs142b) in January.

During the period, data from Bank of Uganda indicated that Uganda exported more goods to South Sudan compared to any other East African country.

For instance, Uganda’s exports to South Sudan were $4.4m higher than the $46.2m (Shs166.3b) earned from Kenya during the period.

However, Uganda’s largest exports to South Sudan are largely composed of food items, sugar, which in the period, earned Uganda $32m, cereal flours and cement, which fetched $28.1m and $27.6m, respectively.

In the last eight years, Uganda’s exports to South Sudan have increased at an annualised rate of 46 percent from $17.3m in 2012 to $357m in 2020.

South Sudan remains vulnerable to several shocks, worsened by high levels of poverty and food insecurity, which Mr Allah-Jabu said provides a lot of investment opportunities for Ugandan to enhance development and service delivery in the country.

At the same forum, Ms Mary Muortat Gordon, the South Sudan Bureau of Standards chief executive officer, said they had over the years recorded high levels of dumping but, through partnerships with different countries, they are trying to address the issues.

“This is a very challenging issue. As a result, we have signed MoUs with our neighbours such as Uganda to help us address this issue,” she said, noting that whereas much of these substandard goods are not manufactured from Uganda, majority of them are transited through the country, which affects their economy and endanger lives.

Searching for opportunities      

During the three-day Uganda - South Sudan Business Forum, Mr Stephen Asiimwe, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda executive director, said the private sector stakeholders were in South Sudan to strengthen business relations, noting that no economy can survive without business opportunities.

He said, whereas businesses pay taxes, they must ensure that they create channels through which challenges are discussed and resolved in an amicable manner.

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