Uganda’s exports to DR Congo registered an all time high, signaling manufacturer’s renewed efforts to capture new markets after encountering blockades in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
The earnings, which peaked a new high in December, according to Bank of Uganda, have been growing through 2020 despite challenges brought about by Covid-19.
According to data from the Central Bank, export earnings increased to $28.1m (Shs104b) in December up from $23.3m (Shs86bn) earned in November.
The increase indicated a 17 per cent growth, which opens up a new frontier market for Uganda goods.
Manufacturers, especially in the cement, steel, household items and dairy sectors, have been searching for new markets in DR Congo and South Susan, after encountering challenges in some markets within East Africa.
In the late 90s Uganda’s exports to DRC were just $0.50m. However, this has grown tremendously over the years.
Dr Fred Muhumuza, an economist and lecturer at Makerere School of Economics, said DR Congo was a growing market that Uganda needs to understand and consolidate, noting that the relative peace in the country compared to extremes of the past has allowed an increase in people’s incomes leading to a rise in demand for a variety of goods.
“That said, it would be good to see which products are involved,” he said.
According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Uganda exports mostly animal, vegetable fats and oils and cleavage products to DR Congo.
Other exports are sunflower-seed, cotton-seed oil, fast consumer goods and smoked fish, especially to eastern DR Cong.
The increase comes on the back of improved trade relations supported by the 2019 agreements in which Uganda and DR Congo agreed to work on key roads within 24 months to ease business and increase trade and investment between the two countries.
Presidents Museveni and his counterpart Felix Tshisekedi signed the agreements in 2019 noting that there was need to eliminate trade restrictions and infrastructure obstacles between Uganda and DR Congo that raise the cost of doing business.
Uganda and the DR Congo import a number of products from China, Japan and India.
The total distance of the three key road networks will be 1,182 kilometres, which are expected to be worked on within 24 months after the respective ministers have agreed on implementation details.
Uganda has started to implement part of the agreement in which it has already allocated money to work on some roads connecting to DR Congo.
In 2019, President Museveni promised to construct some roads within Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as a way of facilitating trade.
“We want to work on the road from Goli to Mahagi-Bunia. Then the other road would be from Mpondwe to Beni. The other would be from Bunagana to Rutshuru to Goma. So, when you produce, you supply goods and services while creating jobs for youth,” Museveni said.
DR Congo, which has applied to join the EAC, is an interesting market for Ugandan exporters.