How penetrating Middle East market could change Uganda’s export bill

The Government of Uganda in October launched a 6-month hunt for investors to pump $40 billion into its nascent economy. Not willing to leave fortune to chance, the country’s President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, headed to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on a three-day working visit, attending the 2021 Dubai Trade Expo. The expo will run from 1st October 2021 to 31st March 2022 and has gathered participants from more than 190 countries and international organizations.

Uganda is in Dubai to highlight opportunities available back home and to turn the city into a hub for trade with oil giants Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Oman. Combined the Middle East market had a total import bill of $1.889b (sh6.7 trillion) in 2020. The East African country is showcasing the opportunities available.

While in Dubai, Mr Museveni rallied investors saying putting their money in Uganda guarantees them access not just to the regional markets but to international markets such as the US and China. Uganda is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), arguably the largest market for fresh trade and investment.  The organization of states focuses on the formation of a large economic and trading unit to overcome the trade barriers that would be faced by individual states. It has 21 Member States with a combined population of over 583 million, a Gross Domestic Product of $805 billion and a global export/import trade in goods worth US$ 324 billion.

Mr Museveni assured interested investors of a 100 million strong population in the next three decades, besides the already existing market of 1.4 billion people in Africa made possible by the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). This African population is expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Away from Africa, Mr Museveni preached wider markets in the USA, Europe and China.

He told investors that Uganda struck a deal with then US president Bill Clinton to allow their products to enter the American market tariff-free and quota-free. He explained that once an investor produces any of a range of 6,000 products in Uganda, they are assured that they will enter the USA without tax and without limit as to their amounts.

He further cited the links Uganda has with China which has allowed some Ugandan products quota-free and tax-free access to their market.

During the Dubai Expo, Uganda seeks to promote its coffee, black tea, cocoa, fish and fish products (Nile perch and tilapia), fruits (avocado, bananas, mangoes and pineapples), vegetables and spices including hot pepper (capsicums), ginger and cardamom.

Uganda currently exports coffee worth $11 million into a market worth $1.1 billion. It exports tea worth $220,000 into a market size of $1.2 billion. Uganda also exports milk powder worth $374,000 into a market size of $2.85 billion. So, there is considerable scope for expansion.