Ms Prudence Ukkonika, the proprietor of Bella Wine, displays her products made in Uganda. She wants government to support local producers in accessing regional markets.
Statistics portraying increase in trade between Uganda and other East Africa Community (EAC) countries are not telling the whole story, Daily Monitor has learnt.
According to ministry of Trade statistics, Uganda’s exports to EAC have slightly increased from $642.2 million (about Shs2.3 trillion) in 2014 to $711.3 million (about Shs2.5 trillion) in 2016. Imports, however, have reduced from $684.6 million (about Shs2.4 trillion) in 2014 to $530 million (about Shs1.9 trillion) in 2016.
Uganda mainly exports coffee, tea and spices. Others include: animal or vegetable fats and oils, tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes, iron and steel and cereals. She imports lime and cement, plastering materials, iron and steel, plastics, mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous substances, beverages, spirits and vinegar.
If it were not for unnecessary restrictions, including misinterpretation of rules governing regional trade by some EAC member countries, trade and policy analysts believe the country’s export volumes could have been higher than what the statistics show.
A study commissioned by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute-Uganda (SEATINI-U) indicates pitfalls in implementing the EAC Common Market Protocol. This is bad news since it has a bearing on how partner states conduct business among each other. According to sector players, selective application of the common market protocol is already taking a toll on businesses here, particularly exporters.
It should be noted that the motivation for the common market is compelling. With more than 150 million people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $146 billion, a single EAC market presents unprecedented opportunities for private sector players.