The Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB), will in the next five years concentrate on marketing Uganda’s exports in the region.
The Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB) is a government agency tasked with promoting and marketing the country’s exports.
Mr Elly Twineyo Kamugisha, the executive director of the board, pointed out that 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, 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…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.” He said.
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 further 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.
The realisation of all the possibilities of informal trade exports, however, needs a change of mind-set 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.