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Business in Uganda

A landlocked nation located in central eastern Africa, the Republic of Uganda shipped US$3.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 36.5% increase since 2014 and a 6.4% gain from 2017 to 2018.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Uganda’s exported goods plus services represent 18.8% of total Ugandan economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

The latest data shows that 82.7% of products exported from Uganda were bought by importers in: Kenya (18.8% of the global total), United Arab Emirates (18.2%), Sudan (13.3%), Rwanda (6.9%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (6.6%), Italy (4.3%), Netherlands (3.7%), Germany (3.1%), Belgium (2.4%), Tanzania (2.1%), Hong Kong (1.9%) and the United States (also 1.4%).

From a continental perspective, 51.8% of Uganda’s exports by value were delivered to Africa countries while 28.1% were sold to Asian importers. Uganda shipped another 18.2% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North American (1.8%), Oceania (0.1%) led by Australia, then Latin America (also 0.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.

Given Uganda’s population of 40.9 million people, its total $3.1 billion in 2018 exports translates to an estimated $80 for every resident in the central eastern African country.

In macroeconomic terms, Uganda’s total exported goods represent 3.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($97 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 4.1% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Uganda’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Uganda also provided $2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2% of GDP in PPP.

Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trading Economics estimates Uganda’s unemployment rate to be 2.25% at June 2018.

Uganda’s Top 10 Exports

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ugandan global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Uganda.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$536 million (17.4% of total exports)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $516.9 million (16.7%)
  3. Cereals: $192 million (6.2%)
  4. Fish: $169.9 million (5.5%)
  5. Mineral fuels including oil: $166.8 million (5.4%)
  6. Vegetables: $125.8 million (4.1%)
  7. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $108.2 million (3.5%)
  8. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $86.4 million (2.8%)
  9. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $85.4 million (2.8%)
  10. Iron, steel: $85.3 million (2.8%)

Uganda’s top 10 exports accounted for 67.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.

Tobacco including manufactured substitutes was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 63.7% year over year since 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel in metal form thanks to a 29.4% upturn.

Uganda ‘s shipments of fish posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 24.7% year over year.

The leading decliner among Uganda’s top 10 export categories was coffee, tea and spices which fell -17.7%

From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Uganda ’s most valuable exported product at 16.7% of the country’s total. In second place was coffee (14.1%) trailed by processed petroleum oils (4.2%), sugar (3.4%), fish fillets or pieces (3.3%), dried shelled vegetables (3.2%), corn (2.9%) tea including flavored varieties (also 2.9%), unmanufactured tobacco including tobacco waste (2.2%) then dried, salted or smoked fish (also 2.2%).

Mineral fuels, oils, distillation products $1.32B 2018
Machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers $535.91M 2018
Vehicles other than railway, tramway $508.60M 2018
Electrical, electronic equipment $411.52M 2018
Plastics $386.50M 2018
Iron and steel $369.38M 2018
Pearls, precious stones, metals, coins $335.51M 2018
Pharmaceutical products $281.16M 2018
Animal, vegetable fats and oils, cleavage products $248.43M 2018
Cereals $236.36M 2018
Paper and paperboard, articles of pulp, paper and board $162.38M 2018
Miscellaneous chemical products $150.27M 2018
Salt, sulphur, earth, stone, plaster, lime and cement $133.18M 2018
Other made textile articles, sets, worn clothing $121.50M 2018
Optical, photo, technical, medical apparatus $101.88M 2018
Sugars and sugar confectionery $97.64M 2018
Organic chemicals $95.81M 2018
Essential oils, perfumes, cosmetics, toileteries $84.74M 2018
Rubbers $75.73M 2018
Articles of iron or steel $75.23M 2018
Footwear, gaiters and the like, $73.99M 2018
Inorganic chemicals, precious metal compound, isotope $53.72M 2018
Aircraft, spacecraft $51.56M 2018
Tanning, dyeing extracts, tannins, derivatives, pigments $47.74M 2018
Miscellanneous manufactured articles $46.31M 2018
Manmade staple fibers $44.49M 2018
Furniture, lighting signs, prefabricated buildings $41.35M 2018
Fertilizers $39.00M 2018
Articles of apparel, not knit or crocheted $35.78M 2018
Soaps, lubricants, waxes, candles, modelling pastes $35.45M 2018
Beverages, spirits and vinegar $35.11M 2018
Ceramic products $34.70M 2018
Miscellaneous edible preparations $34.31M 2018
Aluminum $28.40M 2018
Glass and glassware $27.95M 2018
Residues, wastes of food industry, animal fodder $23.44M 2018
Cereal, flour, starch, milk preparations and products $23.00M 2018
Articles of apparel, knit or crocheted $20.51M 2018
Miscellaneous articles of base metal $20.35M 2018
Tools, implements, cutlery of base metal $19.05M 2018
Oil seed, oleagic fruits, grain, seed, fruits $17.20M 2018
Manmade filaments $16.30M 2018
Articles of leather, animal gut, harness, travel good $15.86M 2018
Printed books, newspapers, pictures $14.47M 2018
Milling products, malt, starches, inlin, wheat gluten $12.73M 2018
Edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers $12.46M 2018
Cotton $12.46M 2018
Coffee, tea, mate and spices $12.26M 2018
Zinc $11.65M 2018
Albuminoids, modified starches, glues, enzymes $10.86M 2018
Fish, crustaceans, molluscs, aquatics invertebrates $9.96M 2018
Edible fruits, nuts, peel of citrus fruit, melons $9.12M 2018
Wadding, felt, nonwovens, yarns, twine, cordage $8.95M 2018
Vegetable, fruit, nut food preparations $8.69M 2018
Stone, plaster, cement, asbestos, mica or similar materials $7.84M 2018
Live animals $6.86M 2018
Tobacco and manufactures tobacco substitutes $6.82M 2018
Copper $5.78M 2018
Ores slag and ash $5.73M 2018
Dairy products, eggs, honey, edible products $5.32M 2018
Raw hides and skins (other than furskins) and leather $5.14M 2018
Toys, games, sports requisites $5.14M 2018
Wood and articles of wood, wood charcoal $4.75M 2018
Impregnated, coated or laminated textile fabric $4.39M 2018
Meat, fish and seafood preparations $3.52M 2018
Cocoa and cocoa preparations $2.99M 2018
Bird skin, feathers, artificial flowers, human hair $2.96M 2018
Headgear and $2.85M 2018
Photographic or cinematographic goods $2.43M 2018
Carpets and other textile floor coverings $1.90M 2018
Lac, gums, resins $1.57M 2018
Ships, boats, and other floating structures $1.43M 2018
Live trees, plants, bulbs, roots, cut flowers $1.37M 2018
Meat and edible meat offal $1.31M 2018
Explosives, pyrotechnics, matches, pyrophorics $1.15M 2018
Special woven or tufted fabric, lace, tapestry $1.14M 2018
Clocks and watches $1.05M 2018
Railway, tramway locomotives, rolling stock, equipment $1.03M 2018
Knitted or crocheted fabric $1.01M 2018
Pulp of wood, fibrous cellulosic material, waste $931.74K 2018
Umbrellas, walking-sticks, seat-sticks, whips $729.24K 2018
Products of animal origin $455.51K 2018
Musical instruments, parts and accessories $397.48K 2018
Vegetable textile fibers not specified elsewhere, paper yarn, woven fabric $353.27K 2018
Base metals not specified elsewhere, cermets. $310.04K 2018
Manufacturers of plaiting material, basketwork $267.2K 2018
Works of art, collectors’ pieces and antiques $227.59K 2018
Tin $213.00K 2018
Cork and articles of cork $164.39K 2018
Nickel $65.37K 2018
Furskins and artificial fur, manufactures $59.58K 2018
Arms and ammunition, parts and accessories $52.16K 2018
Wool, animal hair, horsehair yarn and fabric $23.66K 2018
Lead $11.65K 2018
Vegetable plaiting materials, vegetable products $11.60K 2018
Silk $3.82K 2018
Commodities not specified according to kind $1 2016

Uganda is a Sovereign State and a Republic. It is a sitting member of the United Nations, African Union, The East African Community and the Commonwealth. The Government of the Republic of Uganda is a Democracy made up of three arms: The Executive – comprising of president, vice president, prime minister, cabinet; The Legislative – parliament; and The Judiciary – Magistrates’ Courts, High Court, Court of Appeals (Constitutional Court), Supreme Court. The Constitution of Uganda was promulgated October 8, 1995 on the eve of Uganda’s Independence Day anniversary held annually on October 9 since 1962.

Political structure

Official name

Republic of Uganda

Form of state

Unitary republic

Legal system

Based on English common law and the 1995 constitution

National legislature

Parliament of Uganda; 386 members; 238 are elected by universal suffrage; the remainder represent special interest groups, including women, the army, workers, youth and the disabled; all serve five years

National elections

February 2016 (presidential, legislative and local); next elections are scheduled to take place in February 2021

Head of state

President, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term

National government

The president and his appointed cabinet; a new government was announced in June 2016

Main political parties

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) dominates the political scene and has a large parliamentary majority; the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) emerged from within the NRM and is the largest opposition party; the other main opposition parties, the Democratic Party (DP) and the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), have declined in popularity; a new party, Go Forward, was formed in October by the NRM’s former secretary-general, Amama Mbabazi

Key ministers

  • President & commander-in-chief: Yoweri Museveni
  • Vice-president: Edward Ssekandi
  • Prime minister: Ruhakana Rugunda
  • First deputy prime minister: Moses Ali
  • Second deputy prime minister: Kirunda Kivejinja
  • Agriculture, animal industry & fisheries: Vincent Bamugalangaki
  • Attorney-general: William Byaruhanga
  • Defence & veteran affairs: Adolf Mwesige
  • Education & sports: Janet Museveni
  • Energy & minerals: Irene Muloni
  • Finance & economic planning: Matia Kasaija
  • Foreign affairs: Sam Kutesa
  • Gender, labour & social affairs: Janet Mukaya
  • Health: Aceng Jane
  • Information, ICT & communications: Frank Tumwebaze
  • Internal affairs: Jeje Odongo
  • Justice & constitutional affairs: Kahinda Otafiire
  • Kampala Capital City Authority: Betty Kamya
  • Karamoja: John Byabagambi
  • Land, housing & urban development: Betty Amongi
  • Local government: Tom Butime
  • Public service: Muruli Mukasa
  • Security: Elly Tumwine
  • Tourism, wildlife & antiquities: Kamuntu Ephraim
  • Trade, industry & co-operatives: Amelia Kyambadde
  • Water & environment: Sam Cheptoris
  • Works & transport: Monica Azuba Ntege
  • Central bank governor
  • Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile
Date Day Holiday
1 Jan Tue New Year’s Day
26 Jan Sat NRM Liberation Day
16 Feb Sat Archbishop Janani Luwum Day
8 Mar Fri International Women’s Day
19 Apr Fri Good Friday
21 Apr Sun Easter Sunday
22 Apr Mon Easter Monday
1 May Wed Labour Day
3 Jun Mon Martyrs’ Day
5 Jun Wed Eid al-Fitr
9 Jun Sun National Heroes Day
12 Aug Mon Eid al-Adha
9 Oct Wed Independence Day
25 Dec Wed Christmas Day
26 Dec Thu Boxing Day
Visit go.ug for the original release.