Foodstuffs dominate Uganda’s exports to East African markets
“But local farmers are getting cheated by Kenyan traders who are buying immature crops in the gardens instead of waiting for harvest time. Many farmers are usually cash strapped before harvest time and are willing to take any cash that comes their way.
“However, this approach to business tends to compromise the quality of our farm produce. Business conditions in Uganda are still tight and our cashflows are getting thin as we struggle to remain afloat,” said Deo Kayemba, chief executive of East African Roofing Systems Ltd, a manufacturer of iron sheets and steel bars.
“In spite of those challenges, I feel optimistic about economic recovery in South Sudan and DRC this year after the return of Riek Machar to Juba and the peaceful transfer of power from Joseph Kabila to Felix Tshisekedi in DRC,” Mr Kayemba added.
According to company records, East African Roofing Systems exported goods worth $2 million to South Sudan in 2018 while exports to DRC are estimated at $600,000 during the same period. The company exported barbed wire valued at $100,000 to Burundi last year.
“The political uncertainty in DRC, the Ebola epidemic and fresh fighting in eastern Congo severely affected our sales turnover in that market. Most of South Sudan’s imports from Uganda were made up of food items but we saw less demand for hardware products last year.
“This forced us to focus more on Rwanda but rising production of local steel products in that market has affected demand for imports. We are seeing more steel manufacturing plants being set up in Uganda this year and we believe our export volumes need to grow to about 50 per cent of total output so as to enable us contain new rivals in the industry,” argued Stuart Mwesigwa, business development manager at Roofings Group Ltd.
“The South Sudan trade window has been captured by some big political interests that have pushed most of the small traders to the sidelines in recent times. However, demand for stationery products from South Sudan has dropped sharply since 2018, largely because of the persistent war situation,” noted Edward Kigongo, chief executive of Ken Group Limited, a supplier of stationery materials.