The Ugandan Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Amelia Kyambadde, has urged the private sector to deliberately work to take advantage of Uganda’s accession to the COMESA Free Trade Area.
The good news for most Ugandan traders and farmers comes from the Government’s plan, under the National Trade Policy, the National Development Plan and 2011 NRM Election Manifesto, which prioritized regional integration and enhancing market access for Ugandan goods and services.
While speaking to the press yesterday, the Minister said that, Government has continued to examine very closely the policy environment in which trading, especially with the region is taking place.
“Following this examination, Government has moved steadfastly to improving the trading environment by addressing both endogenous and exogenous factors. The endogenous factors such as improvement of transport infrastructure, increase in energy generation, among others, are well known to us,” she said.
She explained that the Ministry had established that the major impediment to Uganda’s deeper penetration of the regional market was her non-membership of the COMESA Free Trade Area.
“By remaining outside of the COMESA Free Trade Area, our exports to our main export market were being subjected to taxes on importation into those countries. This made our products less price competitive, which certainly impaired us from fully exploiting the benefits of regional integration.”
“Accordingly, therefore, Government has decided that Uganda joins the COMESA Free Trade Area that was launched in 2000. The COMESA has a population of approximately 467.6 million as of July 2011 and a combined GDP of US$799.2 billion as of 2010, and is Uganda’s main export market. Over the last five years, the COMESA has on average provided a market for 57% of the value of Uganda’s exports annually, earning the country an average of US$ 1.3billion in export revenues per annum,” Hon. Kyambadde further explained.
The decision to join the COMESA Free Trade Area, therefore, consolidates and improves Uganda’s access to this lucrative market. The decision, which means that Uganda’s exports to the Free Trade Area Member Countries will not be subjected to import taxes by the importing countries, is projected to increase the country’s exports to COMESA by 50%. Similarly, producer competitiveness is expected to increase since intermediate inputs imported from COMESA Free Trade Area Members, on which a 4% import duty was levied, will now not be subjected to import duties. Consumer welfare is also projected to improve since Uganda’s imports from the Free Trade Area Members will not be subjected to import duties, hence lower consumer prices.
Hon. Kyambadde added, “My Ministry, working very closely with other relevant Government Agencies, will continue interacting with the private sector as well as the general public to guide on how best to make use of Uganda’s membership in the COMESA Free Trade Area.”
“On the same note, I also wish to announce that Uganda is hosting the 16th meeting of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Policy Organs. The meetings are being held at the Commonwealth Resort, Munyonyo, are running from 13th – 24th November 2012; and will culminate in the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the COMESA Member Countries,” she concluded.