Uganda as one of the countries within the Common Markets of East and Southern Africa (COMESA) is challenged to establish an enabling environment with efficient infrastructure and services such as rail, telecommunication and markets.
According to Minister of Trade, Industry and commerce Amelia Kyambadde these facilities are key in tapping trade opportunities made possible after Uganda joined the COMESA Free Trade Area (FTA).
Uganda became the 15th member of the COMESA Free Trade Area, after Cabinet in 2012, approved a recommendation by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Commerce to join the COMESA free trade area (FTA).
As a member of FTA, countries trade on a full duty free and quota free basis. Uganda as one of the 19 members of COMESA FTA, is exposed to regional markets, where it can export its products and in return get high export earnings. Kyambadde says that with FTA, Uganda has created trade interconnections that have enabled easier movement of goods and labour.
She says Uganda, has made efforts in improving the quality of goods for export as well as reducing Non-Tariff Barriers and delays that hinder efficient trade in the COMESA region.
Some of the products that gained from the COMESA – FTA include; agricultural based products mainly for exports and construction material. Uganda’s closeness to neighbouring markets in DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan gives it an advantage as the regional hub for trade linkages.
Uganda had delayed to join the FTA because of revenue considerations like taxes levied on imports, but according to the Assistant Commissioner External Trade Okilangole Patrick the benefits from accessing a free trade area under COMESA are bigger.
He says the first step is harmonizing the tax rates with the East African Community and harmonizing the same with COMESA.
Kyambadde and Okilangole were speaking after making an announcement on the forthcoming COMESA High Level Infrastructure Investment Conference set for September 14th 2013 in Kampala. The conference is organised as part of Uganda’s mandate as chair of COMESA.
The meeting is set among other things to present COMESA regional infrastructure projects like roads, railways, sea transport and civil aviation. In energy, they will look at power generation, grid interconnections and pipelines as well as Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
COMESA member states are expected to forge ways to close gaps in interstate infrastructure, as well as mobilize resources to cater for a number of projects valued at 60.7 billion dollars.