By Julius Businge
Economic experts have supported the recent decision taken by the government of Uganda to join the COMESA FTA, saying it would increase the volume of Ugandan exports to the COMESA FTA and promote the country’s economic growth.
The decision came at a time when Uganda was hosting the 16th meeting of the COMESA policy organs which will go up to Nov. 24. Uganda will chair the COMESA for the next one year, which according to analysts will help the country to influence policy decisions in the bloc.
Prior to joining, government officials from the ministry of finance feared that the country would lose taxes charged on goods and services entering the Ugandan market from the COMESA FTA among other factors.
The Acting Principle at the Economic Policy Research Centre Makerere, Lawrence Bategeka told The Independent that Uganda’s decision to join the COMESA FTA was timely.
“Regional trade is growing and we have to get involved,” Bategeka said. He added Uganda has in the recent years benefited from the active regional market in South Sudan, and the DRC, an indicator that there is potential in other markets across the region.
Sebaggala Kigozi, the executive director of the Uganda manufacturers Association (UMA) said this was a good step since local industries are not producing enough for the market.
Sebaggala said COMESA members would provide cheap raw materials for the local industries which would in the end help manufacturers produce at lower costs and sell products at affordable prices.
Uganda’s total exports to the COMESA FTA are estimated to grow to over 50% and its export earnings are expected to grow to $1,281.3 million until 2015.
The COMESA has a population of about 467.6 million as of July 2011 and a combined GDP of $799.2 billion as of 2010, and is Uganda’s main export market.
The ministry of trade says 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 $1.3billion in export revenues per annum.
The COMESA bloc has 19 member states, of which 14 including Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, are members of the COMESA Free Trade Area that was launched in 2000.