Kampala, Uganda | GODFREY SSALI | Trade Ministers from Uganda and South Africa have reaffirmed their commitment towards facilitating trade and investment flows between the two countries.
The two ministers Amelia Kyambadde, the minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and her counterpart Gratitude Bulelani Magwanishe, the South African Deputy Minister for Trade and Investment signed a declaration on Tuesday in Pretoria, South Africa recognising the imperative to build a mutually beneficial trade and investment relationship that supports the industrialisation imperatives of the two countries.
The ministers met during the 2nd South Africa – Uganda Joint Trade Committee (JTC) Meeting in Pretoria. The meeting followed the 1st JTC held in November 2015 Kampala, which was established to strengthen the trade relations between Uganda and South Africa.
In her remarks, Minister Kyambadde underscored the widening and imbalanced trade and investment flows between Uganda ans South Africa.
By 2016, Uganda’s trade imbalance with South Africa was estimated at $ 198Million, Uganda’s imported from South Africa goods worth $215 million against Uganda’s exports worth $17 million.
“Imports from South Africa are mainly processed and manufactured products that include flat rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, transport goods vehicles, electricity meters, semi-finished products of iron and non- alloy steel, printed matters, apples and medicine, while Uganda’s export was mainly coffee,” she said.
Kyambadde noted that there has been an increase in the South African Companies operating in the Ugandan economy yet the number of Ugandan Companies operating in the South African market was minimal.
Currently, there are over 60 South African companies in Uganda and they are broadly in the areas of financial, telecommunications, hospitality industry, power generation and manufacturing. Some of the notable companies are Stanbic Bank, MTN Uganda, Shoprite, Game, Eskom and Woolworth.
“There is need to enhance Uganda’s market access and improve our trade relations; which calls for flexibility, reciprocity and preferential access to your market”, Kyambadde said.
In response, Gratitude Magwanishe said South Africa was committed to maintaining and improving the already vibrant relations between both countries however, cautioning Uganda to work harder towards improving her exports to South Africa.
“The onus is on Uganda to work harder in improving exports to South Africa and thus should effectively utilize the Joint Trade Committee for the two countries to achieve this”, said Magwanishe.
Magwanishe added that South Africa is committed to facilitating trade and investment flows between the two countries as contained in the Trade Agreement signed in 2002 and in keeping with the principles of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (T-FTA) negotiations.
Uganda under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC), is in negotiations with South African Customs Union (SACU), and on this issue Minister Kyambadde appealed for a more flexible approach on market access tariff negotiations at the SACU-EAC deliberations on products of specific interest to both parties in the TFTA negotiations.
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Ambassador Julius Onen noted Uganda’s potential in the trading of fresh products like peppers, chilies, green bananas, and avocados in South Africa. He added that coffee is another key strategic product in Uganda’s export basket and appealed for structured negotiations for market access of these products in the South African market.
The two countries agreed to implement exchange programmes in various areas of cooperation so that product preferences could become known as opportunities are uncovered. In particular, the Ministers agreed that the two countries would exchange information on the Legal and Regulatory Framework in order to learn about each other’s requirements for a smooth flow of trade and investments.
“We agreed to exchange information on the implementation of Proudly South African Initiative and the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) initiative so that we can learn from each other”, explained Kyambadde.
Another area is the tourism sector where Uganda can learn from South Africa’s expertise in Tourism Marketing and the two countries could exchange knowledge and best practice.
The two countries also agreed to strengthen collaboration between the trade investment agencies including Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) and the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) and Uganda Development Bank Limited (UDBL), the South African Bureau of Standards and Uganda National Bureau of Standards, and the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) in South Africa and the MSME Directorate in Uganda.