The Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) has called upon the Ugandan government to explore retaliatory actions against the Government of Kenya. This request comes in response to what they perceive as mistreatment of Uganda and a detrimental impact on their investments due to the ongoing ban on Ugandan exports to Kenya.
Expressing their discontent with the diplomatic efforts made thus far, traders are now advocating for a more assertive stance in dealing with this situation. Richard Mubiru, Executive Director of UMA, emphasized the necessity of responding to the ban, stating, “Our very blunt demand as manufacturers is there should be a retaliatory measure because we cannot be in a marriage where you cannot enter some bedrooms. Every time we speak about mistreatment of Uganda, the government is in unending engagements with Nairobi and other capitals.”
During a presentation on the state of the economy before the Committee on National Economy on October 26, 2023, Mubiru further highlighted the adverse impact of diplomatic approaches, asserting that the private sector cannot thrive in an environment of diplomatic appeasement that is severely harming their investments.
Representatives from the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) were also present during this meeting. Julius Byaruhanga, Director for Policy and Advocacy at PSFU, drew attention to the ban on milk exports to Kenya in March 2023, underscoring its damaging effects on trade and its consequences for companies like Brookside Uganda, which have been forced to lay off a significant portion of their workforce.
Byaruhanga stressed the unfairness of the ban, given that Kenya constitutes 75 percent of Brookside’s dairy market, without considering the disruptions to the value chain and the subsequent losses.
Furthermore, traders expressed concern over the recent bans on wheat and maize exports to Kenya, which have been detrimental to Uganda’s trade relations. In particular, Kenya had been the largest consumer of Ugandan maize, with export revenue amounting to US$92 million in 2020 and US$52 million in 2021.
Traders are now urging the Ugandan government to foster stronger trade relationships with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country that has displayed significant potential. Mubiru highlighted the potential for substantial growth in manufacturing output and revenue through investments in DRC, targeting women, youth, and small-holder exporters.
However, achieving this milestone would require the establishment of an export insurance policy, which could mitigate government compensation for trade losses. Mubiru emphasized the need for innovative solutions, stating, “Parliament has made compensation to traders for losses in South Sudan and other markets, but our view is that we need to be smarter and create instruments where the private sector needs not to look for you.”
In response to these concerns, members of Parliament addressed the need for the private sector to collaborate with the government in regulating what they described as illicit trade practices, which have contributed to the bans on Ugandan products. They urged traders to self-regulate and maintain ethical business practices.
Additionally, they emphasized the importance of enhancing diplomatic relations in the region to address trade disputes with countries beyond Kenya. The hope is to avoid Uganda becoming a recurring target for trade issues in the East African community.
This recent call for retaliation underscores the gravity of the situation and the growing frustration within the Ugandan business community over the export bans imposed by Kenya.