Rebecca Kadaga, the Third Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda and Minister for East African Community Affairs, criticized Kenya and South Sudan for what she perceives as unfair trade practices during the East African Business and Investment Summit and Expo 2023 in Munyonyo.
Kadaga expressed her frustration, particularly with South Sudan, over their treatment of Ugandan grain exporters. She labeled the actions of South Sudan as “impunity” for locking up maize products in a Ugandan warehouse and retaining the keys, citing quality concerns. She also questioned South Sudan’s delay in completing the Customs Union integration process.
The tension between the two nations escalated in July, leading to the impoundment of nearly 100 trucks at the Elegu border. The situation was resolved with the intervention of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards and the East African Standards Committee.
Kadaga also raised concerns about Kenya’s trade practices. She questioned Kenya’s practice of allowing Ugandan milk exports for a period and then halting them prematurely. According to Kadaga, such practices disrupt the entire trade chain, affecting farmers, processors, and packaging factories.
The East African Business and Investment Summit and Expo 2023 had the theme “Private Sector Driven Regional Integration for Increased Intra-African Trade and Investment.” Its purpose was to assess the region’s readiness for the Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Denis Karera, the Vice Chairperson of the East African Business Council (EABC), highlighted the low participation of EAC traders in AfCFTA, with only two individuals from Kenya and Rwanda confirming their involvement at the conference. Karera urged attendees to seize the opportunities presented by AfCFTA, including discounts on cargo transport offered by RwandaAir and reduced taxes across member countries.
Kadaga also questioned the commitment of other African countries to the trade agreement, as many had not yet ratified it.
At the summit’s conclusion, numerous resolutions were made, including strategies to increase intra-regional trade to 40 percent of all EAC trade within five years, the establishment of frameworks to protect traders, and the promotion of harmonized tax policies. Other resolutions addressed telecommunications, airspace regulation, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, women and youth in business, and sustainable farming practices in the face of climate change.