Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have agreed to eliminate visa requirements for their respective citizens. The decision was announced by Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister, Okello Oryem, who attributed the decision to the persistent efforts of Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Felix Tshisekedi from both nations.
As a result of this bilateral agreement, citizens of both Uganda and the DRC will have the opportunity to travel more freely between the two countries. This development is expected to facilitate smoother economic and social interactions.
Trade Surplus and Key Exports:
Official data reveals that in 2020, Uganda generated a trade surplus of $241 million with the DRC. Informal trade exports, estimated at $177 million, further contribute to a substantial trade earnings figure of $418 million, making the DRC Uganda’s leading trade surplus market. Uganda primarily exports products such as cement, palm oil, rice, sugar, refined petroleum, baked goods, cosmetics, and iron materials to the DRC.
Uganda and the DRC share a history of common ties, predating the DRC’s entry into the East African Community in 2021. Citizens from both countries often have relatives residing across the border, and some Ugandan farmers, like John Bitswande from Kasese District, have established farms in eastern DRC. The removal of visa requirements is expected to simplify the movement of people like Bitswande who engage in cross-border activities.
John Bitswande, a Ugandan cocoa farmer, described the challenges faced when crossing the border for farming purposes. He stated that visa fees, which could vary from $50 to $100 depending on the circumstances, were occasionally required when crossing into the DRC to engage in agricultural activities.
Facilitating Trade and Road Development:
The Ugandan Ministry of Trade has been actively working to connect Ugandan suppliers with potential buyers in the DRC over the past four years. However, security concerns have presented a major hindrance to these efforts. The Ministry has organized meetings between DRC buyers and Ugandan suppliers in Kampala and facilitated business-to-business interactions under the Uganda-DRC summit.
Furthermore, both Kampala and Kinshasa are collaborating on three road projects within the DRC to improve infrastructure. The first project spans from Kasindi to Beni (80 kilometers), the second covers the Beni-Butebo axis (54 kilometers), and the third extends 89 kilometers from Bunagana to Goma. These improved road connections are expected to benefit both economies by facilitating the transportation of perishable goods and granting access to valuable mining concessions in the DRC.