Uganda struggles to boost trade with South Africa

Ugandan exporters must improve product quality, improve conformity to standards to increase exports to neighboring country

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Uganda struggles to boost trade with South Africa

Ugandan exporters must improve product quality, improve conformity to standards to increase exports to neighboring country

By Halima Athumani

KAMPALA – Ugandan business has had little success in penetrating the South African market, but change is coming.

The poor quality of products from Uganda, inadequate phytosanitary standards, and high visa fees are all obstacles preventing market penetration for Ugandan products in this key export market.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Friday, South African High Commissioner Lekoa Solly Mollo notes that although trade and investment has increased over the years, “the trade balance has always been very heavily skewed in South Africa’s favor.”

Trade volume between the two countries is valued at just $250 million.

The High Commissioner states that “Inadequate phytosanitary standards at Ugandan producers is one of the obstacles to access by Ugandan exporters to markets in South Africa.”

These are standards like packaging, ingredients list, laboratory checks – all the product standards required by South African regulations, Mollo said.

In November, South Africa and Uganda held a joint trade commission meeting at which the issue of non-conformity of Ugandan products was raised.

Mollo said that it was critical for Ugandan producers to address these issues to achieve greater market penetration in South Africa.

South Africa asked Uganda to send two officials to Johannesburg to train with the South African Bureau of Standards to meet the challenge.

But the Ugandan Director for Regional Cooperation in charge of Africa and Middle East Rossete Nirikindi Katungi told Anadolu Agency on Friday: “But the handicap has been that we do not have enough resources to send more people to train.”

The joint commission then agreed that the Ugandan authorities must identify the areas assistance is needed so that the South African Bureau of Standards could send experts to train Ugandan officials.

Katungi said that, if standards issues could be addressed, the potential for Ugandan traders and business people to export to South Africa was great.

Uganda is ranked as South Africa’s 15th export market in Africa with exports mainly of agricultural products, petroleum, oil, and paper.

According to Commissioner Mollo, Uganda remains a strategic country for South Africa in the East African region for trade and investment. “This has become increasingly important with the possible expansion of the East African region to include Uganda’s second largest trading partner, the Republic of Sudan, as a member of the East African Community.”

Despite good trade relations between the two countries, Ugandans have had sometimes had difficulty in obtaining visas to trade in South Africa. Fees for visas are exceptionally high.

Katungi explains that Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working to make obtaining visas easy for Ugandans.

These issues can also be addressed at the Forum of South African Businesses in Uganda (FOSABU).

Launched in December, the Forum  brings together 70 South African companies operating in Uganda. There are businesses from all sectors of the economy represented at the forum.

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