Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 3/30/2019

Uganda has a market-based economy rich in natural resources and one of the fastest growing populations in the world.  With comparative advantages in agriculture and one of the largest oil reserves in the region, Uganda is seeing increasing interest among foreign investors.  More U.S. companies are seeking commercial services to set up local and regional operations to take advantage of Uganda’s economic growth potential.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects Uganda’s 2018 gross domestic product (GDP) to reach $27.62 billion, with GDP per capita of $711.  The IMF estimates Uganda’s economy will grow 5.2 percent in 2018 and increase to 5.8 in 2019.  Uganda’s improving economic growth reflects a rebound in agriculture, which grew 6.3 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2016/2017 led by a record coffee harvest, 5.4 percent growth in manufacturing, 4.8 percent growth in construction, 15 percent growth in Internet Communication Technologies, and 12 percent growth in financial services.

The service sector was the largest contributor to GDP in FY 2016/2017 at 47.1 percent and industry contributed about 20.0 percent.  In the same year, agriculture and fishing sectors constituted 23.5 percent of Uganda’s GDP and employed approximately 66 percent of Uganda’s population.  In FY 2016/2017, of the 37.5 million people living in Uganda, 21.48 percent of the population lived on less than $2 per day. 

More information on the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2016/2017 estimates for Uganda’s economy is available here:
Uganda Bureau of Statistics – 2017 Abstract.

AGOA Status: Uganda is eligible for African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits this year.  Uganda does not yet have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an investment chapter with the United States.  The U.S. signed Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFA) with the East African Community (EAC) in 2008, and with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in 2001.  Uganda is a member of both EAC and COMESA regional organizations. 

According to the latest Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) or Harmonized System (HS) Uganda’s 2016 total trade was $7.66 billion, with $2.85 billion worth of exports and $4.81 billion worth of imports.  Uganda’s top five exports in 2016 were, gold ($707 million), coffee ($392 million), tobacco ($95.5 million), tea ($81.9 million), and cocoa beans ($74.6 million).  Uganda’s top five imports were refined petroleum oils ($683 million), medicaments ($247 million), crude palm oil ($196 million), automobiles ($131 million), and delivery trucks ($113 million).  Uganda’s top four export markets in 2016 were United Arab Emirates ($737 million), Kenya ($374 million), Rwanda ($201 million), South Sudan ($189 million), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($176 million).  Uganda’s top five import markets in 2016 were China ($879 million), India ($820 million), Kenya ($441 million), the United Arab Emirates ($388 million) and Japan ($240 million).  According to the latest data from the U.S. Trade Representative, U.S. exports to Uganda totaled $69 million in 2016.  Top U.S. exports to Uganda include machinery ($16 million), aircraft ($15 million), electrical machinery ($11 million), and optical and medical instruments ($5 million).  Uganda’s exports to the U.S. in 2016 totaled $51 million.  Top Ugandan exports to the U.S. include coffee, tea & spice  ($25 million), special other ($9 million), glue & enzymes ($7 million), miscellaneous grain, seeds, fruit ($4 million), and fish and seafood  ($2 million).

More information on Uganda’s trade is available here:
World Bank - World Integrated Trade Solution
U.S. Trade Representative – Uganda

In 2016, the World Bank estimated that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Uganda was approximately $523 million or 2.2 percent of GDP.  The UNCTAD World Investment Report ranks Uganda as the third largest recipient of FDI in the East African region.  FDI in Uganda has remained relatively high, driven by infrastructure investments.  Developments in Uganda’s oil sector are likely to increase FDI levels over the next five years. More information on the World Bank’s estimates for Uganda’s economy is available here:  The World Bank - Uganda.

Uganda’s budget for FY 2018/2019 is UGX 32.7 trillion ($8.8 billion assuming a UGX 3700: $1 exchange rate), 13.1 percent bigger than the FY 2017/18 budget of UGX 28.9 trillion ($7.8 billion).  The budget increase reflects in large part a growth in debt servicing costs attributed to the Government of Uganda’s (GOU) financing of infrastructure projects.
The Ugandan government continues to emphasize strengthening the country's road, rail, water, energy, and communications infrastructure.  In FY 2017/18, the Ugandan Government invested more than $1.1 billion in public works and transportation projects, and increased this amount by 2.1 percent in the 2018/2019 budget. 

More information on Uganda’s budget and budget forecasts is available here:
National Budget Framework Paper - Uganda.

While Uganda maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime, and largely adheres to IMF/World Bank programs to fight poverty, continuing reports of endemic corruption, financial mismanagement, and increasing political repression raise questions about GOU’s commitment to fostering an investor-friendly environment.  The GOU’s sluggish bureaucracy and non-transparent decision-making process hampers progress on public projects.
The top five reasons to export to Uganda include:

  1. A free-market economy, with few limits on foreign investment (outside of local content requirements in the oil and gas sector) and repatriation of funds.
  2. Rapid infusion of foreign direct investment in Uganda’s multi–billion dollar oil sector projects including:  $9 billion in upstream facilities, $4 billion in an oil export pipeline to Tanzania, and a $3 billion oil refinery with a newly-constructed airport and industrial park.
  3. Improving transportation infrastructure though large-scale highway projects and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of airport upgrades across the country.
  4. Abundant resources such as fertile agriculture land and 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves.
  5. A relatively stable political and security environment.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Uganda Trade Development and Promotion