BILATERAL TIES

Kenya, Uganda push to strengthen trade

A two-day Kenya-Uganda agribusiness expo took place in Mombasa this week.

In Summary

•A high-powered delegation from Uganda of three Ministers; Trade, Agriculture, Finance and Investment attended the Mombasa expo.

•Kenya's Trade CS Betty Maina and her Ugandan counterpart Francis Mwebesa explored on available opportunities for trade in both nations.

There are great opportunities for Kenya and Uganda traders to invest more in agribusiness, logistics and other related business support services within the two nations,experts have said.

For years, Kenyan exports to Uganda have been manufactured goods, while imports into Kenya from Uganda have been agro-products.

During an agribusiness expo in Mombasa this week, Kenya's industrialisation and trade  CS Betty Maina and her Ugandan counterpart Francis Mwebesa, said both nations have an opportunity to diversify their business.

The two-day expo was themed, ‘Unlocking the full potential of Agri-business to enhance export performance for national development.’

The expo brought together over 50 exhibitors from the two countries and other parts of the world, focusing on agriculture and food security.

CS Maina said the cordial relation between Kenya and Uganda has enabled the business communities in both countries to trend deep into each other's territories in search of opportunities.

“The greatest testimony to this is the thriving air, road and rail transport between our two countries. I applaud the direct flights between Mombasa city and Entebbe and from the available data, I can comfortably indicate that there is greater potential for more flights – facilitating faster movement of Kenyan and Ugandan entrepreneurs and investors,” she said.

Uganda is the biggest users of the Port of Mombasa among landlocked countries in the region, accounting for up to 83 per cent of transit cargo.

Maina said Mombasa and the new Lamu Port will continue to serve with greater efficiency and professionalism, hinterland customers beyond Uganda.

Mombasa has for decades served Uganda, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Northern Tanzania, Zambia and South Sudan.

“To drive integration even further, I am proposing that Kenya and their Ugandan counterparts invest more in logistics and other related business support services," she said.

She also called for more investment in information technology.

Mwebesa on the other hand noted that for many years, Uganda’s largest export market for agricultural products has been Kenya.

“These bilateral interactions are a core part of consolidating and promoting bilateral trade between the two countries which are strong economic partners, with both depending on each other,” said Mwebesa.

Last year,Uganda remained the largest export destination for Kenyan exports to African countries, accounting for 29.3 per cent of the total exports.

Exports to Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan jointly amounted to Sh 120.6 billion compared to Sh99.9 billion in 2019, the Economic Survey 2021 indicates,  reflecting a growth of 20.8 per cent. 

“Whilst Kenya’s exports to Uganda have remained relatively unchanged, Uganda’s exports almost tripled from Sh17 billion in 2014 to Sh49.4 billion in 2018,” said Mwabesa.

Exports to Uganda includes food and beverages, industrial supplies (non-food), fuel and lubricants, machinery and transport equipment.

Uganda exports to Kenya include maize, milk and cream , plywood, dried legumes , animal feeds and sugar.

The Ugandan high commissioner to Kenya and Seychelles Hassan Wasswa said the country is focusing on economic diplomacy with "friends and trading partners", as a way of promoting Ugandan products and promoting the country as a tourist destination.

“Instead of focusing on political diplomacy, we are now focusing our attention on economic diplomacy to widen our market and promote Uganda as a tourist destination to the world,” said Wasswa.

Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho called on the East African regional bloc to stop competing and instead strength ties for trade and development.

He called the partner states to work towards creating an enabling business environment for the people.