Visa, Tax Policies to Dominate Uganda-South Africa Investment Network

Uganda plans to increase its annual exports to 6 billion dollars excluding oil exports, between 2023 and 2028 from the current average of 3.5 billion dollars.

This should also reduce the big trade imbalance that has been blamed for the foreign exchange rate, and low rates of job creation among others.

This will be achieved by, among others, increased business excursions to both traditional and non-traditional trade partners of the country, with the aim of getting deals with foreign investors, as well as finding markets for Ugandan products.

However, Uganda will have to answer several questions regarding the investment climate in the country if it is to sustainably attract big business, according to some multinationals already in the country.

The Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development has flagged off trade and investment promotion agencies and private companies for the South Africa Trade Investment and Tourism summit due at the Gallagher Convention Center, Midrand next week.

One of the main questions has been the difficulties Ugandans find accessing visas to South Africa, while most countries have either waived the visa requirements on Ugandans or allowed travelers to acquire them on arrival.

Odrek Rwabwogo, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Export and Industrial Promotion, says Visa issues should be top of the agenda during the forum but also blames Ugandans for violating migration rules in South Africa.

Some of the foreign companies with establishments in Uganda are critical of some policies that affect their operations, especially regarding taxation and other levies.

An example is the licensing policies of telecommunications companies which are required to extend their network coverage to a specified area of the country within a specified period of time.

However, they say, that while they pay all the license fees and the due taxes, they are not allowed, for example, to erect masts in protected areas like parks and forests, unless they part with up to 20,000 dollars (about 73 million Shillings) per mast.  

Uganda Investments Authority Executive Director, Robert Mukiza promised that, together with other state agencies, they will invite the telecom companies for dialogue to streamline the requirements. 

The Private Sector Foundation Uganda, which together with UIA, is mobilizing the investors to attend the summit, says they are not just about looking for opportunities, but also creating a platform to resolve challenges between the countries.  

PSFU Chief Programs Officer, Damalie Ssali gave an example of the road levies on Ugandan trucks moving through Tanzania which was more than 1.8 million Shillings and the highest charge on trucks from any other country.

She said it was only resolved when President Samia Suluhu Hassan attended the Uganda-Tanzania business forum in Uganda last year.

Organized jointly by the Government of Uganda and the Republic of South Africa, under the theme “Boosting Trade and Investment Relations Between South Africa and Uganda”, the summit is aimed at providing a platform for the business community and government agencies to identify existing and emerging business and investment opportunities of mutual benefit.  

Over 300 delegates comprising business leaders, government agencies, and investors from the two countries will be at the two-day event to explore opportunities in sectors of Agriculture, tourism, oil and gas, healthcare, and transport and logistics, amongst other sectors.  

According to Rwabwogo, Uganda is focused on increasing exports of beef, dairy, coffee, sugar, cement, steel products, poultry, bananas and banana flour, fruits, and vegetables, and tourism.

The main export to South Africa from Uganda currently are coffee, vanilla, chocolate, and other products.  

Uganda’s exports to South Africa are worth about 70 million dollars compared to imports worth more than 350 million dollars.  

Rwabwogo says this is the reason that they have to boost the trade between the two countries.   

On the success of previous investment excursions, UIA’s Mukiza says they have records of deals that were signed at such events and are being implemented.  

He said, for example, that some of the deals signed at the Dubai Expo are already being implemented, and that for him, deals are the main achievement.  

The summit has been coordinated in Uganda by Uganda Airlines, Stanbic Bank, MTN Uganda, UNDP, the Presidential Advisory Committee on Exports and Industrial Development, Private Sector Foundation Uganda, and Government agencies.

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