Uganda toeing Kenya, Nigeria in hunt for free access to UK market

Uganda is making strides to have equal duty-free access to the UK market like neighbouring Kenya and Nigeria.

In 2020, the UK and Kenya signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was ratified a year later.

“This Agreement ensures that all companies operating in Kenya, including British businesses, can continue to benefit from duty-free access to the UK market – saving exporters over £10m every year in duties on products such as green beans and cut flowers,” the UK government posted on its official website.

According to the EPA, “Kenya will also gradually reduce duties on UK products they have deemed non-sensitive, providing Kenyan businesses with cheaper inputs which can support agricultural development and manufacturing.”

“The EPA commits the UK to support Kenya with agreement implementation, enhance competitiveness, build trade capabilities and ability to attract investment, as well as further integrate itself into global supply chains,” the UK government said then.

Although the agreement was designed to include all member states of the East African Community, Uganda is yet to sign any such agreement with the UK.

Similarly, Nigeria was granted duty-free access to the UK market through the Developing Countries Trading Scheme (DCTS), which was launched in August, 2022.

During the UK-Nigeria 8th Economic and Development Forum in November 2022, “Nigeria noted that it will automatically benefit from enhanced preferences under the DCTS, given that 99% of current goods exports amounting to £1.6bn per year will be eligible for duty-free, quota-free access to the UK.”

At the same forum, “Nigeria also acknowledged that new tariff reductions introduced by the DCTS could save hundreds of thousands of British Pounds annually, and that this is expected to grow in products such as cocoa and fertilisers, where it is targeting global export volumes of US$1 billion and US$2 billion respectively.”

The DCTS came with other benefits such as support from the UK to specific business sectors such as security, banking, creatives, health, and manufacturing.

“The UK and Nigeria welcomed the continued work of the Manufacturing Africa programme, which has supported 15 firms since the start of 2021, with the raising of anticipated foreign direct investment (FDI) of $340 million and the potential to create 6,300 direct jobs,” the UK government noted after the summit.

Through the DCTS, Growth Gateway, a UK government business service supporting trade and investment between the UK and Africa, also assisted over 35 Nigerian companies with queries in 2022.

Uganda’s situation

Between 2018 and 2019, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Lord Dolar Popat, the UK Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Uganda and Rwanda, held three meetings all aimed at improving trading relations between the two countries.

At one of the meetings, President Museveni informed Lord Popat that Uganda had gone an extra mile in churning out large quantities of agricultural and dairy products but the challenge was the low prices on the internal market.

Museveni also said the immediate solution to this challenge was to process them and add value to them for export markets.

“Our farmers and processors of agricultural produce should adapt to the competitive world so that they are not eliminated in marketing,” the president said in 2019.

Lord Popat’s advice was “all that is required is for the produce from Uganda to meet both the European Union and United Kingdom uniform standard that pertains to food and beverage importation to Europe.”

In November 2022, Lord Popat wrote that the UK and Uganda have huge family ties, “Now is the time for UK-Africa relationships to deepen and prosper.”

“I want to see all the big UK companies return to Uganda and provide confidence to the market to follow. I have businesses lining up to invest and trade with Uganda, but they require a pace of delivery that Uganda needs to be able to support,” Lord Popat added.

While in Uganda, Lord Popat said he was able to progress things to help business.

“I continued to progress the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the government of Uganda into contracts to support agricultural exports, energy access and roads,” Lord Popat said.

“Secondly, I promoted the new UK DCTS which means that over 99% of all goods exported from Uganda will be eligible in early 2023 for duty free access to the UK with simpler and more flexible rules of origin,” he added.

While Lord Popat wrote in November 2022, Uganda and the UK had already moved ahead by organizing a trade summit, which saw more than 50 companies interact with prospective partners in the UK.

“Trade is a tool for positive change, stability and wealth of all humanity. We are working hard to ensure all our food and trade standards meet the international criterial, and we should soon support the exporters to the UK with a credit fund to allow them fulfi l the orders you give them,” said before the summit took place.

“We are also working with the UK export fund to improve all our export infrastructure at our borders and entry points and make it easier to trade.”

Further to this, the President announced the appointment of a trade representative in the UK to support the search for market.

 “We have appointed a trade representative, Mr. Mark Pursey, of the BTP Advisers in London to support our search for better shelf placement and increase in shelf space in the UK,” Museveni said.

 “Uganda’s foods are very good and very unique because of our altitude I think, I don’t know why our bananas are the best in the world, I have no idea. It must be because of the soils and the altitude possibly; the fruits, e.g the pineapples, I can assure you that they are very good. And some of the foods are unique in the world like if you take millet flour mixed with cassava flour. They are the richest in life because they have proteins, carbohydrates, and iron all in one,” the President concluded.

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