International Trade

Uganda is open to International trade, which accounts for approximately 48.2% of its GDP. The country is a member of numerous international organizations, such as the WTO (World Trade Organisation, COMESA (Common Markets for East and Southern Africa), EAC (East African Community), ESAAMLG (Anti-money Laundering Group in Eastern and Southern Africa) IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority for the Development of the Horn of Africa States) and AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area)

Developing international trade, using a vibrant domestic production and trade subsector as a springboard is an important component of Uganda's trade policy. The overriding objective of Government policy on international trade is to ensure effective integration of the economy into the regional economy and the multilateral trading system, enhancing national capacity to take advantage of the above, while minimizing the negative effects of globalization.

Government policy actions in the international trade sub-sector shall aim at: (1) ensuring that the sub-sector effectively and efficiently complements the domestic trade and production sub-sectors; (2) ensuring that what is produced domestically can be competitively traded at international level; (3) using trade negotiations to influence policies and practices of the country's trading partners' so that they are conducive to the development of Uganda; and (4) adapting Uganda's economy to the trade and trade-related policies and practices of the country's trading partners.

To achieve the trade policy objectives mentioned above, Government is undertaking the following Policy actions:

i.               Enhance the capacity of the country to engage in trade negotiations

ii.              Constitute/establish The National Trade Negotiations Team (NTNT) that shall be led by the Minister responsible for Trade. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry responsible for Trade shall determine the technical composition of the Team; and shall, in collaboration with relevant Ministries and agencies, appoint members, who shall represent their parent institutions on the Team. The NTNT will follow a public-private partnership approach, and take due consideration of the views of the Inter-Institutional Trade Committee (IITC) that is constituted of representatives from the private sector, public sector, civil society and the academia

iii.            Post and maintain Trade Officers to Embassies/Missions that participate in various trade negotiations or are located in countries and/or regions in which Uganda has strategic trade interests. The implementation of this policy activity will be undertaken in close coordination between the Ministries of Trade, and of Foreign Affairs

iv.           Pursue regional economic integration with a view to increasing effective market access opportunities for Uganda's goods and services

v.             Work within the multilateral trading system to ensure that Uganda's economic and commercial interests are an integral part of its work programme and outcomes

vi.           Ensure a distinct relationship between trade, debt and finance and explicitly cater for them in the design and implementation of the country's macro-economic management policies and strategies. Government shall ensure that policies and strategies in the three areas are complementary to each other. To give effect to this, a Trade, Debt and Finance Committee (TDFC) is hereby established. The Committee shall be composed of the Ministers responsible for Trade, Finance, Planning and Economic Monitoring at the political level and the respective Permanent Secretaries together with the Governor of the Central Bank and the Executive Directors of the National Planning Authority and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. The Committee shall be responsible for ensuring that national policies in the areas of trade, debt, finance, and macroeconomic management are complementary to each other, enhance the competitiveness of Uganda's goods and services in the exports markets, and enhance the competitiveness of the country as an investment destination

vii.         Operate a world-wide-web based market information system through which the international community will be informed of the available trade opportunities in Uganda

viii.       Develop and implement measures and strategies to enhance the participation of Uganda's services industry in international (services) trade

ix.           Identify and develop products and services where the country has comparative and competitive advantage, together with the respective markets and promote product/service and market specialization

x.             Maintain a liberal trade policy and at the same time enhance capacity to adjust to trade liberalization, including development of social safety nets in instances where it is envisaged that the liberalization may have negative effects

xi.            Continue to implement trade facilitating measures


Uganda's trade balance is structurally in deficit. The deficit fell from USD -1.71 billion in 2017 to USD -2.46 billion in 2018, imports increasing faster than exports. In 2018, merchandise exports amounted to USD 3.1 billion (+ 6% compared to 2017) while imports reached USD 6.6 billion (+ 17%). Services exports reached USD 1.56 billion (+ 14%) while imports amounted to USD 2.53 billion (+ 23%). Imports will remain high due to investment in major capital goods, intermediate goods, infrastructure projects and petroleum products, which have boosted demand for consumer goods.

Thus more riveting trade policy reviews need to be undertaken to reduce on this deficit by way of export promotion activities and import substitution.