Industrial Parks Leading the Export Drive in Uganda

By Mushwa Joshua Potere:

“Stop importing what you can make”, were the resounding words of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, while launching East African Medical Vitals, Africa’s first surgical and medical gloves manufacturer, located in Uganda’s flagship industrial park, Namanve. 

Much as it may come as a shock that there hasn’t been a single industry to manufacture surgical gloves in East and Central Africa, and other latex products, it isn’t too late to pick the slack and hit the ground running on this particular race.

Over the years, the Ugandan Government has taken significant steps on its journey to a stronger economic future through industrialization, by reinforcing the notion that Uganda should produce locally, rather than import from abroad. This has been backed by the president’s constant reminder especially through the COVID-19 pandemic that the crisis would help to build the manufacturing capacity, rather than “turning the Ugandan market into a dumping ground for foreign goods.’

When Uganda manufactures its products locally, not only does this reduce on the import bill but also helps domestic products to be exported all over the world which contributes to the generation of the much needed foreign exchange.

This mixed strategy of import substitution and export promotion can clearly be demonstrated with the Kiira Motors plant currently being constructed in Jinja Industrial and Business Park by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, through the National Enterprise Corporation. Upon completion, not only will this indigenous automobile plant reduce on the loss of over USD 450 million annually on used imported vehicles but will also tap into the annual 10 million vehicle market demand on the African continent by 2030.

Uganda is among a few African countries that have introduced Industrial Parks as major drivers of economic diversification and export-led industrialization. Uganda’s investment promotion agency, the Uganda Investment Authority, currently operates eight public industrial and business parks, namely Namanve, Bweyogerere, Luzira, Kasese, Mbarara, Jinja, Mbale, and Soroti. Collectively, 114 industries are already operational in these parks.

Plans are underway to operationalize 17 other industrial parks across the country in the medium term, as a way of implementing President Yoweri Museveni’s directive to Uganda Investment Authority, to establish 25 industrial and business parks across the country in five years. The President has also directed that local governments provide free land for industrial parks development because the Central Government won’t be spending on land for setting up industrial parks.

This directive has seen the Minister of State for Investment and Privatization, Hon Evelyn Anite; UIA board Chairman, Morrison Rwakakamba; and Director General Robert Mukiza lead a team of political leaders and technocrats on a month long Investment Land Bank mobilization. As a result, 6 districts in northern Uganda offered a total of 3,880 acres of land freely to Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) and 1,270 acres were offered in Western Uganda for the establishment of industrial parks.

In addition to creating 4 million jobs annually, the establishment of 25 industrial parks regionally and equitably throughout the country, will help the economy become self-sufficient through industrialization and import substitution but will also have Ugandan products competing on the international markets.

The writer is a Communications Officer at Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC)