Business and Finance
Uganda Opens Avenues of Growth for Indian SMEs
By: David Parks
Over the years, Uganda has made a successful transition from an agriculture-based to an industrialised economy. Since 1987, the Ugandan governm ent has actively undertaken economic reforms to facilitate overall economic development.
As a result, Uganda has recorded an average economic growth rate of 6.5% per annum in the last decade. Today, this country is ranked as one of the fastest growing nations in the African continent.
The economic policy changes initiated by the Ugandan government have played an important role in boosting production and export earnings. Significantly, Uganda’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in 2008 was pegged at around 6.9%.
Uganda’s business-friendly environment, diversified economy and openness to foreign direct investment (FDI) are making it a lucrative destination for Indian SMEs.
India is one of the most prominent trade partners of Uganda. It exports coffee, tea, sugar, inorganic chemicals, automobile components, sports goods, plastic and rubber to Uganda.
Alternatively, Uganda’s export basket for India comprises commodities like spices, cocoa, wood, wool, cotton, ceramic products, leather, copper, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances
In recent times, there has been a sharp rise in Indo-Ugandan joint ventures and trade collaborations. Notably, Indo-Uganda bilateral trade has increased from $112.06 million in 2006-07 to $168.76 million in 2007-08. Riding on this stupendous growth witnessed in recent times, industry experts opine that Indo-Uganda bilateral trade will double in less than 5 years.
Areas of trade and investment
Given the high demand for Indian products in Uganda, Indian SMEs can tap the business opportunities present in sectors such as textiles and garments, pharmaceuticals, glass, paper, leather and food processing.
Indian SMEs can further make inroads into the Ugandan market by exploring the mining sector. Uganda has large unexplored deposits of minerals such as gold, tungsten, cobalt, iron ore and kaolin.
In addition, Indian SMEs in the hospitality and tourism sectors can cash in on the surging demand for luxury resorts, serviced apartments and business hotels in Uganda and expand their operations in the African nation.
Considering that there is nearly 50% bed capacity deficit in the 3-5 star hotel categories in Uganda, Indian hoteliers can venture into this market to bridge the demand supply gap.
Realising the abundant scope of growth for both Indian and Ugandan SMEs, governments on both sides have agreed to facilitate increased cooperation between the SMEs in the two countries.
At a recently held India-Africa business summit in New Delhi, India has committed U$500 million for Ugandan projects from its Aid to Africa budget.
Furthermore, the Indian government has extended the scope of its Focus Africa Programme to include Uganda and 16 other African countries. Through this initiative, the government is striving to forge future trade alliances with Uganda and other African nations.
With a plethora of opportunities waiting to be tapped in Uganda, Indian SMEs can scale greater heights in this African country in the near future.