30 August 2017

Uganda: Traders Urge Banks to Open Branches in South Sudan

Photo: Wambi Michael/IPS
Ugandan vehicles loaded with goods to take to Juba and other Southern Sudan towns (file photo).

Kampala — Ugandan traders operating in South Sudan have asked Ugandan based banks to establish branches in Juba to ease business transactions.

The traders operating Famms Commercial Market in Gumbo, Rajaf, said keeping money in their houses is a magnet to robbers.

Mr Iddi Mutebi, the chairman of Famms Commercial Market, said their members usually send money to Uganda through transporters, who sometimes disappear with it.

"We have more than 5,000 traders in the market, but we have no bank to keep the money. We have even a located a plot for Ugandan based banks to establish presence in the market, but we have not got any," Mr Mutebi said.

Famms Commercial Market is the biggest market in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and it is occupied mostly by Ugandan traders. On Saturday, the traders celebrated the market's third anniversary.

Mr Elias Mugagga, the head of traders in the same market, said in just one month, he has received three cases where traders gave money to bus operators to transport it to Kampala, Uganda, but disappeared before they could hand over the cash.

"Two bus drivers disappeared with traders' money. The third one was a conductor. We found him and he is now repaying the money," Mr Mugagga said.

Ugandan traders use public buses to transport cash from Uganda to South Sudan and back.

The road between Juba and Nimule is infested with rebels and armed militias that often intercept buses and rob the money.

Nimule-Juba road is risky due to constant ambushes and robberies.

The insecurity has thrived since South Sudan President Silva Kiir fell out with his Vice President Riek Machar in 2013.

The road is the main route for Ugandan traders transporting merchandise to South Sudan.

The road has many check points that are used by different security groups to extort money from traders.

The traders said the bank would ease forex exchange transactions in the area that are currently difficult to execute.

"South Sudanese forex bureaus have tough measures for foreigners to buy dollars. This means Ugandans have to buy foreign currencies, especially dollars, on the black market at higher rates," Mr Mutebi said.

It is alleged that powerful South Sudanese buy foreign currencies from forex bureaus and then get agents who sell it on the black market.

Eng Jalal Abdullah Doka, the secretary general of the Chamber of Commerce in Jubek State, said he may not help the Ugandan traders to access forex exchange, but he will deliver their grievances to his superior for solutions.


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