East Africa: Uganda, UAE Sign Deal to Start Agricultural Free Trade Zone

7 November 2018

Dubai — Uganda will host a 35 member delegation from the United Arab Emirates as part of efforts to actualize plans to establish one of the first agricultural free zone in the world.

The UAE delegation expected here between November Friday and Sunday will be led by UAE minister for Food Security Mariam Al Mehairi.

The free zone, which is expected to occupy 2,500 hectares will attract investment from companies, especially from UAE in agricultural processing and packaging for export.

The project proposition is a culmination of the visit by President Museveni to UAE last November where he met Emirati government officials, which was followed up by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two governments in Abu Dhabi - the capital of UAE- in February 2018.

Another MoU was signed on October 29 between Mr Vincent Sempijja, the Agriculture minister and UAE state minister for Defence, Mohammad Ahmad Al Bawardi in Abu Dhabi.

"Our MoU was to actualise the ideas to make sure that Uganda can export to UAE as the Emirates are exporting to Uganda," said Mr Sempijja.

According to the UAE minister for food security Mariam Al Mehairi, "[Uganda] has what we need and we also have what you (Uganda) needs."

She said this while addressing Mr Sempijja during talks in Abu Dhabi.

UAE, according to Mariam Al Mehairi, Uganda has a lot of unexplored potential and focus will be put on the under unitised land in the East and Central Africa region.

Food security in the UAE is treated as a security issue, which explains why the second MoU was signed by the Defence minister.

It is worth noting that UAE imports 90 per cent of the food it consumes, which explains why it will stop at nothing to secure the future of its food supply.

According to 2017 data, UAE's agricultural imports from Uganda amounted to about $14m while imports from the rest of the world amounted to $10.8b, demonstrating the potential for Uganda.

Government has promised to support enterprises already exporting in a bid to address the problem of capacity on tonnage and consistent supply.

"We have some companies that have been exporting on their own, struggling and falling, then rising. As government, we intend to give some support to them because this market is very important to us as a country," Mr Sempijja said.

According to Sempijja, besides the agricultural free zone whose plan dates back to 2015, small holder out growers will be turned to contract farmers to supply to specific entities from UAE to allow benefits to more farmers.


Some of the products widely in demand are fruits such as banana (bogoya), avocados, oranges, passion fruits, ginger and cereals such as beans, cowpeas, yellow corn, coffee and tea especially green. Outside gold, Uganda already exports fish, milk and other dairy products to the UAE.

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