Uganda is presently enjoying trade surplus with all her neighbours, Bank of Uganda has revealed.
Trade surplus is the amount by which the value of a country's exports exceeds the cost of its imports. According to Adam Mugume, Bank of Uganda's executive director for research and policy, Uganda's regional trade surplus is due to improved agricultural productivity and stable macro-economic conditions.
"If you talk about our trade within the region, we have a trade surplus with all the countries in the region. Whether Rwanda, whether DRC - so overall we have our big trade surplus simply because number one; agricultural productivity has improved which is one aspect. [Secondly], the economy has been stable, inflation has been low, the exchange rate has been stable. So all those stimulate manufacturing and all the products that we see being exported in DRC and also in neighbouring countries." said Mugume.
Figures from the ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development show that Uganda's formal exports to neighbours is worth $1.1 billion, up from $425 million in 2007. Citing Kenya, Mugume says for the period between January and October 2018, Uganda, for the first time in many years, exported more items to Kenya than she imported.
For the 12 months to October 2018, Uganda exported to Kenya goods worth $780 million, nearly doubling imports which stood at over $400 million.
"For the first time, I think in the last 12 months to October, we exported goods worth $780m to Kenya and we imported about $400m something from Kenya in the same period...Even when the money comes, it's in the hands of the private sector, it doesn't come back to Bank of Uganda." he added.
Uganda's major exports to Kenya include coffee, tea, mate and spices, residues, wastes of food industry, animal fodder, cereals, dairy products, eggs, honey, edible products, edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers.
Other exports are mineral fuels, oils, distillation products, tobacco and manufactures tobacco substitutes, sugars and sugar confectionery, wood and articles of wood, wood charcoal, iron and steel.
In the case of Rwanda, figures from the United Nations' COMTRADE database show that in 2017 Uganda exports to Rwanda was $182 million, against imports of about $16 million. Major Ugandan products to Rwanda are cereals, ceramics, raw hides and skins, edible vegetables, roots and tubers, machinery, coffee, tea, iron and steel, essential oils, cosmetics and milk.
Uganda's exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo are now at $177 million, against $2.5 million in imports. The major exports are lime and cement, iron and steel, cereals, vegetables and fruits. Imports include oils, cosmetics, iron and steel.
Before war broke out in 2015, South Sudan had become Uganda's biggest trading partner. But 2017 figures show that Uganda's exports to South Sudan were at $300 million.
Uganda's major export commodities to South Sudan are cereals, sugars and sugar confectionery, milling products, malt, starches, wheat, animal and vegetable fats and oils, equipment, beverages, spirits, vehicles, soaps, lubricants, furniture and fabricated buildings.
Of all the neighbours, Uganda trades the least with Tanzania. In 2017 Uganda's exports to Tanzania was $50 million. When informal trade is factored in, the value of Uganda's regional trade could be much higher.