Kampala — China's foray into Africa and the growing Chinese factories in Uganda have forced government to push for a ban on importation of locally manufactured products such as military shoes, steel, blankets, mattresses, boda-boda tyres and mosquito nets.
The proposed ban according to Investment minister, Ms Evelyn Anite, seeks to protect local manufacturers, create jobs for Ugandans and boost export earnings.
Sources close to Cabinet told Daily Monitor, that Ministry of Finance was tasked to work with Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda National Bureau of Standards and Trade Ministry to assess the capacity of local and foreign factories in Uganda so as to pick on the products to be banned next financial year.
The President has on several occasions criticised importers under Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita) and described Uganda as "a supermarket of foreign products." Last week during the commissioning of six factories in Namanve, President Museveni warned government accounting officers to stop importing goods that can be manufactured by local firms.
Mr Issa Sekitto, the Kacita spokesperson, criticised the move, saying stakeholders like traders have never been consulted. The process, he said, "should be gradual otherwise Uganda risks being isolated by other regional blocks that accept Ugandan products".
Explaining the Presidential directive, Ms Anite said the ban on importation of locally produced products starts immediately, adding that in the next budget, prohibitive tariffs will be put in the Finance Tax Bills to discourage the importation of some products.
A team led Ms Anite visited factories in Mukono and Jinja District on Saturday as part of the government fact-finding mission and assured investors of government protection. The minister visited Tian Tang, a mattress and steel manufacturing plant owned by Mr Paul Zhang, one of the Chinese industrialists in the country and Sino Textile Industry Co. Ltd, a blanket factory in Mukono District.
This Chinese company started producing all types of blankets in January this year with a total investment of $455m (Shs1.6t) and 330 jobs created. The company through its Operations manager, Mr Zhou Yuejun, has announced additional investment of $2m(about Shs7b) and extra 170 jobs as they expand production. The company according to Mr Yuejun, produces for local market and exports 260 tonnes of blankets per month to countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Congo and Zambia.
She also visited C.C.L.E Rubber Co Ltd, a manufacturer of boda-boda tyres and lubricants and Royal Small Scale Industries Company, a shoe making firm in Jinja. This company employs more than 300 workers but is currently embroiled in a land dispute with the members of the custodian board. The minister promised to help the investor get land title for the land and ordered him to put "Made in Uganda" label on all the locally produced shoes and handbags.
Ms Anite told the Daily Monitor that the President will visit the factories in Mukono on January 17, 2019. She also assured Chinese investors in Mbalala, Mukono District, that the problem of flooding in the areas as a result of poor drainage system will be sorted. When Uganda Roads Authority visited the area last week, they indicated that $4m (Shs14.8b) was needed to fix the problem. The minister assured Chinese investors of the government plan to ban importation of all products that are produced in Uganda, increase water and power supply.
The minister promised to visit a $2.3m(about Shs8b) mosquito net factory in Luzira Industrial Park. M/s Sino Africa Medical Devices Company Limited in partnership with the Tianjin Yorkool International Co Limited manufactures polyester insecticidal treated mosquito nets for local consumption.
"We cannot import mosquito nets when we are producing the same... this is unacceptable and we are not going to allow this to continue," Ms Anite said.