By Damali Ssali
Uganda is predominately an informal exporter mainly trading with its neighbours. According to 2014 Bank of Uganda (BoU) data, the country registered an informal trade surplus.
The 2014 BoU data indicates that informal trade accounted for more than 30 per cent of all Ugandan exports, earning about Shs1.5 trillion. DR Congo, which fetched $139m, was Uganda’s largest informal exports destination followed by South Sudan and Kenya, which fetched $119m and $92m, respectively.
Additionally, data from BoU further indicates that informal cross-border exports earned a combined $595m in the 2017/18 financial year with DR Congo continuing to dominate as Uganda’s export destination fetching up to $291m in the period. It was followed by Kenya at $149m, Rwanda and South
Sudan at $54m each while Tanzania fetched some $45m.
Agricultural produce, mainly beans, maize, sugar, other grains, bananas and fish as well as locally manufactured goods were the most informally exported items during the period.
Therefore, it is quite important and urgent, that while priority continues to be given to formal traders, some focus and steadfastness ought to be directed towards informal cross border traders too.
A 2015 study conducted by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa indicated that informal trade in Uganda provided more than 59 per cent of non-farm private sector jobs, underscoring its significance in addressing the employment challenge that Uganda finds herself in.
Different studies indicate that more than70 per cent of women-owned businesses are in informal trade, accounting for a significant majority of employment in this sector.
Women spend much of their income on uplifting family livelihoods, among which include buying food, paying school fees and re-investing in their enterprises. Therefore, informal trade, which is mainly dominated by women, must be supported to enable women improve their disposable income to contribute towards social and economic development.
It is important to highlight that women informal cross border traders face a number of unique challenges that limit their growth opportunities. Key among the challenges is low knowledge of export requirements, lack of understanding of quality inspection procedures, lack of information on markets, lack of access to certification procedures and general gender based harassment as well as the general lack of appreciation for the certification processes.
The challenges are compounded by the limited time that women have to invest in their enterprises therefore they have to rely on middlemen to help them uplift and get value for their businesses.
However, amid all this, informal cross border traders have been organizing themselves into associations, cooperatives, and Saccos, which will help them to reason and speak with a single voice to advance their cause.
Additionally, government through the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of East African Community Affairs is addressing some of these challenges by developing several policy frameworks such as Cross-Border Trade Strategy, which seeks to increase the value of Uganda’s exports of the specified products and services to the targeted markets over the next five years. Other polices are Micro, Small and Medium Sized Enterprise Strategy and the Cross-Border Trade Charter.
Government has also appointed district commercial officers in every district and established regional integration centres at some busy border points and Uganda Revenue Authority is implementing the Women Trader’s Trade Facilitation Framework.
Finally, there are also some other agencies that are supporting cross border trade such as the Stanbic Business Incubator, which is providing business skills development to MSMEs, AbiTrust which is providing support to enhance the export capacity of agri-businesses and Financial Sector Deepening which is looking at provision of inclusive finance.
However, even with this kind of arrangement, there is need to ensure that the full spectrum of informal cross border traders is identified and supported to respond to existing constraints such as non-tariff barriers, limited export capability, lack of information, financing and exclusion of women.
This must be mitigated by putting in place comprehensive interventions and policy regulatory frameworks that support informal cross border traders given that an all-inclusive approach will ensure that Uganda leverages on its geographical location to access the markets around it.
We also need to enhance capacity of small and medium enterprises to provide products and services that meet export standards to ensure easy penetration to intra-regional markets. This will not only enhance cross-border trade but will also promote social and economic development of Uganda.
Informal cross border trade provides a significant source of employment, which, if enhanced, can be the bedrock of the social economic transformation of Uganda.
It is also an economic buffer that can contribute to sustainable, inclusive and youth employment.
Damali Ssali is a Trade Development Expert.
Over 400 Kampala women entrepreneurs undergo business training
By Our Reporter
Over 400 women entrepreneurs have benefited from a business training in Kampala organised by dfcu bank in partnership with Daily Monitor and Uganda Investment Authority. This marks the climax of a series of Business trainings that have been running across the country under the Rising Woman Initiative regional tours in Western – Ishaka, Eastern – Mbale, Northern – Gulu and Central Kampala mentoring women in business in fields such as business basics, business planning and enterprise management skills (Marketing skills, Communication, Recordkeeping and finance. A total of of over 1,200 women have benefited from these trainings. This brings to 2,700 the number of women who have been trained under the Rising Woman Initiative that’s currently in its second year.
The initiative is aimed at recognising and rewarding a culture of mentorship among women in Business in Uganda. This initiative is running for a second consecutive year will see over 100 women showcasing their products and services at an Expo that has been organised for Friday 15th and Saturday 16th November 2019 at Hotel Africana starting at 9:00 am.
The Expo is a culmination of the 2019 Rising Woman Initiative launched on June 19th 2019. The 2019 Expo will provide an opportunity for women-owned business and entrepreneurs to share knowledge and move their business forward. Over 200 exhibitors and attendees are expected to attend the two-day Expo. The women entrepreneurs have also been offered an opportunity for their businesses to be profiled and advertising space in selected media.
According to Victoria Byenkya Head of Women in Business program at dfcu, women-led businesses often fail due to diverse challenges but on top of the list is lack of information, financial constraints, social barriers and skill set gaps. Through these trainings, these gaps are being bridged at a free cost thereby working at creating an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs to flourish.
Joan Akumu who runs a confectionary business said “Marketing has always been my challenge since I am a sole entrepreneur. I do my work from home and I have to market it myself. This training has exposed me to better practices and I believe I will stand out once I implement this knowledge.”
According to Esther Kisaakye a Health and Nutritionist Marketer, who attended the training, it’s easy to forget the most essential things when running a business. “This training has reminded me and I have also learnt the business principles that I need to take my business forward. I enjoyed the training especially the part about the 7P of business.”
As part of the initiative, over 95 businesswomen participated in proposal writing. The top 3 winners will win UGX 15 million, 10 million and 5 million respectively and the overall top 10 will take part in an all-expense paid study tour to Nairobi.
MTN Foundation hands over blood storage equipment to Mbarara Regional Blood Bank
By Our Reporter
MTN Uganda Foundation has officially handed over blood storage equipment to the Mbarara Regional blood bank under the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS). This is in a bid to address the issue of blood shortage arising from inadequate blood storage equipment.
The state-of-the-art blood refrigerator was handed over to the Parliamentary Woman Representative for Mbarara Municipality, Hon. Rosette Kajungu Mutambi in a ceremony held on Thursday at the Mbarara Regional Blood Bank in Mbarara district.
This follows the telecom company’s pledge in July when it availed UGX. 347 million to procure the equipment that comprises of an automated plasma extractor and 3 blood refrigerators. The automated plasma extractor that will be stationed at the Nakasero Blood Bank will be used for the processing of blood plasma to extract components of red and white blood cells, and platelets for the Nakasero blood bank.
The three refrigerators will be delivered to the regional blood banks based at the regional referral hospitals in Mbarara, Mbale and Arua.
While handing over the equipment, Mr. Bryan Mbasa, the Acting Senior Manager, MTN Foundation reiterated MTN Uganda’s commitment to supporting government’s push towards meeting the Global Sustainable Development Goal No. 3 which aims at ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all ages.
“We are proud of this partnership with the UBTS and the Ministry of Health in complementing their efforts to make available this scarce resource of blood,” Mr. Mbasa said.
Speaking at the same ceremony, Dr. Andrew Byamungu, the principal Medical Officer at the Mbarara Regional Blood Bank noted that the refrigerators will address the issue of blood shortage that has been arising from inadequate storage facilities.
“In the past, we have been losing a lot of blood because of lack of adequate storage but that will no longer be an issue. We thank MTN for this refrigerator because it will enable us store blood and avail it to the hospital whenever they need it,” Dr. Byamungu said.
According to Byamungu, the Mbarara Regional blood bank serves 62 hospitals in sixteen districts in the western region of the country. He explains that blood is mostly consumed by anaemic children aged below five years, mothers after delivery, accident victims and other patients.
Mr. Gilbert Sande, the Head of Logistics at the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services said that with the new refrigerator donated by the MTN Foundation, Mbarara regional blood bank will be able to store more than twice the amount of blood they have been storing.
“We had storage capacity of 300 units. But now with the new refrigerator that stores over 700 units, we shall be able to have over 1000 units of blood at any one time,” Mr. Sande
While receiving the equipment, Hon. Kajungu thanked the MTN Foundation for working together with the government for the good of the people of Uganda.
“Thank you MTN Foundation Uganda for this equipment. It will go a long way in addressing the blood shortage issues that arise from lack of adequate storage of donated blood to save lives,” Hon. Kajungu said. “The MTN Foundation has shown its passion for maternal health. By supporting safe blood storage, more mothers will be saved since more blood will be available, thanks to this initiative.”
Mbarara becomes the first regional blood bank to receive its equipment. Arua and Mbale are set to receive theirs in due course.
Boda Boda riders tipped on Road Safety
By Our Reporter
As part of their safety agenda, Uganda Breweries Limited has trained Boda Boda riders in road safety awareness.
The training program conducted at the brewery in Luzira saw over 50 boda boda cyclists from the boda stages in Luzira receive training on road safety practices and given measures that will help keep them, their passengers and other road users safe on the road.
The safety training is part of a celebration to mark seven and twelve years of “No Lost Time Accident” at Uganda Breweries Limited and its spirits plant; International Distillers Uganda respectively.
An LTA (Lost Time Accident) is a type of accident that causes an employee to skip work for a day or more to pursue treatment. These kinds of accidents are common in places where heavy machinery is operated such as a brewery.
On average, Uganda loses 10 people every day in road traffic crashes, a 2018 UN road safety report on Uganda shows, costing the country $1.2 billion (about sh.4.4 trillion) annually.
According to the Uganda Police, over 50 percent of road accidents are caused due to boda bodas, with the highest numbers registered in urban centres like Kampala.
“We decided to carry out this training because road safety is an issue that affects all of us. As Uganda Breweries, we are firmly committed to ensuring that everybody that comes to our site goes home safe and we want to share these values with our community.” Joseph Kabwaama the UBL’s Health and Safety Manager said.
He added that they had started the campaign by training cyclists in Luzira because most of the UBL staff stay in the area and use boda bodas as a means of transport.
“We shall have more road safety awareness engagements around the country to increase road safety awareness and to help change boda boda cyclists attitude and behavior on the road, thereby indoctrinating a road safety culture among them.” Kabwaama added.
The boda boda cyclists who attended the training were urged to uphold safe practices and measures while using the road to ensure their own safety and that of their passengers.
They were also given safety gear that included helmets and reflector jacket and urged to always use the safety gear as it protects them from the dangers you face on the road daily.
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