Presidents Ramaphosa, Museveni bask in hope for increased trade between countries

Tuesday 28th February 2023

By Nelson Bwire Kapo

The State Visit from President Yoweri Museveni to his counterpart President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, South Africa majorly highlighted the concern for the diminishing trade potential between the two countries which was a primary point of agreement between the two leaders and their accompanying delegations.

Notwithstanding, the visit comes almost a decade after President Museveni’s initial visit and at least 36 years since Uganda opened diplomatic and bilateral relations with South Africa.

The two leaders reign over a combined 105 million people, with only $130m to show for it in exchange of goods and services. By the time of President Museveni’s arrival to South Africa, Uganda sits a distant second to Kenya on trade with South Africa while lagging at position 15 when it comes to African trade with the country that holds a 20 per cent share of all African exports.

Indeed, it is such a background that shaped the activities as both leaders met for talks, addressed the media together and further addressed business communities for both nations at the first ever South Africa- Uganda Business forum in Ghallagher, 30 minutes away from their prior one -on -one meetings venue.

President Museveni wondered why South Africa with all its similarities to Uganda would not enable increased trade and investment. Coming from a background that Uganda is a production hub for agricultural products while South Africa is a technology hub, that can benefit Uganda in the area of agricultural value addition and storage for export.

“Africans are dying of hunger, but in Uganda, our people are dying of food. I want to encourage the South African business people to take interest, Uganda is a gold mine,” President Museveni mentioned during a meeting with a combined lot of Ugandan and South African business people.

He waxed lyrical about Uganda’s agricultural endowment backed by favorited climate, and he suggested that disclosed that Uganda could fill South Africa’s high agro-based products demand.

In the background of such events, several Memoranda of Understanding and Agreements were signed by the two governments, covering social, economic, legal and scientific cooperation. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa reiterates that South Africa is open to increasing the quantity and diversity of products “we source from Uganda” 

He maintains that the success of intra-Africa trade hinges on each the countries sourcing from one another and prioritising “made and grown in Africa” products and services.

President Ramaphosa’s messages land on an heavily imbalanced trade ground for both countries, with Uganda exporting just $27million worth of goods to South Africa  which in return contributes a$100m difference.

Presdident Ramphosa in the same breath expressed concern over the decline in the number of South African businesses operating in Uganda which the Heads of State gave a firm commitment to resolve any challenges experienced by the private sector in both countries.

The Heads of State requested the Ministers responsible for Trade and Foreign Affairs of the respective countries, to urgently put in place a mechanism, to address these challenges and ensure protection of investments.

“When it comes to trade and investment linkages between South Africa and Uganda there is certainly room for improvement,”  President Ramaphosa said

“Last year, 2022, saw a decline in volumes of trade between our two countries compared to the preceding year. We need to focus on two aspects in particular: increasing the level of reciprocal investment and increasing the levels of trade. I am hopeful, Mr President, that we will see an improvement in two-way sourcing of goods and services between our two countries,” he added.





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