OP-ED

OPINION: The East African Procurement Exhibition should be used to push Uganda further

Felix Oketcho

The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) of Uganda has been selected to host the 14th annual East African Procurement Forum and introduce the East African Business Expo to take place from 23rd to 26th March 2023 at Kololo Independence ground.

The East African Procurement Forum (EAPF) is an event which gathers Heads of public procurement regulatory bodies from the East African Community (EAC) member states and other participants on an annual basis.

The East African Procurement Forum and East African Business Expo is an opportunity to share experiences and challenges with the aim of improving country procurement systems while upholding the desire by member states to harmonize the systems towards a political federation.

The 14th East African Procurement Forum and East African Business Expo which is a four-day event will include Business Meetings, Conferences, Innovation, Networking, generate sales leads and building of valuable relationships, under the theme “Open Contracting as a vehicle for Sustainable Development.”

For the first time ever, the East African Procurement forum will include the East African Business Expo which will attract procurement professionals and key industry suppliers from the seven East African countries to share knowledge, best practices, networks as well as avail opportunities for suppliers to showcase their products, goods and services.

PPDA will host partner procurement regulatory bodies including, The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) of Kenya, The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) of Tanzania, The Rwanda Public Procurement Authority, Agence de Regulation des Marches Public (ARMP) of Burundi, Agence de Regulation des Marches Public (ARMP) of DRC and the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Southern Sudan who together regulate over Two hundred thousand (200,000) suppliers with a procurement market size estimated at over 100 Billion USD annually.

Although Procurement Service Providers, Suppliers of Goods and Services, Consultants, institutions and Interest groups are invited to participate as exhibitors or sponsors, this Expo provides unrivalled opportunity to showcase products and services directly to key decision makers involved in procurement and purchasing

Therefore as we converge for this years procurement exhibition, we should push Uganda to increase Uganda export trade in EAC region.

Currently EAC member states are benefitting more from regional trade yet Uganda has the potential to double her export trade. Kenya currently buys most of our agriculture products yet we have comparative advantage over them. Why should we have this trade imbalance yet the Intra-regional trade within the East African Community (EAC) is on an upward trajectory, standing at US$10.17 billion in September 2022.
The intra-EAC trade, accounts for imports and exports in the 7 EAC Partner States, grew from 13% in 2019 at a value of $ 7.1 billion to 15 % in 2021 at a value of $9.5 billion. By September 2022, the EAC trade value was recorded at $10.17 billion representing a 20% share of Intra-trade to global trade.

The increase in intra-regional trade is attributed to political goodwill among EAC Heads of State and the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in the region amongst other factors. EAC’s total trade with the rest of the world stood at US$62 billion however there is still room for improvement.

Uganda’s trade balance within the East African Community during October 2022, indicates that merchandise trade resulted in a surplus of $114.54 million (about Shs418.337 billion), an increase from a surplus of $71.05 million (about Shs259.497 billion) recorded a year ago.The above development demonstrates how trade activity has picked up in the region after suffering a decline in the past two years due to Covid-19.

The Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development said in the performance of the economy report for the month of November 2022 that over the same period, exports to EAC increased by 11.8 per cent whereas imports decreased by 22.5 per cent.

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There was an increase in export receipts from Rwanda from $ 0.20 million (Shs730.47 million) in October 2021, to $ 11.66 million ( Shs42.586 billion) in October 2022. This followed the reopening of Katuna border at the start of 2022. Within the EAC bloc, Kenya remains Uganda’s main trading partner. However, Uganda recorded a trade surplus with all EAC Partner States save for Kenya the Ministry of Finance said.

Overall, the Ministry of Finance said merchandise export receipts increased both on a monthly and annual basis. On a monthly basis, export receipts amounted to $348.82 million (Shs1.274 trillion) in October 2022, an increase of 6.8 per cent from $326.75 million (Shs1.193 trillion) registered in September 2022. This development largely followed an increase in the export receipts of beans, fish, cocoa beans and crude vegetable oil products like sunflower.

On an annual basis, a comparison between October 2021 and October 2022 shows a 21.8 per cent increase in export receipts from $286.39 million (Shs1.045 trillion) to $348.82 million (Shs1.274 trillion).
The East African Community (EAC) was Uganda’s top destination for merchandise exports (55.59 per cent) in October 2022, followed by European Union, then Asia.Compared to October 2021, the Ministry of Finance said Uganda‘s exports to all regions grew with an exception of the Rest of Africa.

A comparison between the months of September and October 2022 showed an increase in export receipts and a decrease in the import bill. This resulted in a 10.9 per cent reduction of the merchandise trade deficit to $301.67 million (Shs1.101 trillion) in October 2022 from $338.51 million (Shs1.236 trillion) the previous month.

On the other hand, compared to the same month the previous year, the merchandise trade deficit widened from $245.10 million (Shs895.184 billion) to $301.67 million (Shs1.101 trillion) in October 2022 following a higher increase in the import bill that more than offset the growth in export receipts.

The Ministry of Finance said merchandise worth $650.48 million (2.375.trillion) was imported during the month of October 2022.

Interventions

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The High-Level Summit on the Common Market Protocol held in July 2022, reviewed issues impeding integration. 257 Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) have been cumulatively resolved since 2007. This is in tandem with the bloc’s goal to increase the volumes of intra-regional trade

Further more EAC Ministers/ Cabinet Secretaries in charge of Trade and Finance adopted 35% as the 4th Band of the EAC Common External Tariff (CET). From 1st July 2022, imports of locally available goods into the region; such as meat, furniture and textiles, have been attracting a tariff of 35 percent. The move aims at promoting local production, value addition and industrialization.

Going forward, there should be high-level discussions among Heads of States to eliminate many Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) hampering intra-regional trade and raise the level of intra-regional trade in East Africa to at least 40% over the next five years.

In anut shell East Africa business forum should be aplayforum to iron out recent sudden Kenya ban on Uganda’s powered milk exports to Kenya. The ban contradicts with EAC common market protocols.

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The Writer is a journalist, Business Consultant and Chief Executive Officer of Elix Promotions Ltd



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