Doing business in Uganda: Uganda trade and export guide

Published 7 August 2014

1. Uganda export overview

Uganda is a landlocked, independent republic, with a democratic government. It lies between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya and forms part of the East African Community (EAC).

Contact a Department for International Trade (DIT) Uganda export adviser for a free consultation if you are interested in exporting to Uganda.

Contact UK Export Finance (UKEF) about trade finance and insurance cover for UK companies. You can also check the current UKEF cover position for Uganda.

Uganda has a population of approximately 37 million people, making it the third largest consumer market in east Africa.

Over 100 UK companies are operating in Uganda. These include well-known companies like Tullow Oil, Standard Chartered Bank, Barclays Bank, Unilever, Shell and British Airways.

Benefits for British businesses exporting to Uganda include:

  • stable, liberalised economy
  • strong natural resource base
  • government commitment to private sector
  • low cost workforce
  • part of 2 regional blocs which increases the potential consumer base
  • attractive investment policies

2. Challenges doing business in Uganda

While Uganda is a promising market, there are some challenges when doing business there. These include:

  • relatively poor infrastructure
  • cost and availability of electricity

More information on challenges which UK businesses may face when operating in Uganda can be found in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) overseas business risk report.

3. Growth potential

3.1 Economic growth

The International Money Fund (IMF) forecast the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2014 to 6.5%.

Uganda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. This has been helped by the growing market in neighbouring countries.

The main sector in Uganda is agro-processing.

GDP growth in 2012 to 2013 was lower than expected. This was mainly due to:

  • lower than anticipated spend
  • slow private sector credit pickup
  • governance related aid disruptions which increased economic uncertainty

Oil production in Uganda is expected to start in 2017 and is expected to become a main source of economic development.

3.2 Impact of east African regional integration

Uganda is part of the EAC, which has a market of over 135 million consumers with a total GDP of USD84.7 billion.

As a result intra-community tariffs are gradually being reduced or removed on:

  • all goods imported into the region
  • most goods originating and traded within east Africa
  • most capital goods, agricultural inputs, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, raw materials and chemicals

There are also tax incentives through various export schemes covering:

  • export processing zones
  • manufacturing under bond
  • duty drawback for manufacturers of goods for export
  • inward processing

4. UK and Uganda trade

Bilateral trade in goods between the UK and Uganda exceeded £81.5 million in 2013. In 2013 UK exports to Uganda totalled £66 million.

Top UK exports to Uganda include:

  • road vehicles
  • power generating machinery
  • medicinal and pharmaceutical products
  • general industrial machinery

5. Opportunities for UK businesses in Uganda

DIT provides free international export sales leads from its worldwide network. Search for export opportunities.

5.1 Energy

Agreements have been made for a 30,000 barrel per day refinery and a 1,400 kilometres crude export pipeline to the Indian Ocean coast. This will generate many opportunities. There are also opportunities in hydro-electric and renewable energy sources.

Opportunities lie in the following areas:

  • exploration
  • refinery
  • engineering consultancy and services
  • construction and civil work
  • training

Contact the for more information on the energy sector.

5.2 Education

The education sector has undergone rapid transformation from being government funded to private investment based. With this development Uganda is becoming a regional hub for education and knowledge. It ranks as the best in the region according to the UNDP Education Index.

Opportunities are available for:

  • setting up institutions
  • construction
  • educational materials
  • printing of certificates
  • Information and Communications Technology (ICT)

Contact for more information on the education sector.

5.3 Healthcare

The government spends 8.5% of GDP on health. It works closely with international organisations and agencies to ensure the development of the sector.

Important opportunities lie in:

  • supply of medical equipment and consumables
  • pharmaceutical production
  • consultancy services
  • hospital construction
  • e-health services

Contact for more information on the healthcare sector.

5.4 Foods and drink

Agricultural processing is growing and this means there are many investment opportunities for UK companies, such as:

  • processing and packaging equipment
  • storage facilities
  • chemicals, additives and preservatives

Contact for more information on the food and drink sector.

5.5 Infrastructure

There is a growing need for road and power improvements. With an estimated 300,000 housing units needed per year, commercial construction and residential construction are also growing.

Areas of opportunity include:

  • infrastructure design, construction and operation (particularly energy related)
  • environmental consultancy and analysis
  • architecture
  • construction equipment
  • generators and transformers

Contact for more information on the infrastructure sector.

5.6 Aid Funded Business (AFB)

The international aid agencies fund projects to improve prosperity in developing countries.

Find more information on DIT’s Aid Funded Business Service which helps you identify opportunities to supply products and services to the international aid agencies. You can also contact

6. Start-up considerations

A UK business enterprise in Uganda can be operated as a:

  • company
  • foreign branch
  • joint venture
  • individual
  • partnership

You can also consider employing an agent or distributor.

The most common forms of operation are establishing subsidiary by registering as a Ugandan or foreign company.

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau can provide help with setting up and registering a company in Uganda.

You should seek legal advice as the tax and legal obligations of each business structure can differ. The DIT team in Uganda can put you in touch with legal professionals who give advice to British businesses looking to export to Uganda

Ugandan business and legal systems are similar to those in the UK. The Ugandan Labour law is governed by many acts that provide a structure for businesses to operate in.

7.1 Standards and technical regulations

The Uganda National Bureau of standards (UNBS) Act 1983 regulates the standards of all goods and services in the country. It carries out pre-export inspection of goods under the Uganda Pre-export Verification of Conformity to standards program (PVOC).

7.2 Intellectual property

Trademarks, designs, patents and copyright are the principal forms of Intellectual Property laws available to companies and individuals.

UK companies entering into agreements in Uganda should undertake professional advice. You can also contact for more information on legal and professional services.

8. Tax and customs considerations

8.1 Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT is currently set at 18% in Uganda.

Donor funded projects in agriculture, education and health sectors are exempt from VAT.

8.2 Customs

Uganda has adopted a 3 band duty structure for imports from outside of the East African Customs Union (EACU) agreement.

The 3 band rates are:

  • finished products are 25%
  • intermediate products are 10%
  • raw materials are 0%

Many products are shipped through Uganda on their way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Southern Sudan and Rwanda. Transit time is 7 days and goods require a transit permit from the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

Imports to Uganda are subject to Pre-export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) standards.

8.3 Documentation

Import certificates, issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, are required for goods on the ‘negative list’, such as used tyres and certain types of battery. The certificates are valid for 6 months.

You are required to mark shipments with:

  • importer/exporter name
  • consignee
  • flight/vehicle details
  • place of discharge
  • number of packages
  • container identity
  • description of goods
  • airway bill number/bill of lading
  • county of origin/destination

9. Business behaviour

9.1 Language

Most business is conducted in English, though many local languages exist in Uganda.

9.2 Business Customs

Social customs can vary according to race, tribe and religion.

It is important for Ugandans to know who they are dealing with personally. Most meetings will begin with an introductory conversation about people’s backgrounds and families.

10. Entry requirements

You will require a visa to enter Uganda. Passports should be valid for at least 3 months beyond the end date of your visit.

Visas may be obtained on arrival by air with a cash payment of USD50. However, it is recommended that visas are obtained in advance through a travel agent or from a Uganda High Commission or embassy.

10.1 Travel advice

If you’re travelling to Uganda for business, check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice page beforehand.

11. Contacts

Contact the DIT team in Uganda for more information and advice on opportunities for doing business in Uganda.