Exports grow most in six years thanks to coffee and informal trade

Credit: Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash.

(This story has been updated to reflect data revision by the central bank. The original version of the report is given below the updated story.)

Uganda’s merchandise exports surged in 2017, growing at their fastest rate in six years, according to data released by the Central Bank.

Exports rose to $3,398.1 million, up 14.3% from a year earlier. The growth was led by coffee shipments, which increased by 49.4%, while non-formal coffee exports rose 4.9%. Informal exports – goods traded between Uganda and her neighbours that are not recorded by customs authorities – rose 31%.

Coffee exports contributed 16.6% to the total value of shipments at $555.3m, up from 12.7% in 2016. Non-formal coffee exports came in at $2,234.7m, translating into a 66.9% share. These include gold shipments valued at $317m, which was 9.5% of total exports. Informal exports made up 16.4% of the total value and were valued at $549m.

Formal exports to countries in the Comesa trade area grew 18.6% compared to a year earlier to $1,353.6m and were 40.8% of total exports. With informal exports factored in, exports to Comesa countries were 55.5% of the total and increased by 22% from 2016.

Shipments to the European Union rose 19% year on year and accounted for 16.4% of total shipments. Shipments to the Middle East, which were 12.9% of total exports, declined by 14.5%.

Kenya was the biggest buyer of Uganda’s goods with a share of 19.7%. Exports to Uganda’s eastern neighbour registered a 31% growth to $658.5m.

Exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo account for 13.8% of total shipments. Most of these were informal goods, valued at $270.6m, while formal exports were worth $189.2m.

Shipments to the United Arab Emirates were 12% of total exports while South Sudan’s share was 10.9%.

Imports, on the other hand, increased 13.8% in 2017 to $5,036.2m, on the back of a 15% growth informal private sector imports to $4,298.4m. Government imports increased by 2.4%.

This means the trade deficit widened by $194m in 2017, coming in at $1,697m. Compared to a year earlier, Uganda’s trade deficit expanded by 12.9%.

Most of Uganda’s imports in 2017, 44.2%, were from Asia. China had the biggest share with 16.2% and a 9.7% growth from the previous year; imports from the East Asian country were valued at $816m. Imports from India accounted for 11.9% of total inbound shipments and declined by 15%.

Other notable importers to Uganda were the United Arab Emirates which accounted for 10.9% and Kenya with a 10.2%.

The Comesa trade area accounted for 16.4% of total imports, with their value rising 15% from 2016. Inbound goods from the rest of Africa were 8% of the total figure – although South Africa and Tanzania accounted for the bulk of those – rising by 30.4% from the previous year.


Exports grow most in six years thanks to coffee and informal trade

Uganda’s merchandise exports surged in 2017, growing at their fastest rate in six years, according to data released by the Central Bank.

Exports rose to $3,314.6 million, up 13.5% from a year earlier. The growth was led by coffee shipments, which increased by 49.4%, while non-formal coffee exports rose 4.9%. Informal exports – goods traded between Uganda and her neighbours that are not recorded by the Customs Department of the Uganda Revenue Authority – rose 25%.

Coffee exports contributed 16.8% to the total value of shipments at $555.3m, while non-formal coffee exports came in at $2,234.7m, translating into a 67.4% share. These include gold shipments whose total value was $317m, which is 9.6% of total exports. Informal exports made up 15.8% of total value and were valued at $524.5m.

Formal exports to countries in the Comesa trade area grew 18.6% compared to a year earlier to $1,353.6m and were 40.8% of total exports. Shipments to the European Union rose 19% year on year and accounted for 16.6% of total shipments. Shipments to the Middle East, which were 13% of total exports, declined by 14.5%.

Kenya was the biggest buyer of Uganda’s goods, with formal exports to the country increasing by 22.2% to $516.8m, which was 15.6% of total outbound shipments. Informal exports to Kenya were valued at $128.46m and grew by 21.7% year on year in 2017.

Exports to the United Arab Emirates fell 17.5% and accounted for 12% of total shipments. Formal exports to South Sudan, which were 9.5% of total exports, increased by 32.3%.

Imports, on the other hand, increased 12.3% in 2017 to $4,968.7m, on the back of a 16.3% growth in formal private sector imports to $4,298.4m. Government imports fell 14% to $345.9m.

This means the trade deficit widened by $151m in 2017, coming in at $1,654.2m. Compared to a year earlier, Uganda’s trade deficit expanded by 10%.

Most of Uganda’s imports in 2017, 44%, were from Asia. China had the biggest share with 16.2% and an 8.2% year on year growth; imports from the East Asian country were valued at $804.4m. Imports from India accounted for 11.9% of total inbound shipments and fell 16.2%.

Imports from the United Arab Emirates were 10.9% of total inbound shipments and increased by 51.6% while those from Kenya – 10.2% of total inbound shipments – fell 3.9%. The Comesa trade area accounted for 16.4% of total imports, with their value rising 13.7%. Imports from the rest of Africa were 8% of total inbound shipments and increased by 28.6% year on year in 2017.