Uganda’s Top 10 Exports

Uganda flag courtesy of

Uganda flag (

A landlocked nation in central eastern Africa, Uganda shipped US$2.5 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2016. That dollar amount results from a 5.3% gain since 2012 and a 9.5% decline from 2015 to 2016.

Uganda’s top 10 exports accounted for less than two-thirds (63.8%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Based on statistics from the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook Database, Uganda’s total Gross Domestic Product amounted to $2.5 billion in 2016 (on a purchasing power parity basis). Therefore, exports represent an estimated 2.9% of total Ugandan economic output.

From a continental perspective, over two-fifths of Ugandan exports by value were delivered to other African countries while more than one-fifth was sold to Asian importers. Uganda shipped another 19.4% worth of goods to Europe with 2.1% going to North America.

Given Uganda’s population of 38.3 million people, its total $2.5 billion in 2016 exports translates to an estimated $65 for every resident in that country.

Trading Economics projects Uganda’s unemployment rate to be 3.8% as of June 2017.

Uganda’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ugandan global shipments during 2016. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Uganda. At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, the most valuable Ugandan export product is coffee followed by gold.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$450.6 million (18.2% of total exports)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $339.6 million (13.7%)
  3. Cereals: $144.3 million (5.8%)
  4. Mineral fuels including oil: $141.7 million (5.7%)
  5. Fish: $121.5 million (4.9%)
  6. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $100.5 million (4%)
  7. Cocoa: $75.5 million (3%)
  8. Vegetables: $72.4 million (2.9%)
  9. Iron, steel: $70.8 million (2.9%)
  10. Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $66.4 million (2.7%)

Gems, precious metals was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 3,353% for the 5-year period starting in 2012. The leading subcategory was gold with much smaller amounts for silver and jewelry.

In second place for improving export sales was vegetables which was up by 253.8% led by dried leguminous vegetables and potatoes.

Ugandan cocoa posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 94.9%.

The leading decliner among the top 10 Ugandan exports was the salt, sulphur, stone and cement category which retreated by -42.4%.


The following types of Ugandan product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.

In a nutshell, net exports is the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$438.6 million (Down by -2.4% since 2012)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $339 million (Up by 3635%)
  3. Fish: $119.9 million (Down by -1.4%)
  4. Cocoa: $73.4 million (Up by 103.8%)
  5. Vegetables: $65.2 million (Up by 284.1%)
  6. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $55.9 million (Down by -4.7%)
  7. Dairy, eggs, honey: $54.1 million (Up by 248.1%)
  8. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $51.1 million (Up by 0.3%)
  9. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $48.6 million (Up by 21.1%)
  10. Milling products, malt, starches: $25.4 million (Up by 53.7%)

Uganda has highly positive net exports in the international trade of coffee, tea and spices. In turn, these cashflows indicate Uganda’s strong competitive advantages under the coffee, tea and spices product category.


Overall, Uganda incurred a -$2.3 billion trade deficit for 2016.

Below are exports from Uganda that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Uganda’s goods trail Ugandan importer spending on foreign products.

  1. Mineral fuels including oil: -US$654.9 million (Down by -45.9% since 2012)
  2. Vehicles : -$376.1 million (Down by -16.3%)
  3. Machinery including computers: -$344.3 million (Down by -47.2%)
  4. Pharmaceuticals: -$286.9 million (Up by 18.2%)
  5. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$279.1 million (Down by -13.9%)
  6. Plastics, plastic articles: -$221.9 million (Up by 6.9%)
  7. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$168.7 million (Up by 20.7%)
  8. Iron, steel: -$138.8 million (Down by -12.5%)
  9. Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: -$137.8 million (Up by 112.8%)
  10. Other chemical goods: -$104.9 million (Up by 33.1%)

Uganda has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–primarily for refined petroleum oils.


Ugandan Export Companies

Not one Ugandan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000 for 2016.

Wikipedia lists international exports-related companies from Uganda. Selected examples are shown below:

  • Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Limited (pharmaceuticals)
  • Kakira Sugar Works (sugar)
  • Kinyara Sugar Works Limited (sugar)
  • Kyagalanyi Coffee Limited (coffee)
  • Sango Bay Estates Limited (sugar)
  • Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited (sugar)
  • Uganda Air Cargo (industrial transportation)
  • Uganda Virus Research Institute (pharmaceuticals, biotechnology)

Uganda’s capital city is Kampala.

Please note that the results listed above are at the 2-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level.

See also Togo’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries

Research Sources:, Flag of Uganda. Accessed on August 25, 2017

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on August 25, 2017

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on August 25, 2017

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 25, 2017

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 25, 2017

The World Factbook, Africa: Uganda. Accessed on August 25, 2017

Wikipedia, Uganda. Accessed on August 25, 2017

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Uganda. Accessed on August 25, 2017

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Kampala, Uganda. Accessed on August 25, 2017