A landlocked nation located in central eastern Africa, the Republic of Uganda shipped an estimated US$1.3 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2019. That dollar amount reflects a -42.1% decrease since 2015 and a -57.5% drop from 2018 to 2019.
The latest available data from 2018 shows that 82.7% of products exported from Uganda were bought by importers in: Kenya (18.8% of the global total), United Arab Emirates (18.2%), Sudan (13.3%), Rwanda (6.9%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (6.6%), Italy (4.3%), Netherlands (3.7%), Germany (3.1%), Belgium (2.4%), Tanzania (2.1%), Hong Kong (1.9%) and the United States (also 1.4%).
From a continental perspective, 51.8% of Uganda’s exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries while 28.1% were sold to Asian importers. Uganda shipped another 18.2% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North American (1.8%), Oceania (0.1%) led by Australia, then Latin America (also 0.1%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean.
Given Uganda’s population of 39.8 million people, its total $1.3 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $35 for every resident in the central eastern African country.
Uganda’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ugandan global shipments during 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Uganda.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$441.2 million (33.6% of total exports)
- Fish: $163.2 million (12.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $134.5 million (10.3%)
- Cocoa: $69.5 million (5.3%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $61.3 million (4.7%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $55 million (4.2%)
- Oil seeds: $42.1 million (3.2%)
- Wood: $38.4 million (2.9%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $38.1 million (2.9%)
- Cotton: $33 million (2.5%)
Uganda’s top 10 exports accounted for 82% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Dairy, eggs and honey represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 81.5% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was wood via a 17% gain. Uganda’s shipments of cocoa posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 6.7%.
The leading decliner among Uganda’s top 10 export categories was sugar including sugar confectionery, thanks to a -64.8% drop year over year.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, coffee represents Uganda ’s most valuable exported product at 29.9% of the country’s total. In second place was non-concentrated and unsweetened milk or cream (7.5%) trailed by fish fillets or pieces (6.1%), cocoa beans (5.3%), unmanufactured tobacco including tobacco waste (4.1%), oil seeds (3%), sugar (2.9%), miscellaneous live plants (2.8%), concentrated or sweetened milk and cream (2.5%) then vanilla (2.3%) and uncombed cotton (also 2.3%).
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 represent 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.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$431.5 million (Down by -17.6% since 2018)
- Fish: $157.4 million (Down by -1.6%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $133 million (Up by 93.3%)
- Cocoa: $67.4 million (Up by 8.5%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $60.4 million (Up by 1.4%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $47.8 million (Down by -39.9%)
- Wood: $36.2 million (Up by 28.9%)
- Oil seeds: $33 million (Up by 7%)
- Cotton: $24.5 million (Down by -30.9%)
- Vegetables: $14.8 million (Down by -87%)
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 2019, down -37.5% from -$3.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.
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.
- Machinery including computers: -US$412.9 million (Down by -19.4% since 2018)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$344.3 million (Up by 33.2%)
- Vehicles: -$328.3 million (Down by -30.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$311.5 million (Down by -20.7%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$155 million (Up by 344.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$142.4 million (Down by -59.8%)
- Iron, steel: -$142 million (Down by -50%)
- Cereals: -$112.6 million (Up by 153.9%)
- Other chemical goods: -$102.2 million (Down by -31%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$101.3 million (Up by 2.9%)
Uganda has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the machinery category including computers.
Ugandan Export Companies
Not one Ugandan corporation ranks among Forbes Global 2000.
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)
In macroeconomic terms, Uganda’s total exported goods represent 1.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($104.8 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 1.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 3.2% for 2018. Those metrics suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Uganda’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Uganda’s average unemployment rate was 1.8% for 2019, compared to 1.7% one year earlier according to Trading Economics.
Uganda’s capital city is Kampala, a historical name that refers to “where the king goes hunting”.
See also Togo’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Forbes 2019 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on July 7, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 7, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Wikipedia, Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Kampala, Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020