Uganda’s Top 10 Exports

Uganda flag courtesy of

Uganda flag (

A landlocked nation located in central eastern Africa, the Republic of Uganda shipped US$2.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount reflects a 20.5% increase since 2013 and a 16.9% gain from 2016 to 2017.

Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Uganda’s exported goods plus services represent 18.8% of total Ugandan economic output or Gross Domestic Product. Please note that the overall value of exported goods and services includes re-exports. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.

From a continental perspective, about two-fifths of Ugandan exports by value were delivered to fellow African countries while about one quarter was sold to Asian importers. Uganda shipped another 20% worth of goods to Europe, with the bulk of the remainder delivered to Middle Eastern nations well ahead of North America at 2.8%.

Given Uganda’s population of 39.6 million people, its total $2.9 billion in 2017 exports translates to an estimated $75 for every resident in the central eastern African country.

Trading Economics projects Uganda’s unemployment rate to be 2.25% at June 2018.

Uganda’s Top 10 Exports

Top 10

The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ugandan global shipments during 2017. 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 products are coffee trailed by gold, refined petroleum oils, fish fillets and pieces, sugar, corn then tea.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$651.5 million (22.5% of total exports)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $418.5 million (14.4%)
  3. Mineral fuels including oil: $186.9 million (6.4%)
  4. Cereals: $183.1 million (6.3%)
  5. Fish: $136.2 million (4.7%)
  6. Vegetables: $110.4 million (3.8%)
  7. Sugar, sugar confectionery: $91.7 million (3.2%)
  8. Dairy, eggs, honey: $79.9 million (2.8%)
  9. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $79.7 million (2.7%)
  10. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: $70.2 million (2.4%)

Uganda’s top 10 exports accounted for over two-thirds (69.2%) of the overall value of its global shipments.

Food industry waste and animal fodder was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 94.9% from 2016 to 2017.

In second place for improving export sales was vegetables which was up by 52.7% led by dried leguminous vegetables.

Ugandan coffee, tea and spices posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 44.6% thanks mainly to improved international sales of coffee and, to a lesser degree, vanilla then tea.

The lone decliner among the top 10 Ugandan exports was the sugar and sugar confectionery category which retreated by -8.7% year over year.


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.

  1. Coffee, tea, spices: US$630.7 million (Up by 43.8% since 2016)
  2. Gems, precious metals: $417.6 million (Up by 23.2%)
  3. Fish: $131.6 million (Up by 9.7%)
  4. Vegetables: $93.4 million (Up by 43.2%)
  5. Dairy, eggs, honey: $77.8 million (Up by 43.8%)
  6. Food industry waste, animal fodder: $68.7 million (Up by 221.6%)
  7. Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $56.6 million (Up by 10.8%)
  8. Cocoa: $52.3 million (Down by -28.8%)
  9. Raw hides, skins not furskins, leather: $49.4 million (Up by 1.7%)
  10. Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $44.5 million (Down by -20.3%)

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$849.5 million (Up by 29.7% since 2016)
  2. Machinery including computers: -$535.5 million (Up by 55.6%)
  3. Vehicles: -$424.5 million (Up by 12.9%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment: -$298.3 million (Up by 6.9%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles: -$264.4 million (Up by 19.2%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals: -$253.8 million (Down by -11.5%)
  7. Iron, steel: -$217.6 million (Up by 56.8%)
  8. Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$205.3 million (Up by 21.7%)
  9. Other chemical goods: -$123.9 million (Up by 18.1%)
  10. Paper, paper items: -$113.2 million (Up by 19.7%)

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


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)

Uganda’s capital city is Kampala, a historical name that refers to “where the king goes hunting”.

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 June 25, 2018

Forbes 2016 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on June 25, 2018

International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on June 25, 2018

International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 25, 2018

The World Factbook, Africa: Uganda. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Wikipedia, Uganda. Accessed on June 25, 2018

Wikipedia, List of Companies of Uganda. Accessed on June 25, 2018

World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Kampala, Uganda. Accessed on June 25, 2018