A landlocked nation located in central eastern Africa, the Republic of Uganda shipped US$3.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 36.5% increase since 2014 and a 6.4% gain from 2017 to 2018.
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.
The latest data 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 Africa 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 40.9 million people, its total $3.1 billion in 2018 exports translates to an estimated $80 for every resident in the central eastern African country.
In macroeconomic terms, Uganda’s total exported goods represent 3.2% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2018 ($97 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.2% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2018 compares to 4.1% for 2014, seeming to indicate a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Uganda’s total economic performance. And while this article focuses on exported goods, it is interesting to note that Uganda also provided $2 billion worth of exports-related services to global customers for an additional 2% of GDP in PPP.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Trading Economics estimates Uganda’s unemployment rate to be 2.25% at June 2018.
Uganda’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Ugandan global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Uganda.
- Coffee, tea, spices: US$536 million (17.4% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $516.9 million (16.7%)
- Cereals: $192 million (6.2%)
- Fish: $169.9 million (5.5%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $166.8 million (5.4%)
- Vegetables: $125.8 million (4.1%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $108.2 million (3.5%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $86.4 million (2.8%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $85.4 million (2.8%)
- Iron, steel: $85.3 million (2.8%)
Uganda’s top 10 exports accounted for 67.1% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Tobacco including manufactured substitutes was the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 63.7% year over year since 2017.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel in metal form thanks to a 29.4% upturn.
Uganda ‘s shipments of fish posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 24.7% year over year.
The leading decliner among Uganda’s top 10 export categories was coffee, tea and spices which fell -17.7%
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Uganda ’s most valuable exported product at 16.7% of the country’s total. In second place was coffee (14.1%) trailed by processed petroleum oils (4.2%), sugar (3.4%), fish fillets or pieces (3.3%), dried shelled vegetables (3.2%), corn (2.9%) tea including flavored varieties (also 2.9%), unmanufactured tobacco including tobacco waste (2.2%) then dried, salted or smoked fish (also 2.2%).
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$523.8 million (Down by -17% since 2017)
- Gems, precious metals: $181.4 million (Down by -56.6%)
- Fish: $160 million (Up by 21.6%)
- Vegetables: $113.4 million (Up by 21.4%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $79.6 million (Up by 78.7%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $68.8 million (Down by -11.6%)
- Cocoa: $62.1 million (Up by 18.9%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: $61.9 million (Down by -9.9%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $59.5 million (Up by 5.1%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $48.4 million (Up by 49.2%)
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 -$3.6 billion trade deficit for 2018, up 35.2% from -$2.7 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.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$1.2 billion (Up by 35.6% since 2017)
- Machinery including computers: -$512.5 million (Down by -4.3%)
- Vehicles: -$470.2 million (Up by 10.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$393 million (Up by 31.8%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$354.1 million (Up by 34%)
- Iron, steel: -$284.1 million (Up by 30.5%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$258.4 million (Up by 1.8%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$169 million (Down by -17.7%)
- Other chemical goods: -$148.1 million (Up by 19.5%)
- Paper, paper items: -$141 million (Up by 24.5%)
Uganda has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits under the mineral fuels including oil category–mostly red ink for refined petroleum oils.
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”.
See also Togo’s Top 10 Exports, Somalia’s Top 10 Exports and Top African Export Countries
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Uganda. Accessed on April 26, 2019
Forbes 2018 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 26, 2019
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on July 4, 2019
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 26, 2019
The World Factbook, Africa: Uganda. Accessed on April 26, 2019
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Uganda. Accessed on April 26, 2019
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on July 4, 2019
Wikipedia, Uganda. Accessed on April 26, 2019
World’s Capital Cities, Capital Facts for Kampala, Uganda. Accessed on April 26, 2019