Uganda’s 3 most valuable exported goods (gold, coffee, cocoa beans) generated almost three-fifths (58.6%) of the African nation’s total exports by value.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 87.2% of products exported from Uganda were bought by importers in: United Arab Emirates (44.5% of the global total), Kenya (11.2%), South Sudan (8.6%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (6.4%), Italy (3.3%), Tanzania (2.3%), Germany (also 2.3%), Sudan (2.2%), Netherlands (1.9%), Belgium (1.7%), Burundi (1.4%) and the United States (1.4%).
From a continental perspective, 51.6% of Uganda’s exports by value were delivered to Asian countries while 34.2% were sold to importers in Africa. Uganda shipped another 12.6% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to North America (1.6%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (0.1%) then Australia and New Zealand in Oceania (0.1%).
Given Uganda’s population of 41.2 million people, its total $4.1 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $100 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 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Uganda.
- Gems, precious metals: US$1.8 billion (43.9% of total exports)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $600.7 million (14.5%)
- Fish: $124.9 million (3%)
- Cereals: $102.4 million (2.5%)
- Cocoa: $99.4 million (2.4%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $98.6 million (2.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $76.9 million (1.9%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $76 million (1.8%)
- Salt, sulphur, stone, cement: $75.8 million (1.8%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $71.8 million (1.7%)
Uganda’s top 10 exports accounted for 75.8% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Gems and precious metals represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 44.6% from 2019 to 2020. This increase was propelled mostly by higher international sales of Uganda’s exports of gold.
In second place for improving export sales was beverages, spirits and vinegar via a 36.8% gain.
Uganda’s shipments of cocoa posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 27.4%.
The leading decliner among Uganda’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil, thanks to a -44.4% drop dragged down by lower revenues for refined petroleum oils and electrical energy.
From the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, gold represents Uganda ’s most valuable exported product at 43.8% of the country’s total. In second place was coffee (12.4%) trailed by cocoa beans (2.4%), tea (1.9%), refined petroleum oils (also 1.9%), fish fillets or pieces (1.8%), sugar (1.7%), hydraulic cements (also 1.7%) then corn (1.6%).
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$581.9 million (Up by 15% since 2019)
- Fish: $112.7 million (Down by -30%)
- Cocoa: $94.1 million (Up by 26.4%)
- Dairy, eggs, honey: $72.4 million (Up by 8.6%)
- Milling products, malt, starches: $60.4 million (Up by 7.7%)
- Live trees, plants, cut flowers: $53.2 million (Up by 0.2%)
- Wood: $45.3 million (Up by 48.3%)
- Beverages, spirits, vinegar: $40.8 million (Up by 129.5%)
- Tobacco, manufactured substitutes: $36.4 million (Down by -39.6%)
- Vegetables: $34 million (Down by -6.9%)
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 -$4.1 billion trade deficit for 2020, down -0.7% from -$4.13 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$878 million (Down by -18.1% since 2019)
- Machinery including computers: -$574 million (Up by 13.1%)
- Vehicles: -$502.3 million (Up by 2.2%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$397.6 million (Up by 6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$356.3 million (Up by 5.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: -$323.3 million (Up by 12.5%)
- Iron, steel: -$291.9 million (Down by -1.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$219.9 million (Up by 59.4%)
- Other chemical goods: -$196.5 million (Up by 35.6%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: -$165.5 million (Up by 41.9%)
Uganda has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels notably for processed petroleum oils and, to a lesser extent, petroleum gas and coal.
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 3.6% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($114.9 billion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.6% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 1.3% for 2019. Those percentages 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 2.44% for 2020, up from 1.8% 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, Top African Export Countries and United States Top 10 Exports
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Africa: Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020
FlagPictures.org, Flag of Uganda. Accessed on July 7, 2020
Forbes 2020 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