KAMPALA – The Third Deputy Prime Minister, Rebecca Kadaga has blasted authorities in Kenya and South Sudan, accusing them of frustrating Ugandan business operators.
Kadaga described the recent trade standoffs as unfair trade practices and said Uganda will retaliate.
Kadaga, also Uganda’s Minister for East African Community Affairs was speaking at the second two-day East African Business and Investment Summit and Expo 2023 at Speak Resort Munyonyo.
She expressed anger at the way South Sudan has recently treated grain exporters to the country.
It is impunity, for authorities in Juba to lock up maize products in a warehouse in Uganda and taking the keys with them, claiming poor standards, Kadaga said, wondering why the country had not yet completed the Customs Union integration process.
The standoff between the two countries climaxed in July after hundreds of trucks remained parked at the Elegu border after S Sudan impounded almost 100 of them.
It took the intervention of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards and the East African Standards Committee before they were released.
Kadaga’s reaction was to the statement by the EABC Executive Director, John Bosco Kalisa, celebrating the achievement of 24 percent intra-EAC trade for the first time in the 22 years of the revived EAC.
On Kenya, Kadaga wondered about the motive of Kenya’s practice of allowing Ugandan milk for a period, only to block the products midway through the agreed period.
She said these practices disrupt the trade value chain comprising farmers, processors, packaging factories among others.
The forum was organized under the theme: “Private Sector Driven Regional Integration for Increased Intra-African Trade and Investment,” with the aim of assessing the readiness of the region to take on the Continental Free Trade Area.
Denis Karera, the Vice Chairperson EABC, noted the very low numbers of traders in the EAC that had participated in the AfCFTA, with only two, from Kenya and Rwanda, of the present businesspeople at the conference saying they had.
Karera said there was too much talking instead about the AfCFTA instead of taking on the opportunities.
Speaking on the opportunities, Karera informed the Business Community of the available transport in the form of RwandaAir which had provided discounts on cargo under the AfCFTA, as well as the lowered taxes across the countries.
Kadaga also wondered if the rest of African countries were committed to the trade agreement, with several having not yet ratified it.
At the end of the event, dozens of resolutions including laying strategies to increase intraregional trade to 40 percent of all EAC trade within five years, frameworks to protect traders, and pushing for harmonized tax policies.
Other resolutions touched on a seamless telecommunications regime across the region, an open-air space, promotion of SMEs, women and youth in business as well as sustainable farming practices amidst climate change, among other resolutions.