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Uganda exports to Rwanda hit Shs100b

Uganda’s exports to Rwanda hit Shs110b.7b at the end of last year, up from Shs400m recorded in 2020, signalling Kampala-Kigali thawed relations amid ongoing tensions sucking in the two governments and the M23 rebel group next door in eastern DR Congo.

Uganda’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, Gen (Rtd) Robert Rusoke, told a retreat of Ambassadors of Ring States Joint Regional Economic and Commercial Diplomacy at the Serena Hotel, Kigo, on Thursday that Rwanda’s exports to Uganda also increased from Shs36b to Shs45.1b during the same period.

Uganda’s key exports to Kigali include pineapples, Irish potatoes, mangoes, and sorghum. Rwanda’s main exports include sugar, cement, and maize flour. Trade between the two countries deteriorated in late 2017 and flattened in February 2019 after Kigali closed its Katuna and Cyanika borders in Kabale and Kisoro districts, respectively, stating that this was meant to pave the way for some rehabilitation works.

The dispute was resolved through shuttle diplomacy involving several actors, including President Museveni’s son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, now the Chief of Defence Forces.

The retreat heard that the thaw was as a result of consultative meetings between the two governments, which culminated into the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on political and diplomatic consultations in January 2022. The MoU provided for systematic Ministerial Diplomatic and Political discussions every six months to iron out any differences.

Last March, the two governments revived the Joint Permanent Commission, which had stalled for over a decade, paving the way for more economic interactions, with Uganda’s High Commission in Kigali playing a pivotal role.

“The mission has also worked to address challenges faced by traders, including the reopening of border points and the simplification of customs procedures,” Ambassador Rusoke said.

Maj Gen Rusoke was among the 14 Generals retired from the army in August 2021, and was subsequently named High Commissioner to Kigali, in December, replacing Ms Oliver Wonekha, who has been reassigned to Beijing.

Kampala and Kigali are, however, accused by the UN of extending support to the M23 rebels fighting the Congolese government. A leaked UN group of experts report detailed that Uganda has provided sanctuary and passage to M23 and Alliance Fleuve Congo (AFC) rebels in Kampala City, allegations Uganda Foreign Affairs Ministry has described as false.

Kigali, whose diplomatic relations with Kinshasa is at the lowest, is accused of violating international sanctions by extending support to the ragtag M23 group, whose attacks have left a heavy trail of death and destruction. Rwanda denies backing the M23.

More surplus news

At the same retreat on Thursday, Farid Mansoor Kallisa, Uganda’s High Commissioner to Kinshasa, revealed that Kampala posted a $53m (Shs198b) trade surplus with the DR Congo, mainly facilitated by UDPF’s military adventures in the eastern side to flash out the Islamist ADF rebels.

The rebels, however, continue to menace communities while the UPDF’s operations have more than once come under question about its efficacy.

Uganda’s exports to the restive eastern DR Congo mainly include cereals, vegetable oil, refined petroleum oil, and salt, among others.

Uganda’s Ambassador to South Sudan Ronnie Balya also revealed that Uganda recorded $41.68m (Shs155b), while South Sudan’s exports to Uganda rose from $4.83m (Shs18b) to $15.59m (Shs58b) during the same period.

“As we move forward, our focus should be on joint venture business in various areas like industry, agriculture, ICT, services – like health, education, banking, real estate, hospitality, tourism, and infrastructure development,” Balya said.

Uganda’s exports to South Sudan increased from $225.28m (Shs842b) in the FY2015/2016 to 546.43m in 2021/2022 (Shs2 trillion). “Now that peace has returned to South Sudan, I encourage our people in Uganda to embrace this opportunity to expand trade and investment,” Amb Balya added, however, noting that major challenges, including non-tariff barriers, tariff barriers, and infrastructure constraints, linger.

Col (Rtd) Fred Mwesigye, Uganda’s High Commissioner to Tanzania, also revealed that trade between the two nations increased by 16.7 percent annually over the past 27 years. The two governments are working on key mega infrastructure projects, including the $4b (Shs15 trillion) East African Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop) from Hoima in mid-western Uganda to the Indian Ocean Tanga port, a reverse Liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline from the southeastern Mtwara region to Uganda, and the 130km Tabora/249km Isaka-Mwanza electric Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line. The line winds at the Lake Victoria Mwanza port to facilitate cargo haulage to Uganda via Port Bell in Luzira.

Mr Sam Tulya-Muhika, Uganda’s ambassador to war-torn Somalia, also noted significant trade and remittance flows between Uganda and Somalia averaging between $50,000 (Shs185m) and $60,000 (Shs222m) daily, tallying to $1.5m (Shs5.5b) to $1.8m (Shs6.6m) monthly.

Ambassador Elly Kafeero Kamahungye, the acting director for Regional and International Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “Economic diplomacy involves using government resources to promote the growth of a country’s economy by increasing trade, promoting tourism and investments, and technology transfers.”

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