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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Uganda is open to foreign trade, which represents 45% of its GDP (WTO, 2016). It is a member of many trade organisations such as the WTO, COMESA, EAC (East African Community), the ESAAMLG (Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group) and the IGAD (the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which brings together the seven states in the Horn of Africa). In  2013, the EAC members (Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda) signed a treaty establishing a monetary union, using the shilling as the common currency. The countries will need to implement a common monetary policy and create a central bank in order launch the new currency.

The objective of the country's trade policy is to encourage cooperation and integration in East Africa, in order to boost production and increase export revenues. Custom duties are not very high and the country has low non-tariff trade barriers. However, corruption and under-developed infrastructure remain as key trade barriers. Rich natural resources, improved national security and the return of exiled Ugandan-Indian entrepreneurs are factors that encourage foreign trade. The exploitation of hydrocarbons, which was supposed to start in 2013, was postponed and is expected to begin in 2020.

Uganda’s trade balance is structurally negative. During the fiscal year 2015-2016, exports increased by 6.9% while imports increased by 8.2%. The trade deficit increased by 0.7% to USD 2.2 billion. The increase in exports will continue to be supported by regional trade and the growth in coffee production. However, the political situation in South Sudan, one of the country’s main trade partners along with Kenya, will continue to impact trade flows in Uganda. In 2016, coffee exports were constrained by drought, but Uganda was Africa's largest exporter of robusta coffee. Moreover, imports will remain high due to investments in major infrastructure projects, food requirements and economic growth, which has been driving the demand for consumer goods.

Uganda mainly exports coffee, fish, tea, cotton, flowers, horticultural products and gold, primarily to Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Europe. The country imports industrial equipment, vehicles, petroleum products, medical products and cereals, mainly from India, China, Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and South Africa.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 6,0445,8186,0745,7805,099
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,3572,4082,2622,2452,543
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,4592,7392,7092,7382,271
Exports of Services (million USD) 1,9422,2721,8281,9451,606
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 61-614-9
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 147-0-23
Trade Balance (million USD) -2,451-2,145-2,375-2,288-1,404
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 5351464847
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 3331282929
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 2020181819

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
Kenya 18.8%
South Sudan 11.7%
Rwanda 10.5%
Democratic Republic of Congo 6.7%
Italy 4.5%
United Arab Emirates 3.6%
Netherlands 3.4%
Germany 3.4%
Belgium 3.0%
Tanzania 2.7%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
India 20.9%
China 15.8%
Kenya 10.0%
United Arab Emirates 7.3%
Japan 6.3%
South Africa 4.6%
Saudi Arabia 4.0%
Indonesia 3.7%
Germany 2.0%
France 1.9%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

2.3 bn USD of products exported in 2015
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 17.8%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.8%
Cement, incl. cement clinkers, whether or not coloured 3.5%
Fish fillets and other fish meat, whether or not minced, fresh, chilled or frozen 3.5%
Tea, whether or not flavoured 3.1%
Maize or corn 2.8%
Dried leguminous vegetables, shelled, whether or not skinned or split 2.7%
Unmanufactured tobacco; tobacco refuse 2.6%
Cocoa beans, whole or broken, raw or roasted 2.5%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 2.4%
5.5 bn USD of products imported in 2015
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 17.7%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 5.5%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 3.5%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.3%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 2.9%
Wheat and meslin 2.2%
Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, of a width >= 600 mm, hot-rolled, not clad, plated or coated 2.2%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 1.9%
Cement, incl. cement clinkers, whether or not coloured 1.7%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 1.5%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Services

2.2 bn USD of services exported in 2015
Other business services
Government services
Construction services
Computer and information services
Insurance services
Communications services
Financial services
Cultural and recreational services
Royalties and license fees
2.7 bn USD of services imported in 2015
Other business services
Construction services
Insurance services
Computer and information services
Communications services
Cultural and recreational services
Royalties and license fees
Government services
Financial services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of COMESA - Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa

Member of EAC - East African Community

Useful Resources
Uganda Revenue Authority
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
You can contact the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) by Email.


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Last Updates: November 2017