Trade plays a major role in the economic transformation of an economy. Uganda’s trade has been growing, especially to the regional markets such as EAC and COMESA.  Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Least Developed countries including Uganda are expected to double the share of exports in the global market by 2020 as emphasized by SDG: 17. Uganda’ progression from a low income country to a middle income county by 2020 and subsequently to an upper income status by 2040 rests among others on successful trade in regional and global markets which in turn promotes development. Trade aids in generating foreign currency which helps the nation’s balance of payment position. Trade stimulates healthy market competition which promotes development.

Uganda’s total trade amounted to US$9.2 billion in 2017 up from US$7.8 billion in 2016. The total imports bill in 2017 was US$5.7 billion up from US$4.9 billion in 2016, of which formal imports accounted for US$5.6 billion, while informal imports were estimated at US$80.9 million. Export earnings increased by 18.9% to US$3.5 billion in 2017, of which, formal exports were US$2.9 billion, while informal exports amounted to US$ 549.0 million. Formal exports increased by 16.9 percent to US$ 2.9 billion in 2017, from US$ 2.5 billion in 2016. On the other hand, informal exports significantly increased by 31.0% to US$549.0 million in 2017, from US$ 419.2 million in 2016. The increase in informal trading was attributed to resumption of trading with South Sudan during the year as well as increased export of agricultural produce to Kenya especially maize and bananas. Overall, the trade deficit widened to US$ 2.2 billion in 2017, from US$ 2.0 billion registered in 2016. (Source: MTIC)

The EAC currently constitutes the largest export destination for Ugandan products compared to the rest of the World.  Over the last five years, the average formal exports to EAC countries constituted 38.5% of Uganda’s total formal exports. In FY 2016/17, exports to EAC countries were 39.1% of the total formal exports (BoU, FY 2016/17).  Similarly, the country’s total formal exports stood at US$ 2,680 million in FY 2016/17, having increased by 16.6 percent from US$ 2,298 million in FY 2015/16.  On the other hand, the exports stood at US$ 4,718.43million in FY 2016/17 from US$ 4,574.47million in FY 2016/17, representing a 3 percent.  Uganda exports about 2,440 products and imports about 3,783 products, while the country exports to 130 countries and imports from 153 countries.[1]

Government of Uganda in collaboration with regional Partner States has undertaken several measures to enhance regional trade, more especially those that relate to the implementation of the EAC regional integration process pillars.  They include, trade facilitation initiatives under the EAC Customs Union, which have been done through the completion of the One-Stop Border Post (OSBT) at the country’s EAC border posts, the Cargo tracking system and reduction of Non-Tariff Barriers among others. Uganda’s top five exports and imports to the global market are indicated in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Top five exports and imports in (US$ Thousands)






 Coffee, not roasted ...



 Petroleum oils, etc, ...


 Petroleum oils, etc,



 Other medicaments


 Portland cement (exc ...



 Crude palm oil


 Maize seed



 Automobiles with rec ...


 Cocoa beans, whole o ...



 Spelt, common wheat


Source: WITS


[1] World Integrated Trade Solution(WITS) accessed at