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Uganda: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Uganda

Formal greetings are important to Ugandans, so always be polite, shake hands and enquire how they are when meeting someone. To make a good impression at business meetings, men should wear a smart suit and tie, while women should dress professionally. English is generally used for all business discussions and as a rule, all appointments should be made in advance. Be prepared for meetings to start and finish later than originally planned as punctuality isn’t enforced.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1300 and 1400-1700.

Economy

Agriculture dominates the Ugandan economy, accounting for half of total output and employing around 69% of the workforce in 2017. The industrial sector produces textiles, cement, fertilisers and metal goods. There are deposits of copper and cobalt. In addition, there are known deposits of tin, tungsten, beryllium and tantalum ores.

The economy recorded fairly steady economic growth throughout most of the last decade (4.4% annual growth as of 2017) but growth of 2.3% in 2012 is one of the lowest recorded for more than 10 years. Inflation stood at 6.8% in November 2013, as the country recovered from droughts earlier in the year. Increased periods of drought, high energy costs, poor transportation infrastructure and instability in the surrounding regions inhibit Uganda’s economic development, but there is optimism that the discovery of oil and gas will lead to a boost in the country’s economy.

The most pressing problem has been the country's debt burden. Its total external debt now stands at just under US$5.8 billion. In exchange for debt cancellation programmes, the government has been obliged to introduce a series of economic reforms, principally the removal of price controls and trade restrictions and a reduction in government spending. Uganda is a member of the African Development Bank and of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). In 2003, Uganda joined with neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania in a plan to revive the East African Customs Union (a previous attempt folded in 1977).

GDP

US$25.53 billion (2017).

Main exports

Coffee, fish and fish products, tea, tobacco and cotton, horticultural products and gold.

Main imports

Capital equipment, vehicles, petroleum, medical supplies and cereals.

Main trading partners

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Belgium, UAE, China and the Netherlands.

Keeping in Touch in Uganda

Telephone

Service for local calls is unreliable. Phone shops are available in towns.

Mobile Phone

Coverage extends to all major towns and international roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies.

Internet

There are internet cafés in most large towns.

Media

Uganda has been a pioneer of liberalisation in the African media. Private radio and television stations have thrived since the government loosened its control of the media in 1993, with over two dozen daily and weekly newspapers and many radio stations. Ugandans have unrestricted access to international media and around 15% of the population accessed the internet in 2012.

While the country’s laws allow for freedom of expression in the press, there have been clashes between media outlets that have been critical of policies and the government.

English-language papers include private daily The Monitor (www.monitor.co.ug) and state-owned daily New Vision (www.newvision.co.ug). Vernacular papers include state-owned Bukedde (www.bukedde.co.ug), Etop (www.facebook.com/etop.newspaper/) and Rupiny (www.facebook.com/rupiny.newspaper.7/). 

Post

Airmail to Europe can take from three days to several weeks.

Post Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1230 and 1400-1800. Some post offices are open Sat 0900-1400.