Dr Michael Atingi-Ego, the Deputy Governor Bank of Uganda, speaks at the the 5th Economic Growth Forum at Kampala Serena Hotel on Thursday, 13 January 2022.

At Kikubolane.com, we covered many stories in matter business this week. We bring you a summary of the major ones.

Uganda’s economy beats forecast, grows by 6.5% in 2021

Uganda’s economy grew by between 6.5 and 7.0 per cent in 2021, beating projections due to effects of Covid-19 restrictions, Bank of Uganda (BoU) said.

According to the BoU Monetary Policy statement for January, high-frequency indicators of economic activity for October 2021 to January 2022 show that the economy has rebounded from the Covid-19 induced lockdowns.

“The economy is estimated to have bounced back in 2021, growing in the range of 6.5-7.0 per cent, although it came after a 1.5 per cent contraction in 2020 as the pandemic forced parts of the economy to shut,” the report reads.

“Indeed, the high-frequency indicators of economic activity for October 2021 to January 2022 suggest that the economy was on a strong Rebound. Domestic demand is making a strong comeback as COVID-19 related restrictions are eased, adding to the gains from robust external demand,” it adds.

Govt acquires Shs1.2 trillion loan from ADB to revamp meter gauge rail system

The Government of Uganda has received a loan €302 million (about Shs1.2 trillion) from African Development Bank (ADB) to enable it improve the meter gauge rail system.

According to Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) Managing Director Stanley Ssendegeya, the money will be used to restore the main line of meter gauge rail at all URC main line stations, railway workshops, the ports, locomotives, wagons, passenger coaches and also procure some more vessels.

The locomotives acquired by URC in 2021.

He also said they plan to repair the railway line linking Albertine region to Gulu and Pakwach in line with the operationalization of the recent Final Investment Decision (FID)

“URC is to ensure that the railway line is also back to Kasese and Pakwach through the Malaba border by 2025,” Mr Ssendegeya is quoted as saying at the weekend by Daily Monitor.

The URC is currently conducting the projects emergency works to connect the Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to the Tororo-Gulu meter gauge railway line.

Malaba border standoff affects Uganda’s coffee exports for January

The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) has said the standoff at Malaba border points with Kenya that led to the fuel crisis affected Uganda’s coffee exports in January.

Uganda exported a total of 402,212 60-kilo bags of coffee valued at $61.98 million (about Shs215b in January 2022, the January report by UCDA shows.

Of the 402,212 60-kilo bags, 315,265 bags were of Robusta valued at $40.07 million and 86,947 bags of Arabica valued at $ 21.91 million.

This was a decrease of 10% in quantity and an increase of 56% in value compared to the same month last year.

UCDA attributes the decrease in Robusta exports to the border blockade and correction where two consecutive good harvests were associated with lower yields this year also characterized by a drought in some regions.

“This led to a shorter main harvest season in Central and Eastern regions as well as a short fly crop in Greater Masaka and South-Western regions. Shortage of containers and congestion at the Malaba boarder also affected exports,” the report adds.

700 SMEs trained in financial literacy, business planning

A total of 700 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have completed three months of training in financial literacy, business planning, contracts and bid management courtesy of Stanbic Business Incubator Limited (SBIL).

The SMEs, which were awarded with certificates in enterprise development, were drawn from a wide range of sectors including oil and gas, transport, renewable energy, hospitality, agribusiness, and manufacturing.

The SMEs were selected after a competitive application process that got entries from Kampala and across eight districts from eastern, western and northern Uganda.

The training was conducted under the Enterprise Development Program (EDP), which is SBIL’s flagship programme aimed at enhancing local SMEs’ capacity building for business resilience and sustainability.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony held at the company’s head offices in Kampala at the weekend, Tony Otoa, the Chief Executive SBIL, said: “I know everyone is asking what next? Well, I can assure you that we are committed to continued on-site mentorship and follow-up of graduates’ businesses. This is all to ensure business survival. We are going to work even harder to ensure that these businesses thrive, create more job opportunities, and drive Uganda’s growth—-our purpose as Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited.”

Coffee farmers worried Uganda risks losing access to European market over withdrawal from global coffee body

Ugandan coffee farmers have expressed concern that the country’s coffee could be barred from international markets such as Europe due to the decision by Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) to withdraw from the International Coffee Organization (ICO).

This comes after the Executive Director of ICO on February 2, 2022 informed all ICO Members that UCDA is no eligible to issue ICO Certificates of Origin.

“Due to the decision of the Government of Uganda not to agree with the extension of the International Coffee Agreement 2007 and the consequent withdrawal of Uganda from the Organization. The Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) is no longer eligible to issue ICO Certificates of Origin. Any ICO Certificate of Origin issued by the UCDA dated after 1 February 2022 will not be valid,” the Executive Director of ICO announced.

ICO certificates of origin are issued for every international shipment of coffee from producers to consumers (whether the importing country is an ICO member or not), and are used to monitor the movement of coffee worldwide.

The forms contain details of identity, size, origin, destination and time of shipment of the parcels in question. ICO certificates were particularly important when ICO export quotas were in force as they were also used to enforce the quota limits for individual exporting countries.

Although the certificates are now less important (and some consumer countries no longer insist on them), it is in the interest of exporting countries to comply with ICO regulations on certificates of origin as they enable the ICO to monitor coffee movements and produce accurate statistics on each country’s export.

The revelation has drawn anger from several coffee farmers and processors, many of whom took to social media to condemn the government decision.

UCDA staff test coffee for its quality. PHOTO/COURTESY

Former New Vision CEO and a coffee farmer Robert Kabushenga said: “Folks, just when I thought #UGCoffee problem couldn’t get any worse, now our worst fears have been confirmed. Access to the lucrative European coffee (esp 4 robusta) market is dead. Some clueless talking head is going to come here & lie to us how they are pushing for better terms.”

“What is even more annoying, this at a time when prices are high & we have just overtaken India in the Italian market. Other coffee producers are going to go in & outmanoeuvre us. No thought given to those of us who are investing our money in the sector,” he added.

But the Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze sought to calm the farmers’ fears.

“Mr @rkabushenga while I agree with some of ur concerns & even accorded u time to debate them with us at our ministry retreat in NaLI, its important that u don’t portray people as clueless & insensitive. That same UCDA has improved the quality & quantity of coffee exports over years,” he said.

“It’s not in the interests of UCDA to disadvantage our international coffee trade, an area they have invested efforts over years. UCDA is demanding for better terms at ICO, period.  Take time and listen to the issues they raising and perhaps support them as a stakeholder,” he said.

Relief for travellers as govt suspends mandatory COVID-19 testing at Entebbe airport

A cross section of Ugandans has expressed relief at the government’s decision to suspend the mandatory COVID-19 testing of all incoming travellers at Entebbe International Airport upon arrival.

On Wednesday, February 16, 2022, the Ministry of Health said the decision, which was taken by Cabinet on Monday, February 14, was informed by the decline in positive cases identified at the airport and reduction in global threat of new variants of concern (VoC) and, therefore, reduced risk of importation of VoC that will increase community transmission.

News of the end to mandatory Covid-19 testing is a financial and time relief to travellers who have been paying anywhere between Shs150,000 to $60 (Shs210,000) for single PCR test before catching an outbound or incoming flight.

Barbara Kasekende leaves Stanbic, appointed Manager Business Directory at Uganda Development Bank

Barbara Kasekende has been appointed Manager Business Directory at Uganda Development Bank (UDB).

Kasekende joins UDB from Stanbic Bank Uganda where she has been the Corporate Social Investments Manager.

Barbara Kasekende

“Barbara joins the Bank with over 10 years of experience in management of various projects including youth and women empowerment, SME and start-up growth, CSR, customer and partner relations, marketing and public relations. She has worked in various corporate positions with leading multinational brands in the United States and Uganda,” UDB said in a statement on Friday, 18 February 2022.

At UDB, Kasekende will oversee implementation of the Bank’s Business Advisory Department which provides technical support to customers and prospects pertaining to management best practices, good governance, record keeping, financial management among others.

Ms Kasekende has an MBA in international management from the University of Texas in Dallas.