The newly appointed Ambassador to Kenya, HE. Dr. Hajji Hassan Wasswa Ggaliwango has committed to improving trade relations between Uganda and Kenya. This pledge was made during his visit to the UMA head office on the 12th February 2021.
The newly appointed Ambassador comes at a time when Uganda’s relationship with Kenya is edgy because of unfair treatment given by Kenya, to Uganda’s products.
“I have met several Ugandan officials among which included the Minister of Trade Industry and Cooperatives, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, who all urged me to front the issues pertaining to the trade relationship between Kenya and Uganda” he said.
In December 2020, the executive Director, Uganda Manufacturers Association, through a press conference protested government’s inability to decisively resolve the unfair trade practices subjected to Uganda by the republic of Kenya.
Mr. Birungi said that Uganda must also benefit from the regional integration in a fair and competitive manner. He thus, urged Dr. Wasswa to forge a working relationship between Kenya and Uganda during his tenure.
According to Dr. Wasswa, government cannot tax the manufacturers who cannot access market for their products. “Government has to work along with manufacturers to allow income generation through employment to expand the tax base, but this can only be made possible with market access” he added.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Wasswa reiterated his commitment to working closely with UMA to promote a vibrant manufacturing sector that will create employment opportunities, create more income which will yield more government revenue and therefore improved service delivery.
The Impact of internet Shutdown on Manufacturing
2020 was undoubtedly dreaded due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 2021 has bred optimism for full economic recovery, with this hope, the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) has several plans in her quest to make her member companies more competitive regionally and globally.
For 2021, the association is looking at remodeling its activities, while focusing on how we can avert the effects of Covid-19. The secretariat is analyzing the effect and is proposing interventions needed to help manufacturers stay afloat post Covid-19.
New tax measures coming on board which need input from the association. With the completion of an electoral process, we are strategically looking at building and strengthening our relationships with the incoming members of parliament who shape policies.
Tax policy: The major item on our agenda for 2021 is the tax policy because it determines the direction of manufacturing and business activity in the country.
We are looking at the tax policy to iron out all the anomalies in its implementation. For instance, the excise duty to ensure that the cost of the tax is not a burden to manufacturers.
For instance, in Uganda, excise duty has shifted from being a control tax to a revenue collection mechanism which shouldn’t be the case in an ideal situation.
Therefore, we are continuously advising the government to use tax as a measure of control and not revenue generation. Using excise duty as a tool of revenue collection to a product of benefit to society undermines it’s the inherent benefit of excise duty.
Market access: Today, we can have any Kenyan or Tanzanian product come into Uganda without any interference, but one cannot export to Tanzania. Faced with a -319M USD trade balance with Tanzania and -312m USD trade balance with Kenya, the UMA is strongly devising ways to seek an ending solution to this unfairness. There is no justification as to why we are free to allow people to come in with their goods but we are grappling with our goods in Uganda.
In light of the above, we have seen many of our manufacturers shifting to our neighboring countries because the tax system in Uganda does not promote their business growth and the government is not aggressive enough to protect the competitiveness of investors.
Tax waivers: One of our proposals to the government is to ask for waivers for manufacturers that have suffered from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
An analysis made by the secretariat confirms that some of our members are on the verge of collapse due to restrictions instituted by the government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Specifically, the manufacturers in the scholastic and beverages sector who had massively invested in the production of these items, financed with huge loans, are now grappling to stay in business.
Highlights From The Virtual Meeting Held To Assess Health & Saftey Readiness
In light of the increasing Covid-19 positive cases, Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) in collaboration with Ministry of Health held a virtual meeting on 9th September 2020 to assess the Health and Safety Standards implemented at workplaces to safeguard their employees and public against Covid-19.
Below are some of the issues raised with respective action points.
Speculation of the next lockdown:
Dr. Aggrey Batesaaki is the Assistant Commissioner in-charge of Inspection and Compliance, Standards, Compliance, Accreditation and Patients Protection Department, Ministry of Health noted that “Government is passionate about moving our economy further, and that his ministry is not happy to close the economy considering the vital role manufacturing plays in keeping our economy moving in such unprecedented times.
Fear of closing companies with registered cases:
While addressing fears of closing companies; Dr. Aggrey Batesaaki, noted that Closing off a company because of a confirmed Covid-19 case does not stop the spread of the virus. “Once a company registers a case, Ministry of health is available to work with companies to weigh the options of curbing further spread of the virus within the premises without a total shut down” he added.
Costs / charges for testing employee staff:
Dr. requested for time to get clear information with regard to reduction of the cost for testing employees.
According to the Assistant commissioner inspection, standards and compliance – Ministry of Health, it may not be necessary to test all staff at once and said that there will not be mandatory testing required. However, he reiterated the need for vigilance from employers through proper implementation the Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Slow response from Ministry of Health:
In response this the above concern, Dr. Aggrey Batesaaki pledged to share contacts of all District Health Officers (DHO) plus the Covid-19 task force to handle issues in the various districts around the country. He added that DHOs represent Ministry of Health at District level and are available to address issues of concern to the manufacturers.
Faulty thermal scanners:
Simon Kaheru, the Public Affairs and Communications Director – Coca-Cola Beverages Africa said that Ministry of Health is not responsible for maintaining faulty thermal scanners and he pledged to share information regarding the distributors of these scanners and their respective calibrators to members in need.
Consolidated Standard Operating Procedures for Manufacturing:
Currently Ministry of Health is developing Covid-19 guidelines for manufacturers.
UMA will set up a Covid-19 task force for manufacturers who will draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide Ministry of Health as it sets these guidelines for manufacturing firms.
UMA in collaboration with Ministry of Health and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) will issue certificates of compliance to manufacturers who meet the criteria on the Standard operating procedures against Covid-19.
For most people, foam does not sound like a crucial part of the COVID-19 pandemic response effort—but it is. Adhesive-backed foam is used in making face shields and other personal protective gear for health care responders, essential workers and the general public.
Crest Foam Limited a renowned manufacturer of mattresses, has stepped up to support frontline workers and the general public.
When the pandemic hit the country, the company initially intended to use its equipment and workforce to manufacture mattresses and other foam related products, but it soon discovered it had a larger role to play.
With emerging need of face shields and masks to curb the spread of the novel corona virus, Crest Foam’s management partnered with Nice House of Plastics to provide more value by supporting personal protective needs countrywide.
The need for foam has been widespread, and other non-foam manufacturers have reconfigured their production lines to make protective gear as well.