Okuti is one of the six border markets identified by the government in 2011 to be upgraded into international border markets under the Common Market for East and Southern African (COMESA) policy to promote regional trade. The others markets are Katuna in Kabale, Elegu in Amuru, Mutukula in Rakai, Malaba in Busia and Bwera in Kasese district.
At least 35,000 local business persons are still needed to
meet the required 100,000 people for the proposed Okuti International Border
Market in Orom East Sub-County Kitgum District.
Okuti is one of the six border markets identified by the
government in 2011 to be upgraded into international border markets under the Common Market for East and
Southern African (COMESA) policy to promote regional trade. The others markets are
Katuna in Kabale, Elegu in Amuru, Mutukula in Rakai, Malaba in Busia and Bwera
in Kasese district.
In 2014, eighteen clans in Kitgum District offered 100.05
hectares of land at the Uganda-South Sudan border for the construction of
an international border market by the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives. The leaders then said the land would be leased to 100,000
local investors for 49 years at 4 million Shillings per person.
In 2016, the business
community started applying for plots at the market site. However, six years later, only 65,000 people applied for the plots. Mathew Otoo, the Senior Land Management Officer in Kitgum
District Local Government says at a certain time he had to halt the
registration of those who wanted the plots because the communication surrounding the
market was unclear.
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Otoo explains that the market was proposed at a time when the
tenure of the local government was about to expire, and when a new government
came in, the political head saw the project as an initiative of the
past government, which he did not want to associate with.
For that reason, the locals became confused and developed
cold feet toward the project, and ask endless questions whenever they are asked to register for
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Otoo says that it is very important to mobilise 100,000 businesspersons
to acquire plots at the market to enable the area to acquire a municipality
status quickly, boost tourism, create employment opportunities and mechanized
agriculture which will result in food security.
He says despite the foreseen benefits of the proposed market,
it is important for the district leaders to come out with clear communication
to build the trust of the business community to start registering for plots
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Early last month, residents and leaders in Orom East Sub
County where the market will be, expressed concern over the delayed
construction of the International Border Market.
But Otoo believes that once a clear political statement is made, the business community will be aware of the strategy of developing
the international border market and why they are being mobilized to apply for
plots, as well as the strategy of developing the community neighbouring the
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Kevin Joyce Atim, the vice-chairperson of Kitgum District acknowledges that starting the market slowed because the
locals were not involved from the beginning.
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Atim tasks the production, marketing, and
natural resources committee to find out the concerns of the community before they resume
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She adds that when the district approves the budget for
the financial year 2022/2023 this month, another team will go on the ground to find more
facts from the community and present them to the council so that the project is
not taken as a project of a few individuals.
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The proposed Okuti international border market is expected to transform
development in Northern Uganda and boost trade between East Africa and the Horn of Africa.