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Ugandan Targets Dubai Expo to Grow Exports

The Dubai Expo 2020 runs from October to April 2022, attracting exhibitors from at least 190 countries, as well as expecting more than 20 million people to visit the event.

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The Ugandan government seeks to diversify the exports to the United Arab Emirates and increase the value from the current $1.82b annually, through the world expo that is due to be held later this year in Dubai. 

The Dubai Expo 2020 runs from October to April 2022, attracting exhibitors from at least 190 countries, as well as expecting more than 20 million people to visit the event. 

The Uganda Investments Authority says the expo under the theme; Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, is different in several ways from the previous editions that the country has participated in.

This time round, Uganda has its own stand, unlike previously when it was given a stand jointly with other countries, especially from East Africa. 

The UIA says this gives more exposure to Uganda, to be able to market to the UAE and neighbouring countries what it can do. 

According to the 2020 figures, almost 99% ($1.82b) of the export earnings from the UAE, were from gold and other precious metals, while mineral fuels, oil and other related products follow with $10m.

Others are fish, fish products and other water foods, vegetable and tubers. 

Cash crops like coffee, tea, spices, cotton, grain and fruits combined fetched less than $3m. 

In recent days, Ugandan producers have been encouraged to fight for the regional and continental markets, which are deemed to be cheaper and less competitive than the international markets. 

This is also supported by the ongoing economic integration programs like the East African Community, COMESA, the Tripartite Free Trade Area and the African Continental Free Trade Area, all aimed at enhancing intra-African trade. 

Lwere John, the Trade Information Executive at the Uganda Exports Promotions Board -UEPB, says they are now giving priority to the UAE or other international markets, adding that there are many initiatives targeting different markets including Africa. 

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But there are questions as regards the quality of Ugandan products and if they can really do meaningful business on the global scene. 

Uganda has for long suffered market hitches both in Europe and East Africa, with the consumers and governments claiming that the products are substandard. The most affected are sugar, fruits and vegetables and animal products.

On whether the country has what it takes to meet the global standards, Lwere admits that there are challenges with Ugandan products, but that those which are being promoted for the international market, already have proven quality.

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Experts say that the country needs to improve on the traditional products especially organically produced foods items, and the market will automatically grow. 

For example, fish and fish products accounted for $177m dollars of total exports last year, but the UAE only consumed $6.5m worth of fish and other seafood products from Uganda. 

To improve production and productivity as well as the standards, Ugandans need capital and technological capacity which are currently lacking. 

Lwere says the expo should not only find markets for Ugandan products but also attract investors to start production here, or partner with other local investors. 

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