Overseas Business Risk – Uganda

Information on key security and political risks which UK businesses may face when operating in Uganda.

Political and Economic

Uganda is a democratic republic with a multi-party system of government. Political stability and security have been restored since the 1980s. The President, Yoweri Museveni, and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) have been in power since 1986 and won a comfortable victory in February 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections. The next elections are due in 2016. Service delivery, strengthening economic growth and tackling corruption are important challenges for the Government before then.

Uganda has a liberal, market oriented economy. With an impressive record of macro-economic stability, single digit inflation (currently 7% – the Government is committed to maintain a strict monetary policy) and sustainable debt (34% of GDP). Fitch’s credit rating recently improved to B+. Uganda’s economy has showed signs of modest recovery since 2011, with growth predicted to rise from 3.4% in 2012 to 5.1% in 2013 and 6% in 2014 on the back of oil related investment. 

Uganda dropped six places to 129 (out of 148) in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competiveness Index and fell one place to 120 (out of 185) in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.    Recent initiatives to facilitate cross border trade, expansion of the Mombasa port and the introduction of the Single Customs Territory between Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, will all help, as will the recent announcement that the Uganda Investment Authority will provide a one stop shop for business registration. However, there remains an urgent need to improve power (the Government plans to double the length of its power grid within four years) and transport infrastructure, reduce red tape and non tariff barriers.

Higher value added services (e.g. telecoms) and industrial sectors (e.g. small manufacturing) now account for three-quarters of GDP, compared to less than half a decade ago. Agriculture contributes 21% of GDP and employs 65.6% of the population.

More information on political risk, including political demonstrations, is available in the FCO Travel Advice.

Human Rights

Uganda has a relatively liberal and open society but there remain some areas of concern.

  • The judiciary is perceived to be independent and on occasion a strong critic of government, but is also not entirely immune to political pressure. The commercial courts are effective, but have capacity constraints.

  • Uganda has active civil society organisations, including trade unions. The National Organisation of Trade Unions (NOTU) was established in 1973 and has 24 affiliated unions. Uganda has ratified 31 conventions on labour rights. The Ugandan Government is working with the ILO to strengthen its legal, policy, institutional and social foundations against the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

  • There are concerns about threats to freedom of expression and assembly faced by opposition groups, journalists and some civil society.

  • Rule of law problems remain, including policing and allegations of torture and illegal detention. However Uganda recently domesticated the Convention against Torture which is a step in the right direction.

  • Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and there have been proposals to strengthen this legislation further.

  • Thirteen crimes in Uganda are punishable by the death penalty, although no one has been executed since 1997.

  • There have been some significant improvements for women and girls in Uganda, including high level representation and the passage of a Domestic Violence Act. However challenges remain with 68% of women reporting experiences of violence.

  • Land related (including ownership and tenancy) issues are complex and can be politically sensitive.

Bribery and Corruption

Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for British nationals or someone who is ordinarily resident in the UK, a body incorporated in the UK or a Scottish partnership, to bribe anywhere in the world.

In addition, a commercial organisation carrying on a business in the UK can be liable for the conduct of a person who is neither a UK national or resident in the UK or a body incorporated or formed in the UK. In this case it does not matter whether the acts or omissions which form part of the offence take place in the UK or elsewhere.

Corruption is endemic in Uganda which was ranked 130th in the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI), (143 in 2011). The Government has acknowledged the problem. Since 2011 a number of ministers and high level government officials have lost their posts over allegations of corruption. Anti-Money Laundering legislation was finally enacted in 2013.

Read the information provided on our Bribery and corruption page.

Intellectual Property

IP rights are territorial, that is, they only give protection in the countries where they are granted or registered. If you are thinking about trading internationally, then you should consider registering your IP rights in your export markets.

There are a number of legal provisions pertaining to the administration and enforcement of copyright and intellectual property rights in Uganda. The Copyright Act 2008 makes provision for copyright of literary, musical and artistic works, cinematography pictures, gramophone records and broadcasts.

Piracy, IPR infringement and counterfeiting are a problem in Uganda, cutting across all forms of goods and services. Uganda’s counterfeit problem is aggravated by the lack of adequate enforcement of trademark laws and weak punitive measures. The institutions currently responsible for enforcing the Trademark Act are; Uganda National Bureau of Standards, Uganda Revenue Authority, National Drug Authority and the Uganda police. According to the Ugandan Revenue Authority, the most commonly counterfeited products are electric cables, electronic equipment, cosmetics, toothpaste, medicines (pharmaceutical products), pens, plastics, foods and beverages.

The government has tabled an Anti-Counterfeiting Goods Bill. The bill prohibits the manufacture, trade and release of fake goods.

Read the information provided on our Intellectual Property page.

Terrorism Threat

There is a general threat from terrorism in Uganda. Information on terrorism threat in Uganda can be obtained on the FCO travel advice to Uganda.

Read the information provided on our Terrorism threat page

Protective Security Advice

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure also provides protective security advice to businesses

Information on personal security advice can be obtained on the FCO travel advice to Uganda.

Information on travel to other parts of the country can be obtained on the FCO travel advice to Uganda FCO Travel & Living Abroad guide to Uganda

Read the information provided on our Protective security advice page

Organised Crime

Read the information provided on our Organised crime page.

More information is available on overseas business risk in a range of markets.

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Countries: Uganda
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