Having buried their previous enmity, Uganda and Sudan have moved fast to strengthen bilateral and trade relations – and this time the two countries are set to see ways of boosting exports when the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) convenes at a resort in the outskirts of Kampala starting October 5.
Recent statistics indicate Sudan imports 20 percent of Uganda’s coffee and is the single biggest export market for the product from which about USD100 million is earned.
Moses Kasujja, who heads the Public Diplomacy Department at Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in Kampala, says during the JMC, the two delegations will discuss practical ways for increasing trade volumes of commodities such as coffee and tea.
He said more discussions would be held on attracting investments in various sectors including promotion of exports, customs to customs cooperation, cooperation in the elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs); cooperation in the development of Energy and Mineral Development; harmonization of trade and regulatory standards; promotion of tourism; peace and security.
President Museveni has for the last few years warmed up to his Sudan counterpart Omar Al Bashir, creating a conducive atmosphere for South Sudan to realise peace.
While Uganda directly helped South Sudan president Salva Kiir maintain his hold on power, Bashir quietly funneled arms and medicine to the dissident former Vice President Riek Machar’s rebels.
But Museveni and Bashir helped Kiir and Machar sign a peace agreement. On the other hand, Kiir will use his leverage and influence to encourage Sudan rebels challenging Bashir’s government to lay down weapons.
By resolving issues around peace and security, Museveni and Bashir put their two countries breathing space to explore vast opportunities in trade and tourism.
For example, the much anticipated Uganda airline will have direct flights to Khartoum, Sudan, easing movement of persons and also facilitate exports to both countries.
Kasujja said the planned 6th Session of the JMC will be an “effective platform for enhancing and consolidating existing bilateral cooperation frameworks between Uganda and Republic of Sudan,” adding, “The JMC is being held at a time when Uganda and Sudan have stepped up cooperation in a number of sectors.”
The lifting of trade and economic sanctions which the United States imposed on the Sudan for over 20 years provides more opportunities for trade between Uganda and the Sudan to thrive.
The planned Joint Uganda – Republic of Sudan Business Forum will bring together relevant government Ministries, Department and Agencies; private manufacturers, transporters, clearing agents, importers, and export and trader associations to discuss opportunities for trade between the two countries.
Kasule said the Forum will be another opportunity to “share experiences, identify challenges that need to be resolved and come up with recommendations” on how to strengthen trade between Uganda and Sudan.
The JPC is being organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with Trade Mark East Africa and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.
The meetings start on Wednesday, December 5, with Senior Officials holding discussions after which Permanent Secretaries will meet on Thursday. These meetings will form the agenda of the Ministerial session set for this Friday.