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Uganda

Executive Summary

Uganda’s investment climate continues to present both important opportunities and major challenges for U.S. investors. With a market economy, ideal climate, ample arable land, young and largely English-speaking population, and at least 1.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, Uganda offers numerous opportunities for investors. Uganda’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.5 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2018/2019. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had projected 5.5 – 6 percent growth in FY 2019/2020, though the combined impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, the current locust infestation, and the negative economic effects associated with Uganda’s impending elections are likely to reduce this figure. Uganda maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime. Foreign direct investment (FDI) surged by a whopping 80 percent to USD 1.75 billion in FY 2018/2019, driven by the construction and manufacturing sub-sectors. Uganda’s power, agricultural, construction, infrastructure, technology, and healthcare sectors present important opportunities for U.S. business and investment.

President Yoweri Museveni and government officials vocally welcome foreign investment in Uganda. However, the government’s actions sometimes do not support its rhetoric. Closing political space, poor economic management, endemic corruption, growing sovereign debt, weak rule of law, and the government’s failure to invest adequately in the health and education sectors all create risks for investors. U.S. firms may also find themselves competing with third country firms that cut costs and win contracts by disregarding environmental regulations and labor rights, dodging taxes, and bribing officials. Shortages of skilled labor and a complicated land tenure system also impede investment.

An uncertain mid-to-long-range political environment also increases risk to foreign businesses and investors. Domestic political tensions have increased in the run-up to the 2021 elections as 34-year incumbent President Museveni faces new challengers and a disenfranchised youth demographic that comprises 77 percent of the population.

On the legislative front, in a move aimed ostensibly at reducing the repatriation of hard currency profits, in October 2019, the government approved the Communications Licensing Framework which imposed a 20 percent mandatory stock listing requirement on mobile telecommunication service providers. The same framework also requires telecommunication infrastructure companies to sell 20 percent of their equity to Ugandan citizens.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perception Index 2019 137 of 180 https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 116 of 190 https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/data/
exploreeconomies/uganda
Global Innovation Index 2019 102 of 129 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2017 USD 42 million https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm?Area=446
World Bank GNI per capita 2018 USD 620 https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD?locations=UG
Investment Climate Statements
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future