Uganda Economic Update, 20th Edition: Unlocking the Benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area and Regional Integration

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The Ugandan economy will need to grow rapidly, sustainably, and broadly (i.e., in a shared manner), to reach middle-income status, lift its population out of poverty, and generate enough jobs for one of the fastest growing populations in the world. To do so, the country needs to unlock its growth potential by allocating productive factors to their most efficient uses. However, like many least developing countries, Uganda suffers from a small domestic market and distortions, which leads to misallocation of resources. As a result, international trade will play a critical role in solving some of the current challenges faced by the Ugandan economy and ultimately boosting economic growth and development. For Uganda, greater integration into global value chains will be crucial to create jobs outside of subsistence agriculture and the informal economy. Sustained growth in trade will also increase consumer welfare by expanding options and lowering prices of consumer goods. Regional trade agreements can help Uganda diversify its range of markets and products, mitigating the risk of external shocks by lessening dependence on any single trading partner. Greater intra-African trade also offers opportunities to add more value to export commodities and to leverage the potential of agribusiness to promote inclusive growth. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) offers opportunities for Uganda to deepen its access to regional markets and exploit the growth potential of the region. Expanding regional and continental trade offers significant benefits for Uganda, including potential economies of scale, new export opportunities, access to higher levels of the value chain, and forums to improve trade facilitation. However, non-tariff barriers continue to limit trade, including the discriminatory use of technical regulations, non-harmonized sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, and complex rules of origin. Security challenges such as the closure of the border between Rwanda and Uganda in 2019 has also constrained regional integration. To benefit fully from the AfCFTA, Uganda and her neighbors will need to overcome hurdles that have long weakened the effectiveness of existing regional arrangements by facilitating better trade through improved logistics, infrastructure, addressing non-tariff barriers and avoiding the politically motivated trade barriers like border closures.
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World Bank. 2022. Uganda Economic Update, 20th Edition: Unlocking the Benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area and Regional Integration. © Washington, DC: World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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