Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
July 5, 2016

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Executive SummaryShare    

Uganda offers investors numerous opportunities, given its youthful, English-speaking population, open markets, and abundant resources, Uganda’s economy expanded six percent per year over the past decade, due to rapid growth in the energy, construction, infrastructure, telecommunications and financial services sectors. While Uganda maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime, and largely adheres to IMF/World Bank programs to fight poverty, continuing reports of endemic corruption, financial mismanagement, and increasing political repression raise questions about the government’s commitment to fostering an investor-friendly environment. National elections held on February 18, 2016 fell short of international standards, according to most international and domestic election observer missions. Projects managed by the Government of Uganda are hampered by a sluggish bureaucracy with a non-transparent decision-making process.

Poor infrastructure, high energy and production costs, and a number of macro-economic challenges, most notably a large trade deficit, inflation, and high interest rates, dampened growth in 2015, but growth is expected to rebound to five percent in 2016, and 5.5 percent in 2017. With a trade deficit exceeding $2 billion, the Ugandan shilling remains under pressure. Uganda’s Central Bank, the Bank of Uganda (BOU), is widely credited with pursuing sound monetary policy that helped arrest the shilling’s rapid depreciation which totaled 30 percent in the first three quarters of 2015. The BOU targeted inflation, raising the central bank rate (CBR) to 17 percent in September 2015. The BOU recently dropped the CBR to 16 percent in a sign that it believes inflation is under control at 6.2 percent, just above the BOU’s target of five percent.

Agriculture plays a dominant role in Uganda’s economy, employing 72 percent of Uganda’s workforce. In 2014 agriculture contributed 24.7 percent of GDP. Uganda’s top agriculture exports include: coffee, tea, tobacco and cotton. Uganda is Africa’s largest exporter of coffee, producing about 3.8 million bags of coffee in 2014. Other significant agricultural exports include fish, flowers and horticultural produce. Agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, and agricultural processing equipment remain in short supply for Ugandan farmers, impeding growth in the sector.

Uganda’s natural resources are plentiful, including significant oil reserves - an estimated 6.5 billion barrels, including 1.4 billion which are recoverable. With only 40 percent of the oil-rich areas explored, additional discoveries could boost Uganda’s oil reserves and the Ministry of Energy plans to award additional exploration licenses in 2016. In February 2015, the Ministry of Energy also provisionally awarded a multi-billion dollar contract to construct a refinery to Russian firm RT Global, subject to final negotiations. In spite of these developments, two of the three oil companies active in Uganda are downsizing their operations as delays in issuing production licenses mount. Moreover, details of an export pipeline from western Uganda to the Indian Ocean through Kenya or Tanzania are still being negotiated. Based on current projections, it is unlikely that any production could realistically begin before 2020 at the earliest.

Inadequate and unreliable power supply remains one of the largest obstacles to private sector investment, and Uganda’s electricity network urgently needs renovation and expansion. Access to electricity countrywide is a meager 20 percent and falls to 10 percent in rural areas. The Government formally broke ground on the 600-megawatt Karuma hydropower project in 2013, but the project continues to be dogged by delays, and the first 100 megawatt turbine is not expected to be operational until 2018 at the earliest. In the meantime, Uganda is working to expand its power supply by constructing a number of micro-hydro projects along the Nile River and is promoting the development of other sources of renewable energy, such as off-grid solar power systems. The government continues to explore options to develop its geothermal reserves in western Uganda.

High transportation costs are another constraint on Uganda's economy. Uganda’s dilapidated road and bridge infrastructure needs considerable investment, its railway system is in disrepair, and air freight charges are among the highest in the region A two-lane highway from Kenya remains the primary route for 80 percent of Uganda's imports, making transportation slow, costly and susceptible to disruption. Another problem is Uganda’s reliance on imports from Kenya’s Mombasa seaport. While Uganda and Kenya have worked to remove non-tariff barriers, resulting in quicker transit times, chronic congestion at Mombasa results in costly delays. Uganda also hopes to shift more cargo transit from trucking to rail but extensive and expensive rehabilitation of existing rail lines is required before freight trains can service Uganda. In March 2015, the government signed a contract with China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd to build a USD 3.2 billion standard gauge railway project to improve rail infrastructure through the east-African region; it is projected for completion in December 2017. Passenger traffic through Uganda's Entebbe International Airport grew 7 percent in 2015. The government pulled privately-owned Air Uganda’s license in 2014; however, the government is looking to revive another carrier as a public-private partnership.

At 3.0 percent per year, Uganda's population growth rate is one of the fastest in the world, and its current total population of 34.9 million is expected to rise to 54 million by 2025. While creating potential markets for products, the country's population growth is also increasing the strain on social services, underfunded schools and hospitals, infrastructure, forests, water, and land resources. The high level of HIV/AIDS infection in the country is also taxing social services. Uganda developed a model program to combat HIV/AIDS, and prevalence rates decreased from close to 20 percent in the 1990s to 6.4 percent in 2006. However, the current published national HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is 7.3 percent according to the 2011 AIDS Indicator Survey.

Table 1



Index or Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions index


139 of 175

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”


122 of 189

Global Innovation Index


111 of 141

World Bank GNI per capita


USD 670

Millennium Challenge Corporation Country Scorecard

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. Government entity charged with delivering development grants to countries that have demonstrated a commitment to reform, produced scorecards for countries with a per capita gross national income (GNI) of $4,125 or less. Uganda’s score is available here Details on each of the MCC’s indicators and a guide to reading the scorecards are available here:

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Attitude toward Foreign Direct Investment

Ugandan policies, laws, and regulations are generally favorable towards foreign investors, although poorly enforced legislation and corruption hamper trade development. Ugandan law allows for 100 percent foreign-owned businesses and foreign businesses are allowed to partner with Ugandans without restrictions. The government also provides generous incentives for industrial development.

However, Uganda ranked 102 out of 178 countries, in the Heritage Foundation's 2016 Index of Economic Freedom, with an overall score of 59.3, the 13th freest among the 46 sub-Saharan African countries on the index. In the World's Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, Uganda ranks 122 out of 189 countries.

In 2009, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) introduced an “E-Tax” system which improved its efficiency, boosted transparency, and increased tax compliance. Individual income is taxed up to 30 percent, the corporate tax is 30 percent, the Value Added Tax (VAT) is 18 percent, and capital gains taxes on profits accrued after 1998 are 30 percent. Tax rules remain unclear; however, and subject to arbitrary changes. A number of foreign companies were involved in tax disputes with URA in recent years. Due to revenue shortfalls from a small tax base, the URA has increasingly become more aggressive in corporate tax collection from compliant companies, which are often foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The government has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). The government did complete a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) investment policy review in 2000. Uganda publishes an annual investment climate Abstract, the most recent of which is dated 2014/15 and is available at:

In addition, the BOU publishes a Private Sector Survey, the most recent of which is dated 2014 and is available at:

Laws/Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Ugandan policies, laws, and regulations are generally favorable towards foreign investors, but judicial enforcement remains weak. The main laws affecting portfolio or foreign direct investment are: the Capital Markets Authority Act of 1996 (amended in 2015), the Companies Act of 2012, and the Uganda Investment Code Act of 1991. The Investment Code allows foreign participation in any industrial sector except those touching on national security or requiring the ownership of land. Licensing from the UIA requires a commitment to invest over $100,000 over three years (See “Performance Requirements and Incentives" below). Most foreign investors establish themselves as limited liability companies. Ugandan law also permits foreign investors to acquire domestic enterprises or establish green field investments. The 2010 Companies Act allows for the creation of single-person companies, permits the registration of companies incorporated outside of Uganda, and regulates share capital allotments and transfers.

Ugandan courts generally uphold the sanctity of contracts. At times, Ugandan government agencies are reluctant to honor judicial remedies issued by the courts. Courts apply the principles of English common law. Under current debt collection laws, creditors can prove their debts to a court-appointed receiver for payment. Secured debtors receive payment priority. Executive/political interference in the commercial court system could affect rulings involving FDI.

The Uganda Investment Authority’s website: and the Business in Development Network Guide to Uganda available at: provide information on the laws, and reporting requirements for foreign investors. Investors can find additional legal information on the following websites as well:

Business Registration

The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) has opened a “dedicated one-stop center” that allows investors to:

  • Apply and receive an investment license online
  • Choose an investment area of interest
  • Pay all assessed fees
  • Supply details of business registration to Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB)
  • Apply for a tax identification number (TIN)
  • Apply for land titles online

Some of these services are available online, as well at The URSB recently computerized its company registry, reducing the time and number of steps required to start a business, and revisions to the Investment Code--still pending in Parliament--would further streamline the process.

Uganda defines micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) as “all types of enterprises irrespective of their legal form (such as family enterprises, sole proprietorships or cooperatives) or whether they are formal or informal enterprises to ensure inclusiveness.” The government policy states a number of initiatives aimed at enhancing the growth and competitiveness of MSME. Additional information can be found at:

Industrial Promotion

In addition to tax incentives, Uganda offers investment incentives for investors in four "priority" sectors: information and communication technology; tourism; value-added agriculture; and value-added investments in mineral extraction. Uganda is also hoping to lure additional investors with several industrial parks under development in Uganda’s urban centers, including Jinja, Kasese, Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu, and Soroti. Investors in priority sectors can get a 49-year lease in an industrial park without paying the usual $80,000 lease fee. The Namanve Industrial Park on the outskirts of Kampala has several large international companies already operating, although the development of the park has been slowed by squatters and inadequate infrastructure. The park is divided into four main industrial clusters: food processing, light industry and services, heavy industry, and another for SMEs. Investors can find information on investor incentives on the UIA website at

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Ugandan law allows for 100 percent foreign-owned businesses and foreign businesses are allowed to partner with Ugandans without restrictions. The Petroleum Act of 2013, however, requires goods and services in the petroleum industry that are not available in Uganda to be delivered via a joint venture with a Ugandan company (defined as at least 51 percent of the company being owned by Ugandan citizens) which must have at least a 48 percent share of the company. The latest numbers on the number of FDI joint ventures in Uganda rose from 19 in fiscal year 2011/2012 to 40 in 2013/2014.

Privatization Program

The government began a privatization program in 1993 that resulted in the complete or partial divestiture of the majority of Uganda's public enterprises, with just a few remaining in State hands. State-owned enterprises currently exist in the following sectors: water utility, mining, housing, electricity, and transport. In some of these sectors, the government is not directly involved in the running of the business, but remains a shareholder. However, the government allows competition from private investors in all of these sectors. The government reserves the right to limit foreign investment in sensitive industries, which in practice is limited to ordnance. Outside of sensitive industries, foreign investments in Uganda’s privatization program are unrestricted.

The program has attracted foreign investors primarily in the agribusiness, hotel, and banking industries. According to the 2003 Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act, public assets should be disposed of through public bidding; however, some observers question the transparency of certain transactions carried out in the name of privatization, arguing that the benefits of the most lucrative sales went to insiders and politically connected individuals.

Screening of FDI

Uganda’s stated process to screen, review, and approve foreign investments is straightforward. A company must first register locally with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and then apply for an investor license at the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). The investor must submit the following: a physical address for the business; a business plan; the memorandum and articles of association; a certificate of incorporation; and regulatory approvals. The UIA performs due diligence to ensure the investment provides value addition, technology transfer and employment creation. The UIA commits to keep such info strictly confidential. Greenfield investments receive the same treatment and are not treated differently from acquisitions or takeovers.

Competition Law

There is no competition law in Uganda.

2. Conversion and Transfer PoliciesShare    

Foreign Exchange

Uganda keeps open capital accounts, and Ugandan law imposes no restrictions on capital transfers in and out of Uganda. Investors can obtain foreign exchange and make transfers at commercial banks without approval from the Bank of Uganda in order to repatriate profits and dividends, and make payments for imports and services. Investors have reported no problems with their ability to perform currency transactions. While there are generally no restrictions on repatriation of funds by foreign investors, a foreign investor who benefits from incentives granted under the investment code (including concessional rates of import duty and other taxes) needs authorization from the UIA before he or she can “externalize” (repatriate) any funds. Even when such authorization is granted, it only applies to repatriation for particular purposes as specified under the “certificate of approval to externalize funds.” The Ugandan shilling trades on a market-based floating exchange rate.

Remittance Policies

The legal regime on remittances to Uganda is based on the Foreign Exchange Act, 2004, the Foreign Exchange (Forex Bureaus and Money Remittance) Regulations, 2006, and the Mobile Money Guidelines, 2013. These three legal frameworks generally provide for the licensing and regulation of institutions engaging in foreign exchange transfer. In addition, the 2013 Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), and the 2010 Financial Institutions (Anti-Money Laundering) Regulations impose a number of “know your customer” requirements on entities involved in money transfers in Uganda. In May 2015, Uganda’s parliament amended the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to improve asset confiscation procedures of suspected terrorists. These various laws and regulations authorize the Central Bank and the recently created Financial Intelligence Authority to impose restrictions on remittances or other money transfers that are linked to money laundering or terrorist financing. Although Uganda has made strides adopting the AMLA and ATA, further amendments are required by the Financial Action Task Force to remove Uganda from its “grey list.”

Beyond the regulatory requirements, there are no restrictions for foreign investors on remittances to and from Uganda. Foreign investors may also remit through a legal parallel market including convertible negotiable instruments. The Ugandan shilling fluctuates based on market conditions without interference from the government.

3. Expropriation and CompensationShare    

The Ugandan Constitution states that the interests of a licensed investor may only be expropriated when it "is necessary for public use or in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health..." and guarantees any person who has an interest or right over expropriated property access to a court of law.

Uganda’s Investment Code stipulates that “compensation in respect of the fair market value of the enterprise specified in the enterprise or an interest or right over property forming that enterprise shall be paid within a period not exceeding twelve months from the date of taking possession or acquisition.”

Uganda’s reputation remains scarred over the mass forced expropriation without compensation of Asian properties under the Idi Amin regime in the 1970s. With the passage of the Expropriated Properties Act of 1982, the Government began to right this historical wrong, and by 1997 approximately 4,000 properties had been returned to their owners, and 1,500 others were sold off and the former owners compensated. There have been no incidents of expropriation of foreign investments without compensation since President Museveni came to power in 1986.

Uganda is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

4. Dispute SettlementShare    

Legal System, Specialized Courts, Judicial Independence, Judgments of Foreign Courts

Uganda's legal system is based on English Common Law. Uganda’s commercial laws include: The Companies Act, The Limitations Act; The Contract Act; The Bulk Sales Act; The Sale of Goods Act; The Partnership Act; and The Business Names Registration Act. Property ownership is enforced through civil and commercial courts. All commercial disputes are required to go through mediation to reduce backlogs in the court system and the Center of Arbitration for Dispute Resolution (CADER) can assist in mediating disputes.

Uganda opened its first Commercial Court in 1996 to deliver an efficient, expeditious, and cost-effective mode of adjudicating commercial disputes. The court has four commercial court judges and two deputy registrars. In 2014, the court handled more than 220 commercial cases. Despite a lack of funds and space, the commercial courts dispose of disputes faster than civil courts. The court has 17 mediators, and through pre-trial conferences, approximately 80 percent of disputes are now settled out of court, saving time and money. Because Ugandan law stipulates that the Court be "proactive," the Court engages regularly with the private sector through its Court Users Committee, which includes representatives from banks, insurance companies and the manufacturing sector. Through this forum, the court has worked with Uganda's tax authority to reduce the number of tax cases resulting in litigation, and has persuaded banks to opt for loan restructuring in default cases that were previously ending up in court. The court is attempting to increase transparency and efficiency by creating an "e-court environment" – a process still ongoing in 2016. In addition to digitizing its records, the court also digitally records court proceedings, enabling cases to be heard from remote parts of the country. Judgments in foreign courts are recognized and enforced under Ugandan law. Disputes with foreign investments go through the same process as domestic disputes. Although, some foreign investors allege Uganda’s commercial legal process favors well-connected companies that deploy political pressure to disrupt and delay outcomes.

Intellectual property cases are processed in commercial courts. Like civil courts, commercial courts are not directly interfered with by the government, although the judiciary is perceived to be corrupt. The following laws regulate intellectual property: the Industrial Property Act of 2014, the Trademarks Act of 2010, the Trade Secrets Protection Act of 2009, the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of 2006, and the Patents Act Amendment of 2002.


Uganda ranks 104 out of 189 countries for resolving insolvency in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report. Uganda fares better in the recovery rate that claimants recover from an insolvent firm (39 cents on the dollar in Uganda, 28 cents in Kenya, 21 cents in Tanzania).

The Insolvency Act of 2011, as well as bankruptcy regulations, generally align Uganda’s legal framework on insolvency with international standards. The law and regulations largely accord to creditors, equity holders and other claimants the same rights accorded under the laws of most countries, including rights related to creditor meetings during bankruptcy, declaration and distribution of a bankrupt’s estate, as well as declaration and distribution of dividends. It also provides for cross-border insolvency and entitles creditors (including foreigners) to petition court for a receiving order, which effectively declares a debtor bankrupt. The Receiving Order paves the way for the appointment of an official receiver who manages the debtor’s property and assets for purposes of paying off creditors. Although monetary judgments and awards are made in Ugandan currency, the courts follow the constitutional requirement that payment be “fair and adequate.”

Investment Disputes

In a bid to overcome the negative publicity associated with the 1972 expulsion of Asians, the government made several efforts to create a legal environment conducive to foreign investment. Uganda has not had any major disputes involving U.S. investors.

The most prominent foreign investment dispute involving Uganda in recent years is a tax battle between the government and several foreign oil companies over payment of $400 million in Capital Gains Tax to the Ugandan government after one company bought assets from the other. One of the companies also challenged the government’s levying of Value Added Tax on goods and services purchased in connection with its operations in the country, though that dispute was resolved in June 2015, when the company reached an out-of-court settlement of its tax liability to the government of Uganda.

International Arbitration

The government is a signatory to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in which binding international arbitration of investment disputes is recognized. Pursuant to the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgment Act, judgments of foreign courts are accepted and enforced by Ugandan courts where those foreign courts accept and enforce the judgments of Ugandan courts. Mediation and arbitration are the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in Uganda and the Center of Arbitration for Dispute Resolution (CADER) can assist in commercial disputes.

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Uganda is a party to both the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. In 2000, Uganda also adopted legislation consistent with the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. As noted earlier, a dispute between Heritage Oil and Uganda was resolved in February 2015 under UNCITRAL arbitration. Pursuant to the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgment Act, judgments of foreign courts are accepted and enforced by Ugandan courts where those foreign courts accept and enforce the judgments of Ugandan courts. Monetary judgments are generally made in local currency, although in some cases penalties are not a sufficient deterrent due to currency depreciation. However, Uganda is slowly rectifying this. Pursuant to Section 73 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the Government accepts binding arbitration with foreign investors. The act, which incorporates the 1958 New York Convention, also authorizes binding arbitration between private parties. Uganda does not yet have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with an investment chapter with the United States.

Duration of Dispute Resolution – Local Courts

Ugandan courts have a reputation for slow dispensation of justice. Commercial/investment disputes at the domestic level are handled by the Commercial Court where resolutions can take up to several months and in some cases years due to insufficient manpower and skillset to handle complex commercial cases.

5. Performance Requirements and Investment IncentivesShare    


On September 29, 1994, Uganda ratified the Marrakesh Agreement to become an original member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is thus bound by all WTO Multilateral Agreements. Uganda grants Most Favored Nation (MFN) treatment to all its trading partners and has made special effort to establish appropriate machinery to implement the WTO agreements. Despite facing difficulties in drafting and making notifications, Uganda continues to attempt to fulfill all notifications on the basis of their frequency. The government is still reforming its commercial laws to bring its regulations and procedures into conformity with WTO requirements.

Under the Uganda Investment Code Act of 1991, there are no mandatory performance requirements for licensing; however, Uganda's regulatory authorities require minimum staff qualifications, and the use of local materials, supplies, and services. Uganda’s regulatory authorities also encourage foreign investors to upgrade local technology, promote socioeconomic development, and promote local job growth. Proposals from 100 percent foreign-owned enterprises are required to commit to investing a minimum of $100,000 to their projects over a course of three years. This amount can include pre-investment activities and the cost of land, equipment, buildings, machinery, and construction. Foreign-owned banks and insurance companies are also subject to higher paid-up capital requirements than are domestic firms. Uganda's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is responsible for enforcing environmental regulations. Ugandan law prohibits foreign ownership of land. For more information on land ownership, see "Right to Private Ownership and Establishment," below.

The government is reviewing the 2000 Investment Code. The WTO grants Uganda Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) provisions of the Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) agreement to give Uganda’s government a more gradual path towards adopting WTO standards. Foreign investors applying for an investment license may sometimes be subject to staff training and localization, local procurement and environmental requirement to which national investors are not subject. Uganda has not adopted export promotion strategies such as provision of subsidies partly because of financial constraints and also because such subsidies are likely to run counter to the country’s obligations under the East African Common Market protocol. The government has not notified the WTO of any measures that are inconsistent with the requirements of the WTO’s Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) obligations.

The National Oil and Gas Policy of 2008 is an example of trade protection. Two oil laws, The Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act of 2013, and the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage) Act of 2013, impose obligations on investors in the oil industry to favor local content, industries, and employment. The local content particularly relates to the use of local raw materials, the creation of a local skilled Ugandan workforce and sourcing of goods and services locally.

Investment Incentives

Uganda’s fiscal incentive package for both domestic and foreign investors provides generous capital recovery terms, particularly for medium- and long-term investors whose projects entail significant plant and machinery costs and involve significant training. According to the Uganda Investment Act of 1991, and its regulations, 50 percent of capital allowances for plants and machinery are deductible from a company's income on a one-time basis in Kampala while 75 percent of capital allowances are deductible in the rest of the country. 100 percent of training costs are deductible on a one-time basis. A range of annual VAT deferments, deductions, exemptions and depreciation allowances also exist, resulting in investors often paying no tax at all in the first year of their investment, and usually paying substantially less than the 30 percent corporate tax rate in the subsequent years of their investment. The Government also provides a 10-year tax holiday for investors engaged in export-oriented production and, if the investment is located more than 25 kilometers away from Kampala, for agro-processing investors. Investors can find information on investor incentives and capital allowances on the UIA website at, and at URA's website

Research and Development

There are no laws prohibiting U.S. or other foreign firms from participating in government financed or subsidized research and development programs.

Performance Requirements

The Uganda Investment Act requires investors to contribute to local employment without specifying mandatory numbers. The act also does not specify mandatory numbers for local employment in management positions. There are no government/authority-imposed conditions to receive permission for investing. Uganda does not follow a policy of forced localization pertaining to the use of domestic content in goods and technology. An agreement for the transfer of foreign technology does not restrict the use of other competitive technologies, source of supply of inputs or how they may be used.

Data Storage

There is no law requiring data to be stored in Uganda.

6. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

Uganda’s Constitution guarantees the right to own property and requires the state to encourage private investment. Uganda also has legislation on mortgages, trusts and liens. The Mortgage Act, 2009, and the Mortgage Regulations, 2012, also make provisions for mortgages, sub-mortgages, trusts and other forms of lien.

Uganda has four systems of land tenure: freehold, traditional freehold land referred as “Mailo,” leasehold, and customary. The Land Act, 1998, restricts foreign investors to leasing land. Only holders of freehold, leasehold, and Mailo tenure hold registered titles, while customary or indigenous communal landowners (who account for up to 90 percent of all landowners) do not. The Land Act makes provision for customary land owners to acquire a Customary Certificate which serves as proof of ownership and may be used as collateral. Furthermore, the government recently introduced a number of reforms aimed at facilitating the registration of land and addressing the fraud, corruption and incompetence within the National Land Registry. These include the computerization of land registration, as well as the issuance of land titles and other records. In 2013, Uganda adopted a National Land Policy aimed at promoting optimal use of land.

Intellectual Property Rights

In principle, Ugandan law protects intellectual property rights, but in practice little is done to effectively prevent piracy and counterfeit distribution. While the Uganda Registration Services Bureau provides a standardized process for registering each type of intellectual property and allows for investors to enforce their rights through the court system, enforcement remains weak.

Uganda signed the World Intellectual Property Organization's Patent Law Treaty in 2000, but has not yet ratified it. On January 6, 2014, Uganda’s president assented to the new Industrial Property Act, which replaced previous legislation like the Patent Act, 1993, and goes a long way towards protecting intellectual property and bringing Ugandan law into consonance with international standards on intellectual property. Along with the 2006 Copyright and Neighboring Act and the 2010 Trademarks Act, the 2014 Industrial Property Act substantially enhances legal protection of intellectual creations in Uganda. Uganda's Commercial Court is hearing an increasing number of intellectual property and trademark cases, especially by artists and musicians in Uganda's Performing Arts Rights Society. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the Uganda Police Force (UPF) are responsible for enforcing the existing laws. They are constrained by inadequate resources and funding.

The government’s efforts to address the trade of counterfeit products are insufficient. Counterfeit CDs, DVDs, and computer software are openly sold in Uganda's market places, and counterfeit pharmaceuticals and agricultural inputs are becoming an increasing problem. Most counterfeit goods entering Uganda are manufactured in China and India. The American entertainment industries, as well as manufacturers of consumer goods, complain that counterfeiters are damaging their markets by deterring future foreign direct investment and damaging brand names. After six years, the Anti-Counterfeiting Bill 2010, remains stuck in Parliament and would, if passed, considerably clarify and strengthen the penalties for making and/or trading in counterfeit products.

The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) Act of 1983 authorizes UNBS to deny sub-standard goods (but not necessarily counterfeit goods) access to the Ugandan market. Uganda is not listed on the United States Trade Representative Special 301 report and it is not listed on the notorious market report.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at Please note that while some of Uganda’s IP laws are listed on this website, other laws are not included such as the Industrial Property Act of 2014, the Patents Act of 1993, the Copyright and Neighboring Right Regulations of 2010, and the Patent Regulations of 2010.

Resources for Rights Holders

Intellectual Property Issues are covered by the Economic and Commercial Officer.

Omar Farooq
Economic and Commercial Officer

For a list of legal assistance providers in Uganda, please go to:

7. Transparency of the Regulatory SystemShare    

The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) establishes clear parameters for a competitive and fair market. The Act provides transparent accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures. Draft bills presented to parliament are available for public comment and consultation on an ad-hoc basis. Regulations are handled exclusively by the government. There are no known private sector and/or government/authority efforts to restrict foreign participation in industry standards-setting consortia or organizations.

Ugandan laws and regulations are published in the Government Gazette. The regulatory system varies substantially with each regulatory body. The Uganda Revenue Authority, The Bank of Uganda and the UIA often have hearings, both public and private, where interested parties have an opportunity to comment on draft legislation and regulations.

The Bank of Uganda produces publicly available reports on its website ( The legal system is not as transparent. Courts, particularly at higher levels, make independent judgments, which parties may ignore and take advantage of an overburdened legal system to manipulate the judicial process.

8. Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio InvestmentShare    

Capital markets are open to foreign investors and there are no restrictions for foreign investors to open a bank account in Uganda. The Government imposes a 15 percent withholding tax on interest and dividends. Credit is allocated on market terms, and commercially available.

The Capital Markets Authority, established in 1996 as the securities regulator in Uganda, is responsible for licensing brokers, dealers and overseeing the Uganda Securities Exchange, which was inaugurated in June 1997 and is now trading the stock of 18 companies. Market capitalization of the exchange rose to USD 9.79 billion in 2015. Foreign-owned companies are allowed to trade on the stock exchange, subject to some share issuance requirements, and the Kampala exchange contains cross-listings of seven Kenyan companies: Equity Bank; Kenya Airways; East African Breweries; Jubilee Holdings; Kenya Commercial Bank; Nation Media Group; and Centum Investment. In 2012, Uganda also enacted new legislation – The 2012 Companies Act – which makes substantial improvements to the legal framework on corporations, notably by introducing provisions designed to ease the incorporation of companies and portfolio investment in existing companies. The new law also introduces a number of corporate governance requirements.

In 2004, the Bank of Uganda added ten-year bonds to its two-, three-, five-year offerings to facilitate its control of liquidity and inflation and to further develop the bond market. The Government hopes that by creating a benchmark yield curve it will encourage private companies to access the debt markets. Some large local businesses have been reluctant to turn to the capital markets, however, in part because strict disclosure requirements would force them to adhere to higher international auditing standards than most Ugandan businesses normally achieve. Seven companies currently provide brokerage services, including one American-owned firm, Crested Stocks and Securities. There are no restrictions prohibiting investors from pooling funds to be invested on the exchange and in government treasury bills and treasury bonds.

Money and Banking System, Hostile Takeovers

The Bank of Uganda remains one of the most respected central banks in sub-Saharan Africa for its success in pursuing open markets, a stable currency, and relatively low inflation. Increased supervision of the banking sector in recent years has helped it recover from a banking crisis in the late 1990s, when several banks failed or were closed down. In 2010, the Bank of Uganda required commercial banks to raise their capital from a minimum USD 4 million to USD 25 million, and all banks have complied, some by attracting Tier I equity capital. Total bank assets grew from USD 5.6 billion in June 2014 to USD 5.9 billion at the end of June 2015, an annual asset growth rate of 5.3 percent.

Outside of Ugandan-owned Crane Bank, most of Uganda’s largest banks are foreign owned, including major international institutions such as Citigroup, Barclays, Stanbic, Standard Chartered, and Bank of Baroda. Competitiveness and innovation are steadily increasing, but lending to the private sector is still relatively low, largely because of perceived high risk (limited collateral) among potential borrowers, and the government crowding out the private sector in the bond market. According to the Bank of Uganda, the non-performing loan rate stood at 3.9 percent at the end of 2015.

9. Competition from State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

Uganda operates in a free-market environment after the government began a privatization program under the Public Enterprise Reform and Divestiture Act (PERDA) in 1993, resulting in the complete or partial divestiture of the majority of Uganda's public enterprises. Thirty SOEs remain, of which the largest are: a water utility, the National Social Security Fund (government pension plan), Kawanda Research Station (agricultural research), some banking and medical services, and a national oil company. No information on the assets, income and number of employees is publicly available.

While Uganda has successfully privatized most of its state owned enterprises (SOEs), some observers question the transparency of the process, arguing that the benefits of the most lucrative sales went to government insiders.

The Ugandan government devotes little expenditures to research and development, government-wide. Kawanda Research Station is publically owned, although no figures exist for public or private sector investment in research and development in Uganda.

SOEs do not get special financing terms and are subject to hard budget constraints. According to the Ugandan Revenue Authority Act, they have the same tax burden as the private sector. According to the Land Act, private enterprises have the same access to land as SOEs. However, well-connected individuals are able to access land at below-market rates.

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs

The Uganda Development Corporation Bill of 2014 lays out the scope of government investment in SOEs; however, parliament has not enacted it. A SOE senior manager directly reports to a line minister. Each SOE is governed by its own legislation specifically enacted by parliament. The corporate governance structure in each SOE generally revolves around a Board of Directors chaired by an individual appointed by the Minister, an Executive Director answerable to the Board of Directors, and support staff answerable to the Executive Director. The accounts of the SOE are audited annually by the Auditor General whose report is presented to parliament. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee then scrutinizes the Auditor General’s report and calls on the Executive Director and other officials of the SOE to answer any questions and provide information regarding accountability. The law governing each SOE generally stipulates that appointments to the Board will be made by the line Minister. In practice, the appointments are politically influenced and are regarded as little more than patronage. SOEs do not receive preferential treatment in the court system.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), 2015, mandates the establishment of a Petroleum Fund into which anticipated oil revenue will be deposited. The PFMA also allows the creation of other “special funds” for the investment of oil revenue and implemented regulations are expected to be released by June 2016. With little development in the petroleum sector, the Petroleum Fund has no funds outside of initial tax receipts from capital gains tax on oil discoveries which were spent on the purchase of Russian fighter jets in 2011. The Petroleum Fund does not follow any known code of good practices. The PFMA establishes measures to ensure that the Petroleum Fund is consistent with industrial policies or in government-designated projects, but enforcement appears unlikely.

10. Responsible Business ConductShare    

Although corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not a requirement for an investor to obtain an investment license, businesses—especially large foreign enterprises—are expected by the Ugandan public to promote CSR projects to provide benefits for local communities. This is especially true in the extractive industries. While consumer buying habits are rarely based on CSR, some large corporations, including foreign oil companies, have experienced community pressure and social unrest when local residents do not see any direct benefit from their presence. CSR projects are driven by the private sector with little input from the Ugandan government, which does not factor CSR policies into procurement decisions. As such, larger enterprises have been involved in building schools and hospitals, improving roads and other social services in areas where they operate, mainly in rural areas.

In relation to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protections, and other laws/regulations intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts, the host government is not able to enforce domestic laws effectively. In January there were allegations of human rights violations by Ugandan workers contracted by a Chinese firm in charge of a World Bank funded infrastructure project. The World Bank promptly suspended the project and opened investigations into a number of other projects receiving Bank support. The government does not maintain a national point of contact for OECD multi-national enterprise guidelines. The government has no previous involvement with the Extractive Industries Initiative (EITI), but plans to enact EITI once it starts to develop its oil reserves.

11. Political ViolenceShare    

Uganda has succeeded in achieving a level of stability since President Museveni came to power in 1986. However, regional terrorism remains a threat, and there have been isolated incidents of political violence in recent years. Rebel groups fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the protracted conflict in South Sudan create instability on Uganda's borders, resulting in the flow of thousands of refugees into Uganda and the occasional disruption of important trade links.

In recent years, the country has been relatively stable and has not seen any major domestic political upheaval. On February 18, 2016, President Museveni was re-elected to a fifth term in office during an election that was characterized by a closing of political space and infringements on people's rights of assembly and speech. Supporters of the losing opposition candidate Kizza Besigye have vowed not to accept Museveni's reelection, but it remains unclear if such threats will lead to widespread violence.

The threat of terrorism remains high in Uganda. On July 11, 2010, 76 people, including one American, were killed and many more injured in twin bombings in Kampala. Al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, was responsible for the attack. In September 2014, Ugandan security forces carried out a major operation, arresting several members of a suspected al-Shabaab terrorist cell in Kampala that were in the advanced stages of planning an attack. The U.S. Embassy continues to encourage U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risk of attending or being near large public gatherings. Further, spontaneous demonstrations can sometimes occur in Kampala and other cities. Although infrequent, these demonstrations can become violent and should be avoided. High levels of criminal activity remain a problem in Uganda, and U.S. citizens considering travel, employment, or investment in Uganda should read the Country Specific Information available at for current security information.

The threat from various rebel groups in Uganda has subsided significantly in recent years. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was expelled from Uganda in 2006 and is now operating in remote areas of the border region between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

12. CorruptionShare    

Corruption remains endemic in Uganda. Transparency International’s 2015 report ranks Uganda at 139 out of 175 countries in its Corruption Perception Index. A December 2012 report on corruption by Uganda's Inspectorate of Government characterized corruption in Uganda as "rampant" and noted that "corruption causes distortions of great magnitude in the Ugandan economy." The report cited public procurement as the area most vulnerable to abuse, and noted that 9.4 percent of total contract values went to corrupt payments in procurements both at the local and central government levels.

In recent years, the Government has taken some measures to tackle the problem of corruption. In 2009, Uganda passed an Anti-Corruption Act, criminalizing bribery, influence peddling, and a long list of other offenses. The Whistleblowers Protection Act of 2010 now provides some protection to citizens who report malfeasance, while the Anti-Money Laundering Bill was signed into law in 2013. In 2015, parliament passed the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) that promised to provide better mechanisms for the management of public finances. The PFMA established a Treasury Single Account that aims to make public expenditures more transparent and less vulnerable to graft, a transparent framework for management of oil revenue, and mechanisms aimed at linking public expenditure to the broader fiscal and macro-economic framework. These measures, if fully and properly implemented, could reduce some aspects of corruption. Other draft legislation, including an Anti-Counterfeiting Bill and a Proceeds of Corruption Assets Recovery Bill, are pending in Parliament. Uganda’s High Court opened an Anti-Corruption Division (ACD) in 2009. Although its constitutionality was challenged, the Ugandan Constitutional Court ruled that the ACD is constitutional in late 2013.

In spite of these measures, the public perception is that the government is not doing enough to fight corruption, and that high-level officials involved in corruption – especially politicians – are not seriously investigated or prosecuted. The government does not encourage or require private companies to establish internal codes of conduct, including a prohibition on bribery of public officials, although it is a member of the East African Court of Justice.

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Uganda’s small private sector is not yet robust enough to have developed compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery or to develop internal codes of conduct. While Uganda has signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention, it is not yet party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. American firms have complained of lack of transparency in government procurement and possible collusion between competing business interests and government officials in tendering processes. Some foreign businesses have been urged to take on prominent local partners. In recent years, a number of high-profile government tenders for infrastructure projects were suspended following allegations of corruption. In some cases, the Ugandan government awarded lucrative contracts for infrastructure projects without any formal procurement process. Some American firms, which are bound by the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, suspect they have lost tenders to bidders from countries which have not criminalized the paying of bribes to foreign officials.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government Agency
Justice Irene Mulyagonja
Inspector General of Government
Inspectorate of Government
Jubilee Insurance Centre, Plot 14, Parliament Avenue, Kampala
256 414344219

Watchdog Organization
Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda
Cissy Kagaba
Telephone No. 0414-535659

13. Bilateral Investment AgreementsShare    

Bilateral Taxation Treaties

Uganda is a member of the World Trade Organization. Uganda is also a member of the East African Community (EAC), along with Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda. While the EAC now has a Customs Union and Common Market, the slow pace of regulatory reform, lack of harmonization, non-tariff barriers, and bureaucratic inefficiencies still hamper the free movement of goods, capital, and people. In November 2013, Uganda signed a Monetary Union Protocol which sets the country on course to form a monetary union with the other EAC members. Over the next five years, the five countries have pledged to integrate financial systems and regulations, harmonize monetary and exchange rate policies, and establish common inflation and debt-to-GDP ceilings.

Uganda has bilateral investment protection treaties with the following countries:

1. BLEU (Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union)
2. China
3. Cuba
4. Denmark
5. Egypt
6. Eritrea
7. France
8. Germany
9. Italy
10. Netherlands
12. Nigeria
13. South Africa
14. Switzerland
15. United Kingdom
16. Zimbabwe

Uganda does not have a bilateral investment protection treaty with the United States; however, the United States signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFA) with the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) of which Uganda is a member. Uganda does not have a free trade agreement with the United States, although it is a member of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which allows duty-free imports of manufactured goods to the United States.

In February 2015, the U.S. and the EAC signed a Cooperation Agreement that will increase trade-related capacity in the region and deepen the economic ties between the U.S. and the EAC. The Cooperation Agreement will build capacity in three key areas: Trade Facilitation, Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Implementing critical customs reforms, harmonizing standards, and undertaking multilateral commitments will support greater EAC regional economic integration. This agreement will complement a Trade Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) signed with the EAC in 2008. The EAC also signed a letter of intent in 2012 to launch a Commercial Dialogue with the U.S. In 2012, Uganda acceded to Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Free Trade Area and assumed the chairmanship of COMESA.

14. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

Uganda is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank and is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In 1965, the U.S. and Uganda signed an investment incentive agreement. Both parties signed an updated agreement in 1998, and renewed it in 2013.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has explored potential projects but as of early 2015, has not formally approved any projects in Uganda.

15. LaborShare    

In Uganda, the working age population is defined as the population aged 14-64 years. Education is underfunded in Uganda, and a 2011 Parliamentary report on the economy highlighted poor skills and education as one of the main obstacles to Uganda improving its competitiveness. In 2008, Uganda passed the Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training Act to reform vocational skills. However, a number of the reforms have yet to be implemented, and funding for the initiative remains low. In 2011, with donor support, the Uganda Petroleum Institute began teaching vocational skills needed to fill jobs in the oil sector. Uganda has about 40 universities including the prestigious Makerere University that graduates thousands of students a year, but youth unemployment is high due to lack of jobs, providing a ready workforce for investors needing educated local employees. Most urban Ugandans speak English, though many speak it only as a second language to one of 33 local languages spoken in Uganda.

Uganda ratified all eight International Labor Organization (ILO) fundamental conventions enshrining labor and other economic rights and partially these conventions into the 1995 Constitution, which stipulates and protects a wide range of economic rights. In 2006, parliament passed the Employment Act, which improved compliance with ILO standards. The law allows workers, except for a category of government employees which includes police, army and management-level officials, to form and join independent unions. The law does not provide for the right to collective bargaining in the public service sector. The National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) has 20 member unions. Its rival, the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions (COFTU), also has 20 unions. Union officials estimate that nearly half of the two million people working in the formal sector belong to unions. The Employment Act of 2006 does not allow waivers of labor laws for foreign investors.

Despite the law reforms, many Ugandans work in unfavorable work environments due to poor enforcement and the limited scope of the labor laws. Domestic and agricultural workers as well as workers in the informal sector are excluded from the protection of the labor laws. Labor unrest is sporadic in Uganda, although the Kampala City Traders Association held a strike in September 2015 over taxes on imported goods. The strike was short-lived, receiving a swift government response in order to minimize economic disruptions in the capital. In 2014, the Industrial Court was operationalized; it arbitrates labor disputes which have not been resolved by the district labor officers and the Commissioner of Labor. It has the jurisdiction of the High Court and consists of two High Court Judges and three panelists, one of whom must be independent, one representative of the employers and another representative of the employees.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 30.9 percent of children aged five to 14 in Uganda are engaged in child labor, including the worst forms, in agriculture and in commercial sexual exploitation. The law prohibits children under the age of 14 from being employed except for light work and outside of school hours. The Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development permits the employment of children aged between 14 and 18. There are active programs underway, with support from the ILO and the U.S. Department of Labor, to combat child labor, but the practice nevertheless remains a concern in Uganda, particularly in the informal sector. Coffee, rice, sugarcane, tea, tobacco, vanilla, cattle, fish, bricks, and charcoal are included on the U.S. government's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2015 statistical abstract, the total working population in Uganda is estimated at 13.9 million, of which 56.8 percent (7.9 million) are employed. The overall Unemployment Rate (as of 2012/13) is 9.4 percent, with the females experiencing higher unemployment rates (11 percent) than males (8 percent). Agriculture, forestry and fishing sector have the highest percentage of employees (34 percent), followed by sale, maintenance, repair of vehicles and personal goods trade (23 percent). Less than one third of employed persons have attained either secondary education or specialized training. The national youth unemployment rate is 19.7 percent, although nine percent of the children aged 6-17 years (4.3 million in absolute terms) are working.

Under the current arrangement, employers must contribute 10 percent of an employee’s gross salary to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). The Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority Act 2011, which provides a framework for the establishment and management of retirement benefits schemes for both the public and private sectors, will add competition to the NSSF and liberalize the pension sector. Ugandan labor laws specify procedures for termination of employment and termination payments. Foreign nationals must have a permit to work in Uganda. Uganda has no minimum wage policy. Although there has been agitation from various circles, the President is against introducing a minimum wage arguing that it will discourage investors.

While there are no explicit provisions requiring the hiring of nationals, there are broad standards requiring investors to contribute to the creation of local employment. However, foreign businesses struggle to hire Ugandans due to a shortage of skilled labor. Under the Uganda Investment Code Act, 1991, a license granted to a foreign investor may carry conditions requiring the investor to create employment opportunities in Uganda. Similarly, under the two oil laws (The Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production Act of 2013 and the Petroleum Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage Act of 2013), an investor is required to contribute to the creation of a local skilled Ugandan workforce.

16. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade FacilitationShare    

The Parliament of the Republic of Uganda passed a “Free Trade Zones Act” in January 2014. The law is meant to modernize investment infrastructure in Uganda. The law authorizes the development, marketing, maintenance and supervision of free trade zones in Uganda. Under the act, foreign companies have the same opportunities as local companies.

17. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy


Host Country Statistical source

USG or international statistical source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

Economic Data






Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)


$25 billion


$27 billion

Foreign Direct Investment

Host Country Statistical source

USG or international statistical source

USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)


$35.4 million (planned)


$71 million

Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)





Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP


$35.4 million


$71 million


Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Outward Direct Investment is not available

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data

From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)

Inward Direct Investment

Outward Direct Investment

Total Inward



Total Outward









United Kingdom
























"0" reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Data not available.

18. Contact for More Information.Share    

Omar Farooq
Economic and Commercial Officer
Plot 1577 Ggaba Road, Kampala, Uganda