Uganda’s investment climate presents both important opportunities and major challenges for U.S. investors. With a market economy, ideal climate, ample arable land, a young and largely English-speaking population, and at least 1.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil, Uganda offers numerous opportunities for investors. Due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the collapse of the tourism industry, Uganda’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by only 2.9% in fiscal year (FY) 2019/2020, the lowest growth rate since 2000. Foreign direct investment (FDI) decreased by 18.6% from $1.42 billion in FY 2018/19 to $1.2 billion in FY 2019/2020. However, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects a return to a pre-pandemic level of 4.9% growth for calendar year 2021. Uganda maintains a liberal trade and foreign exchange regime. As the economy begins to recover, Uganda’s power, agricultural, construction, infrastructure, technology, and healthcare sectors present attractive potential 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. The closing of political and democratic 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 often 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 the growth of businesses and serve as disincentives to investment. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2020 ranks Uganda 135 out of 190 countries for ease of registration of property.
An uncertain mid-to-long-range political environment also increases risk to foreign businesses and investors. President Museveni was declared the winner in the widely disputed January 2021 general elections and will begin another five-year term after 35 years already in power. Domestic political tensions increased following election-related violence and threats to democratic institutions. Importantly, many of Uganda’s youth, a demographic that comprises 77% of the population, openly clamor for change. However, the 76-year-old President has not provided any indication of reforms to promote more inclusive, transparent, and representative governance.
On the legislative front, Uganda’s parliament passed in May 2020 the National Local Content Bill which would have imposed onerous local content requirements. U.S. firms noted its passage could have led to divestment from Uganda. In October 2020, President Museveni refused to sign the bill into law; the President noted that it contradicted regional integration protocols and international best practices. The bill is back before the finance committee of Parliament for review.
|TI Corruption Perception Index||2020||142 of 180||https://www.transparency.org/cpi2020|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||116 of 190|| https://www.doingbusiness.org/en/
|Global Innovation Index||2020||114 of 131|| https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||USD 42 million|| https://apps.bea.gov/international/
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||USD 780|| https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Ugandan government and authorities vocally welcome FDI, and advocate for its job creation benefits. Furthermore, the country’s free market economy, liberal financial system, and close to 45-million-person consumer market attract investors. However, rampant corruption, weak rule of law, threats to open and free internet access (including a five-day complete internet shutdown for political reasons in January 2021), and an increasingly aggressive tax collection regime by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) create a challenging business environment.
The 2019 Investment Code Act (ICA) established both benefits and challenges to FDI. The ICA abolished restrictions on technology transfer and repatriation of funds by foreign investors, and established new incentives (e.g., tax waivers) for investment. However, the ICA also set a minimum value of $250,000 for FDI and a yet-to-be-specified minimum value for portfolio investment. Additionally, the ICA authorized the Ugandan government to alter these thresholds at any time, thereby creating potential uncertainty for investors. Under the ICA, investment licenses carry specific performance conditions varying by sector, such as requiring investors to allow the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) to monitor operations, or to employ or train Ugandan citizens, or use Ugandan goods and services to the greatest extent possible. Further, the ICA empowers the Ugandan government to revoke investment licenses of entities that “tarnish the good repute of Uganda as an attractive base for investment.” The government has yet to revoke any investor license on this ground.
In October 2019, the Ugandan government passed the Communications Licensing Framework (CLF), which requires telecommunication (telecom) companies to list 20% of their equity on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE), with the aim of increasing local ownership and reducing the repatriation of profits. In 2020, MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda, which together control about 70% of mobile telecom market share, renewed their operator licenses for $100 million and $75 million respectively. In two years, both companies will start the process of listing on the USE, in compliance with the CLF.
The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) facilitates investment by granting licenses to foreign investors, as well as promoting, facilitating, and supervising investments. It provides a “one-stop” shop online where investors can apply for a license, pay fees, register businesses, apply for land titles, and apply for tax identification numbers. In practice, investors may also need to liaise with other authorities to complete legal requirements. The UIA also triages complaints from foreign investors. The UIA’s website ( www.ugandainvest.go.ug ), the International Trade Administration’s website ( https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/uganda-market-overview ), and BidNetwork’s website, the Business in Development Network Guide to Uganda ( www.bidnetwork.org ), provide information on the laws and reporting requirements for foreign investors. In practice, investors often ultimately bypass the UIA after experiencing bureaucratic delays and corruption. For larger investments, companies have reported that political support and relationship-building from high-ranking Ugandan officials is a prerequisite.
President Museveni hosts an annual investors’ roundtable to consult a select group of foreign and local investors on increasing investment, occasionally including U.S. investors.
Every Ugandan embassy has a trade and investment desk charged with advertising investment opportunities in the country.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Except for land, foreigners have the right to own property, establish businesses, and make investments. Ugandan law permits foreign investors to acquire domestic enterprises and to establish green field investments. The Companies Act of 2010 permits the registration of companies incorporated outside of Uganda.
Foreigners seeking to invest in the oil and gas sector must register with the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) to be added to its National Supplier Database. More information on this process is available on the Embassy’s website (select – Registering a U.S. Firm on the National Supplier Database): ( https://ug.usembassy.gov/business/commercial-opportunities/).
The Petroleum Exploration and Development Act and the Petroleum Refining, Conversion, Transmission, and Midstream Storage Act require companies in the oil sector to prioritize using local goods and labor when possible and give the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) the authority to determine the extent of local content requirements in the sector.
All investors must obtain an investment license from the UIA. The UIA evaluates investment proposals based on several criteria, including potential for generation of new earnings; savings of foreign exchange; the utilization of local materials, supplies, and services; the creation of employment opportunities in Uganda; the introduction of advanced technology or upgrading of indigenous technology; and the contribution to locally or regionally balanced socioeconomic development.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued its World Investment Report, 2020, available at: https://unctad.org/system/files/official-document/wir2020_en.pdf
The IMF issued an Article IV Consultation and Review in 2020, and its concluding statement is available at: https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2020/02/03/pr2031-uganda-imf-staff-concludes-visit
The World Trade Organization (WTO) issued its Trade Policy Review in 2019; the report is available at: https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S009-DP.aspx?language=E&CatalogueIdList=254764,251521,117054,95202,80262,80232,82036,106989&CurrentCatalogueIdIndex=0&FullTextHash=&HasEnglishRecord=True&HasFrenchRecord=True&HasSpanishRecord=True
The UIA one-stop shop website assists in registering businesses and investments. In practice, investors and businesses may need to liaise with multiple authorities to set up shop, and the UIA lacks the capacity to play a robust business facilitation role. According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, business registration takes an average of 25 days.
Prospective investors can also register online and apply for an investment license at https://www.ebiz.go.ug/ . The UIA also assists with the establishment of local subsidiaries of foreign firms by assisting in registration with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau ( http://ursb.go.ug/ ). New businesses are required to obtain a Tax Identification Number from the URA, by clicking the “My TIN” link at https://www.ura.go.ug/ or through the UIA. Businesses must also secure a trade license from the municipality or local government in the area in which they intend to operate. Investors in specialized sectors such as finance, telecoms, and petroleum often need an additional permit from the relevant ministry in coordination with the UIA.
Under the Uganda Free Zones Act of 2014, the government continues to establish free trade zones for foreign investors seeking to produce goods for export and domestic use. Such investors receive a range of benefits including tax rebates on imported inputs and exported products. An investor seeking a free zone license may submit an application to the Uganda Free Zones Authority ( https://freezones.go.ug/ ).
The Ugandan government does not promote or incentivize outward investment nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
On paper, Uganda’s legal and regulatory systems are generally transparent and non-discriminatory, and they comply with international norms. In practice, bureaucratic hurdles and corruption significantly impact all investors, but with disproportionate effect on foreigners learning to navigate a parallel informal system. While Ugandan law requires open and transparent competition on government project tenders, U.S. investors have alleged that endemic corruption means that competitors not subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or similar legislation, often pay bribes to win awards.
Ugandan law allows the banking, insurance, and media sectors to establish self-regulatory processes through private associations. The government continues to regulate these sectors, however, and the self-regulatory practices generally do not discriminate against foreign investors.
Potential investors must be aware of local, national, and supranational regulatory requirements in Uganda. For example, EAC rules on free movement of goods and services would affect an investor planning to export to the regional market. Similarly, regulations issued by local governments regarding operational hours or the location of factories would only affect an investor’s decision at the local level. Foreign investors should liaise with relevant ministries to understand regulations in the proposed sector for investment.
Uganda’s accounting procedures are broadly transparent and consistent with international norms, though full implementation remains a challenge. Publicly listed companies must comply with accounting procedures consistent with the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board.
Governmental agencies making regulations typically engage in only limited public consultation. Draft bills similarly are subject to limited public consultation and review. Local media typically cover public comment only on more controversial bills. Although the government publishes laws and regulations in full in the Uganda Gazette, the gazette is not available online and can only be accessed through purchase of hard copies at the Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation offices. The Uganda Legal Information Institute also publishes all enacted laws on its website ( https://ulii.org/ ).
Uganda’s court system and Inspector General of Government are responsible for ensuring the government adheres to its administrative processes, however, anecdotal reports suggest that corruption significantly undermines the judiciary’s oversight role.
In July 2020, the URA started the implementation of the amended Income Tax Act, which imposes presumptive taxes on rental income based on location using a blockchain compliance system meant to improve transparency and reduce corruption.
Generally, there is legal redress to review regulatory mechanisms through the courts, and the process is made public.
Uganda’s legislative process includes public consultations and, as needed, subject matter expert presentations before parliament; however, not all comments received by regulators are made publicly available and parliament’s decisions tend to be primarily politically driven. Formal scientific analyses of the potential impact of a pending regulation are seldom conducted.
Public finances are generally transparent and budget documents are available online. The government annually publishes the Annual Debt Statistical Bulletin, which contains the country’s debt obligations including status of public debt, cost of debt servicing, and liabilities. However, the government’s significant use of supplementary and classified budget accounts undermines parliamentary and public oversight of public finances.
International Regulatory Considerations
Per treaty, Uganda’s regulatory systems must conform to the below supranational regulatory systems. In practice, domestication of supranational legislation remains imperfect:
- African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP)
- African Union (AU)
- Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
- Commonwealth of Nations
- East African Community (EAC)
Uganda, through the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), is a member of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Codex Alimentarius, and International Organization of Legal Metrology (OIML). Uganda applies European Union directives and standards, but with modifications.
Uganda is a member of the WTO and notifies the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) of all draft technical regulations through the Ugandan Ministry of Trade’s National TBT Coordination Committee.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Uganda’s legal system is based on English Common Law. The courts are responsible for enforcing contracts. Litigants must first submit commercial disputes for mediation either within the court system or to the government-run Center of Arbitration for Dispute Resolution (CADER). Uganda does not have a singular commercial law; multiple statutes touch on commercial and contractual law. A specialized commercial court decides commercial disputes. Approximately 80% of commercial disputes are resolved through mediation. Litigants may appeal commercial court decisions and regulatory and enforcement actions through the regular national court system.
While in theory independent, in practice there are credible reports that the executive may attempt to influence the courts in high-profile cases. More importantly for most investors, endemic corruption and significant backlogs hamper the judiciary’s impartiality and efficacy.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The Constitution and ICA regulate FDI. The UIA provides an online “one-stop shop” for investors ( https://www.ugandainvest.go.ug/ ).
Competition and Antitrust Laws
Uganda does not have any specialized laws or institutions dedicated to competition-related concerns, although commercial courts occasionally handle disputes with competition elements. There was no significant competition-related dispute handled by the courts in 2020.
Expropriation and Compensation
The constitution guarantees the right to property for all persons, domestic and foreign. It also prohibits the expropriation of property, except when in the “national interest” such as eminent domain and preceded by compensation to the owner at fair market value. In 2020, the two National Telecom Operators – MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda – renewed their licenses to operate in Uganda for 12 and 20 years respectively. One requirement of that license renewal is for the telecom companies to list 20% stakes on the Ugandan stock market within two years of being granted the license.
In 1972, then-President Idi Amin expropriated assets owned by ethnic South Asians. The expropriation was extrajudicial and was ordered by presidential decree. The government did not allow judicial challenge to the expropriations or offer any compensation to the owners. The Ugandan government has since returned the vast majority of the properties to the original owners or their descendants or representatives. There have not been any expropriations since, and government projects are often significantly delayed by judicial disputes over compensation for property the Ugandan government seeks to expropriate under eminent domain.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Uganda is a party to both the ICSID Convention and the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The 2000 Domestic Arbitration and Conciliation Act incorporates the 1958 New York Convention.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Pursuant to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the courts and government in theory accept binding arbitration with foreign investors and between private parties. In practice, the overall challenges of the judiciary are likely to impede full enforcement. Uganda has not been involved in any official investment disputes with a U.S person in the last ten years; however, U.S. firms do complain about serious corruption in the award of government tenders.
Ugandan courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards, including those issued against the government. The country is a party to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Additionally, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act creates a framework for the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, including those against the government.
Uganda has not had any experience of extrajudicial action against foreign investors. However, in 1972, the government of then-President Idi Amin extrajudicially expropriated property owned by ethnic South Asians.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Ugandan law provides for arbitration and mediation of civil disputes. The legal framework on arbitration includes the Arbitration and Conciliation Act and Commercial Court Division Mediation Rules. Litigants must first submit all civil disputes to mediation before a court-appointed mediator. CADER is a statutory institution that facilitates the mediation and operates based on the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Arbitration rules. However, unrecorded private arbitration is the most effective investment dispute resolution mechanism in Uganda.
The Foreign Judgments Reciprocal Enforcement Act enables the recognition and enforcement of judgments and awards made by foreign courts.
There is no evidence that Ugandan courts favor state-owned enterprises when arbitrating or settling disputes. However, court decisions are often influenced by corruption or high-level government officials.
The Bankruptcy Act of 1931, the Insolvency Act of 2011, and the Insolvency Regulations of 2013 generally align Uganda’s legal framework on insolvency with international standards. The 2020 World Bank Doing Business Report ranked Uganda 99 out of 190 countries for resolving insolvency. On average, Uganda recovers $ 0.39 per dollar, well above the sub-Saharan average of $0.20. Bankruptcy is not criminalized.
4. Industrial Policies
The Public Private Partnership Act of 2015 creates a legal framework for the government to partner with private investors, both local and foreign, to finance investments in key sectors. The government has undertaken joint ventures with foreign investors in the oil and gas sector and for infrastructure projects.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The Uganda Free Zones Authority (UFZA) ( https://freezones.go.ug/ ) regulates free trade zones, which offer a range of tax advantages. The government’s process in awarding free trade zone status is generally transparent. In January 2021, UFZA commissioned a $12.7 million public free zone at the Entebbe International Airport with seven production units and trade facilitation offices. This follows UFZA issuing a September 2019 license for designers and developers to launch a free zone focusing on blockchain, distributed ledger technology, and other developing technologies.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
The ICA does not impose any direct requirements regarding local employment or specify mandatory numbers for local employment in management positions. The broadness of its provisions, however, arguably leaves the door open for enforcement of local employment requirements. The Petroleum Exploration, Development, and Production Act and the Petroleum Refining, Conversion, Transmission, and Midstream Storage Act require investors in the oil sector to contribute to the creation of a local skilled Ugandan workforce. The National Local Content Bill, which is currently undergoing parliamentary review after being rejected by President Museveni in October 2020, would require companies to petition the Ugandan government for permission to hire a non-Ugandan, on the basis of a claim that no qualified Ugandan is available. Additionally, the bill would require companies to have a Ugandan deputy for every non-Ugandan senior manager and to submit a clear plan to localize these positions to the governing authority.
While the UIA has significantly improved its processing of work permits and investment licenses for foreigners, bureaucratic hurdles, inconsistent enforcement, and corruption can still make obtaining visas and work permits onerous and expensive. All foreign investors must acquire an investment license from the UIA.
In as much as there is not yet a general localization law in Uganda, some sector-specific laws impose localization requirements. The petroleum laws require foreign oil companies to prioritize the use of local goods and labor when available, and the MEMD has the authority to determine the extent of local content requirements in the sector. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, which regulates government procurements, also imposes thresholds on the contracts for which a foreign company can apply. In the petroleum laws, MEMD has the responsibility to monitor companies in the oil sector to ensure they are meeting the local content requirements. Additionally, the Office of the Auditor General carries out audits of the oil and gas sector to ensure adherence to local content requirements. These performance reviews can form grounds for granting incentives or enforcement of the restrictions. Since the 2013 oil laws were passed, no company has been punished for breaching local content rules. Investment incentives in Uganda are quite controversial because they apply on a case-by-case basis, even though the ICA lists seven grounds for granting investment incentives.
While there are no general requirements for foreign information technology (IT) providers to give the government any source code or information related to encryption, the National Information Technology Authority Act allows the Minister for Information, Communication, and Technology to order an IT provider to submit any information to the National Information Technology Authority (NITA). Similarly, the Computer Misuse Act allows the government to “compel a service provider…to co-operate and assist the competent authorities in the collection or recording of traffic data in real time, associated with specified communication transmitted by means of a computer system.” These regulatory requirements apply to all IT providers, both foreign and local. There are no measures to prevent or unduly impede companies from freely transmitting customer or other business-related data outside of Uganda. In 2017, however, the Bank of Uganda interpreted Uganda’s cyber security legislation as providing it with the mandate to require financial institutions to relocate their data centers to Uganda to provide the government with access to customers’ digital financial information. Citing customer privacy concerns, financial firms remain in negotiations with the Bank of Uganda over this policy.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Land rights are complicated in Uganda and present a significant barrier to investment. Uganda enforces property rights through the courts; however, corruption often influences final judgments. The Mortgage Act and associated regulations make provisions for mortgages, sub-mortgages, trusts, and other forms of lien. However, due to widespread corruption and an inefficient bureaucracy, investors frequently struggle with the integrity of land transactions and recording systems.
Foreigners cannot own land directly and may only acquire leases. Such leases cannot exceed 99 years. However, foreign investors can create a Ugandan-based firm to purchase and own real estate.
The Land Act provides for four forms of land tenure: freehold, customary, “Mailo” (a form of freehold), and leasehold. Freehold, leasehold, and Mailo tenure owners hold registered titles, while customary or indigenous communal landowners – who account for up to 80% of all landowners – do not. Ugandan law provides for the acquisition of prescriptive rights by individuals who settle onto land (squatters) and whose settlement on such land is unchallenged by the owner for at least twelve years.
Intellectual Property Rights
Ugandan law provides for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), but enforcement mechanisms are weak. The country lacks the capacity to prevent piracy and counterfeit distribution. As a result, theft and infringement of IPR is common and widespread. Uganda did not enact any IP-related laws and regulations in the past year.
Uganda does not track seizures of counterfeit goods or prosecutions of IPR violations. Agriculture experts estimate some 20% of agriculture products under copyright in Uganda are counterfeit.
Uganda is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
The government generally welcomes foreign portfolio investment and has put in place a legal and institutional framework to manage such investments. The Capital Markets Authority (CMA) licenses brokers and dealers and oversees the USE, which is now trading the stock of 17 companies. Liquidity remains constrained to enter and exit sizeable positions on the USE. Capital markets are open to foreign investors and there are no restrictions for foreign investors to open a bank account in Uganda. However, the government imposes a 15% withholding tax on interest and dividends. Foreign-owned companies may trade on the stock exchange, subject to some share issuance requirements. The government respects IMF Article VIII and refrains from restricting payments and transfers for current international transactions.
Credit is available from commercial banks on market terms and foreign investors can access credit. However, persistently high lending rates, including high yields on Ugandan government-issued securities, push up interest rates on commercial loans, undermining the private sector’s access to affordable credit. For instance, commercial lending rates averaged 19% and government 10-year bonds averaged 16% at the end of February 2021.
Money and Banking System
Formal banking participation remains low, with only 35.5% of Ugandans having access to bank accounts, many via their membership in formal savings groups. However, 16 million Ugandans have bank accounts, while more than 30 million use mobile money to conduct basic financial transactions. Uganda’s banking and financial sector is generally healthy, though non-performing loans remain a problem. According to the Bank of Uganda’s Financial Soundness Indicators, Uganda’s non-performing loan rate stood at 6% at the end of June 2020. The effects of COVID-19 on the economy triggered the rise in non-performing loans in 2020 as business slowed down due to a government-imposed lockdown, among other measures. Uganda has 26 commercial banks, with the top six controlling at least 60% of the banking sector’s total assets, valued at $9.7 billion. The Bank of Uganda regulates the banking sector, and foreign banks may establish branches in the country. In February 2020, the Financial Action Taskforce added Uganda to its “Grey List” due to the country’s insufficient implementation of its anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism policies. As of the end of February 2021, Uganda was still on this watch list due to seven strategic deficiencies in the implementation of AML/CFT policies. As a result, Uganda’s correspondent banking relationships face increased oversight. Uganda does not restrict foreigners’ ability to establish a bank account.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Uganda keeps open capital accounts, and there are no restrictions on capital transfers in and out of Uganda. If, however, an investor benefited from tax incentives on the original investment, he or she will need to seek a “certificate of approval” to “externalize” the funds. Investors may convert funds associated with any form of investment into any world currency. The Ugandan shilling (UGX) trades on a market-based floating exchange rate.
There are no restrictions for foreign investors on remittances to and from Uganda.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
In 2015, the government established the Uganda Petroleum Fund (PF) to receive and manage all government revenues from the oil and gas sector. By law, the government must spend a portion of proceeds from the fund on oil-related infrastructure, with parliament appropriating the remainder of revenues through the normal budget procedure. As of June 2020, the PF had a balance of $24 million. Uganda does not have a sovereign wealth fund, but plans to establish a fund called the Petroleum Revenue Investment Reserve (PRIR) to ensure responsible and long-term management of revenue from Uganda’s oil resources when oil production begins. In 2019, Uganda inaugurated PRIR’s investment advisory committee. The committee is meant to advise the Ugandan government on how to invest proceeds from oil revenue and establish fund governance, but that work is ongoing.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Uganda has thirty State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). However, the Ugandan government does not publish a list of its SOEs, and the public is unable to access detailed information on SOE ownership, total assets, total net income, or number of people employed. Uganda Airlines, the national carrier, began service in late 2019 with regional service. Despite the woes associated with the travel industry due to COVID-19, it has since expanded its fleet to six planes including two Airbus A330-800neos, and has plans to service Europe, the Middle East, and China. While there is insufficient information to assess the SOEs’ adherence to the OECD Guidelines of Corporate Governance, the Ugandan government’s 2020 Office of Auditor General report noted corporate governance issues in 18 SOEs. In February 2021, the Ugandan government embarked on a plan to merge some of the SOEs to reduce duplication of roles and costs of administration. 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. One notable exception is the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC), which receives proprietary exploration data on new oil discoveries in Uganda. UNOC can then sell this information to the highest bidder in the private sector to generate income for its operations.
The government privatized many SOEs in the 1990s. Uganda does not currently have a privatization program.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Awareness of responsible business conduct varies greatly among corporate actors in Uganda. No organizations formally monitor compliance with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standards. CSR is not a requirement for an investor to obtain an investment license and CSR programs are voluntary. While government officials make statements encouraging CSR, there is no formal government program to monitor, require, or encourage CSR. In practice, endemic corruption often enables companies to engage in harmful or illegal practices with impunity. Regulations on human and labor rights, and consumer and environmental protection, are seldom and inconsistently enforced.
Uganda’s capacity and political will to regulate the mineral trade across its borders remain weak. Credible organizations allege that Uganda’s gold refining sector, led by the African Gold Refinery (AGR), relies on conflict minerals illicitly imported from neighboring countries, especially from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. While Uganda has no significant gold reserves, in FY 2019/2020, gold remained the country’s largest export for the second FY in a row, totaling $1.2 billion.
Due to Uganda’s rampant corruption, the Ugandan government does not adequately enforce domestic laws related to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protections, or other laws intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. According to the UN Panel of Experts reports, AGR, Uganda’s largest refinery, does not adhere to OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas, and there is no indication the Ugandan government is urging it to do so. Uganda joined the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative in August 2020. As part of the process, Uganda formed a multi-stakeholder group (MSG) composed of government, industry, and civil society. As Uganda looks to develop its oil and gas sector, the MSG will monitor transparency and accountability in the sector, including environmental impact and land rights issues. Uganda has not formally adopted the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
Department of State
- Country Reports on Human Rights Practices;
- Trafficking in Persons Report;
- Guidance on Implementing the “UN Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End-Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities and;
- North Korea Sanctions & Enforcement Actions Advisory
Department of Labor
Uganda has generally adequate laws to combat corruption, and an interlocking web of anti-corruption institutions. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority Act’s Code of Ethical Standards (Code) requires bidders and contractors to disclose any possible conflict of interest when applying for government contracts. However, endemic corruption remains a serious problem and a major obstacle to investment. Transparency International ranked Uganda 142 out of 180 countries in its 2020 Corruption Perception Index, dropping five places from 2019. While anti-corruption laws extend to family members of officials and political parties, in practice many well-connected individuals enjoy de facto immunity for corrupt acts and are rarely prosecuted in court.
The government does not require companies to adopt specific internal procedures to detect and prevent bribery of government officials. Larger private companies implement internal control policies; however, with 80% of the workforce in the informal sector, much of the private sector operates without such systems. 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 and does not protect non–governmental organizations investigating corruption. Some corruption watchdog organizations allege government harassment.
U.S. firms consistently identify corruption as a major hurdle to business and investment. Corruption in government procurement processes remains particularly problematic for foreign companies seeking to bid on Ugandan government contracts.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contacts at government agency or agencies are responsible for combating corruption:
Justice George Bamugemereire
Inspector General of Government
Inspectorate of Government
Jubilee Insurance Centre, Plot 14, Parliament Avenue, Kampala
Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA)
UEDCL Towers Plot 39 Nakasero Road
P.O. Box 3925, Kampala Uganda
Contact at “watchdog” organization:
Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda
10. Political and Security Environment
Uganda has experienced periodic political violence associated with elections and other political activities. Security services routinely use excessive force to stop peaceful protests and demonstrations. There are no prominent examples in the past ten years of such violence leading to significant damage of projects or installations. There has been an uptick in crime over the past several years, and political tensions increased dramatically in the run up to, during, and in the wake of the 2021 general elections.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Over 70% of Ugandans are engaged in the agriculture sector, and only 20% work in the formal sector. Statistics on the number of foreign/migrant workers are not publicly available; however, given the abundance of cheap domestic labor, there is minimal import of unskilled labor. Conversely, there is an acute shortage of skilled and specialized laborers.
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. The Petroleum Exploration, Development, and Production Act of 2013 and the Petroleum Refining, Conversion, Transmission, and Midstream Storage Act of 2013 require investors to contribute to workforce development by providing skills training for workers.
Ugandan labor laws specify procedures for termination of employment and for termination payments. Depending on the employee’s duration of employment, employers are required to notify an employee two weeks to three months prior to the termination date. Employees terminated without notice are entitled to severance wages. Ugandan law only differentiates between termination with notice (or payment in lieu of notice) and summary dismissal (termination without notice). Summary dismissal applies when the employee fundamentally violates his/her terms of employment. Uganda does not provide unemployment insurance or any other social safety net programs for terminated workers. Current law requires employers to contribute 10% of an employee’s gross salary to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). The Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority Act of 2011 provides a framework for the establishment and management of retirement benefits schemes for the public and private sectors and created an enabling environment for liberalization of the pension sector.
The Employment Act of 2006 does not allow waivers of labor laws for foreign investors. Ugandan law allows workers, except members of the armed forces, to form and join independent unions, bargain collectively, and conduct legal strikes. The National Organization of Trade Unions (NOTU) has 20 member unions. Its rival, the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions (COFTU), also has 20 member unions. Union officials estimate that nearly half of employees in the formal sector belong to unions. In 2014, the Government of Uganda created the Industrial Court (IC) to arbitrate labor disputes. Public sector strikes are not uncommon in Uganda; however, there were no strikes during the past year.
Uganda ratified all eight International Labor Organization fundamental conventions enshrining labor and other economic rights, and partially incorporated these conventions into the 1995 Constitution, which stipulates and protects a wide range of economic rights. Despite these legal protections, many Ugandans work in unsafe environments due to poor enforcement and the limited scope of the labor laws. Labor laws do not protect domestic, agricultural, and informal sector workers.
Uganda’s monthly minimum wage remains $1.64. In August 2019, President Museveni rejected the Minimum Wage Bill, which would have increased the monthly minimum wage to $36.00, and returned it to parliament for review. Museveni continues to argue that increasing Uganda’s minimum wage would undermine FDI and international competitiveness.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
|Host Country statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)||2020||$37,500||2020||$37,730|| https://www.imf.org/external/
|Foreign Direct Investment||Host Country Statistical source*||USG or international statistical source||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||2019||$42||BEA data available at
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||BEA data available at
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP||N/A||N/A||2018||41%||UNCTAD data available at
|* Source for Host Country Data: Uganda Bureau of Statistics Statistical (UBO) Abstract 2020|
|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||$9,294||100%||No Data Available|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
The UBOS does not publish specific country sources of inward investment so there is no effective comparison with the IMF data. The IMF data above, however, indicates that two tax havens, The Netherlands and Mauritius, are among the top five sources of inward investment in Uganda.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.
14. Contact for More Information
U.S. Embassy Kampala
+256 (0) 414-306-240 (office)