Uganda now woos Kenya plastic bags firms

Tuesday September 5 2017

Production machines lie idle at Laneeb Plastics

Production machines lie idle at Laneeb Plastics in Nairobi, Kenya. PHOTO | VICTOR KIPROP | NMG 

By JAMES KARIUKI
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Uganda is secretly wooing disgruntled Kenyan plastic bags manufacturers to relocate to the capital Kampala following a total ban in the country.

In a letter sent to Kenyan plastic bags manufacturers entitled ‘‘Investment Opportunity in Plastic Sector’’, Uganda says there is big growth opportunity in the country for manufacturers of quality packaging material.

“We have laws to protect and allow investors to repatriate their profits as they deem fit. Likewise, their expatriate staff can come in easily,” says the letter authored by the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

A Kenya Gazette notice signed by Environment secretary Judi Wakhungu outlawed the manufacture, import, sale or use of plastic carrier bags in Kenya.

The ban has caused loss of thousands of jobs as manufacturers suspended operations to avoid steep fines stipulated under the law.

Makers of alternative carrier bags are, however, doing booming business, while supporters of the new law cite its potential to check environmental pollution by the non-biodegradable plastic bags.

Usage of the bags now attracts a fine of up to Ksh4 million (about $40,000) or a two-year jail term.

All East Africa Community (EAC) member countries were supposed to ban usage of plastic bags, but so far only Kenya and Rwanda have effected the bans.

High quality packaging

Uganda is flaunting its economic growth rate of between five and seven per cent to entice Kenyan manufacturers.

“Many Ugandan enterprises are missing out on opportunities in larger markets because their packaging does not meet international standards. In order for Ugandan processed honey, fruit juices, mineral water, herbal medicines and chemicals, among other products to be competitive nationally, regionally and globally, the packaging has got to be of high quality,” says the letter.

The invite signed by UIA investment executive Robinah Magoba says most Ugandan companies import plastic packaging material from Kenya where the PVoC (Pre-Export Verification of Conformity to Standards Programme) packaging technology was in use.

“PVoC technology is more acceptable worldwide and most of the companies that need good quality packaging, import their customised packaging material from Kenya, South Africa and China,” says the letter.

Relocation

Some Kenyan firms are said to have since established subsidiaries in Uganda and the invitation is intended to convince them to relocate their machinery.

UIA says it has a One Stop Centre (OSC) where investors will be assisted to register their businesses, acquire work permits for foreign workers and acquire land as well as get the necessary regulatory approvals.

As part of the East African Community (EAC), Uganda supported calls to curb proliferation of plastic wastes but adopted the waste management proposal where it plans to establish recycling facilities to handle waste plastics while promoting use of plastic packaging for its industries.