Uganda remains biggest client of the port of Mombasa

Tuesday April 09 2019

Vessels offload cargo at the port of Mombasa on March 28, 2019. Uganda accounted for most of the goods passing through the port. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NMG


Uganda accounted for more than a quarter of the business at the port of Mombasa in 2018, pushing the total transit volumes up by 10 per cent from 8.6 million tonnes in 2017 to 9.6 million tonnes.

Uganda remains a key trade partner for Kenya as its exports and imports passing through Mombasa are increasing.

The latest figures for 2018 from the Kenya Ports Authority 2017 annual performance report show that Uganda remained the leading Mombasa port user, with its import cargo rising steadily from 6.5 million tonnes in 2017 to 7.4 million tonnes of goods last year.

However, its exports through the Mombasa port, mostly tea, dropped from 522,876 tonnes in 2017 to 471,812 tonnes last year.

Tea is one of Uganda’s biggest exports, mostly shipped to Pakistan and the United Kingdom.

On average, Uganda exports about 60,000 tonnes indirectly through the Mombasa tea auction as Kenyan branded tea through 27 exporting companies.


In 2017, the country exported tea through the port of Mombasa worth $79.8 million, up from $71.5 million recorded in 2016. Uganda also exports tea to Sudan, Egypt and DR Congo.

Tea auction

Last year, Uganda was pushing to have its own auction and market its tea directly to buyers to get better prices for exporters.

Ugandan exporters held back some of their produce as they planned an alternative auction in Kampala, thus reducing the country’s exports via Mombasa port.

During President Yoweri Museveni visit to the port last week, Kenya offered Uganda a piece of land in Naivasha to put up a dry port for its cargo.

President Kenyatta said his government would set aside land in the second largest town in Nakuru County for Kampala to develop a dry port for its cargo.

“By August this year, the standard gauge railway will have reached Naivasha,” he said. “I have confirmed to President Museveni that with that development in Naivasha and then moving the SGR to Malaba, goods will be able to move from Mombasa to Malaba in just two days.”

The proposed Naivasha dry port, whose details are yet to be shared, will also see Uganda play a more crucial role for the hinterland countries, including Rwanda and DRC.

“We would like the port of Mombasa to attract more vessels and goods to the auction. That would mean good business for us,” East African Tea Traders Association (Eatta) trade development manager Brian Ngwiri told The EastAfrican.

In July last year, Uganda starting exporting coffee under a pilot scheme through the Single Customs Territory (SCT)—the seamless regional tax collection arrangement.

Under the SCT, Customs declarations have been reduced from four to one, while cross-border export clearance will take a maximum of two hours.

“The new procedures will be piloted with Uganda’s main exports because the benefits are expected to have an immediate impact on Uganda’s competitiveness and on the economy as a whole,” said Dicksons Kateshumbwa, the commissioner of Customs at the Uganda Revenue Authority, at the time.

Export revenue

Uganda’s top 20 exports between July and December last year contributed 64.58 per cent of its total export revenue, valued at $896 million of the total $1.34 billion. Currently the county exports mostly coffee and tea via the Mombasa port.

The KPA report showed that Juba was the port’s second largest client for transit cargo, importing 563,663 tonnes of goods, a slight increase from the 545,634 tonnes imported through the port in 2017.

In terms of exports, Juba recorded a slight growth last year to 170,469 tonnes from to 128,118 tonnes in 2017. Juba mostly imports wheat, oil, rice and sugar.

Tanzania imported 229,652 tonnes of cargo through Mombasa, a drop from 244,239 in 2017. Its exports also dropped from 27,459 in 2017 to 18,373 tonnes.

Most of the goods imported by Tanzania through Mombasa port head to the northern parts of the country through the Holili border post, given its easier access and distance than the longer Dar es Salaam route.

Traffic to Burundi

The data also shows that Burundi’s transit traffic dropped from 21,578 tonnes in 2017 to 20,610 last year.

There was a sharp rise in its exports from just four tonnes in 2017 to 1,623 last year.

Bujumbura’s volumes via Mombasa dropped drastically in 2015, after an attempted coup. The country prefers to use the Dar es Salaam port, mainly because its goods coming through Mombasa have to pass through Rwanda, with which it has frosty relations.

In September, Kenya completed the link road from the Mombasa port to Holili, in Taveta. Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the 1,545-kilometre road links the port through Holili, Singida-Kobero border and finally to Bujumbura.

It is expected to reduce the distance from Mombasa to Bujumbura through the Northern Corridor by 358 kilometres.

The Democratic Republic of Congo remained the third largest transit cargo client for the Mombasa port, with its volumes rising to 413,249 tonnes last year from 317,096 in 2017.