South Sudan and Uganda are holding their first ever Joint Business Forum in Juba, seeking to boost trade and investment ties “through industrialisation and infrastructure development”.
The three-day forum and exhibition, which kicked off on Tuesday, has attracted over 200 businesspeople from the public and private sectors.
Uganda says the talks will help to identify ways to enhance investment opportunities and the already vibrant trade relations between both countries and consequently improve the livelihood of their people.
“The forum will create enormous benefits for both countries, including employment opportunities and a larger market access for both goods and services,” the Foreign Affairs ministry said in a statement.
South Sudan is one of Uganda’s largest trading partners. In 2021, trade between the two countries was worth $389 million, according to the Bank of Uganda report, not considering the large volumes of informal trade across the borders.
Uganda’s exports to South Sudan amounted to $482.46 million, while imports were $10.25 million, about 37.34 percent of Uganda’s exports within the East African Community.
Exports from Uganda to South Sudan have increased at an annualised rate of 46 percent, from $17.3 million in 2012 to $357 million in 2020.
The top exports include foodstuffs such as grain, sorghum, cane sugar and chemically pure sucrose in solid form.
The South Sudan-Uganda Business Forum is a private sector-driven event where over 30 businesses are exhibiting products from the sectors of agriculture, agribusiness, cosmetics, arts and crafts and services such as banking, and telecommunications, among others.
The forum was opened by South Sudan Trade and Industry minister Kuol Mawien.
Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) chief executive Stephen Asiimwe says Ugandan businesses are looking to discuss advocacy, and networking, explore new opportunities, showcase products and services, and seek to understand the interventions required to strengthen the trade ties between the two countries.
Mr Asiimwe added that the target sectors are trade and commerce, mining, tourism, textiles, and oil and gas.
The Joint Business Forum is co-organised by the two countries’ governments and co-sponsored by Centenary Group, EcoBank, MTN South Sudan, mGURUSH and Trademark East Africa.