Uganda spent Ush766.89 billion ($209.36 million) on gold imports in 2022, according to data from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
Data contained in the URA May Annual Import Trade Report, 2022 indicates that during the period, Uganda imported unwrought or semi-manufactured gold from Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Tanzania.
However, the Ush766.89 billion was far higher than the Shs36.27 billion ($9.9 million) spent on the same commodity in 2021.
Gold remains Uganda’s largest export, contributing 44 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings, according to Bank of Uganda.
However, a recent tax dispute, which lasted almost two years, pitting government against gold dealers, had seen exports drop to zero, before they resumed early this year.
Trade in gold in Uganda remains highly secretive and little is known about the country’s source of gold exports.
A report by Uganda Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in June last year indicated there was a mismatch between Uganda’s gold exports and local production, revealing that whereas the value of exported gold stood at Ush4.17 trillion ($1.14 billion) in 2019, the value of local production was Ush1.85 billion ($505,050), according to the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines.
“This implies that a major part of the gold exported is not part of the local and formal production,” the report noted, suggesting that a large portion of gold exports are re-exports.
Some experts have also claimed that some of the exported gold could be smuggled, especially from DR Congo.
During 2022, URA indicates the largest portion of gold imports were sourced from Zimbabwe, which contributed gold worth Ush741.02 billion ($202.3 million).
Other sources included DR Congo, which contributed Ush15.72 billion ($4.3 million), while Tanzania contributed Ush10 billion ($2.73 million).
The increase has made the three countries, Bank of Uganda data shows, some of the largest sources of imports, with gold being the most outstanding commodity.
In June 2021, Bank of Uganda data indicated that Zimbabwe had become Uganda’s leading source of imports in Africa, after Ush606 billion ($165.44 million) was spent on imports from the Southern Africa country.
More than 85 percent of the imports were gold.
Mr John Lwere, the Uganda Export Promotion Board exports executive, yesterday told Monitor, that whereas there are statistics that point to Tanzania and Zimbabwe as being the biggest sources of Uganda’s gold, there are challenge of knowing how much gold Uganda produces locally.
“Whatever is being exported, less than 20 percent is locally sourced,” he said, noting that whereas Uganda was benefiting from levies and taxes, most of what is earned from exported gold is used to pay or buy unrefined gold, which is then re-exported.