Ugandans embrace homegrown products

Jan 27, 2010

Like many other countries in Asia and Africa, Uganda has embarked on a program to increase the consumption and production of homegrown products. The program is expected to change consumer-buying practices and boosting employment. Ugandans are embracing it, albeit, with a bit of reluctance.

Uganda spends millions of dollars, annually, on imports. These include everything from processed juice and foods, to construction equipment to garments. But surprisingly, local firms produce most of these goods. It is against this background that the Ugandan government has started a campaign to encourage economic transformation by promoting homegrown products. The campaign, which started three years ago, is spearheaded by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU). It includes TV and Radio advertisements and an annual three-day exhibition where local firms showcase their goods and services. Sarah Nakibuuka from the Private Sector Foundation Uganda says that this drive helps Ugandans appreciate their own high quality goods. “This in turn increases demand for local products which creates employment opportunities in the long run,” she said. Increase in demand Private Sector Foundation Uganda is yet to undertake a study to find out whether demand for local products has increased over past three years of the campaign. But asking around Kampala, many Ugandans say they have, of late, picked up interest in local products. And shopkeepers admit a slight increase in demand for homegrown products as well. At Carol Lwambaya
garments shop, Kyaligonza Creative African Fashion, in a Kampala suburb, slow music from a small radio under the counter welcomes customers, coming in and out. Lwambaya has been selling both local and imported garments for three years. She says that she has seen an increase in the demand of local products. However, she hastens to add that on the whole, imports still outsell them. Manufacturers cautioned Hatika Babirye, a customer, says that she mostly buys local fabrics out of patriotism. “We need to love our country and buy locally produced goods to develop our nation,” Babirye says. However Allan, another customer, thinks differently. “When I go to a shop I don’t ask whether a product is homegrown or not. Instead, I look at the quality,” he says. “Most of our products are not as high in quality, so I end up buying imported ones.” The Minister for Trade and Industry Major Gen Kahinda Otafiire has at several occasions cautioned manufacturers to produce high quality goods and services if they want Ugandans to buy them. He says that the campaign to encourage Ugandans to buy local can not succeed if the products are lower in quality. Kahinda said that government and the manufacturers must work together to change consumer’ buying practices. “None of us can do this singlehandedly,” he says. Samuel Kazibwe