By Denis Jjuuko
The new year usually brings a lot of positivity with many people making resolutions. Some of those who make resolutions end up achieving them. Last year was one to forget for many people with the unprecedented COVID-19 causing havoc not seen before in the modern era. However, there is always need to have a positive outlook. Below is what I think are the sectors to watch in 2021.
Uganda’s nascent automotive sector is set to have a big leap forward this year with the projected completion of the country’s first vehicle plant under construction in Jinja. The government last year put a stop to government ministries, departments and agencies from importing fully assembled buses. This means that Ugandan entrepreneurs can work with Kiira Motors Corporation and other players to supply parts that are needed in building these buses.
In greater Kampala, every little space along the main road network is filled by a petrol station, garages and washing bays. If you stand at the major road junctions, you will see thousands of boda bodas crisscrossing in all sorts of directions. All these provide opportunities for businesses in the automotive industry and its value chain.
Coffee exports in August 2020 amounted to 519,683 (60-kilo) bags worth US$46.06 million. Putting this in annual perspective, coffee exports for the 12-months period (September 2019 to August 2020) totaled to 5,216,608 bags worth US$502.45 million compared to 4,379,007 bags worth US$429.02 million the previous year according to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority. This growth happened when actually many coffee shops were closed due to lockdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the west administering vaccines, more shops will open and the numbers will grow.
Uganda’s coffee is much loved because it is grown at high altitude including that growing in areas you may not consider to be of high altitude compared to many from other countries. This leads to better quality beans. Campaigns such as Mwannyi Terimba spearheaded by Buganda Kingdom and those supported by aBi Development among other partners have led to more quantity and most importantly quality coffee.
Online sales, logistics, and digital payments
Due to COVID-19 lockdown, online sales shot through the roof globally but also in Uganda. This has created a new logistics business with boda bodas moving into this space. Online sales naturally lead to digital payments. An increasing number of people is paying for services digitally and instead of withdrawing money and then paying somebody who at the end goes to the bank to deposit money into the bank. Banks are giving incentives for people to transact online and card payments through points of sales are now free of charge. This will continue to lead to more growth.
However, the online entrepreneurs need to improve the way they do business as many people complain of receiving goods that are inferior to what they ordered or such business people vanish once they have received a deposit.
Increased urbanization and the skyrocketing population growth mean that they will always be demand for food. Food is one of the sectors that has managed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. People need food to survive so it will always be one item people will spend their last money on. The changes in the climate also mean that food can no longer be freely grown as it was 30 years ago making food a sector to watch.
Manufacturing and value addition
Travel disruptions due to COVID-19 might continue for some time. Some business that closed will never open again and therefore instead of always flying abroad to import stuff, making them here makes more sense today than ever. It is also one of the ways through which we can increase our exports and create jobs for the youth. The government has been singing manufacturing and foreigners who come here and get involved in it become billionaires in a short period of time.
Health and fitness
Even when a vaccine for COVID-19 arrives in the country, some habits picked will be continued in the future with people choosing better health lifestyles like fitness and nutrition. The cost of keeping a patient alive on a ventilator is so high which makes this sector ripe for disruption by making ventilators locally. Kiira Motors and Makerere University are working on the Bulamu Ventilator, which when complete with the human trials will increase the availability of devices in the country.
However, I also see a return to traditional medicine such as steaming which many people are currently doing to boost their immunity. This makes an interesting area for research and entrepreneurship.
Even during COVID-19 lockdowns, buildings were going up. Ugandans love buildings or owning land. Many people once they make some money, they think of building or buying land. Properties in Uganda are more expensive than in many parts of the developed world. Owning rentals is consider the ultimate dream by many middle class people. The increased population is putting pressures on land which is making it scarce. Remember, they no longer manufacture it. So this is a sector that is projected to grow again.
Many people are worried about the next elections and therefore will want to beef up their security. But also increased unemployment of young people mean that many will continue resorting to crime making this sector a one to watch.
Energy and infrastructure
Apart from debt repayments, a significant portion of Uganda’s national budget is allocated to energy and infrastructure projects like roads. The government is the biggest business partner in any economy so the sectors where it spends a lot always provide a sneak preview of where to invest.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant. email@example.com