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Schools Boost Private Sector Activity In January

Ronald Muyanja, the Head of Trading at Stanbic Bank

Business conditions improved in the Ugandan private sector in January, buoyed by the reopening of schools following an extended period of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to the latest Stanbic Bank sponsored Purchase Managers Index (PMI).

Despite an increase in fuel prices, the PMI posted 54.9 in January, up from 51.5 in December and above the average for the series which began in June 2016.

Output increased for the sixth month running in January, with activity boosted by the reopening of schools and higher new orders.

All five surveyed broad sectors including agriculture, industry, construction, wholesale & retail and service, saw business activity rise at the start of the year.

Ronald Muyanja, the Head of Trading at Stanbic Bank said, “demand also picked up, leading to rises in employment and purchasing but inflationary pressures were evident, often linked to higher fuel costs.”

Rising workloads encouraged companies to take on additional staff at the start of the year. Employment has now increased in two of the past three months, with around 7% of respondents expanding workforce numbers in January.

Staffing levels rose in the agriculture, construction and services sectors, but fell in industry, wholesale and retail.

In addition, total new orders also rose for the sixth successive month, while new business from abroad returned to growth following 16 months of decline.

Construction was the only sector to buck the wider trend and post a reduction in new orders.

Rises in new orders showed signs of imparting capacity pressures on firms, and encouraged them to increase their staffing levels and expand purchasing activity.

In turn, stocks of purchases also rose during the month, helped by an improvement in suppliers’ delivery times.

Respondents widely reported higher fuel costs during the month, contributing to increased purchase prices and subsequently feeding through to rising overall input prices. Higher costs for raw materials and staff were also reported.  

With input costs rising, the survey says, companies increased their own selling prices accordingly and that charges were up for the fifth month running in January.

Meanwhile, Muyanja said, anecdotal evidence showed that new export orders returned to growth and companies were able to export to other African countries, thereby ending a 16-month sequence of falling new business from abroad.

12-month outlook

Going forward, Ugandan firms were optimistic in the 12-month outlook for activity, thanks to schools having reopened as well as positive expectations regarding the pandemic situation and new orders.

More than 89% of respondents predicted a rise in output over the coming year, according to the survey.

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