Uganda Free Zone Authority (UFZA), has handed over the site of five acres of land to National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), the commercial arm of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF), to embark on the initial phase of construction of the first Public Free Zone in Uganda.
UFZA acquired 5 acres of land from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) for development of the Free Zone at the Entebbe International Airport.
The Zone development is projected to cost about Shs 48 Billion.
The Government has already allocated Shs 12.5 Billion for the first phase of the project to kickoff.
Upon completion, the Free Zone will house seven production units and a Trade house that will host offices of UFZA, URA and other Government offices to facilitate smooth flow of business in the Zone.
The Chairman, Board of Directors, Eng. Dr. Feredrick Kiwanuka said that the proposed sectors for the project include: food processing (agro-processing), mineral processing, warehousing, storage, simple assembly, etc.
All Operators in this Public Free Zone will process their products for onward export through Entebbe International Airport.
“And I hereby call upon them to be with an eagle eye, to ensure that whatever is implemented on this project is fault-free, be it from the point of view of the designs, for UFZA, to embark on the phase-II works, that is also needed to be executed within the current financial year,” he cautioned.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director – UFZA, Mr. Hez Kimoomi Alinda said the Free Zone is expected to create at least 240 direct jobs and significantly contribute to an increase in Uganda’s exports.
It will also directly contribute cargo volumes to recently revived Uganda Airlines thereby boosting its business as the company secures more routes.
Kimoomi elaborated that such types of investments are necessary if Uganda is to address various challenges posed by its demographic dividend.
“The country needs to create over 600,000 new jobs per year over the next 12 years to effectively address the issue of youth unemployment, raise household incomes and help the country transit from low to middle income status by 2040 as envisioned,” Kimoomi retorted.
According to a 2019 Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) fact sheet, out of the 6.7 million youngsters (18-30 years) that constitute the country’s working population, 13% are idle.
Furthermore, he disclosed that the Entebbe Free zone will further improve Uganda’s economic outlook which has often been shaken by turbulence in the global market.
“Hard working Ugandans on agricultural farms (68% of the working population) have been affected adversely due to the country’s limited capacity to process, preserve and add value to what is harvested,” Kimoomi disclosed.
The Project in detail
NEC boss Lt. Gen James Mugira said that the initial scope of activities shall last six months.
These shall include; construction of preliminary works, production units and external works.
“As you know we did experience some delays in getting all the necessary approvals which has cost us time and we do regret all those delays,” he said.
UFZA is required to establish strategically located Public Free Zones equipped with all required infrastructure to afford Operators ‘plug and play’ facilities to enable them seamlessly undertake the business of manufacturing, value addition of products for onward export without the hustle to develop their own Zones.
The Chairman urged NEC – the contractor and Oubuntu Consults Limited – the supervisor to fast track the completion of the works to pave way for the second phase of the Zone implementation.
The Authority is mandated to spearhead and oversee the establishment, development, management, marketing, maintenance, supervision and control of Free Zones and other related matters.
Free Zones are customs-controlled areas where goods introduced into the designated area are generally regarded so far as import duties are concerned as being outside the Customs territory.
The schemes are set up by Government to boost export-oriented investment.