Local traders, foreigners clash over retail business

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KAMPALA- Indigenous business people who operate in Kampala city have renewed their demands to the government to stop foreigners from operating retail businesses in Uganda’s capital.

The business people say foreigners in retail trade are giving them unfair competition since most of them have access to low interest business loans in their home countries.

In a heated meeting between Nakasero –based traders and the Chinese community in Kampala on Thursday last week, local traders noted that the foreigners have since become their competitors yet they are ‘supposed’ to only engage in manufacturing.

“The truth is that we have been kicked out of the retail business in our own country. These people have agents here whom they use to sell their merchandise,” Mr Yahaya Mbago, a tiles trader said. “ As a result, it becomes hard for us to make sales because these people sell at a lower price than ours because their banks give them loans with low interest.”

Mr Daudi Lwanga, another trader said they have petitioned relevant authorities to have the investment laws reviewed in vain.

 “Government should be fair to us because foreigners are now everywhere,” he said.

However, Mr Yin Phoenix, the sales manager Best Ceramics Uganda Ltd, said they are manufacturers based in Kenya and that they only come to the city to get customers.

“Our target isn’t retail business but rather looking for customers who can buy our goods at retail fee because we are suppliers. The problem is that when traders see us around, they suspect that we own some shops in the city yet we just come here to get traders’ orders so that we can supply them with the goods they like,” he said.

Mr Yin said  their company is ready to give goods to Ugandan traders on credit for them to pay later, adding that both parties must cooperate instead of fighting each other.

Mr John Bosco Lubyayi (Mawokota South) who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives said there are 1,500 foreigners in the retail business as per the report they compiled, which he said, is yet to be tabled in Parliament.

“As MPs sitting on this Committee, we want all investment laws reviewed because majority of these foreigners come as investors but when they reach here, they join the retail business hence kicking out our local traders,” he said.

He said there is need for the Uganda Investment Authority to increase the fee required for one to be registered as an investor because the current $100,000 fee is little and can easily be afforded by majority of them who resort to retail business instead of manufacturing goods.

He added that if the investment fee is increased to $1 million, then majority of foreigners would be eliminated, arguing that officials at UIA never make a follow up to find out what the foreign investors are doing in Uganda.

In August last year, MPs gave a three-month ultimatum to foreigners in the retail business especially in Kikuubo and other city arcades, to either invest in bigger projects or return to their countries.

However, government later intervened and promised to handle the matter after carrying out assessment.

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