Uganda rolls out plan to help ICT companies boost exports

13 April 2016
ITC News
The government launches an export plan to improve the competitiveness of businesses working in the information and communications technology sector.

The Government of Uganda is rolling out a plan designed to help information technology (IT) companies – including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – beef up their exports.

Some 30 SMEs working in information and communications technology (ICT) or using IT as an enabler of services (ITES) – such as call centres or companies working in data entry, digitization or Internet search engine optimization – will be the first to benefit from the IT and ITES sector export plan. Eventually, the plan will be expanded to include other Ugandan tech companies.

While IT & ITES is a relatively new sector in Uganda, the country has been making steady progress in the industry over the last decade, particularly in terms of increasing the penetration of mobile phones, the Internet and personal computers. The ICT sector contributed 6.2% to Ugandan gross domestic product in 2012, up from 2.5% in 2006.

The new sector plan aims to support this trend by improving the export competitiveness of Ugandan IT companies in regional and global markets. In particular, the plan focuses on achieving six strategic objectives to drive exports:

1. Establishing and managing industry metrics.
2. Enhancing the calibre of young talent in the IT & ITES pool.
3. Closing the gender gap.
4. Instigating a local environment conducive to the IT & ITES industry.
5. Developing the export capabilities of SMEs.
6. Placing the Ugandan IT & ITES industry on the map.
7. Devising a market development strategy.

A country marketing plan will be implemented alongside the sector plan to determine how best to increase the visibility of the IT & ITES industry. Together, the two plans present a winning combination that will mean more jobs for Ugandan youth and more revenue for the government, said Minister of Information and Communications Technology John Nasasira.

‘I have no doubt that implementation of the ICT sector export and marketing plans will go a long way in enhancing our ICT export sector competitiveness in the international market,’ he said at the 7 April launch event in Kampala.

Uganda presents a strong foundation to grow its IT & ITES sector, with a stable geopolitical environment, a large English-speaking population, and telecom and Internet services that are widely available, Nasasira said. Furthermore, the country has adopted cyber laws to protect IT and ITES investors and clients, and it is in a time zone that makes it ideal for outsourcing, he added.

The process was facilitated by ITC under the umbrella of the Netherlands Trust Fund III (NTF III) programme. The Government of Uganda through the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U), private sector associations such as the Uganda Business Process Outsourcing Association (BPOA), the ICT Association of Uganda (ICTAU) and the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), as well as Ugandan NTF III beneficiary SMEs, collaborated with ITC to develop the sector export and marketing plans. NTF III is funded by the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) of the Netherlands Government.

The 30 SMEs that will initially profit from the roll-out of the new sector export plan are direct beneficiaries of NTF III, as are the three trade support institutions with which the companies will work to promote themselves and access the international market.