City on the move: Northern Uganda’s cities and towns

Retail in northern Uganda’s commercial hub Gulu. Photo by Fiona Graham/WorldRemit

For almost two decades, northern Uganda was notorious for the insurgent activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Due to the conflict, very little development took place. Since around 2006, when the LRA moved out of Uganda at the start of the Juba peace talks, economic activity has returned to the region. Current projects in the region include the Karuma hydropower plant and a fruit processing factory planned for the Nwoya district.

“If someone would like to invest in northern Uganda, in the villages, there are a lot of incentives on offer. Especially if you are doing value addition through agro-processing,” says Julian Omalla, managing director and founder of Delight Uganda, a beverages producer which is constructing the fruit processing plant in partnership with the Ugandan government. The company owns 686 hectares of land near Nwoya, where it grows mango, guava and citrus to be used in the processing of juice once the plant is constructed.

Omalla says the capital city of Kampala naturally has a lot to offer business (even Delight Uganda’s headquarters is situated there). However, she believes there are opportunities in the north of the country, in the city of Gulu as its commercial centre and in the districts and villages surrounding it.

“In the villages we grow a lot of coffee and tea leaves, for example, that can be exported. We also have fruits, cereals and oil seeds – even sunflowers,” she says. “The government is very welcoming [for investors].”

According to Uganda’s revenue service, investment in areas outside of industrial parks or free zones will come with income tax exemption for up to 10 years. Certain criteria does apply: the minimum investment amount is $10 million for foreign investors and $1 million for East Africa Community (EAC) citizens; the project must use at least 50% of locally sourced raw materials and employ no less than 60% EAC citizens. For agro-processing investments, there are a range of incentives, ranging from stamp duty exemption to excise duty benefits on construction materials for factories or warehouses.

Further reading

[July 2020] Profit-making idea: Dried tropical fruit from Uganda, for the world
[July 2020] Uganda’s MamaOpe fast-tracks the diagnosis of pneumonia through smart jackets
[July 2019] Ugandan entrepreneurs cook up eco-friendly dryer to cut food waste
[October 2018] Mosquito-repellent soap and healthy smoothies: Two young entrepreneurs show how to build businesses from organic products
[March 2018] Investment trip: Finding pearls in Uganda, the heart of Africa