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Uganda and Its Agribusiness Industry

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

Oli otya?

Oh, don’t look confused. I’m simply saying hello to you in Luganda – Uganda’s most common language.

Nestled in the eastern part of Africa, Uganda is a little slice of paradise that enjoys a colorful culture thanks to its various ethnic groups.

And there’s a cherry on top: its landscape and diverse ecosystem.

Little wonder Sir Winston Churchill’s named it “the pearl of Africa.” He said, “Uganda is a fairytale. You climb up a railway instead of a beanstalk and at the end, there is a wonderful new world.”

The land of matoke – occupying an area of 241,037 kilometers squared and landlocked – offers an amazing climate, delectable cuisine, and a low cost of living.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the people! Africans are known to be friendly and hospitable, but Ugandans take these traits a notch higher.

Ugandan aunties and uncles will almost always drop everything to help out a stranger. (You already know an older person, related to you or not, is called auntie or uncle as a sign of respect in Africa, don’t you?) This is why, though poor, Uganda is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

Strange, right? Considering we live in a world riddled with anti-immigrant sentiment.

In this post for Black History Month, we look at what Ugandans do to rake in money.

Agribusiness and Uganda’s Tomorrow’s Jobs

Is agribusiness new? No. Definitely not. Is it hot? Yes. Definitely yes.

Growing up, most Ugandan millennials were socialized by their parents and the society to despise farming and anything that appertains to it. White color jobs and speaking fluent English were the ideal.

Quick side note: Ugandans speak a localized form of English called Uglish – pretty much what AAVE is to Black people in the U.S.

However, the millennial and Gen Z populations in Uganda today have seen the flaw in this thinking and know they could make a lot of money from Agribusiness.

This shift in generational thinking has linked small-scale producers to national markets, met food demands, created tomorrow’s jobs, and propelled the country’s agricultural sector, which employs approximately 72% of the population.

In an ideal world, Uganda would be Africa’s food basket because 80% of Uganda’s land is arable but only 35% is being cultivated. The sector accounts for 23.7% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Uganda is green, very green because its climate is perfect for vegetation. Everywhere you turn, there is food, and it feels like locals – be it in towns or the countryside – are always selling food.

Lorry transporting produce to Owino market – Kampala’s biggest outdoor market and one of the largest in East Africa.
Lorry transporting produce to Owino market – Kampala’s biggest outdoor market and one of the largest in East Africa.

Value Addition Processing in Coffee

Coffee is one of the country’s most prominent foreign exchange earners.

In fact, Uganda is Africa’s second-largest exporter of coffee, exporting both Robusta and Arabica coffee. Yet surprisingly, the very picturesque Kaweri Coffee Plantation is the only large-scale coffee farm in the country.

Kaweri Coffee Plantation
Kaweri Coffee Plantation

Fan fact: Kaweri is home to wild Robusta coffee trees that are well over 100 years old. Yep! Robusta coffee is native to the area.

We should probably call it Kisansa or Nganga – its native names – instead of Robusta, right?

There is a niche for value addition enhancements that has earned investors’ money and helped farmers increase their share of the final market price for the cash crop.

When most people think of African coffee, they think Kenya and Ethiopia. This is why Uganda’s neighbors, Kenya and Ethiopia, sell their coffee at relatively higher prices than Uganda.

This impediment has not stopped Uganda, and she is quickly gaining on her neighbors.

The introduction of value addition processes, such as the Robusta washing process, has seen the rise of premium-roast coffee products, purely made of Kaweri coffee, across the globe.

A Ugandan farmer tending to Robusta berries.
A Ugandan farmer tending to Robusta berries.

Plantain Chips Export

It feels like there’s always a TikTok video of people trying African foods/snacks going viral every few weeks, right?

Remember me mentioning matoke earlier? Matoke is made from plantain bananas, which are in abundance in Uganda. Locals also make a snack called Matoke Crisps by deep frying the plantains.

You literally just need raw banana, salt, and oil for frying. But you can dry and roast the banana, too.

Dry roasted matoke chips
Dry roasted matoke chips

Matoke is a favorite and a staple in Uganda. Kids need a snack for recess? Pack matoke chips for them.

In-laws are visiting and you want to impress them? Make matoke chips. A foreigner wants a snack that identifies with the country? Buy them matoke chips.

Ugandans have turned a favorite childhood snack into a money-minting product, and it is working. Plantain banana prices have steadily been rising, from $0.24 per kilogram in 2017 to $0.54 in 2019, which is excellent news for Ugandan farmers.

While matoke is still a street food sold by roadside hawkers in Uganda, the snack has transformed into a gourmet snack in the recent past.

Celebrity chefs in the country are routinely creating and recreating new recipes of the snack to cash in on the “matoke craze,” too.

That’s not all – matoke chips have become a common snack on local and international supermarket shelves. Potato chips are shaking in their boots.

Want to find out if it is possible to switch careers and how to navigate the transition? Book a career coaching appointment with Black On The Job today.


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