CSOs react to outcomes of WTO 12th ministerial conference
Simon Okitela
Journalist @New Vision

Trade and Investment experts warn that Uganda stands to lose out on waivers under the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement if internal challenges are not addressed.

The agreement seeks to boost the growth of Low Developing Countries.

According to Brenda Akandunda, a Policy Analyst at Trade and Investment SEATINI Uganda, despite the 12th ministerial conference agreeing that organizations like World Food Programme (WFP) buy food within Uganda as a priority, Uganda’s current production capacity cannot meet both local and international demand.

“We want to commend some of the outcomes of the WTO 12th ministerial conference that happened in Geneva Switzerland, of course not all policies agreed upon support countries like Uganda, but come to think of it, we have a window to sell directly to WFP, the question is, do we have the capacity? Right now, we cannot even meet the local demand and reports of scarcity of food are evident, meaning WFP will buy from other countries,” Akandunda explained.

Another platform that Uganda can make money from is taxation of the digital economy which after the Covid pandemic has emerged as the new normal. 

This includes players like Netflix, Google and YouTube among others who take home billions of dollars untaxed.

“Revenue loss from the digital economy is immense and it grows by each day. The challenge is that as a country we do not have the infrastructure to tax these platforms and yet they transact here freely. As Civil Society Organizations, we need more engagement with the government on these policies and forge a way forward for the benefit of the country.

Whereas the outcomes of the 12th ministerial conference are important, experts note that they impact African countries' competitiveness, industrialization and efforts to achieve structural transformation. 

Speaking during a CSOs debriefing meeting in Kampala, Kenneth Mwehoge, the HEPS-Uganda Executive Director stressed that depriving LDCs of a right to manufacture generic drugs is not fair.

“I can tell you that 90% of generic drugs in Uganda are imported from India, this means we lose billions to India, yet with the pandemic still with us, all we need is the right to manufacture some of these drugs and compete globally. A proposal to impose a waiver on The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) limits our abilities. This particular clause received resistance from European countries,” Kenneth Mwehoge noted.

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