By Bruno Kiyimba

Civil Society Organisations, under the umbrella of Southern and East African Trade Initiative (SEATINI) have urged the government to come up with special tariffs for electricity.

Lead by Carol Namagembe, the CSOs said the Ministry of Trade should engage with the Ministry of Energy to help SMEs, especially in agro processing, to save electricity costs.

This is mainly because high power tariffs and costs of connection to the grid continue to hamper SMEs growth, production and competitiveness both at national and regional market.

“SMEs in Uganda pay Shs383 per unit, which is equivalent to USD0.1 per unit. This is very high if you compare with EAC partner states like Kenya which is currently at USD0.047 per unit,” Namagembe said on Tuesday at their offices in Kampala.

She added that due to power fluctuations, SMEs often have to switch off their machines every time outages occur, something that is tiresome. This according to Namagembe leads to loss in production.

According to CSOs, many SMEs have shut down due to lack of affordable and stable electricity.

The same briefing was embraced by Humphrey Mutasa, the managing director Agri Point Initiatives, who advised the government to help the SMEs grow.

“Government has concentrated on bringing in investors and not looking at the competition that an innocent Ugandan is facing,” he said, adding that this was not good.

Seventy per cent of the goods on the Ugandan market are foreign yet, according to Mutasa, these can be locally produced here had it not been for power fluctuations.

“I think we should even change the slogan Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) to Buy Uganda Build Uganda Brand Uganda (BUBUBU),” Mutasa advised.

In Uganda, SMEs account for approximately 90 percent of the country’s private sector, employ more than 2.5 million people, generate 80 per cent of the country’s manufactured output and contribute up to 18 per cent of the GDP.

Of these majority are Agro based MSMEs which provide employment and a market for agricultural products and allied goods and services to agricultural value chain.