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The Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB) won the Award for the Best TPO from a Least Developed Country.
UEPB’s activities had stagnated while the Ugandan Government considered the possibility of merging it with the government agencies for tourism and investment promotion. Also, some of its key staff had left.
In 2002, the UEPB appointed a new executive director, Florence Kata, to take over an organisation that was in steady decline. Ms. Kata sought to give the organisation a new customer focus, introduce new services, promote the role of exports in Uganda’s economy, use new tools in UEPB's work, increase revenue, and to retrain the staff in new methods of working.
The successful efforts of a female executive director in a largely male-dominated society are particularly noteworthy. UEPB’s previously shallow staff structure was changed to allow staff to aspire to a higher position, through the creation of several levels of management.
Sector specialists were created and their expertise enabled UEPB to give a greater depth of service to exporters. Staff members were appraised annually, which assisted in the identification of individuals for promotion to higher grades.
UEPB decided, with the help of UNCTAD, to focus on the country's biodiversity of plant life to develop trade in Bio-Products. Responding to the need to assist the 70% of university graduates who each year failed otherwise to find employment, UEPB launched initiatives for the services sector drawing on support under the JITAP II programme. In promoting new products from Uganda, UEPB concentrated on those that could be produced in rural households and where a degree of value added could be achieved within Uganda. The country’s President endorsed the approach, which sought to increase the returns from small rural agricultural plots. UEPB shared these objectives with the TPOs of Kenya and Tanzania, who jointly approached the Government of the Netherlands for financial support for capacity building of the three organisations.
Registration of exporters
UEPB began to register exporters, in order to have a better understanding of Uganda's sourcing capability and to be able to provide these companies with specific services. A database of exporters was put online, replacing previous printed directories. A quarterly newsletter was introduced for registered exporters. To raise the profile of exporters, UEPB, with financial sponsorship of approximately US$25,000, organised in December 2003 an exporters award scheme. This was supported by the country’s President and gained considerable publicity for exporters. UEPB has designated a member of staff to be involved in government policy-making for exports.
Use of new technologies
UEPB’s previous website had been abandoned because of the high cost of maintaining it. Using internal staff skills, a new site was launched as http://www.ugandaexportsonline.com/2009/home.php with a much greater focus on clients needs. The number of site visits doubled in 2003, compared with 2001 and 2002. The site gave details of forthcoming events, for example UEPB’s forthcoming trade fairs, and offered exporters, for a fee, use of tools such as ITC’s interactive trade map. UEPB rebuilt its information library and acquired new library management software, allowing it to advise its registered users of additions to the library. The library and staff, more generally, now have PCs linked through a local area network. In partnership with the national mobile telephone service providers, UEPB sends out market information alerts through SMS.
UEPB managed to raise 27% of its costs through charging for services. These charges have included fees for registration of exporters, renting out of equipment and its boardroom, providing photocopying and similar services for clients, sale of export documentation, and a fee for use of the library by non-registered exporters. UEPB was seeking finance for the construction of new premises: if obtained, it proposed to rent out one floor to generate additional revenue.
UEPB was successful in cultivating the interest of newspapers and journals and has managed to secure considerable media publicity for its efforts. This raised UEPB’s profile as a worthwhile organisation, as well as extending the awareness of its services amongst exporters.
From 1998 to 2003 there was a 50% increase in the value of non-traditional exports from Uganda at a time when the value of traditional exports remained almost static. UEPB took credit for most of this change.
UEPB’s improved status and recognition in the business community allowed it to secure financing from the private sector for its export bulletin and exporter awards scheme, and has drawn in donor support from Norway and the Netherlands and technical assistance from ITC. It raised 27% of its costs through charging for various aspects of its services. In 2003 it had 600 registered exporters; previously it was unaware of the number of companies exporting in Uganda.
A woman executive director repositioned the organisation with great success.
Improved status and recognition
UEPB improved its status and recognition within the business community. In 2000, UEPB was threatened with absorption into a wider body with tourism and inward investment. Delays in reaching a decision stifled the resources allocated to the TPO and led to high staff turnover. UEPB’s subsequent improvement in performance has been described as a move from 'dustbin' to 'glory'.
Given a dynamic leader with the determination to implement change, another TPO could emulate this experience.