Gold is currently Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner overtaking coffee after it jumped 23 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.
According to a report released by the Central Bank of Uganda, the country exported gold worth 51.4 billion shillings (USD514 million) in 2018 compared to 41.8 billion shillings (USD418 million) in 2017.
The report indicates that a total of 13,216 kilograms of gold were exported out of the country, up from 10,380 kilogram sold the previous year.
For a long time, coffee has been Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner which stood at 43.6 billion shillings (USD436 million) in 2018, down 21 percent from 2017.
Shipments of gold had been negligible for the country which ranks as Africa’s number one coffee exporter, but started to rise sharply in 2015 after the commissioning of a major refiner. A decade ago Uganda’s gold shipments stood at under USD10 million.
Majority owned by Alain Goetz who also owns a stake in Belgian gold refiner Tony Goetz N.V., African Gold Refinery (AGR) is located in the lakeside town of Entebbe, south of the capital Kampala.
Gold, coffee, fish, oil and maize topped Uganda’s export list in the calendar year ending 2018, increasing overall earnings by 5.1 percent.
The report showed that Uganda’s export earnings for the year ending 2018 stood at USD3.6 billion up from USD3.4 billion earned in 2017.
Adam Mugume, Bank of Uganda’s executive director for research told Reuters in an email last year’s jump was caused by an additional two small refiners in the country.
“Currently, we have 3 firms processing gold for export in Uganda. In 2017 we had one. These firms source for gold all over Africa, thus the increase in … exports of gold,” he said.
Rights activists have accused AGR in the past of buying gold smuggled from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where proceeds from some of the supplies could be fueling insecurity and rights violations.
The firm has denied the accusations and said it conducts due diligence on its suppliers and makes sure it adheres to international rules prohibiting trade in minerals from conflict areas.