- Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1450 EAT on Wednesday 13 April 2022.
Prime Tailors workers in Najjanankumbi
When Harriet Ntabazi, the state minister for Trade, met the members of the Uganda Tailors Association (UTA) a few weeks ago, during the commemoration of the World Tailors day, she promised them that government was going to set up centres where they could sell their products.This, she expounded, was is in line with the government’s campaign of “Buy Uganda, Build Uganda.” In addition, she said that with those selling centres, the tailors would realize visibility for their products, and provide them with a platform to not only widen their market base locally, but also internationally.While this was an important revelation for the tailors who had gathered in their hundreds for the occasion held at the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) showground in Lugogo, their zeal to partake of the “Buy Uganda, Build Uganda” programme is being curtailed by the high tax regime on tailoring raw-materials in the country today.Phillip Ssekimpi, the chairman of the UTA, told said that government levies a 35 per cent tax on the raw-materials the tailors have got to use, to make different items, say clothes. This, Ssekimpi added, has made it difficult for them to be competitive on the global market.“Time and again, as tailors, we have found that tax prohibitive, making it difficult for us to sustainably remain in the market. A case in point, the local market is flooded with clothes from China, the USA and Europe. A new pair of trousers from China, for example, will cost Shs 15,000 to Shs 20,000. But compare that to what it would take to tailor a good pair of trousers here, and the minimum it can go for is Shs 50,000.”Against such an example, Ssekimpi insists that for any buyer out there, it is a no-brainer. They will go for the cheaper one, hence locking out the Ugandan tailor from business. In the end, the local producer continues to suffer, and once they are out of business, the levels of unemployment go up.However, Ntabazi advised the tailors to use their body, the UTA, and import raw-materials as a block. She explained that if the UTA was the one used to bring in raw-materials, the tax would be 10 per cent, which exponentially brings down the cost of production.According to Ntabazi’s explanation, the government takes due consideration for the main players in the trade and provides reprieves and exceptions. And because the tailoring and textile sector has been flooded by many people, who are not main players, say, general traders, who import and hoard products, to artificially push prices, hence is the reason government levies the 35 per cent.The minister’s suggestion is expected to encourage more tailors around the country to subscribe to the UTA because of the privileges it comes with. Lawrence Lubulwa, the vice- chairman of the UTA, said the tailoring sector in Uganda has great potential, which has not been fully explored.He gave an example of a country such as Ethiopia, where the tailoring industry employs more than 2.5 million people. Equally, Lubulwa added that Uganda has similar potential with conducive circumstances.He explained that going by the records of 2018/19, Uganda exports textile-related products, including cotton and apparel (clothes), worth $20 million. But that is only about 10 per cent of the potential that is in the country, according to Lubulwa, who is also the proprietor of Prime Tailors in Kibuye on Entebbe road.