Feature: Ugandan carpenters sharpen tools after gov't ban on importation of furniture

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-04 00:29:09|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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KAMPALA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- Most of the roads leading to and out of the Ugandan capital Kampala have roadside furniture workshops. Over the years, youths in these workshops have gained experience and the art of making furniture ranging from office to household furniture.

Despite all these efforts, the youths have had to compete with imported furniture. Government has now resolved that starting this financial year 2019/20, which started in July, no public office would be allowed to import furniture. All furniture in public offices must be locally made.

"Public sector procurement is one of the key tools that government can utilize to support directly or indirectly our domestic industry and overall national economy," Keith Muhakanizi, permanent secretary of the ministry of finance said in a directive issued to all government accounting officers.

The directive issued in July about buying locally made furniture is intended to support the Buy Uganda Build Uganda policy, an import substitution initiative run by government.

Carpenters are excited about the government directive and are optimistic that they will cash in.

"If government starts recognizing and appreciating the fact that we also put in a lot of energy to produce quality, it will boost the industry because they are the biggest spenders in the country," Daniel Gizamba, deputy secretary general of Nsambya Carpentry, Joinery and Crafts Makers Agency, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Gizamba said their main challenge has been unfavorable competition with imported products.

He said most of the imported products are given tax exemptions which makes it extremely hard to compete with.

Rashid Tandaza is another carpenter who told Xinhua that he has already started approaching government offices and is optimistic that with the new directive, he would be able to supply them furniture.

"We have high quality products and the president can attest to that because he came here in 2017 and lauded us for the good work. Therefore, Government should support us," Tandaza said.

President Yoweri Museveni through government's wealth creation campaigns has offered financial support to youth groups running carpentry workshops in Kampala and its suburbs.

Ministry of finance figures show that government this financial year plans to procure furniture worth 8.13 million U.S. dollars.

Benson Turamye, executive director of Public Procurement and Disposal Public Assets Authority told Xinhua in a recent interview that the government's directive to buy locally made furniture is a step in the right direction.

"Once adopted by government, the process of procuring furniture from local carpenters needs to be streamlined so that carpenters know the quality needed by government because that is quite important," Turamye said.

"We have so many good furniture producers but some lack just a few skills to match international standards and I think it is only right to support them as government," he added.

Ramathan Ggoobi, an economist from Makerere University Business School, said the directive provided an opportunity for more jobs to be created. He said one of the setbacks for entrepreneurship was lack of available market.

"If government chooses to buy local furniture, then it is with no doubt that more youth will be lured into carpentry, hence creation of more jobs," said Ggoobi.