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Uganda massive gold exports draw attention

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Reports indicate that Uganda exported massive amounts of gold in March alone worth USD 363 million, an equivalent of KES 36.71 billion. It is the biggest amount of gold ever to be exported by the East African nation which interestingly has no well-known gold reserves. The Observer newspaper wrote that it was the first time the country had exported so much gold in a single month.

The gold export report by the Bank of Uganda comes in the wake of a fake gold export scandal in neighbouring Kenya. Several people have been arrested and several others are being interrogated by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations after it emerged two weeks ago that a well-oiled web of conmen had swindled the royal family of the United Arab Emirates of USD 400 million (KES 40.4 billion). The web has roped in powerful political figures in Kenya. The Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is said to have complained severally to President Uhuru Kenyatta about the congame prompting the high-level investigations.

This is the more interesting part. The Ugandan media reports that it is the first time gold has overtaken coffee as the lead export. In the same month of March 2019, Ugandan police had confiscated 3.6 tonnes of gold belonging to African Gold Refinery (AGR). The gold is rumoured to have come from Venezuela, a South American country facing political upheaval and now fighting for survival. United Arab Emirates was the likely destination for the gold once refined. Exports from Uganda to the Arab country accounted for USD 259 million of the total exports in March, the East African nation having exported merchandise worth only USD 73 million in February.

The Bank of Uganda does not know the origin of the massive amounts of gold and relies mainly on declarations by owners, if at all they choose to declare. Uganda has a diplomatic spat with Rwanda which is threatening the stability of the East African Community. The spat can be traced back to their involvement in the mineral rich Democratic Republic of Congo where the two nations fought and supported different factions during the Congo war.

In 2011, then President Joseph Kabila made an emergency trip to Nairobi and met with then President Mwai Kibaki in what insiders said was a meeting prompted by smuggling of huge amounts of gold from DRC.

Now, Ugandan total export for the first quarter of 2019 was USD 493 million, just slightly lower than the USD 549 million worth of exports in the whole of 2018. ‘Ugandan gold’ will likely treat its economy well this year.    

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