Business Opportunities in Uganda
Uganda’s fully liberalized economy presents several profitable business opportunities across various sectors and industries. The country’s free-market environment, abundant natural resources, young workforce, and expanding economy make it an attractive destination for foreign and domestic investors. Uganda’s strategic location in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa facilitates regional trade and investment.
Agriculture is vital to the country’s economy, thanks to fertile lands and favorable climatic conditions that favor multiple yearly harvests. Investors looking to start a business in Uganda can explore the country’s agriculture sector for investment in agro-processing, livestock farming, and crop production.
Besides agriculture, investors can explore viable opportunities in the manufacturing, construction, and services sectors, among others, to start and grow their businesses. The country has a nascent oil sector, with 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves.
That said, the procedure for company incorporation in Uganda is elaborate. Before companies can take advantage of the country’s supportive business environment, they must comply with the rules and regulations around setting up a company in Uganda.
Benefits of Starting a Business in Uganda
The key advantages of doing business in Uganda:
- A strategic location from a trade and investment perspective
- A supportive business environment
- Openness to foreign direct investments
- Access to a growing economy
- A diverse range of sectors and industries to explore
- Bilateral investment protection treaties with specific countries
- Government initiatives to tap the full potential of the informal sectors
- Ease of communication with local partners and stakeholders
Requirements for Starting a Business in Uganda
The liberal business climate of Uganda attracts investors and business owners worldwide. However, those looking to start a business in Uganda must ensure they fulfill the following legal and practical requirements:
Incorporating a local company
Foreign nationals can establish a business in Uganda by incorporating a local company alone or with Ugandan nationals. The incorporation process involves the shareholders of the foreign entity or the entity itself subscribing to the local company’s memorandum and articles of association.
However, incorporating a local company in Uganda is separate from obtaining a work permit. Each process has different requirements and procedures.
Getting work permit
As per Ugandan law, work permits are essential for foreign nationals engaging in paid employment or volunteer work. Uganda’s Immigration department offers different categories of work permits for foreign nationals, each with its application process, requirements, and fees.
Reserving a business name
Setting up a company in Uganda entails investors and business owners adhering to the country’s laws and regulations around registering a business name. For business name registration in Uganda, business owners must choose a unique name that does not infringe on existing company names or trademarks.
Business owners can reserve their company name through the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) to start a business in Uganda.
Registering with the URSB
The procedure for incorporation of a company in Uganda demands that business owners register their company with the URSB. Relevant documents for registration include:
- The company name reservation certificate
- Articles of Association
- Proof of registration fee payment
- Other forms like the director and shareholder identity documents
Meeting legal requirements
Business owners setting up a company in Uganda must meet all legal requirements outlined in the Companies Act. It includes obtaining a tax identification number (TIN) from the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and registering for Value Added Tax (VAT) if the company expects to generate an annual turnover of over UGX 50 million. Specific businesses might also need relevant permits and licenses from the government and local authorities.
Understanding labor laws
Business owners must comply with Ugandan labor laws to ensure a safe working environment for their employees. The Employment Act outlines the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees in Uganda and governs labor-related issues such as working hours and minimum wage.
Business owners can start a business in Uganda once they have met all the legal and regulatory requirements to do business in Uganda. The Economic and Commercial Section at the U.S. Mission in Kampala, Uganda, offers several commercial services to help U.S. firms get started in the country. Entrepreneurs also have the option to join local business associations to connect with other entrepreneurs and stay updated with the latest laws and requirements to do business in Uganda.
Types of Business Structures in Uganda
Businesses can take on different structures in Uganda based on legal, tax, regulatory, and commercial requirements. The types of legal structures available for company registration in Uganda are:
- Companies: Companies in Uganda fall into two categories: private and public. Up to 100 shareholders are allowed for private limited companies, with the liability of each member limited to their shareholding.
- Public limited companies also have limited liability but can offer their shares to the general public. Companies in Uganda offer limited liability protection to their shareholders and have separate legal standing from their owners.
- Partnerships: Partnerships involve two or more people sharing the profits and losses from a business. Partnership business entities in Uganda can be general or limited. General partnerships involve all partners having unlimited liability. On the other hand, limited partnerships have at least one partner with unlimited liability and another whose liability is limited to their investment in the partnership.
- Sole proprietorship: It is a business structure in which a single person owns the business and is responsible for its operations. A sole proprietorship may be the cheapest and easiest way to start a business in Uganda, but the proprietor will be personally accountable for the business’s debts and obligations.
Company Registration Process
The company registration process in Uganda involves multiple steps, like pre-registration, registration, and post-registration. Every company must fulfill the requirements at each step for successful registration.
- Obtaining a name reservation through the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) portal
- Completing and submitting relevant registration forms to the URSB for approval
- Paying the required registration fee
- Obtaining the certificate of incorporation from the URSB
- Obtaining a tax identification number (TIN) from the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and registering for Value Added Tax (VAT) (for companies generating an annual turnover of over UGX 50 million)
- Registration with the Kampala Capital Council Authority (KCCA), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), as applicable.
- Appointing a board of directors
- Setting up a registered office and postal address
- Filing return of allotment to the registrar of companies (for companies limited by shares)
- Registering company members
- Submitting annual returns
- Holding board/shareholder meetings
- Adopting corporate governance principles
- Ensuring compliance with statutory requirements and obligations
How Much Does it Cost to Incorporate a Company in Uganda?
The cost of incorporating a company in Uganda depends on multiple factors, including:
- Nature and type of company
- Nominal capital
- Registration fees
- Stamp duty
- Legal fees
- Accounting fees
- Professional fees
The registration fee of nominal capital exceeding 5 million is 1% of share capital. The stamp duty is 0.5% of share capital for new companies having a share capital of over 5 million. Registering a certified copy of the memorandum or equivalent for foreign companies will cost $250 and $55 for any other forms. It will cost $10 per copy of the certification.
Are Foreigners in Uganda on Certain Passes Allowed to Start a Business in Uganda?
Foreign nationals in Uganda with certain passes are allowed to start a business there. But they must register a company and follow the procedure for incorporation of a company in Uganda.
Types of work visas in Uganda include:
- Classes A and A2: Reserved for government and diplomatic services employees and government contractors
- Class B: For foreign nationals planning to invest in Uganda’s agricultural industry
- Class C: For foreign nationals planning to invest in the Ugandan mining industry
- Class D: For individuals planning to conduct business or trade in Uganda
- Class E: For manufacturers intending to establish or invest in the manufacturing business in Uganda
- Class F: For working professionals traveling to Uganda to practice their profession
- Classes G1 and G2: For volunteers, missionaries, and foreign nationals working for NGOs.
Government Assistance for Foreign-owned Businesses
The Government of Uganda welcomes foreign direct investments (FDIs) with policies to support foreign investors and business initiatives. The country’s liberal financial system, free-market economy, and consumer market of over 40 million are key drivers of foreign direct investments.
Furthermore, the Ugandan government recognizes and advocates the job creation benefits of FDIs and encourages them to promote the country’s economic growth. The Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) assists investors in registering their businesses, paying fees, applying for licenses, and other tasks through its one-stop online portal.
Uganda has bilateral investment protection treaties with several countries and imposes a 15% withholding tax on interest and dividends from sources in Uganda. Foreign-owned companies can trade on the stock exchange of Uganda upon fulfilling share issuance requirements.
How Can Multiplier Help?
Setting up a company in Uganda demands that business owners and investors comply with the local laws and industry regulations while completing numerous documentation requirements.
You can ease the setup process by partnering with Multiplier.
Our integrated SaaS-based platform offers the infrastructure to start a business in Uganda and attract talent without establishing a subsidiary. Experts at Multiplier can help streamline payroll management, ESOPs for startups, employment contract generation, contingent workforce management, and more seamlessly and at affordable costs.