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 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 17:12 GMT
Uganda factory profits from US markets
Woman making shorts
Thousands of jobs have been created in Uganda

Uganda is one of the African countries benefiting from the United States African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), intended to ease access to lucrative US markets.

It exports agricultural produce, leather goods and has just started exporting clothes to the United States.

Agoa is the biggest opportunity for Africa since independence

President Yoweri Museveni
Several textile factories have set up creating thousands of jobs in a country where few job opportunities exist.

The Sri Lankan-owned Tristar textile factory in Kampala employs over 1,000 girls drawn from every corner of Uganda.

Each day they produce 4,000 pairs of shorts for export to the United States.

This factory would not have been set up if it had not been for the removal of American tariffs on textiles.

Free accommodation

For Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, who is keen to see the country industrialise, the importance of Agoa cannot be overstated:

"Agoa is the biggest opportunity for Africa since independence. That's not a small statement. This one is a chance to develop.

"Let anyone who claims to be speaking about public affairs know that the future belongs to industrialisation, to modernisation. Not to maintaining this backward raw material economy which we have been having here," he told the BBC.

Women folding shorts
The Tristar factory makes 4,000 pairs of shorts every day

Job opportunities in Uganda are scarce, so when offers of training and employment are announced there is no shortage of candidates.

Grace Chalimo left her home in Kapchorwa, in the east of the country, and headed for Kampala to work in the Tristar factory.

She receives free accommodation and food and while she earns as little as 20 US cents an hour, Grace now finds herself the breadwinner in the family: "My father passed away and I have two sisters. Now they are schooling.

"When I get money from here, the little money I send back to Kapchorwa to help my sisters bring them up. But yet that money is little. It can't help all of them," she said.

And even though the pay packets are small, jobs are being created.

Now, Uganda needs to transform its economy from one that has been reliant on donor funding.

As a Ugandan official put it: "Reliance on aid money is like having Uganda's economy in hospital on a drip. And Agoa is a chance to get off that drip and see the country trade its way out of poverty."

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15 Jan 03 | Business
06 Dec 02 | Business
11 Jan 03 | Country profiles
20 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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