Special economic zones in Uganda: An impact analysis

Project Active from to Firms and Trade

As Uganda embarks on an ambitious plan for investing in industrial parks, there are opportunities for the government to target scarce resources towards tackling challenges facing firms in ways that are less financially and politically demanding compared to wide scale reforms. Many countries have used similar spatial policies as a catalyst for economic growth, with successful examples of special economic zones (SEZs) in countries such as China, Malaysia and Mauritius.

However, the benefits of these programmes are not guaranteed. There have also been notable failures in implementing industrial parks, particularly in India, some Latin American countries, and in sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, evaluating the impact of industrial parks on firms is crucial in identifying successes and options for further reform to attract and promote productive investment in Uganda.

We propose to use administrative data collected by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to examine the impact of Industrial Parks in Uganda. By comparing similar firms in and out of these parks, before and after they enter the park, this will allow us to identify the effect of entering an Industrial Park in Uganda on a range of firm outcomes, including exports, employment, and supplier linkages. Moreover, this project will further build on work by Steenbergen and Javorcik (2017) examining the impact of Kigali’s Special Economic Zone.

This analysis will allow us to better understand:

  • What is the impact of Industrial Parks on firm outcomes in Uganda?
  • How does this compare with firms with access to other types of tax holidays?
  • Does private vs public ownership of zones seem to matter?