South Africa and Uganda sign agreement on essential oils


The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, welcomed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on science, technology and innovation cooperation in essential oils between the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) and the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The signing followed a review of the original 2011 partnership agreement.

The new MoU was signed on the sidelines of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni's state visit to South Africa on 28 February.  The visit was aimed at strengthening political and economic relations between the two countries.

President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted President Museveni at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, and the two countries concluded a number of MoUs on various matters.

The partnership agreement signed between the UIRI and the CSIR, an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation, builds on the 2011 partnership agreement entered into following a study that found the Ugandan tropical climate and fertile land favourable for essential oil crops.

"These factors showed the potential for the creation of a lucrative essential oils industry in Uganda.  And the CSIR has a track record of about two decades in essential oil production and the development of related technology," said Minister Nzimande.

The project began with a pilot study of five essential oil crops in Uganda, funded by the UIRI, involving a number of farmers in the planting of the variants.  The CSIR worked with the UIRI, providing technical advice and quality assessments of the crops and oil production until the project was closed.  All five essential oils variants used in the pilot were found to be of high quality by an independent South African authority.

The Department of Science and Innovation, through the CSIR, also supported the development of a blueprint for establishing a sustainable essential oils industry in Uganda.  The blueprint sets out the contribution the industry could make to the Ugandan economy, and the extent to which it could improve the low employment rate of women and youth and help to eradicate poverty.  Uganda has the potential to become one of the biggest exports of essential oils in the world.

The South African Department of Trade, Industry and Competition engaged the Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC), which indicated interest in co-funding the essential oils project with their Ugandan counterpart.  On 26 February 2023, the UIRI gave the IDC a business proposal developed by Ugandan entrepreneurs for consideration.

Given the plan to scale up the essential oils project, a decision was made to review the 2011 MoU between the CSIR and UIRI.  The new MoU now includes elements related to commercialisation, industrialisation and the sharing of intellectual property, as well as a non-disclosure agreement.

Minister Nzimande said that the MoU holds many benefits for South African organisations, including technology development and sharing, a partnership between community members who are working in the essential oils sector, and the sharing of infrastructure.

"Besides the potential of the project to contribute to the GDP of Uganda, small to medium-sized entrepreneurs from the two countries can work together in the exporting of essential oils and by-products," said the Minster.  

Please contact Taslima Viljoen at 082 990 1685 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Thabang Setlhare at 072 659 9690 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have questions.

Issued by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.

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