When it comes to poverty in Uganda, we should look at the numbers and listen to the words of Mahatma Gandhi.
But, first, some good and bad news. Uganda’s poverty rate has decreased, and is expected to do so for the foreseeable future. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the actual number of people in poverty, particularly with the huge projections of population growth the country is experiencing, will mean a tsunami of people that will overwhelm all the gains.
For example, in 2000, the poverty rate was 33.8 per cent of an estimated 22.4 million people. That means about 7,500,000 million Ugandans were living below the poverty line.
In 2009, the poverty rate dropped to 24.5 per cent with a population of 30.66 million, meaning there was no improvement – none! And total number living below the poverty line stuck at 7.5 million people.
Some might see that as a victory. But it will be a short-lived ‘victory’ unless the population rate declines. Even if the poverty level drops to 20 per cent – a laudable, though unlikely task, if those in the world who judge such things are correct – here’s what Uganda will look like in the next 10, 20, 30 years.
At the present rate – and there’s no indication that the population rate will decline. Here’s the Uganda that you will see: In 2024, a mere 10 years from now, Uganda’s population will be 50.2 million. At a 20 per cent poverty level, that’s more than 10 million living in poverty. An increase of 2.5 million from what we have now. In 2034, there’ll be 68.8 million Ugandans with 13.8 million living in poverty. In 2044, 94.3 million Ugandans with almost 19 million in poverty.
You can see the trend. And now, here’s what the numbers don’t show, what they even hide.
The middle class might be growing and others prospering. But what about education? Uganda can barely educate those it has now. What about healthcare? Uganda has trouble taking care of its own now. What about jobs? Youth unemployment is at 70 per cent or more, and rising.
Oh, and as for poverty? Here are some words hidden by those numbers: Hunger. Children dying. Generations without future. Worse, generations without hope.
Again, the middle class will grow; there will be those who prosper. But at what cost?
“Poverty is the worst kind of violence,” Gandhi had said.
If Uganda does not stem population growth, it cannot stop the growing tide of people living – and suffering and dying – in poverty.
Control population growth, and you can control – perhaps even cure – poverty.
If not, the violence will grow.
The issue: High population.
Our view: “Poverty is the worst kind of violence,” Gandhi had said. If Uganda does not stem population growth, it cannot stop the growing tide of people living – and suffering and dying – in poverty.