Friday October 27 2017

Uganda still dependent country


By Richard Ssempala

Every October 9, Uganda celebrates its independence from the British colonialists. This year, the country celebrated its 55th Independence Day. A lot has been achieved in terms of infrastructure, schools, and hospitals, among others. However, there are still many challenges and issues that are yet to be set right including in the political, social and economic spheres. Uganda got her independence when its population was 7.24m, economy’s per capita income was 62.02 USD and few schools and hospitals had been built.

Since independence, the country has experienced changes in political leadership. At the same time, a number of areas, including health sector, agriculture, education, remain wanting. Equally, the issues of resource distribution and infrastructural development to mention but a few, remain a big challenge. A research by three German professors Robert Kappel, Jann Lay, and Susan Steiner in mid 2000 titled ‘Uganda: No more pro-poor growth?’, found out that the poor in Uganda were no longer benefiting from the continued growth of the economy. Any flashback (lower growth) in key sectors such as agriculture impose a detrimental effect on poverty and vice versa. The reported growth is befitting very few people who are already rich.

This is again backed by the recent Oxfam International report released in March this year that revealed that in the past couple of decades, the richest 10 per cent of Ugandans have seen their incomes grow by 20 per cent (making them own 36 per cent of the country’s wealth) while the poorest 10 per cent take only 2.5 per cent of the national resource. In short, in Uganda, despite the progress in reducing ‘headcount’ poverty, the rich have become richer while the poor are becoming poorer.

Also, although the literate rates have been increasing currently at 74 per cent, more than half (51 per cent) of the population aged six to 24 have never attended school. The above trends demonstrate that there are some crucial issues which have not yet been addressed. Therefore, as we strive to reach lower middle income in the three years, there is a need to address some key issues. For instance, a fundamental policy to address the problem of poor transport system in urban centres. This will act to reduce productivity loss for workers brought in terms of wasted time in traffic jam, fuel loss in traffic congestion, among others.

Also, although the supply of electricity has increased due to construction of more dams, the cost of power is still high and its supply is unreliable. This impedes the growth of industries, especially the small and medium enterprises, yet they at are the key drives of growth.
Richard Ssempala,
Uganda Debt Network