Is SAGE a sustainable programme?

Monday August 26 2019


By Denis Makika Maya

According to 2019 estimates, the population of Uganda is about 45.71 million, up from 33,6 million in 2913. Due to the high fertility rate in the country, the age structure is skewed towards the young generation with 48.47 per cent of Uganda’s population being in the 0-14 year age group. After that, 28.34 per cent of the population of Uganda is in the 25-64 year age group.
And 21.16 per cent of the total population is dominated by the 15-24 year age group while 2.04 per cent is 65 or older.

According to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), the poverty rates have increased by about two percentage points from 19.7 per cent in 202/13 to 21.4 per cent in 2015/16 of the people living below the poverty line. More than 2.1 million children live with older persons as orphans and vulnerable children after losing either one or both parents. This exposes the older population to chronic poverty because of the high dependency syndrome.

Majority of the older persons live in rural areas where poverty is rampant with limited productive capacity, lack of decent shelter, lack of proper healthcare and are often discriminated from service delivery even when they care for a big number of vulnerable children.

According to National Development Plan 2 (NDP), only 3 per cent of Uganda’s population has access to formal social security. Only 2.8 per cent and 2.3 per cent of the working population are covered by the Public Service Pension Scheme (PSPS) and National Social Security Fund (NSSF) respectively. A number of small, private social security schemes managed by groups also exist, but their impact remains dismal.

Given the growing concern of the elderly poverty incidence, the government in conjunction with development partners have exerted efforts to halve it. The duo implemented a comprehensive social protection policy whose key part includes a cash transfer scheme, the “Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment” SAGE, where regular monthly grants of Shs25,000 have been provided to 110,334 beneficiaries according to NDP 2.

This grant is being paid to the country’s senior citizens who are more than 65 years, and 60 years for Karamoja sub-region residents in order to enhance their access to basic services and to start income generating activities. This grant is, however, small scale and relies on development partner funding. Notwithstanding that fact, the grant is poorly coordinated and under resourced, hence the reason for questioning its sustainability.


Amid the upsurge of the challenges facing the grant, government has tried its best given the limited resource envelop to ensure that the older citizens are not denied the basic rights to accessing basic living standard. However, more needs to be done, for example, interlinking between the cash transfer programmes implemented by the government and civil society organisations in order to ensure a greater impact to the elderly.

There is also need to ensure that the social assistance grant for the elderly persons is spread to districts with a bigger number of the elderly individuals in order to achieve the ultimate goal of social inclusiveness and reduced poverty gap.

Lastly, there is need for incremental rise in the grant in order to increase the basket of goods that elderly people could buy.

Denis Makika Maya,