It’s now impossible for the poor to live

Women in Lolachat Sub-county, Nabilatuk District in Karamoja Sub-region, which has been pounded by hunger in the recent months. PHOTO/SIMON PETER EMWAMU

What you need to know:

  • The prices from dals to milk, of almost every content are touching the sky. Initially, there was the down in the prices of petrol and diesel. But now gradually, they are also regaining their old status.

According to the World Bank, the war in Ukraine has disrupted the markets and altered global patterns of trade, production, and consumption, in ways that will keep prices at historically high levels through the end of 2024.

Many African countries still rely on revenues from commodity exports. Industrialisation is progressing only slowly. Africa predominantly imports capital goods and even food products from outside the continent. 

Accounting for less than three percent of global trade, Africa has yet to diversify its exports. Moreover, only 17 percent of African exports are intracontinental. In the EU, the comparative share is 68 percent.

The recent crisis in food prices, which has affected thousands of families throughout the developing world, has once again underscored the urgent need for governments to strengthen their safety net systems to ensure the rise in the price of basic commodities does not trigger an increase in poverty rates.

The World Food Programme predicts that in West Africa alone, seven to 10 million additional people could become food insecure due to the war’s implications. Even before the conflict started, the food insecurity predictions for West Africa were worrying. The region is facing a food and nutrition crisis in its third consecutive year, with 33.4 million people expected to be in need of food assistance.

There is a growing consensus that food prices have increased due to fundamental shifts in global supply and demand. A variety of forces contribute to rising food prices: high energy prices, increased income, climate change and the increased production of biofuel. Income and per capita consumption in developing countries has increased; consequently, demand has also risen. Biofuel policies adopted in developed countries also explain the growth in demand.

Finance minister Matia Kasaija says the main causes of the recent increase in commodity prices are external and thus beyond the ability of policymakers in any country to deal with directly. He sees no reason to panic and expects the temporary situation to subside “sooner or later”.

Rise in prices has become a permanent problem in Uganda. The last 2021 general Election was also contested on this issue and it was one of the big reasons for the NRM government’s getting the power. But despite some visible efforts, the government couldn’t have proper check on this problem.
Each and every household in the country is reeling under this problem. It has become impossible for the women to manage kitchen.

The prices from dals to milk, of almost every content are touching the sky. Initially, there was the down in the prices of petrol and diesel. But now gradually, they are also regaining their old status.

But there is one relief that the rates of properties are down. The actual users have great time to purchase the property. But this is an exception. It has become impossible for the poor to live. They are unable to manage two square meals of the day. The condition of the middle class people who work in the unorganized sector is worse. They have to live most of their life in showing off. Income is less and expenditures are very high.

They get involved in the unmatched competition with their counterparts in the organized sections unwillingly. There is the huge difference in the salaries in these two categories. But they have to maintain the same status in the society such us sending their children in the reputed schools of the city by paying huge fees and so on.

Uganda’s annual headline inflation rate as per the finance ministry was 3.7 percent in May, which is moderate compared with other countries. Kenya recorded five percent, and the USA even 8.5 percent. Inflation is indeed a global phenomenon.

Latin America as one of the regions in the world that has best dealt with fluctuating commodity prices, their strategy lies in strengthening of its public policies and crisis response mechanisms.

This, together with the region’s strong growth over the past decade, has kept vulnerable groups from falling below the poverty line. Even so, experts are urging the region to invest more in protecting these vulnerable groups.

The full truth is that African governments must cope with sudden problems they did not cause. And that compounds long-term challenges like global heating, which they did not bring about either.

The government should strengthen it’s safety net systems to prevent rising commodity prices from triggering an increase in poverty.

Rising food prices have a negative effect on all people, regardless of their status. However, the most affected are the poor and unemployed youth because they are unable to afford the basic necessities. In addition, rising commodity prices make it difficult for households with little or no income to mobilise savings.

Samuel Ogwal, The finance secretary National Youth council