In profile: Uganda

Continuing our In profile series, we look at Uganda and its progress towards achieving the SDGs.

Capital: Kampala

Population: c.42 million

Uganda ranks 162 out of 187 in the Human Development Index, and is considered one of the poorest countries in the world – but has also seen a dramatic reduction in poverty over the past two decades or so. In 2014, Uganda was listed as the ninth most successful African country in poverty eradication. While the number of people living in extreme poverty has substantially decreased, from 56% in 1992 to around 25% today, it has been estimated by DFID that at least 63% of the population are either poor or at risk of falling back into poverty. This is particularly true in the north of the country. The overall population of the country continues to grow quickly, doubling every 16 years.

Uganda’s economy continues to grow, through the pace of GDP growth has slowed over recent years – from 7% annually in the 1990s and early 2000s to an average of 4.5% between 2011 and 2016. This has picked up again in the past couple of years, driven by growth in ICT and favourable weather. A large portion of the population are dependent upon subsistence agriculture, and thus weather and climate have a significant effect upon livelihoods and the economy.

The Government of Uganda launched the National Development Plan I in 2010, focusing on primary growth sectors including agriculture, tourism, oil and gas, and ICT. In 2015, the National Development Plan II was launched with the central goal of propelling Uganda to middle-income status by 2020.

Progress towards the SDGs

Uganda currently has a sustainable development goal (SDG) ranking of 125th out of 156 countries though is performing above the regional average score. It has already achieved one of the goals (on climate action), and is anticipated to reach 2030 goals relating to poverty reduction, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production, and partnerships for the goals. Uganda is not predicted to achieve the other goals, though has seen improvements in several of these areas nonetheless.

Uganda’s progress relating to some of the goals tells a complex story. Considering the SDG to ‘end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture’, for example, there are improvements in reducing wasting and stunting in children under five, but less positive prospects for cereal yield and undernourishment across the population.

Development challenges

  • Refugee population

Uganda is the third largest refugee hosting nation in the world, with over one million refugees (primarily from South Sudan). According to DFID, this number is likely to increase – partly because continued conflict and instability in South Sudan and other countries means that refugees are unlikely to be able to return home. Uganda has a very progressive refugee policy – refugees have access to social services, land, employment, and free movement – but more funding is needed to sustain and support both refugees and host communities.

  • Inclusive growth

Uganda’s progress towards poverty elimination is a mixed success. While Uganda surpassed the Millennium Development Goals target of halving poverty by 2015, the GINI index, measuring inequality, puts Uganda at over 40% and increasing. There is also significant vulnerability for falling back into poverty: for every three Ugandans who get out of poverty, two fall back in. This fragility widely impacts Uganda’s development goals, even at times of economic growth.

  • Gender inequality

Women are particularly liable to poverty in Uganda, and this is partly because of their lower social status. This can often mean that women are unable to at independently or autonomously in the community, escape abusive partners, or become educated. The female to male mean years of schooling is poor and is not significantly improving.