Mining, agriculture, youth, key to unlocking development of Northern region – Uganda Human Development Report

Dec 17, 2015

Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Affairs, Hon Kirunda Kivejinja (in white suit) standing with Prof Tarsis Kabwegyere (left), Minister in charge of General Duties Office of the Prime Minister. On the right is UNDP Country Director, Ms Almaz Gebru and other partners after uneveiling both the Global and Uganda National Human Development Reports, December 17, 2015(Photo: UNDP Uganda 2015)

Kampala — A more inclusive, and transformative development approach that enhances human capabilities, choices and opportunities will put the post-conflict region of Northern Uganda on a sustainable path to economic and human development, enabling it to catch up with the rest of the country.

According to the Uganda Human Development Report 2015, catalytic investments in agriculture targeting smallholder holders, developing the mining sector, improving infrastructure, addressing land tenure, engaging youth and women productively in economic activity and decision making, enhancing social justice will ensure shared prosperity and well-being for the region and its people. Tourism   – if well developed as a stop gap measure – can potentially also drive development by building supportive infrastructure for the education, health, transport and energy sectors to bridge regional inequalities and vulnerabilities.

The report, titled “Unlocking the development potential of Northern Uganda” launched in Kampala on Thursday December 17, 2015, by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the 8th for Uganda, and the first one to focus on a specific region. The previous one, published in 2007, examined the ways of revitalizing Agriculture – which employs more than 70 percent of the population - to trigger economic and human development in Uganda.

Northern Uganda, which experienced two decades of civil conflict till up to 2006 when peace was restored, has been a priority area for UNDP’s and the UN country team’s humanitarian and development efforts. This has seen the region transition successfully from post-conflict to development.

Presenting the report at a breakfast meeting held at the Imperial Royale Hotel , Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, Executive Director of Makerere University’s Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) said it builds on a lot of research and national interventions in the region, specifically Government of Uganda’s comprehensive Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP I&II).

While this support has seen poverty reduced to 44% in 2012/13 from 61% in 2005/06, and a narrowing of the human development index from 0.402 in 2005/06 to 0.431 in 2012/13 compared to the national average of 0.463, much remains to be done to bring the region at par with the rest of Uganda.

“There is need to re-focus the PRDP efforts, to create an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive and creative lives in line with their assets, aspirations and capabilities. It calls for a shift from business as usual to business unusual,” said Dr. Ssewanyana who led the EPRC team of researchers that prepared the report on behalf of UNDP.

To successfully undertake the proposed reforms, Government and other stakeholders will need to be sensitive and cautious, according to the report. Key among these is respecting traditional and social-cultural norms such as those relating to communal ownership of land, to avoid arousing negative sentiments or potential conflict within communities.

The contribution of the mining sector to socio-economic development, particularly in the Karamoja sub-region, will equally require a strong supportive institutional framework, to trigger a multiplier effect on employment and value addition. Similar reforms and incentives in the livestock and crop sub-sectors will be critical in transitioning the sub-region from traditional to settled livelihood and integrate its pastoral economy with others in the neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and Kenya in order to harness synergies.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Ms. Almaz Gebru, UNDP country Director, said: “Reports of this kind are only as good as the actions that follow. It is my hope that this report will influence policy, and also generate dialogue and debate on the challenges and opportunities of unlocking the development potential of Northern Uganda”.

She added: “Making the right choices at this critical point will not only benefit more than eight million people, but also position the region as a role model for other countries that are transitioning from post-conflict to development”.

Delivering a keynote address on behalf of the Prime Minister, the Minister for East African Affairs, Hon Kirunda Kivejinja, said government recognizes the challenges lying ahead, and is keen to address these with the support of its partners including the UN.

“As the high levels of response to Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) and Karamoja Livelihoods Programme (KALIP) initiatives attested, communities in Northern Uganda now have high expectations for Government to deliver on consolidating peace, security and post conflict reconstruction – to enable households once again resume their economic activities,” the speech read.

“Curbing corruption, expanding social services, addressing local government capacity and dealing with youth unemployment remain top priorities for the Government,” added Mr. Kirunda who is also the third deputy prime minister.

The Global Human Development Report, which was launched alongside the National Report, ranks Uganda in the low human development category at 163 out of 188 countries in the world, with an index (HDI) of 0.483 – below the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 0.518. The HDI is a summary measure of long-term progress in four basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge; a decent standard of living and gender equality. Between 1980 and 2014, Uganda’s HDI increased from 0.285 to 0.483 – a rank shared with Haiti and Rwanda – which is an increase of 69.4 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.56 percent.

This year’s Global report explores the vital link between decent work and human development, and calls for a sustainable development agenda that promotes productive work that is inclusive, equitable, expands social protection; and promotes fair income and security in the work place for workers and their families.

In Uganda’s case, gains have been made in participation of females in the labour market now measuring 75.8 percent compared to 79.2 percent for men. Life expectancy at birth has increased by 9.3 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.6 years while expected years of schooling are also up by 5.8 years.

In addition, per capita income has been rising and measures 123.1 percent while poverty, according to the report, has fallen from 56.4% in 1992/93 to 19.7% in 2012/13.

In terms of gender equality, Uganda ranks 122 out of 155 – with at least 35 percent of Parliamentary seats held by women, 22.9 percent of adult women having attained secondary level education compared to 33.5 percent for males. These important gains are however clouded by other significant challenges that need redress. For example, for every 100,000 live births, 360 women die from pregnancy related causes; and the adolescent birth rate remains high at 126.6 births per 1,000 women of ages 15-19. Investment in pro-poor policies and significant investments in people’s capabilities through a focus on education, nutrition and health, and employment skills would expand access to decent work and provide for sustained progress in Uganda, according to the Report.

“Work, depending on how we treat it, can improve not just the ‘richness of economies’ but the ‘richness of people’s lives’. It can however, also endanger human progress - if people, are not accorded the dignity they deserve,” cautioned Ms. Gebru.

“Both the Global and National Human Development Reports reinforces the key issues that need action as we embark on implementing the second phase of the National Development Plan (NDPII). Ensuring that  inequalities and vulnerabilities – be it relating to decent work or those that are regional specific to Northern Uganda – are addressed comprehensively and with right policies and sensitivities is critical to ensuring that human development improvements are realized  and sustained in the country,” says  Mr. Tony Muhumuza, National Economist at UNDP, in Uganda who presented the findings of the Global Human Development Report at the launch, and also featured as a panelist during the interactive discussion of the two reports.

Other members of the panel included Ms. Mary Ejang, Head of Department Development Studies, Gulu University who shared practical experiences on how similar post-conflict countries were able to achieve big-steps transformation; Ms. Margaret Kakande, Head of Budget Monitoring and Accountability in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development on how local government capacities can be enhanced to complement local government financing for sustainable development. Others were Mr. Zdenek Suda, of USAID and Chair, Northern Uganda Development Partners Group shared insights on the best way for development partners to align their strategies to support the region transition from recovery to sustainable structural socio-economic development. On his part, Mr. Martin Ojara Mapinduzi, Chair Local Council V, Gulu District, highlighted ways that local governments can be involved in unlocking the development of the Northern region, as well as drawing on Gulu’s practical experience of leveraging its cross-border trade links with South Sudan.

Globally, the Human Development Report 2015 titled Rethinking Work for Human Development” was launched officially in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on December 14 by UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn.  In Uganda, the dual launch of the Global and National Human Development Reports was jointly organised in partnership with Government of Uganda, and Makerere University’s Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) which also prepared and authored the report on behalf of UNDP.

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ABOUT THE REPORTS: The Human Development Report is an editorially independent publication of the United Nations Development Programme. For free downloads of the 2015 Human Development Report, plus additional reference materials on its indices and specific regional implications, please visit:  

The Uganda National Human Development Report is available at:

For more information, please contact:

Tony Muhumuza, National Economist, Strategy and Policy Unit, UNDP Uganda. Tel: +256 417 112100 Ext. 146. Cellphone: 0772 289146. Email:

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