Withstanding crises and redressing income and gender inequalities key to Uganda’s continued progress, says 2014 Human Development Report

Jul 31, 2014


Kampala, 31 July 2014 — Uganda, like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, needs to intensify efforts to prevent crises and address income and gender inequalities to avoid setting back recent development advances.

According to the global 2014 Human Development Report (HDR), Uganda’s Human Development Index (HDI) is 0.484 and falls in the Low Human Development category consisting of at least 42 other countries.

This index is below the Sub-Saharan Africa average (0.502) and maintains the country’s ranking at 164 out of 187 countries of the world, similar to 2013. The HDI is a summary measure of long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

In Uganda’s case, there has been significant improvement in these three areas despite the lack of movement in ranking over the last two years.  In 1990, Uganda’s HDI stood at 0.306 and was comparable to that of Benin, Central African Republic and Gambia. By 2013, it had improved to 0.484, an increase of 65.0 percent or an average annual increase of about 1.53 percent increased.

According to the report, Uganda’s income growth has been rising due to investment in poverty alleviation. Poverty, according to the report, has fallen from 56.4% in 1992/93 to 19.7% in 2012/13.

However, the report calls for more pro-poor policies and significant investments in people’s capabilities through a focus on education, nutrition and health, and employment skills to expand access to decent work and provide for sustained progress.

“While addressing overall poverty should continue to remain core to our development efforts, we need also to identify and take care of the vulnerable as well as those that are most at risk, especially children, women, the elderly and people with disabilities. Universal access to basic social services, such as health and education, stronger social protection measures, including pensions for the elderly and provision for the unemployed are critical to ensuring greater benefits and resilience”, points out Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Uganda.

Ms Eziakonwa-Onochie, who officially unveiled the report today in Kampala at a breakfast meeting at the Sheraton Hotel, notes that there is enough evidence from China and other countries that shows that it is possible to progress from the low HDI to medium, or even higher, if the right policies and investments are made and properly implemented.

“As we prepare the next phase of both the national and global development agenda, let us consolidate the gains made so far, and use them to propel us to the next development stage while ensuring we leave no one behind,” she says.

While the HDI and the ranking masks the gains that the country has made over time in Human development including key improvements in Life expectancy, mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling and per capita GDP; it also highlights key areas for attention evidenced by the relatively large and rising income and gender inequalities as well as the rising intensity of Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

“The report therefore reinforces the issues that are already known in the country which are informing the development of Second National Development Plan (NDPII). Ensuring that inequalities are addressed within NDPII and other supporting policy and programmatic instruments will be key to ensuring that human development improvements are realized  and sustained in the country,” says Eunice Kamwendo, a.i. Senior Economist at UNDP, in Uganda.

This year’s HDR presents HDI values for 187 countries, and shows Norway leading the global ranking followed by Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the US.

However, according to the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur.

The HDR report also shows that between 2000 and 2013, Sub-Saharan Africa had the second highest rate of progress in the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines achievements in income, health and education. Rwanda and Ethiopia achieved the fastest growth, followed by Angola, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.

“Africa is enjoying higher levels of economic growth and well-being, but insecurity, as well as natural or human-induced disasters, persists in some parts of the region,” said Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa. “Withstanding crises and protecting the most vulnerable, who are the most affected, are key to ensuring development progress is sustainable and inclusive.”

In spite of this progress, Sub-Saharan Africa is the most unequal region in the world, according to UNDP’s Coefficient on Human Inequality.  Around 585 million people, the equivalent of 72 percent of the region’s population, are either living in multidimensional poverty – with overlapping deprivations in education, health and living standards – or at risk of falling back into poverty, the Report shows. These groups often do not experience improvements in their standard of living because they have limited political participation, livelihood options and access to basic social services, and even when they do escape poverty, they can relapse rapidly into precariousness when crises hit. These disparities affect individuals or even entire communities over a lifespan, based on gender, ethnicity, geographic location and other factors.

Noting that vulnerability can accumulate over the course of a lifetime, the Report asserts that policies to maximize people’s future opportunities should pay particular attention to specific periods in life. For instance, such policies would require investing in early childhood services, youth employment and support for older people.

The Report makes the case that preventing shocks and promoting opportunities for all—especially for those most at risk—can effectively help reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience.

“The eradication of poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’—it is also about staying there,” the Administrator of UNDP, Helen Clark, points out in the foreword, adding that the Report’s focus on resilience is highly relevant to current discussions on the post-2015 global development agenda.

Globally, the Human Development Report 2014 titled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” was launched officially in Tokyo Japan on July 24 by UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark and the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.  In Uganda, the launch was jointly organised by the UNDP Country Office in partnership with Makerere University’s Economic Policy and Research Centre (EPRC), a leading think tank in economics and development policy oriented research and policy analysis.

Tony Muhumuza, National Economist, UNDP Uganda, presented the key findings and recommendations of the report, while a panel of four shared their views on the implications of the report to the human development progress in Uganda. These included, African Development Activist, Warren Nyamugasira; Head of Social Protection Secretariat in Uganda, Stephen Kasaija; EPRC Senior Research Fellow, Dr Ibrahim Kasirye, and Tony Muhumuza.


For more information contact:

Tony Muhumuza, National Economist, Strategy and Policy Unit, UNDP Uganda. Tel: +256 417 112100 Ext. 169. Cellphone: 0775 959267. Email: tony.muhumuza@undp.org

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