Hon. David Bahati (Minister of State for Planning, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development- fourth from left) and officials from the National Planning Authority, United Nations Development Programme and National Youth Council during the launch of the HDR report in Uganda


A global Human Development Report launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that while inequalities are reducing globally with more people getting out of poverty, new dimensions of inequalities are opening up around education, technology and climate change, pushing the wealthiest ahead, undermining further progress and making it harder for those left behind to catch up.

Titled ‘Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century’, the Human Development Report 2019 measures countries’ socioeconomic progress. In Uganda, the report was launched on December 20, 2019 by David Bahati, the state minister for Planning, at the Golf Course hotel at a function attended by government officials, development partners, heads of UN agencies, civil society, the private sector and the academia.

“This is the new face of inequality,” said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “And, as this Human Development Report sets out, inequality is not beyond solutions.”

The report warns that climate change will affect the poor and widen existing inequalities. “Climate change will hurt human development in many ways beyond crop failures and natural disasters. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause an additional 250,000 deaths a year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. Hundreds of millions more people could be exposed to deadly heat by 2050, and the geographical range for disease vectors such as mosquitoes that transmit malaria or dengue will likely shift and expand.”


In regard to technology, the report notes that, “developing countries have 67% mobile phone subscription per 100 inhabitants, half the number in very high developed countries. For access to broadband, low human development countries have less than 1 subscription per 100 inhabitants, compared with 28 per 100 inhabitants in very high human development countries.”

These inequalities extend to essential services such as education and health, “Some 42 percent of adults in low human development countries have primary education compared with 94 percent in very high human development countries.” Similarly, “Only 3.2 percent of adults in low human development countries have a tertiary education compared with 29% in developed countries.”

The report also shows that in most cases, inequality begins before birth, and may be passed across generations. To that end, it recommends that measures to address inequalities must start before birth, to education, to the labour market and retirement.

In agreement with the report findings, Ms. Elsie Attafuah, the Resident Representative UNDP Uganda, said, “What is clear is that inequalities, once they exist among people, regions and several divides, tend to be intergenerational and extremely difficult to break. The poor have higher chances of remaining poor. Once ill-educated, with poor health standards, the offspring and their descendants will most likely follow the same path.”

The report gives a message of hope, though; that inequalities can be addressed if action is taken now before imbalances in economic power become entrenched.

L-R: Hon. David Bahati (Minister of State for Planning, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development), Ms. Elsie G. Attafuah (Resident Representative, UNDP Uganda), H.E. Elin Østebø Johansen - Ambassador of Norway share a light a moment after the launch of the HDR report



According to the report, Africa has experienced one of the most significant improvements in human development as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). Between 1990 and 2018, life expectancy increased by more than 11 years.

For the first time, in 2019, an African country – Seychelles – has moved into the very high human development group. Four countries – Botswana, Gabon, Mauritius and South Africa – are also now in the high human development group, while 12 countries – Angola, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are in the medium human development group. While poverty rates have declined across the continent, progress has been uneven. If current trends continue, the report predicts that nearly nine out of 10 people in extreme poverty – more than 300 million – will be in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. And among countries that are off track to achieve the SDGs by 2030, most are in Africa. South Africa experiences the highest rate of income inequality in the world with over half the country’s income held by the richest 10 percent.

But there are encouraging signs. Burkina Faso had the region’s largest decline in income inequality, with the bottom 40 percent of the population growing almost twice as fast as the average. Income inequality also shrank in Eswatini (Swaziland), Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Lesotho, Mali and Namibia.

Despite improved gender parity in education, the report notes that African women and girls continue to face deeply entrenched challenges to their human development progress. The continent has the world’s highest incidence of early marriage and adolescent childbirth, with 36 percent of women being married before their 18th birthday.


The report puts Uganda’s HDI value for 2018 at 0.528— which places it in the low human development category—positioning it at 159 out of 189 countries. The rank is shared with Tanzania. Between 1990 and 2018, Uganda’s HDI value increased from 0.312 to 0.528, an increase of 69.1 percent.

Uganda’s 2018 HDI of 0.528 is above the average of 0.507 for countries in the low human development group and below the average of 0.541 for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. From Sub-Saharan Africa, countries which are close to Uganda in 2018 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Madagascar and Tanzania, which have HDIs ranked 162 and 159 respectively.

In terms of HDI indicators, between 1990 and 2018, Uganda’s life expectancy at birth increased by 17.1 years, mean years of schooling increased by 3.3 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.6 years. Uganda’s GNI per capita increased by about 131.0 percent between 1990 and 2018.

The publication also reports on the performance of nations in Gender Inequality Index (GII), which reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions –reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity. Reproductive health is measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and attainment in secondary and higher education by each gender while economic activity is measured by the labour market participation rate for women and men.

According to the report, Uganda has a GII value of 0.531, ranking it 127 out of 162 countries in the 2018 index. The report says that 34.3 percent of parliamentary seats in Uganda are held by women, and 27.4 percent of adult women have reached at least a secondary level of education compared to 34.7 percent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 343.0 women die from pregnancy-related causes; and the adolescent birth rate is 118.8 births per 1,000 women of ages 15-19. Female participation in the labour market is 67.2 percent compared to 75.0 for men.

The publication also goes beyond income and reports on the deprivations that people face using a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which identifies deprivations suffered by individuals in health, education and standard of living and 10 indicators. The report shows that 55.1 percent of the Ugandan population are multidimensionally poor while 24.9 percent are vulnerable to multidimensional poverty.

On distribution of resources, the report shows that the top 10% of society own 33% of the resources while the bottom 40% own 16.4 % of the resources.

Dr. Antonio Querido (Acting UN Resident Coordinator and FAO Country Representative) endorses the Human Development Report. Looking on is Ms. Elsie G. Attafuah (Resident Representative, UNDP Uganda) and Ms. Lilian Aber (Chairperson, National Youth Council)
L-R: Hon. David Bahati (Minister of State for Planning, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development) after launching the Human Development Report in Uganda. Looking on is Ms. Elsie G. Attafuah (Resident Representative, UNDP Uganda)

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