The African landlocked country has transformed its economic and social structure from a troubled past to a relatively stable present, heading towards prosperity in the future.
History and Geography
Uganda is located in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa and lies astride the Equator. It is bordered by Kenya in the East, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the South and Sudan in the North. Uganda occupies a fertile plateau where the River Nile originates and the largest fresh water lake of Africa, Lake Victoria, is located. Mountains mark the limits of the plateau region. Forests and woodlands take up about one third of the land area. About a quarter of the land is arable. The climate is tropical and generally rainy. During the rainy season the weather is cool and overcast.
Uganda is one of the last parts of Africa to be reached by outsiders. Arabs came first bringing Islam to the region during the first half of the 19th century. Four kingdoms were spread that time in Buganda, Ankole, Toro and Bunyoro. The second half of the century witnessed the arrival of the British colonialisation which started with the two explorers Speke, in 1862, and Stanley, in 1875. The British ruling continued until 1962 when Uganda gained independence. However, the foreign influence remained visible until 1979 before the militant government led by Idi Amin was removed and the Uganda National Liberation Front formed an interim government with Yusuf Lule as President and Jeremiah Lucas Opira as the Secretary General of the UNLF.
Uganda was one of the last countries in Africa to be reached by outsiders in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, the country passed through rapid political and economic changes.
In May 1980, a Ugandan general, Tito Okello, organised a coup which brought Obote back into power after he was removed by Amin in 1971. However, Yoweri Museveni, the current president of Uganda who was the defense minister in the interim government, took over the country in 1986. Five years later the National Resistance Army (NRA) was formed. Several restructuring reforms were implemented since Museveni came to power. One remarkable change was the constitution of 1995 which limits executive power to the National Resistance Movement, the party emerging from Museveni’s NRA. This constitution has been widely criticised by the West since it portrays the one-party rule. Museveni was re-elected as president in February 2016.
As a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) since 1974, the Republic of Uganda has shown remarkable economic and social progress. For some time, the country was among the 15 fastest growing economies in the world. During the past few years, however, the country experienced slowdown of the GDP growth from average of 7 per cent to 5 per cent. Due to ascending rate of population increase, the growth in per capita GDP also slowed from 3.6 per cent to 2 per cent. According to the World Bank, a number of other reasons contributed to this status in 2015 particularly. These includes preparation for the national election, a slowing and volatile global economy, and the subsequent declining oil and commodity prices resulting from slower growth in two large economies, China and Brazil.
|Population||39,032,383 Units (2015)|
|Area||199,650 Sq. km|
|Major Language (s)||English & Swahili|
|Major Religion (s)||Islam, Christianity|
|Life Expectancy||Male: 56.74 years ; Female:60.28 years|
|Currency||Years Ugandan Shilling (UGX)|
|Literacy rate||Youth 87.00%, Adults 73.81%|
|GDP Per Capita||USD 673.21 (2015)|
Uganda surpassed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target on halving poverty by 2015, and made significant progress in reducing the population that suffers from hunger, promoting gender equality and empowering women.
However, the outlook of Uganda’s economy is positive since many of those reasons are temporary and their effects are either gone or expected to go soon. Investment in infrastructure and capacity building is what the government plans to attract so that the country’s economy will pick up. In fact, just recently, projects worth over USD 7 billion were unveiled in August. The major project which is taking the biggest share of this fund is the development of an Information Communication Technology park in Uganda. It is expected to create thousands of job opportunities when completed. With these and other projects, the economy of Uganda is expected to grow at 5.8 per cent this year and surpassing 6 per cent thereafter.
Culture and Traditions
People in Uganda belong to many ethnic groups, and this has shaped the cultural diversity in the country. Buganda is the largest group who reside in the Kampala region. Other groups in the same region are Ankole, Toro, Banyoro and Basoga. To the east and north are groups of Nilotic/Cushitic origin, including the Teso, Karimojong, Acholi and Lango. Ugandans speak more than 30 different African languages, but the official languages are English and Swahili. In Uganda, culture and traditions are expressed through a wide range of arts and crafts made from wood, papyrus reeds and local materials. These include blacksmith implements, beaded jewellery, wood carvings and batiks. There are several cultural sites in the Uganda that attract both locals and foreign travellers including Kasubi Tombs, The Sezibwa Falls and Namugongo Shrine.
Belonging to many ethnic groups, Ugandans speak over 30 different African languages. English and Swahili are the country’s official languages. Their traditional clothes are as diversified as their ethnicities.
Like in many African countries, dance is an important part of the culture in Uganda. Different groups have their own dances which they practice during religious ceremonies and special occasions. Kiganda is the most widely recognised Ugandan dance where the performers move the lower part of their body to a drum-beat. Tamenhaibunga is another dance that is practiced in the eastern region, Basoga in particular expresses the importance of love and friendship. Respect between the different tribes of each other’s culture and religious beliefs is what makes over 39 million people live together in peace and harmony—a case which is rarely found in other African countries which suffer from tribal conflicts.
The traditional clothes in Uganda are diversified based on the different regions. Although new generations dress in modern fashion brought by colonialisation, people dress in traditional clothes during religious and other national occasions. The most popular for women and men is Gomesi and Kanzu respectively. These garments include the double piece clothes to cover the upper and lower body parts. The Gomesi is basically a floor-length, brightly colored cloth dress with a square neckline and short, puffed sleeves. The dress is tied with a sash placed below the waist over the hips. The kanzu is an ankle or floor-length white or cream-coloured robe worn by men in Uganda and some other African countries.
The system of education in Uganda has a structure of seven years of primary education, six years of secondary education (divided into four years of lower secondary and two years of upper secondary school), and three to five years of post-secondary education. The present system has existed since the early 1960s. Enrolment rate in primary education under the ruling of President Museveni increased five folds from nearly 2 million in 1986 to almost 10 million students in 2015. Only around 12 per cent of those students enroll in the secondary education and very few make it to graduate and postgraduate education. Recently, the government has put special focus on developing the education system in Uganda. Many Ugandans have received degrees from universities in other OIC member countries such as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.
A report published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) predicted that Uganda will have a 100% renewable energy by 2050. The project lists facts about the current situation as well as the future prospects. What will help Uganda achieve this goal is that the country is endowed with abundant renewable energy potential from sources such as biomass, water, wind and the sun. This potential is not sufficiently utilised, however. The provision of sustainable energy solutions in Uganda is crucial for alleviating poverty, strengthening the country’s economy and protecting the environment.
The Renewable Energy Policy which was approved in 2007 to increase the use of modern renewable energy to reach 61 per cent of the total energy consumption by the year 2017.
The majority of Ugandans use biomass (wood/ charcoal and agricultural residue) which accounts for 93 per cent of the total consumption. This is due to the low capacity to generate electricity and the high tariff. Electric power is currently generated from Nalubaale, Bujagali, Kilembe, Mpanga, Nyangaki, Bugoye hydropower stations. The government in Uganda estimates the country’s possession of an estimated hydropower potential of over 4,500MW, biomass co-generation of 1,650 MW, geothermal of 450MW, peat power of 800MW, high solar power and fossil fuel thermal potential as well as a high nuclear energy potential. Many projects using solar panels in Children around a laptop in school urban and rural areas are being implemented.
Wildlife and Tourism
In 1909, Sir Winston Churchill called Uganda “The Pearl of Africa” as he was inspired by his impression of the country as an example of magnificence in its “variety of form and color” and its “profusion of brilliant life.” Uganda is home to largest number of primates including mountain gorillas, one of the rare animal species in the world. The Rwenzori Mountains are the most beautiful snowcapped mountain range in Africa. In Uganda, there is over 1000 species of birds to watch—several of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. These sceneries and others are part of the national parks in Uganda including Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kibale National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
This gives the tourism sector great potential and the government has been utilising to boost the number of arrivals and generate revenue. In 2013, international tourism receipts were almost 66 per cent of the total exports. More than 1.2 million tourists visited the country in the same year which is four fold the number ten years earlier. Another positive remark on the contribution of tourism to Uganda’s economy is the fact that receipts (USD 1.2 billion) are more than twice expenditures (USD 592 million). The government initiated Uganda Tourist Board to promote and popularise Uganda as a viable holiday destination both locally and internationally. With this, the country expects to increase the contribution of tourism earnings and GDP, improve Uganda’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination, and increase Uganda’s share of the African and world tourism markets.