Contents - Previous - Next

This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

6 Uganda

Recent economic history
Investment for the future
The R&D institutions
The scientific and technical faculties of the university


The last of the countries whose undertakings in science and technology were studied is Uganda. With a population of nearly 18 million, Uganda is approximately the same size as Ghana; with an average yearly per capita income of approximately US$200, Uganda is on approximately the same level as Tanzania. Even more than both these countries, Uganda has suffered during the 1980s: the economy that has emerged from this period of hardship is one that is only just beginning to function again.

Our purposes in this chapter are, first, to describe briefly Uganda's recent economic history, up to and including its adoption of restoration programmes under the guidance of the IMF and World Bank. The description will be backed by macro-economic statistics, drawn almost entirely from published sources. The nature of the restoration programme will be described, as will Uganda's responses, at the overall level of the economy.

Secondly, we shall report the results of our survey of institutions active in the realms of science and technology. Our own survey covered five institutions: one located in the agricultural sector, one in the industrial, one on the boundary of the two sectors, and two in education and planning. The data that we collected were in part quantitative- relating to the budges and personnel of the institutions - and in part qualitative relating to their aims, resources, conduct, accomplishments and impediments. In addition, we shall draw upon whatever corroborating material we can; although it must be admitted that both our material and that of others is scanty.

Thirdly, after the last of the case studies will come a short summary, whose purpose is solely to record our general impressions of Uganda's recent progress on advancing science and technology, and its potential for still further advance. This summary will be discursive; quantitative analyses will be left for Part III, where the data from Uganda, both quantitative and qualitative, will be added to those from the other three countries and subjected to systematic study.

Recent economic history

At the time of its independence, in 1962, Uganda contained approximately 8 million inhabitants, each of whom enjoyed an income per capita of a little less than US$200, giving them on that crude measure approximately the same standard of living as the inhabitants of Kenya and Tanzania, their two neighbours; and approximately one half of that of each Ghanaian. National income in that year of promise was about USh160 billion, expressed in constant prices of 1987.

Since then, the Ugandan economy has fluctuated widely. GDP rose in 1971 to a height of USh208 billion (at 1987 prices - see Table 6.1), fell to a low of USh152 billion in 1980: the fall from the peak of 1971 to the trough of 1980 was approximately 25 per cent. The subsequent rise has been slightly higher, to an estimated USh300 billion in the latest year.

Had the population of Uganda remained constant, income per capita would have followed the same path; but from the initial population of approximately 8 million the number of Ugandans has more than doubled to the present total of a little less than 18 million (see Table 6.2). Income per capita, again expressed in constant prices of 1987, declined from the peak of a little over USh20,000 in 1971 to the minimum of USh12,000 in 1980. In that awful decade, the Ugandans' standard of living, as measured by GDP per capita, fell by 40 per cent. Since then, although the economy has started to recover in both absolute terms and in terms of income per capita, the current figure is still below that attained at the time of independence.

That the economy of Uganda should have been in eclipse during the 1980s is quite understandable, when one recalls the military incursion into Tanzania, occurring just before the decade began, and the subsequent civil unrest within Uganda itself. By 1982, the foreign adventure had terminated, and Uganda was in a position to receive US$70 million from the World Bank as the first of its loans under the Economic Recovery programme. A second loan was advanced by the World Bank in 1984 in the amount of US$50 million. The state of the Ugandan economy in the early 1980s was so fragile that the Economic Recovery loans were at their best stabilizing; they helped solely to prevent a further deterioration. It was only towards 1990, with the arrival of the third Economic Recovery loan from the World Bank, that Uganda was able to contemplate economic advance. The sum of money, US$65 million, was no larger than the previous amounts, but the economy was in a better position to take advantage of it.

Table 6.1 Uganda: GDP (at market prices) 1969-1991

Year GDP (billions current USh) GDP deflator (1987=100) GDP (billions USh at constant 1987 prices) Exchange rate (annual average conversion factor, USh per $US) GDP (billions current US dollars)
1969 0.08 0.04 193.1 0.050 1.6
1970 0.10 0.05 195.6 0.050 2.0
1971 0.11 0.05 208.2 0.050 2.2
1972 0.11 0.05 205.9 0.050 2.2
1973 0.13 0.07 199.8 0.060 2.2
1974 0.16 0.08 202.9 0.070 2.3
1975 0.23 0.12 192.1 0.090 2.5
1976 0.27 0.14 197.1 0.100 2.7
1977 0.54 0.27 200.1 0.170 3.2
1978 0.59 0.32 186.8 0.230 2.6
1979 0.88 0.55 159.2 0.400 2.2
1980 1.26 1.2 151.6 1.00 1.3
1981 2.30 1.5 163.0 2.00 1.2
1982 3.32 2.1 182.1 2.00 1.7
1983 5.01 2.9 206.5 3.00 1.7
1984 10.5 4.9 216.4 4.00 2.1
1985 26.5 12.6 213.2 11.00 2.4
1986 61.9 29.9 209.6 16.00 3.9
1987 220 100.0 222.5 51.00 4.3
1988 613 260.8 237.7 250.8 2.5
1989 1,153 455.8 256.4 396.1 2.9
1990 1,560 588.9 270.2 570.1 2.7
1991 2,158 795.7 281.0 832.5 2.6
1992 n.a. n.a. 286.0 n.a. n.a
1993 n.a. n.a. 306.1 n.a. n.a

1969-1991: World Bank, World Tables 1991, 1993 (figures for the GDP Deflator for the period 1969-1980 are calculated by dividing GDP at current prices by GDP at constant 1987 prices)
1992, 1993: Fitzgerald, 1993

Table 6.2 Uganda: GDP per capita 1969-1991

Year Population (millions) GDP per capita (thousand USh at constant 1987 prices)a GDP per capita (current US dollars) Average rate of growth of GDP (% p.a.)
1969 9.4 21 180  
1970 9.8 20 190 1.3
1971 10.1 21 200 6.4
1972 10.4 20 210 -1.1
1973 10.7 19 210 -3.0
1974 10.9 19 220 1.6
1975 11.2 17 220 -5.3
1976 11.5 17 270 2.6
1977 11.9 17 280 1.5
1978 12.2 16 280 -6.6
1979 12.5 13 290 -14.8
1980 12.8 12 280 -4.8
1981 13.1 13 220 7.5
1982 13.3 14 240 11.7
1983 13.6 15 120 11.8
1984 13.9 16 170 4.8
1985 14.1 15 170 -15
1986 14.5 14 200 -1.7
1987 14.8 15 240 6.2
1988 15.3 16 240 6.8
1989 15.8 16 210 7.9
1990 16.3 17 180 5.4
1991 16.9 17 170 4.0
1992 17.4 16 n.a. 1.8
1993 17.8 17 n.a. 7.0

a: GDP per capita calculated by dividing GDP at constant Ugandan shillings (Table 6.1, column 3) by population.

Although its command over the economy in 1988 was quite meagre, the Ugandan government was in a better position than it had been in the immediate past to exert some influence. Realizing this, the World Bank imposed conditions upon the granting of the Economic Recovery loan. These conditions were necessarily less severe than those imposed upon countries with stable regimes, but they still included typical pledges: a reduction in government deficit, preferably by a reduction in government expenditures; a bringing of the exchange rate into alignment with the rate existing in the parallel markets; reduction of government involvement in industry and trade; and a freeing of prices, particularly those received by farmers.

In the three previous countries we have studied, the civil service of each has been sufficiently numerous and skilled to be able to plan for the meeting of the World Bank's conditions. In Uganda, such governmental resources did not exist, and could be provided only by expatriates. The Ugandan government has welcomed such people, who have augmented the staff of the Economic Planning Commission and organized its work. As a result, the attainment of the conditions imposed by the World Bank, a foreign institution, is largely in the hands of another group of foreigners. One need not doubt the objective of each of these two groups, which is to improve the performance of the Ugandan economy; but it does seem rather strange that one foreign group should be setting the standards of performance, and a second foreign group ensuring that those standards are met.

The movements in the overall level of income, and in the average received by each citizen, disguise considerable changes in the relative share of each of the sectors of the economy. In 1963, the first year for which data on shares are available, agriculture contributed 53 per cent of GDP, industry 13 per cent and services 34 per cent. Seventeen years later, in 1980 when the economy was at its lowest point (see Table 6.3), the share of agriculture had increased to 72 per cent, and the shares of industry and services had fallen to 5 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. By now both industry and services have recovered somewhat, to 12 per cent and 37 per cent of total GDP; but their share of industry is no higher that it was 30 years before. The share of services is higher than it was in 1963, but much if not all of the increase is represented by military expenditures, which still consume over one-fifth of the government's Recurrent Budget (see Table 6.4).

Contents - Previous - Next