The Republic of Uganda (or "Uganda" for short) is a landlocked East African country bordering the Republic of South Sudan to the north, the Republic of Kenya to the east, the Republic of Tanzania to the south, the Republic of Rwanda to the south-west and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.
Although landlocked, the Republic of Uganda is a well-watered country with several rivers and lakes. This includes a huge section of Lake Victoria, Africa's largest natural lake by surface area, the world's largest tropical lake, and the world's second largest fresh water lake by surface area (second only to Lake Superior in North America). In fact, Lake Victoria covers almost the entire south-eastern corner of Uganda. Uganda shares Lake Victoria with Kenya and Tanzania.
The Republic of Uganda has a total land area of about 241,038 squared kilometers (about 43,938 sq km of which is covered by water). Just about 34.3% of this total land area remains arable (land good for farming).
The Republic of Uganda has an estimated population of 48 million people with the population growth rate hovering around 3.31%. Almost half (about 46.5%) of Uganda's population is under the age of 15. The Ages 15 to 64 group makes up about 51.54% of the total population while seniors (ages 65+) form the remain remaining fraction (about 1.96%) of the population.
About 25.6% of Uganda's population lives in urban areas in major cities and towns such as Kampala the capital. Kampala's metropolitan area is home to about 3.5 million people. Other popular cities and towns such as Nansana, Kira, Ssabagabo, Mbarara, Mukono, Njeru, Gulu, Lugazi, Masaka, Kasese, Hoima, Lira, Mityana, Mubende, Entebbe, Jinja, Masindi and Kitgum also contain significant portions of the population.
The remaining fraction of Uganda's population lives in rural and sub-urban communities mostly as poor subsistence farmers who grow crops such as cassava (also known as yuca or manioc), plantain, maize, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, beans, bananas, sorghum, etc. and also rear animals like cattle, goats, sheep, poultry, etc. just to feed themselves and their families. In fact, according to World Bank statistics, Uganda had about 16 million people in the labor force in 2015. About 71% of this number (about 11.4 million people) was into agriculture.
The Republic of Uganda is a culturally rich country with several ethnic and racial groups living peacefully together. The Baganda people, the most populous ethnic group, make up about 16.5% of the total population. Followed by the Banyankole with about 9.6% of the population, the Basoga with about 8.8%, the Bakiga with about 7.1%, the Iteso with 7%, the Langi with about 6.3%, the Bagisu with 4.9%, Acholi with 4.4% and Lugbara with about 3.3% of the total population. Other minor groups together form the remaining fraction of the population.
English and Swahili are the two official languages spoken in Uganda today. Apart from these two, the Republic of Uganda has about forty-three other living languages. For example, Ganda or Luganda (the most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages, is also the language used most often in Kampala the capital), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Arabic, etc. are written and spoken in Uganda today.
The Republic of Uganda is a christian-dominant country with over 80% of the population being Christians. About 45.1% of Uganda's population is Protestant (including Anglican 32.0%, Pentecostal 11.1%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.7%, Baptist .3%). Roman Catholics make up about 39.3% of the total population. Muslims together form just about 13.7% of the total population. Other minor groups make up the remaining fraction of the population.
The Republic of Uganda, just like its neighboring countries, is blessed with abundance of natural resources such as arable land, gold, copper, cobalt, hydropower, limestone and salt. However, despite the abundance of natural and human resources, the Republic of Uganda is crippled by so many political, socio-economic and developmental challenges.
The Republic of Uganda has a literacy rate of 76.5% for the total population with female literacy rate hovering around 70.8%. In other words, just about 70.8% of Uganda's female population above the age 15 can read and write. Although this doesn't sound too bad, the literacy rate falls sharply in some rural and sub-urban communities.
Overpopulation is gradually becoming a major challenge in Uganda today not just because of Uganda's comparatively smaller total land area, but also because of the Uganda's population distribution. The central and southern parts of Uganda (especially along the shores of Lake Victoria and Lake Albert) are highly concentrated while the northern parts of the country remains sparsely populated.
Because of overpopulation, Uganda has started draining some wetlands for agricultural and infrasturactural uses. The reality however is that, every time a wetland is lost, or allowed to degrade, the entire watershed loses value to humans, animals and plants.
According to UNAIDS, more than 1.5 million people were living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda with about 21,000 officially recorded HIV/AIDS-related deaths in 2019. The Republic of Uganda currently has HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate of 6.1% and several children have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Unfortunately, most people living with the virus in Uganda today don't even have access to antiretroviral treatment.
Apart from the deadly HIV/AIDS, diseases such as Malaria, hepatitis A and E, typhoid fever, dengue fever, trypanosomiasis-gambiense (African sleeping sickness), schistosomiasis and rabies continue to destroy several lives in Uganda today.
Water pollution (mostly from agricultural and industrial runoffs), deforestation (the rampant cutting down of trees mostly for timber),overgrazing of farm animals (which leads to land degradation), widespread poaching (which is severely affecting wildlife population in Uganda today. NB. Mountain gorillas are critically endangered), etc. are some of the major environmental issues facing Uganda today.
The fraction of people living in absolute poverty has declined in Uganda. In fact, according to Uganda's government figures, the percentage of people living below the national poverty line declined from 31.1% in 2006 to 19.7% in 2013. This sounds great. However, the major issue here is that, Uganda's poverty estimate data is based on $0.88–$1.04 per person per day as the national poverty line. Meanwhile, the World Bank's international poverty line is $1.90 per day. In other words, a person living on $0.89 a day may be classified "OK" by Uganda's estimate. Meanwhile, any person living on less than $1.90 a day is considered "absolutely poor" by the international poverty line.
Just about 29% of Uganda's total population has access to electricity (or covered by the national grid). Although Kampala and other major cities and towns are somehow covered, just about 17% of rural and sub-urban communities are covered by the national power grid (Uganda Electricity Transmission which is operated and managed by the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Ltd or UETCL).
Although the Republic of Uganda can boast of "political stability", the system of government in Uganda can also be classified as a dictatorial rule. Uganda's current leader, Yoweri Museveni, has been in power since 1986. The dictatorial regime of one of Africa's craziest leaders, Idi AMIN, from 1971 to 1979, was responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 opponents. The guerrilla war and human rights abuses under another crazy leader, Milton Obote from 1980 to 1985, claimed at least another 100,000 human lives. Comparatively, the rule of the current leader, Yoweri MUSEVENI since 1986, has brought relative stability and some economic growth to Uganda.
Just like in most other African countries, rampant corruption and poor governance continues to tear Uganda apart.
This is just a picture of Uganda's over-the-top public administration. "Pearl of Africa" as commonly known, is argued that, not only is it a sleeping giant but also an over-governed and unproductive country.
Uganda has many administrative units. About 50,000 local councils, about 7431 parishes, about 1403 sub-counties, at least 167 counties, about 22 municipalities and about 144 districts (including the newly approved 23 districts). All these structures have at least 10-man executive officials. So, the total number of officials is more than 10 times the number of every administrative unit.
How does this nation manage its servants? Uganda's expenditure is very enormous and abnormal.
A presidential advisor and his deputy earn more than 908.5 million Ugandan shillings, enough to pay 378 primary school teachers a salary of 200,000 Ugandan shillings a month. Private presidential secretary and his assistant earn more than 7.5 billion shillings, enough to support 2,077 primary schools with 800 pupils each, buy drugs for 890 health centers, construct 935 classrooms or pay 37,500 primary school teachers. Every member of Parliament earns at least 15 million shillings a month excluding the allowances. The allowances here include free government vehicles, free fuel and maintenance, etc. In other words, the allowances together are about 3 times the base salary every month.
In 1986, when Uganda's National Resistance Movement came to power, inflation was around 240 percent and it collected just 84 billion in revenue. It worked tirelessly and revived the economy reducing inflation to 0.3 percent. The present government collects 4 trillion in revenue but even sectors like education and health which used to be very vibrant in Uganda, are now in shambles.
Uganda has around 43 million people. According to the ministry of health, there's one doctor to every 300,000 people. Surprisingly, there's about one administrative leader to every 600 Ugandans. Uganda has one of the poorest administrative structures in the entire world. The poor administration can and only provides poor services to its citizens. The government at times makes good policies but unfortunately, it is almost impossible for Uganda to implement some of those policies. In the end, despite the numerous policies on paper, almost nothing good comes out them.
For example, policies like the decentralizatio n policy to help distribute resources evenly, the minimum health package which puts all health centers under a structured organization, the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework which would make the government budget and expenditure known after every 3 years, etc. are examples of some great policies which do exist only on paper and not in reality. Such good and "efficient" policies have been made by the government on paper yet over 600 billion Ugandan shillings go down the drain without any trace almost every single year.
The main reason why such good policies cannot be implemented in Uganda today is due mainly to the government's huge expenditure on its top leaders and the very poor wages paid to its civil servants. This has led to absenteeism, lack of morale, etc. as most of these poor public servants take other jobs besides their regular jobs just to make ends meet.
It is quite sad considering the fact that Uganda has produced some of the brightest people in all of East Africa with prestigious institutions (such as the prestigious Makerere University) but has the lowest productivity in the entire region. The truth of the matter is that Ugandans keep juggling at their available natural resources to the point of stuffing all their leaders to the brim like holiday turkeys.
Another major problem facing Uganda today is the problem of "let's pass new laws". Uganda has this "barbaric" culture of passing laws to solve all problems. This has led to nothing but a big country full of laws but lawlessness. Laws are being passed every single day, yet the ones present are neither effective nor implementable. For example, Uganda has failed miserably at implementing the traffic and productive laws and because the government is beginning to feel the heat from the media, Uganda has passed yet another law to gag the media, limiting public participation in governance and locking up journalists with dissenting views (a clear indication of an extremely failed government. Dictatorship in this case).
Pundits say that, for the country to develop, it needs to reduce its administrative leaders, get more serious in enforcing its policies and laws. The administration is the main cause of the government's huge expenditure, leading to lack of funds in other sectors and nothing but extreme poverty and hunger across the entire country. Uganda as a nation needs to be serious in economic transformation and development by getting its priorities right. The first step of which includes getting rid of this highly bloated but very unproductive system of administration. And don't forget Uganda still houses some of the most corrupt leaders in the world today.
Civil societies, great donors, private sector experts and political analysts have all raised numerous concerns over the governments expenditure on its administration, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Uganda as a country does not only need a budget discipline but also in great need of getting its priorities right and starting from the top seems like the most sensible thing to do especially at this time.
And talking about poor leadership and government, who is in charge? In other words, if we were to be honest, we would come to the realization that, Yoweri Museveni is the number problem facing Uganda today. He has been in power for over 3 decades but what and what are his achievements?
Despite the abundance of natural and human resources, Uganda cannot even achieve a lower middle-income status which is very sad. Unfortunately, however, Museveni has removed the age limit from the constitution which means, he will continue to sit on Uganda's prosperity until he finally dies (and that can be many years to come).
Even Nelson Mandela who suffered so much for his country, didn't hesitate at all when the time came for him to go. Mandela could have remained president for life, but he realized the importance of letting go of power. If Mandela could let go of power, what is preventing Museveni from doing so if not greed?