The poverty rate in Uganda was cut by nearly two-thirds between 2006 and 2013, representing one of the most dramatic quality-of-life improvements in all of sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report by the World Bank.
The Bank’s “Uganda Poverty Assessment 2016” shows that fewer than one-fifth of Ugandans—19.6 percent—were in poverty in 2013, compared to 31.1 percent seven years prior. The report credits agriculture—the “backbone of Uganda’s economy”—for the good news, attributing 79 percent of poverty reduction to farming.
“The increase in income derived from agriculture was mainly due to favorable prices and weather,” the report said. Analysts maintain that good infrastructure and trade policies and a better balance between supply and demand created a climate for the higher prices that fueled an agricultural boon.
The World Bank also found that the end of violence in northern Uganda contributed to poverty’s decline by allowing farmers to plant, grow and market their crops without interruption. Meanwhile, migration from rural to urban areas also helped reduce poverty. The country’s urban population increased by 3.5 percent during the seven-year assessment period.
Although extreme poverty remains a concern for Uganda, the numbers are encouraging for that demographic as well. Those living on less than $1.90 USD a day dropped from 53.2 percent in 2006 to 34.6 percent in 2013, besting the regional average.
Poverty reduction has long been a key component of President Yoweri Museveni’s blueprint for Uganda’s advancement. His 2040 Vision program imagines a mostly middle-class citizenry, with most people living in urban areas with smaller families and reliable income from nonagricultural sources.
“To make this happen,” says the World Bank report, “effective public investment in services such as education, health, agricultural extension, and safety nets will be crucial.”
If poverty reduction is to continue, the report says, Uganda must increase spending on social security, reduce fertility rates even further, expand basic services like electricity and water into underserved areas, and resolve unpreparedness and absenteeism among teachers and health workers in schools.