Situation and cooperation

View of Kampala, Uganda

President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in office continuously since 1986, was reconfirmed as president again in early 2016.

In its national development plan (2015) and its Vision 2040 issued in 2013, Uganda's government has set itself extremely ambitious goals. Among other things, it wants to increase per capita income twentyfold by 2040, bringing Uganda to the level of an upper-middle-income country. However, the country's budget funds have so far not been sufficient to implement the reforms needed to make that happen.

Uganda has been considered a "model developing country", but in the past few years some of the government's reform efforts have tailed off. For instance, considerable problems are evident in the area of governance, in particular as regards corruption control. In the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International, Uganda ranked 151st out of the 176 countries evaluated in 2016. The donor community is also keeping a critical eye on the human rights situation in Uganda.

On the positive side, the Uganda Human Rights Commission – an institution supported by the BMZ – is energetically performing its role as a monitoring and complaints body for human rights violations. Moreover, parliament, the highest courts and the supreme audit institution (which is also supported by the BMZ) take their roles seriously and take care to act independently, thus strengthening the principle of the separation of powers. The media and civil society play an active part in the political debate.

Progress on reducing poverty

Growing geraniums on a flower farm in Kampala, Uganda

Uganda's economic and social situation has improved markedly since the early 1990s. The proportion of people living below the national poverty line has been reduced significantly, from 56 per cent in 1992 to about 20 per cent in 2012.

Despite this achievement, many people still live in great poverty, in particular women, people in rural communities and those living in the conflict-ridden north of the country. There, the poverty rate is significantly above the national average. That is why Germany focuses its development cooperation activities primarily on Uganda's northern regions.

More than one third of the people are undernourished. About one fifth have no adequate access to safe drinking water. About 80 per cent of Uganda's people have no electricity. Average life expectancy is just under 60 years. On the current United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), Uganda ranks 162nd out of 189 countries.

Many development achievements have been cancelled out by the effects of the sizeable population growth (3.3 per cent in 2016). Almost half of Uganda's population is under 15 years of age – a vast challenge for the country. Further constraints to development are the weak financial sector, widespread corruption and the lack of infrastructure. The country's natural resources are under threat because of over-intensive use. Deforestation in particular has reached alarming levels.


The HIV infection rate, which, at the beginning of the 1990s, was about 15 per cent of the sexually active population, has been significantly reduced thanks to an extensive prevention programme implemented by the government. According to figures published by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, some 1.4 million people in Uganda are currently infected – nearly seven per cent of all 15-to-49-year-olds. It is estimated that in 2016 some 28,000 people died of AIDS in Uganda. And of the country's children and young people below the age of 18, around 970,000 are AIDS orphans.


Building site in Kampala, Uganda

Economic growth in Uganda is stable, averaging about three to five per cent over the past five years. However, there is a marked gap in prosperity between the North and the more prosperous South.

More than 70 per cent of Ugandans work in agriculture, with the majority of them only practising subsistence farming. Agriculture merely accounts for just under 26 per cent of GDP. Nevertheless, the agricultural sector is the most important foreign exchange earner for the country. The main export has traditionally been coffee, followed by fish from Lake Victoria. Tea, cotton, tobacco, fruit and vegetables are also exported, but only in small quantities. The country is hampered by its landlocked position: for international trade, Uganda needs to ship its goods through the ports of Kenya or Tanzania.

The planned oil extraction in the west of the country could considerably reduce Uganda's dependence on external support. However, the extraction of resources also involves risks: conflicts over the distribution of benefits, increased corruption and environmental degradation. Moreover, the great volatility of oil prices in the past few years makes it very difficult to predict the level of future revenues.

Refugee situation

Since the renewed escalation of violence in South Sudan in mid-2016, Uganda has become the country with by far the largest number of refugees in East Africa. According to figures from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, some 1.3 million people have found refuge in Uganda.

Uganda's government pursues an extremely liberal policy on refugees, which is internationally considered to be exemplary. Refugee status is accorded across the board to refugees from specific countries, including South Sudan; that is, they do not need to apply for asylum individually. They are granted right of residence and the right to work, and they are allowed to move freely throughout the country. In order to enable refugees to provide for themselves to the greatest extent possible, they are given housing in settlements, receive a piece of land and are given tools and seeds. They also have access to basic services such as education and health care.

However, Uganda's host communities are now stretched to breaking point – there is a shortage of available land, food, and municipal infrastructure. All these things are needed if the newcomers are to integrate successfully in economic and social terms. Thus, Ugandan-German development cooperation projects are not only geared towards addressing the current situation. They are also intended to help prevent the emergence of new refugee movements.

Development potential

Street scene in Uganda

Pan-African and East African integration are cornerstones of Uganda's foreign policy. Uganda is considered to be a driving force behind the development of the East African Community (EAC) into a monetary and, eventually, political union.

Uganda regards the common market of the EAC, established in 2010, as a means of increasing sales of its goods within the region. However, this will require further diversification of the country's economy. Exports could be boosted for example by improving the marketing of products such as honey, vanilla and cut flowers. Good opportunities for development exist in the construction industry, which benefits from infrastructure projects, and especially in the services sector (telecommunications, banking, tourism).

Priority areas of German development cooperation

At the government negotiations in October 2016, Germany pledged 74.6 million euros (excluding funding from Germany's special initiatives) to Uganda for the period from 2016 to 2017. The two sides agreed on the following priority areas of cooperation:

  • Agriculture and rural development / food security
  • Renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Water and sanitation (with a focus on refugees and host communities)

In addition, Germany is working through its development cooperation to assist government agencies to comply with human rights standards and to strengthen civil society dialogue. As regards good financial governance, Germany is providing targeted advice to Uganda's supreme audit institution in order to foster accountability and anti-corruption efforts.

As part of its special ONE WORLD – No Hunger initiative, the BMZ is providing support in Uganda to responsible land policies, sustainable fisheries and enhanced potato production and processing. The Ministry has made available 13.9 million euros for this purpose.

And with 11 million euros from its special initiative 'Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees', the BMZ has been supporting the work of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Uganda since 2016. Assistance is also provided through bilateral projects to support refugees from South Sudan and host communities in northern Uganda, with a focus on building municipal capacity in the fields of water and sanitation, education, and employment generation.

At the United Nations Uganda Solidarity Summit in Kampala in June 2017, Germany pledged 50 million euros. During the visit of Development Minister Gerd Müller to Uganda in October 2017, another commitment was made for 10 million euros in order to provide additional support to refugees and host communities.

Agriculture and rural development / food security

Client banking card for microcredits at the FINCA bank in Kampala, Uganda

At the government negotiations in October 2016, Germany and Uganda agreed that agriculture, rural development and food security should become a priority area of their cooperation. The main focus is on enhancing value addition in agricultural production. Germany wants to help boost rural economic growth with a view to bringing about sustained improvements in the food situation. Activities in the agricultural sector also address adaptation to climate change. Programmes focus on northern Uganda and Karamoja, regions that are structurally disadvantaged.

Renewable energies and energy efficiency

Worker at the Bujagali hydro power plant in Uganda

Not least thanks to the activities carried out under Germany's development cooperation programme, Uganda has made considerable progress in the field of power generation and with regard to the development of relevant institutions. Progress on developing the grid has been slower. Only 20 per cent of the people have access to electricity. In rural regions, this rate is as low as ten per cent.

Germany supports Uganda's efforts to make sustainable use of renewable energy sources. Assistance is geared both towards the construction of large-scale hydropower stations and the establishment of small off-grid photovoltaic systems. Local power grids are being expanded in order to improve the electrification of rural areas. The introduction of a prepaid system will help consumers in Uganda better control their power consumption and the related costs.

In order to encourage private investment in the development of renewable energy generation, Germany supports, among other things, development partnerships with the private sector and provides advice to the regulatory authority responsible for defining tariffs. Advice is also offered to business federations to help them build technological knowledge and improve their expertise on quality standards and organisational matters.

Water supply and sanitation

Women in Uganda transporting water canisters on their heads

Germany is advising the Ugandan government and local authorities on the reform of the country's water supply and sanitation sector. In selected municipalities, Germany supports the renewal of obsolete facilities and the expansion of distribution networks in line with needs. Support is being provided to the national water company and local utilities to help them improve their services, operate efficiently and connect more households to the water supply and sanitation systems.

The cooperation programme focuses on providing services for people in the poor northern parts of the country, especially in communities hosting large numbers of refugees. Support is also being provided for training for skilled workers in the water and sanitation sector.

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