Monthly Archives: January 2016

We prefer being in the dam, not the swimming pool

By Stephen Twinoburyo

When a frog lives in a bucket and it’s thrown into a swimming pool, it’s easy to convince it that it’s living the best life ever and should forever be grateful.

If it finds other frogs, it’ll be difficult to convince them that they can actually live better in their natural dam nearby but the proprietor is keeping them in the pool so as to harvest fish in the dam – and show other animals that these frogs are living a superb life.

When by a matter of chance, I started looking at Ugandan stats recently, I was horrified to find that much as we have moved from a bucket to a pool, we are doing badly – even in the region.

The graphs below show the number of people living below $1.25 as well as the poverty gap at $1.25.

Poverty Trend

The trend shows a worsening situation – i.e more people living under $1,25 while the rate of reduction of the poverty gap has almost come to a stop.

It appears as if Ugandans have been lied to in various ways and we’ve swallowed everything that has been thrown at us. For instance, along we’ve been told that Universal Primary Education (UPE) was the creation of NRM. This is however a UN project across many countries and Uganda has not managed its part well. UPE is the second goal of the UN Millennium Development Goals that was aimed at “ensuring that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike would be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Of course this target has been missed. According to the Global Competitiveness Report of 2015-16, out of 140 countries, we are number 88 in the primary education enrolment rate and number 113 in the quality of our primary education.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) estimated that 68% of children in Uganda who enrol in primary school are likely to drop out before finishing the prescribed seven years. Last year it was reported that since 1997, the government had not revised the amount of money it paid to educate a child annually, which stood at 7,560 shillings. A 2012 study found that in primary seven, two out of 10 pupils could not read a primary two-level story. This is compounded by the low salaries paid to teachers.

In 2007, Uganda became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce universal secondary education (USE), a very commendable step. At the time, a UN report said Africa had the worst secondary school enrolment rates in the world. Only 34% of secondary school-age children were enrolled in class.

It’s the management of USE that has been our problem.

According to the 2014-15 Global Competitiveness report, our secondary school enrolment rate stood at 27.6% putting us at number 138 out of 144 countries and at number 132 out of 144 in the quality of education.

A year later, the 2015-16 Global Competitiveness report put our secondary school enrolment rate at 26.9%, showing a drop to 138 out of 140 countries (only Mozambique and Chad were worse than us), while the quality of education dropped to 133. Note: Note: only 133 countries were recorded in this section and we were last. On a scale of 1 – 7, with 7 being the best, we scored a 1.

Some of the challenges USE faces are inadequate teaching space and materials, improper teaching infrastructure, a shortage of properly trained or knowledgeable teachers, a poor quality education, low pupil achievement, and inadequate and late disbursement of government funds. Of course there is also corruption and red-tape. As such, standards have fallen. However, it remains an important development if only it can be well managed.

When I was in Uganda recently, I was happy that we no longer in the tiny waters of the bucket and were now in the sparkling blue waters of the pool. Having subsequently looked at the bigger picture, I’m now convinced that the pool is not where we should be.



Posted by on January 26, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


Uganda’s Troubling WEF Stats

By Stephen Twinoburyo

I got up the morning of 22 January 2016 to write about Uganda’s positive development stats because it’s important that we look at the positive strides the country has made over the past years.

I started by looking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) report of 2014-2015. My findings were very depressing. I struggled to find something positive to report about Uganda.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) report of 2014/15, Uganda’s GDP per capita grew from approx US $120 in 1990 to $626.03 in 2013. Of course we are glad that there was growth. If, however, we compare with Angola that grew from approx US $2, 200 to $6, 000 during the same period, we then realise that we have a long way to go. In the same period, we have consistently been about $1, 000 below the Sub-Saharan average.

GDP PPP 1990-2013 Trend

The 2015-16 report actually shows the gap widening:

GDP PPP 1990-2014 Trend

Let me look at the key findings of that report where a total of 144 countries were assessed and ranked. Our overall rank was 122/144 but I’ll delve into some individual findings:

  • In public institutions we were ranked at 115 and we are on a declining trend i.e getting worse. Rwanda is number 1 in Africa followed by Botswana and then South Africa.
  • In ethics and corruption, we were ranked at 131. This is course not surprising. I shudder to imagine how the 13 countries behind us are.
  • In wastefulness of government spending we were ranked at 109. This is also another non-surprising finding.
  • In the burden of government regulation, we were ranked at 42
  • Quality of overall infrastructure: we were ranked at 104 and we are hardly growing.
  • Quality of roads: we were ranked at 105 and the rate of growth is very low. The top 5 countries in Africa in descending order are Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Rwanda and Morocco.

Roads 1

  • Quality of air transport infrastructure: we were ranked at 124. I was actually surprised that there are 20 countries that we beat.
  • In mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions /100, we are ranked at 134 (I found this surprising because I thought we are way ahead of this). We beat Madagascar, Chad, Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi and Myanmar, in that order. Surprisingly Gabon is number 2 in the world, after Hong Kong SAR. Botswana surprisingly is at number 11.
  • In overall health and primary education, we are at number 122, with health alone at 128 and primary education at 105. In the quality of primary education, we are at number 115 and this is either stable or declining. And here I thought UPE was a saviour.


Nyakika Primary School



The block that contains the office at Mukokye primary school Ndorwa East Kabale Distrit (Source: Redpepper Uganda)


  • In quantity of enrollment for higher education and training, we are at number 132, and the quality of maths and science education at number 117. However, in the quality of the education system (secondary & university), we come at an impressive number 78 behind Kenya, Zambia, Gambia, Lesotho, Rwanda, Cape Verde, Ghana, Cameroon, Swaziland, Senegal, Tunisia and Ethiopia in descending order in Africa.
  • In the number of procedures needed to start a business, we rank number 141 out of 144. No wonder many Ugandans resort to informal businesses or simply ‘kuba njawulo’. In buyer sophistication, we are number 136 out 144. In short, apart from bargaining and pretending to drive off when we actually want that item badly, we are unsophisticated buyers, period!
  • In technological readiness, we are at number 119, in ICT use at 130 (Prof Barya please help) but in technological adaption, we are at 88.
  • In employee productivity, we are at number 126 (that says a lot about how productive we are at work) and in our willingness to delegate authority, we are at 124. I wonder if this has a relationship to reluctance to hand over leadership within political parties.

We do fairly well in the macroeconomic environment. In the government budget balance as a percentage of GDP we are at number 87 (here I need economists to help explain to me because we are ahead of S Africa at 97 and US at 130). In inflation annual percentage change we are at number 97 and in government debt as a percentage of GDP, we are at an impressive number 49. We are at number 131 for exports as a percentage of GDP and one will naturally expect countries whose GDP relies a lot on exports, like some Arab countries with oil, to appear in the upper segment.

In labour market efficiency, we are at number 27 and at number 2 for flexibility of wage determination (i.e ease of employers to determine wage – probably an indication of no wage guidelines).

I had an utterly disappointing start to my day due to my choice of reference – WEF reports. I will nevertheless continue searching for positive stats and I hold hope that there must be some out there.


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Posted by on January 24, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


Vital Stats of Uganda’s Health Sector

By Stephen Twinoburyo

Recently the state of Uganda’s hospitals and health sector in general has become a hot topic of discussion and more especially after opposition leader, Dr Kiiza Besigye, visited Abim hospital in Teso.

Abim 1

There’s an argument, which I even heard Pres Museveni himself putting forward, that Besigye chose to visit Abim Hospital instead of ‘good’ health centres in the area. The fact however remains that Abim hospital exists, it has got patients and is under the condition we saw on TV.


I passed by Kiboga Hospital last month and it didn’t give a good sight. It doesn’t matter if there was a good health centre somewhere else in the region.

But let me look at Uganda’s health stats in perspective.

Infant mortality rate is 59.21 deaths/1,000 putting us at number 21 in the world, just behind Burundi (OMG!). This means that we are among the top 21 countries in the world where a child is likely to die before the age of 1. Our neighbours Kenya, Tanzania and even Sudan are far ahead of us.

The Maternal mortality rate is 343 deaths/100,000 putting us at number 37 in the world. This means that we are among the top 37 countries in the world where a woman is likely to die during pregnancy, at childbirth or immediately after childbirth. This rate is way above the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of 131 for 2015.

Life expectancy at birth is 54.93 years putting us at number 211 in the world. Only 13 countries are below us, the only non-African one being Afghanistan. Even the people of DRC live longer than us. According to World bank danta, we are below both the Sub-Saharan average and the low income countries’ trend.

World Health Organisation (WHO) defines a health system as “as comprising all the organizations, institutions and resources that are devoted to producing health actions. A health action is defined as any effort, whether in personal health care, public health services or through intersectoral initiatives, whose primary purpose is to improve health” and goes on further to describe health systems as having six building blocks: service delivery; health workforce; information; medical products, vaccines and technologies; financing; and leadership and governance (stewardship). The analytical summary of WHO states that “The overall health status of Ugandans remains poor, with a low level of life expectancy and a high level of mortality.”

The MDG Report for Uganda 2010 coming at a time of assessment of strides towards the Millennium Declaration in the last five years leading to the 2015 deadline acknowledged the achievements of the Ugandan government in the health sector. It however also noted that “for several MDGs, the progress has been too slow to meet the national and international targets—and, for some, there has been outright reversal. In some cases, improvements in national averages mask inequalities in progress, e.g., among the various regions of the country.”

The 2015/16 budget allocation to health (Sh. 1.27 trillion) is just over 5% way below the 15% agreed to at the Abuja Declaration 15 years earlier – and this share seems to have been continually dropping over the years.

We are lagging behind in the region and it’s important that we stop priding ourselves in mediocrity or comparing ourselves with low achievers. We should instead acknowledge that we have underachieved and aim higher. We are currently at a very low level social-economically, even in the region where we live except war ravaged South Sudan and eastern DRC.

The country’s 9.8% of GDP expenditure on health as of 2013 (including private health care) putting the country at number 53 in the world is very commendable – never mind that our annual GDP growth rate, even in 2017, is forecast by the World Bank to be lower than the Sub-Saharan average.


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Posted by on January 23, 2016 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs