Uganda is a landlocked country in east Africa, roughly three times the size of Ireland. Most people live in rural areas and make their living from agriculture. Although Uganda has had consistently high economic growth rates and a strong record in the response to HIV and AIDS, it has struggled to ensure that all its citizens benefit equally. Ireland works with a range of partners including government, non-governmental organisations and multi-lateral organisations supporting programmes and working to influence policies that ensure children can go to school to access a quality education, that the most vulnerable communities are supported, that citizens have a greater say in how their country is run and that systems of accountability function effectively.
- Our Work
Uganda at a glance
|Proportion of people living on less than $ 1.25 a day||41.3%|
|Ranking on UN Human Development Index 2011||159 out of 187 countries|
|Partner Country since||1994|
Ireland and Uganda
We opened our Embassy in Uganda in 1994, when we established our official aid programme. Since then, Ireland has worked with a variety of partner organisations including government institutions, UN agencies, international research institutions and aid agencies to deliver on our development objectives in Uganda.
A new Country Strategy Paper for Ireland’s programme in Uganda from 2021 to 2022 is now in place. This two-year strategy sets out Ireland’s ambition to deepen our development, political, and economic cooperation with Uganda and Rwanda for the period 2021-22, and is shaped by a number of key factors including Ireland’s membership of the UN Security Council, political and regional developments, and the COVID-19 pandemic. With a budget of approximately €36 million over the two year period, Ireland will build on over 25 years of Irish engagement in Uganda to strengthen our bilateral relations and work to assist the most vulnerable members of society.
In working to deliver the priorities of A Better World, Ireland’s programme in Uganda will focus on gender equality, strengthened governance, reducing humanitarian need, and climate action.
- Gender equality: Advancing equal rights for women and girls is central to our work, with programmes targeting girls’ education, provision of food, and protection from violence for refugee women and children, and multiple interventions promoting the rights of vulnerable groups. New initiatives strengthening our work on gender-based violence and other areas will be advanced over the next two years.
- Strengthened governance: Ireland will continue to support governance, accountability and human rights through a number of modalities that seek to bolster and strengthen civil society and key government institutions. This will be complemented by high levels of bilateral and EU-led political engagement in this area.
- Reducing humanitarian need: Ireland will continue to support the national refugee response with a focus on cash and food transfers, education, and supporting the protection of women and children in these vulnerable communities. We will also continue our technical engagement with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and other relevant forums.
- Climate action: Ireland will build on support provided to programmes aimed at lessening the impact of high-density refugee populations on forests, assisting in the construction of energy-saving technical colleges, and other initiatives. Ireland will support sustainable forests through a World Bank green growth trust fund, with an emphasis on effective and sustainable natural resource management and incorporating a responsive approach to climate shocks that complements the mission’s ongoing work in social protection.
As well as providing assistance through our bilateral aid programme, we support the work of local and international aid agencies and missionary organisations in Uganda through our civil society funding schemes.
We are also working to deepen the trade and investment links between Uganda and Ireland in ways that benefit both countries. An Irish business network meets regularly and a number of research and learning partnerships between higher education institutions in Ireland and Uganda are supported through the Programme of Strategic Co-operation.
Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962 but went on to experience a long period of hardship under the oppressive regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote before Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986. President Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term in 2021.
Politically, Uganda is relatively stable. The conflict that plagued northern Uganda is now largely over, although the country remains vulnerable to civil unrest, human rights issues and corruption. There are concerns around shrinking political space and attacks on legitimate civic, political, and media activity, and concerns around the erosion of rule of law and political accountability.
COVID-19 impacted heavily on Uganda’s pathway to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals though integration of the Goals in Uganda’s third National Development Plan (NDP III) is welcome. The closure of schools due to the pandemic has led to a significant loss of learning and an increase in teenage pregnancy and so safe reopening of education institutions in 2022 is a key priority for both the Government and its partners, including Ireland.
Uganda’s economy continues to outperform other countries in the region. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is currently around 3.3%* with the services sector the main driver of economic growth. Large-scale job losses occurred in the tourism, services, and agriculture sectors, and in 2020 the per capita growth rate of the economy decreased for the first time in over a decade. Population growth is among the highest in the world and job creation has not kept pace with this growth.
Agriculture is the country’s main source of income with 72% of Uganda’s working population deriving its income from the sector. Contribution of the agriculture sector to growth and development continues to be inhibited by low levels of public investment, limited mechanisation and unfavourable land use policies. Uganda is highly dependent on natural resources, making it vulnerable to effects of climate change.
The country is rich in natural resources such as cobalt and copper. The discovery of oil reserves in 2005, which could yield between US$2 and US$5 billion in additional revenues per year, has the potential to help Uganda achieve its goal of becoming a Middle Income Country if all other enabling factors remain positive.
Despite solid economic growth, Uganda is ranked 159 of 187 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. One in five Ugandans still live in extreme poverty and more than a third live on less than US$1.90 a day. One of the poorest parts is Karamoja in north-eastern Uganda. The poverty rate in Karamoja was 66% but the impact of COVID 19 mitigation measures has resulted in a worsened poverty rate of 69%. Years of armed conflict and the effects of climate change have led to chronic poverty and food insecurity.
Life expectancy has increased from 45 years in 2003 to 63 years in 2021. The country has seen a significant drop in HIV/AIDS prevalence, currently at 6.2% compared to 18% in the 1990s. However, widespread job losses and a rapid slowdown of economic activity as a result of COVID-19 have led to a fall in household incomes, which could risk leading more people into poverty in the near future.
Gender-based violence is a persistent problem, in spite of legislation that has attempted to address the issue. Ugandan women are also at high risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, although improvements have been made in under-five mortality rates. Uganda also has a serious shortage of trained health workers, which is affecting the Government’s ability to improve health services.
Progress in education had resulted in almost 5 million more pupils in primary schools today compared to 1997, but the impact of the COVID pandemic on the education sector has been devastating with some children out of school for over 18 months and an increase in teenage pregnancy during this time.
As the largest host of refugees in Africa, Uganda takes a progressive approach to refugee protection, maintaining an open-door policy and providing land and livelihood opportunities to 1.43 million refugees there. This open-door policy has remained during COVID-19. It is estimated by UNHCR that the refugee population in Uganda will reach almost 1.5 million by the end of 2021.
Ireland supports a range of programmes in Uganda, focused on critical needs and Ireland’s policy priorities and technical strength. These include programmes in education, social protection, refugee support, health (SRHR) and governance. There is also a clear focus on supporting the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact.
Since Ireland began working in Uganda in 1994, the national poverty rate in Uganda has halved, and there has been improvement in some indicators relating to health, education, governance and accountability. However, challenges remain. Karamoja, where Ireland's programme is focused, is particularly disadvantaged: it is the poorest sub-region in Uganda. The poverty rate was 66% but the impact of COVID 19 mitigation measures in Karamoja has resulted in a worsened poverty rate of 69%.
Supporting Senior Citizens
Ireland works alongside the Governments of Uganda and the UK to deliver a €115 million social protection programme across Uganda. A critical component of this programme is the social welfare payments made to senior citizens. The payment has improved the quality of life across many households, through supporting improved diets, better access to basic health care and education supports for children. It has also provided opportunities for households to engage in small enterprises.
With almost 1.5 million refugees, Uganda has significant humanitarian needs as the largest host of refugees in Africa. Ireland supports the refugee response by engaging in coordinated action with other donors and supporting the Government of Uganda to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). Ireland funds the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in the refugee response with a focus on cash and food transfers, education and protection of women and children. Further support is provided to reduce environmental degradation in refugee hosting districts through a World Bank Trust Fund.
Promoting Sexual and Reproductive Health
Rates of sexual and gender-based violence, and abuse of children in Uganda, are high and have been made worse by COVID-19. High fertility rates continue alongside significant unmet need for family planning with high rates of early marriage and teenage pregnancy, which account for half of all dropouts of girls from school. To respond to these challenges, Ireland is investing to support better access to sexual and reproductive health services in Karamoja, the sub-region with the highest fertility and maternal mortality in the country.
Improving access to education
Ireland's investments in the education sector improve access and completion of quality education and training for people in marginalised areas, again with a focus on Karamoja, which lags significantly behind national averages in terms of education outcomes. We work with a range of partners including UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Sport, and local organisations to address barriers to education and provide bursaries to vulnerable students, support skills training and provide school meals.
Promoting citizens' rights
Ireland engages with and provides financial support to governance partners on citizen's rights awareness and promotion, improving access to justice, and promotion of human rights and gender equality. Our support to these partners also helps to promote civic space and accountability, improve legal aid service provision and outreach, and protect human rights defenders in Uganda.
At national level, Uganda has made significant progress in the following areas:
- 371,000 senior citizens across 47 districts are benefitting from the €7 per month social welfare payment, resulting in improved resilience and quality of life.
- 1.5 million refugees from DRC and south Sudan have been assisted with regular food and cash transfers.
- A reduction in new HIV infections from estimated 162,000 in 2011 to 38,000 in 2020; and a decline in prevalence from 7.3% in 2011 to 6.2% in 2016. In Karamoja, the number of people living with HIV on treatment has increased with ART coverage increasing from 60% in 2016 to 80% in 2020.
- Over 224 bursaries are awarded annually in Karamoja to vulnerable students with over 3000 learners having benefited at secondary, tertiary, vocational and University level.
- 134,000 children in Karamoja have benefited from regular school meals.
- Over 3,500 young people in Karamoja have received vocational training and gained market relevant skills (51% female).
- Over 500,000 Ugandans have been able to access direct legal assistance through Ireland's support to a civil society fund, the Democratic Governance Facility.
Download the Irish Aid Country Strategy Paper
Irish Aid’s Uganda Country Strategy Paper 2016 – 2020 (PDF) sets out how we respond to the changing development environment in Uganda.
Download Uganda CSP 2016-2020