About Uganda

Currently WMI is focusing its efforts on making microcredit available to poor women in rural areas of Uganda. It launched its program in Uganda because of close relationships to poor women in rural villages in the eastern past of the country. The country's political and economic environment make it an excellent locale for a microfinance program.

Political History

A former British colony, Uganda became an independent nation in 1962. The first multi-party elections resulted in the presidency of Milton Obote, who was overthrown in a 1971 coup that installed Idi Amin as president. The repressive Amin regime was ended in 1979 by a military coup, but by that time the once flourishing economy had been devastated, and government leadership discredited, so that people had turned in large scale numbers to reliance on the informal business sector for survival. After Amin, several short-lived governments were followed by a second Obote administration, which ended in 1986 when the National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by Yoweri Museveni, took power. Museveni ruled without election until 1996, when he was elected president and he won re-election in 2001 and 2006.

The Ugandan Constitution was adopted in 1995. The Ugandan government is a democratic presidential republic, with legislative power residing in the 292-member National Assembly. The judiciary is multi-tiered and functions separately from the legislative and executive branches of government. A "no-party rule" was adopted during the 1980s; however, a constitutional amendment restored multi-party politics to the country in 2005.

Resolution of Unrest in the North of Uganda: Beginning in the late 1980s, The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), operating out of Sudan, engaged in violent insurgencies throughout northern Uganda. The LRA retreated to Sudan in 2006 and entered a truce agreement which included the withdrawal of all LRA forces from Uganda. Subsequent negotiations broke down and were resumed in April of 2007, along with a continuing cease fire agreement. In 2008, LRA leaders went into hiding in Chad and have refused to formalize an end to the insurgency; however, the movement's support has dissolved. The Ugandan government states that over 60% of the people who had been living in IDP camps in the north have been repatriated to their home villages. Uganda has a fortified western border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has been the site of violence due to the DRC's involved civil war. Although a peace accord was signed in 2002, violence continues to flare along the border.

Stability

During the May 24 Forum on Uganda held in Bethesda, MD, WMI President, Robyn Nietert, had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Rakahuna Ragunda, Uganda's Minister of the Interior. Dr. Ragunda stated,"All four corners of the country are peaceful. The country has never been more stable than it is today. Anyone investing in the country should know the environment is secure."

Demographics

The country is about the size of Oregon and has a population of about 28 million. It has the second highest birthrate of any country in the world, with approximately 7.2 children per household. Half the population is under the age of 15. Kampala, the capital, has a population of about 1.2 million people. About 2 million people live in cities and about 2 million live in the northern third of the country. This means that the rural areas in the lower two-thirds of the country are extremely densely populated.

Economy

Despite decades of upheaval, the Ugandan economy has made considerable progress because of economic reforms to control inflation, increase production and loosen government controls. Uganda's indigenous culture is characteristically entrepreneurial. The Global Enterprise Monitor rated it one of the top five countries, of the 41 studied, for entrepreneurial activity. In particular, women were singled out as remarkably resourceful in initiating and sustaining microbusiness ventures, usually in the informal sector of the economy. Typically, these are labor-intensive, small-scale businesses that are easily launched.

Reducing Reliance on International Aid

Emerging sub-Saharan economies, like Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, are moving away from economic dependence on international agencies, such as the IMF. As this transition occurs, residents are going to be under increasing pressure to pay full cost recovery for services such as water and electricity. With the price of gas and food escalating world wide, this is going to place and enormous burden on Uganda's poor. Microfinance programs that help the poor launch income producing enterprises will be a critical element in insuring that the poor are not crushed in the transition to a cost based economy.

Agriculture

Most of the land in the country is airable and is owned according to ancesteral inheritance. Rural families typical grow their own produce and raise livestock, so there is no major food insecurity concern. Major crops include plantains, cassaba, sweet potatoes, sorgum, corn, beans, and ground nuts.

Resources

Frequently called the Switzerland of Africa, Uganda is a country of startling beauty. Uganda has significant hydroelectric power resources and oil has been discovered in the eastern part of the country. Beautiful game parks dot the landscape. One-half of the world's population of mountain gorillas is found in Uganda's protected reserves. The country has an exemplary wildlife management program that conserves its natural resources while providing income for local residents and sustaining a burgeoning tourist industry. Infrastructure-wise, roads require significant upgrades and electricity is scarce in rural areas in the eastern part of the country. However, the mobile phone infrastructure is extremely well developed and virtually all of the country receives coverage.

Uganda's Natual Beauty

Uganda's Natual BeautyCalled the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a land of dramatic landscapes, lush tropical forests and exotic wildlife...watch slideshow