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Key findings
  • Fewer than half (48%) of Ugandans say the country is headed in “the right direction,” a 12-percentage-point decline from 2019 (60%).
  • Ugandans are increasingly gloomy in their assessments of the country’s economic situation and their personal living conditions: Two-thirds (66%) describe the country’s economic condition as “fairly bad” or “very bad,” a 20-percentage-point increase from 2019.
  • Nearly six in 10 (58%) say their personal living conditions are “fairly bad” or “very bad,” up 17 percentage points from 2019.
  • Seven in 10 Ugandans (70%) experienced moderate or high levels of lived poverty during the previous year, a 10-percentage-point increase from 2017.
  • Large majorities rate government performance as “fairly bad” or “very bad” when it comes to keeping prices stable (87%), narrowing gaps between rich and poor (84%), creating jobs (78%), improving living standards of the poor (75%), and managing the economy (66%).
  • Only 42% of Ugandans expect economic conditions to improve over the coming year.

After just beginning to recover from the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda appears to be sliding into another economic crisis. The cost of living is on the rise as prices for essential commodities such as food, cooking oil, and soap have increased sharply, largely due to surging fuel prices (Observer, 2022). As of July 2022, annual inflation was reported at 7.9%, up from 2.9% at the beginning of the year. Many businesses are struggling to survive, and the value of the shilling against the U.S. dollar is dropping (Trading Economics, 2022; Monitor, 2022a).

Some experts and prominent government figures, including President Yoweri Museveni, have largely attributed the economic meltdown to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (Independent, 2022). The opposition Forum for Democratic Change says the government is to blame for the country’s dire economic situation (Monitor, 2022b).

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the economy hard starting in 2020, impacting businesses, revenue collection, economic activity, and jobs. Recovery began in early 2022, when all sectors were allowed to function at full capacity again. But inflation presents a new threat to economic health and livelihoods.

In response, the government has urged citizens to tighten their belts. In a televised national address, Museveni said that “government subsidies or removal of import taxes would only cripple the economy” (Africa News, 2022), indicating that his government would not intervene to ease the situation. Likewise, in a media interview, the secretary of the treasury described “subsidies, price controls, and tax cuts” as ineffective ways to address the current economic shocks (Monitor, 2022c).

How do ordinary Ugandans assess the situation? According to the most recent Afrobarometer survey in Uganda, completed in early 2022, citizens are growing increasingly discontent with the country’s economic condition as well as their personal living conditions. A majority think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Lived poverty has increased, and fewer than half of citizens are optimistic about the near future. Large majorities say the government is doing a poor job of managing inflation and the economy in general, narrowing income gaps, creating jobs, and improving living standards of the poor.

Makanga Ronald Kakumba

Makanga Ronald Kakumba is a research associate for Hatchile Consult Ltd., Afrobarometer’s national partner in Uganda.