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Uganda: Social Inclusion with Middle-Income Status in Sight

The cover of this global report “Inclusion Matters:  The Foundation for Shared Prosperity”, is a tribute to the iconic Ugandan artist – Geoffrey Mukassa.  The vibrant colors, the acknowledgement of diversity and optimistic transformation, amid solemn expressions, is an affirmation of Uganda’s rich heritage and bright future. The report points out that social inclusion is integral to human well-being and social justice, but it also matters because the exclusion of individuals and groups has substantial social, political and economic costs. It is therefore a timely contribution to the policy discourse and the agenda for action in Uganda.

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new World Bank report highlights the importance of developing policies aimed at social inclusion, particularly as Uganda is poised to become a middle-income country
  • Social inclusion policies are critical as Uganda is being re-shaped by profound transitions, which can create new opportunities for inclusion but can also lead to new forms of exclusion
  • Social inclusion is not just about poverty reduction; it is the process of improving the ability and opportunity for disadvantaged people to take part in society

KAMPALA, January 28, 2014 – Grace Nakku, 22, has just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences from Makerere University. Her parents struggled, but paid for her education from kindergarten through college, because they believed in the importance of educating their daughter. Even as Grace wears a smile of victory, she confesses that she is worried about what the future holds for her.

“My parents have supported me through my education, however, I am not sure of where to start from, as I need a job to start living my dream,’ Grace says.

Nakku is a member of a growing cohort of educated young people with dreams and aspirations of a better life than their parents had. They want good jobs, but they also want a say in the decisions that affect them. They want to be included in society on advantageous terms. By 2050, half of Uganda’s population will be below 20 years of age.

In the last two decades Uganda has made huge progress in education. It has also had dramatic decline in poverty and has witnessed steady growth. Yet, significant challenges for social inclusion remain, and new ones are emerging. The new World Bank global report “Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity,” puts boundaries around the abstract idea of social inclusion. It points out that social inclusion is not just about poverty reduction or about reducing income inequality; it is the process of improving the ability, opportunity and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.

“Uganda’s development is testimony to the government’s efforts in embracing social inclusion through dedicated programs and by creating an enabling environment that gives its citizens better access to markets, services and spaces,” said Moustapha Ndiaye, World Bank’s Country Manager for Uganda. “Yet some groups are at risk of being excluded from Uganda’s gains.  Income inequality is on the rise, showing that something has to be done differently. This report is very timely for Uganda as it moves towards its vision of being a middle-income country.”


Open Quotes

“Uganda’s development is testimony to the government’s efforts in embracing social inclusion through dedicated programs and by creating an enabling environment that gives its citizens better access to markets, services and spaces. Yet some groups are at risk of being excluded from Uganda’s gains. Income inequality is on the rise, showing that something has to be done differently. This report is very timely for Uganda as it moves towards its vision of being a middle-income country.” Close Quotes

Moustapha Ndiaye
World Bank’s Country Manager for Uganda

Maitreyi Bordia Das, lead author of the report, said Uganda has many opportunities to enhance social inclusion, provided it anchors its vision of a middle income country in the significant transitions it is witnessing. For example, she said, the country will have many more young people and the government will need to keep a close eye on sources of growth.

“Will this growth be equitable? Yes, it can, if the right policy environment exists and if people’s aspirations are kept at the center,” Das said. “Our report underscores the point that policies that address social inclusion are those that don’t necessarily do more, but those that do things differently.”

Hon. Prof. Tarsis Kabwegyere, Minister of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, pointed out the inequalities in educational outcomes, with more than 90 percent of students admitted to universities having attended private schools.

“Dropout rates have increased as relevance of education diminishes,” he said. “There are hardly any scholarships for bright children from poor families, the education system is very frustrating to the majority of poor people and the technological advancement is making the divide worse.”

Why is social inclusion so urgent for Uganda today? 

Like many other countries, Uganda is being re-shaped by profound transitions. These transitions can create new opportunities for inclusion, but can also lead to new forms of exclusion.

Uganda is facing a changing structure of the population, urbanization, climate change and the information revolution. While fertility has begun to decline, Uganda still has very high fertility rates, with significant implications for women’s status and gender equality. The country is also rich in natural resources, which is likely to be the driver of growth into middle income status. Yet lessons of history across the globe show that natural resources need to be managed very carefully, if they are to result in social inclusion.

The report also records feelings and perceptions, which have been long neglected by development practitioners, by using perception surveys with objective trends. The World Values Surveys, for instance, show that there are pervasive attitudes that disadvantage women, and attitudes and outcomes are correlated in a range of gender-differentiated areas.

For instance, countries where people say university education is more important for a boy than for a girl also have lower tertiary school enrollment rates for women. While no causality is inferred, this type of analysis drives home the need to look closely at societal norms, attitudes and perceptions, while making policy and implementing programs.

Social Inclusion in the World Bank Group

Social inclusion is a central tenet of the World Bank Group’s new strategy of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. “Inclusion Matters” offers an optimistic message; change happens and that it can be influenced.

Influencing change toward social inclusion will be an important piece of Uganda’s vision for 2040. The World Bank Group is committed to supporting the government in its vision by partnering on projects, sharing appropriate knowledge and through interface with partners.