Uganda Economic Update: Uganda’s Land and Economic Transformation

Latest Issue: 
  • September 2015


Central kampala

AK Communications

  • A recent economic update for Uganda examines the challenges and benefits of managing land use as the country’s population density continues to grow
  • Better land management can help support both agricultural transformation and urbanization, which can aid in the country’s economic growth
  • Report recommendations include accelerating the land registration process, strengthening of land management institutions and a review of land management policies

KAMPALA, September 10, 2015 – Throughout the last 20 years, Uganda’s population density has been growing rapidly, placing significant pressure on the use of land. If managed properly, this increase can support economic growth, but the right systems must be in place to promote efficient land use, according to a new World Bank economic update.

The update, Searching for the Grail – Can Uganda’s Land Support its Prosperity Drive?, evaluates the complex challenges associated with better land management in Uganda, which can support the processes of agricultural transformation and urbanization, and enable the country to raise its level of productive and achieve economic transformation.

“If current patterns of land management continue in Uganda, the majority of population will remain poor as a result of a failure to facilitate the healthy transformation of the agricultural sector and a shift towards higher value, more productive economic activities more generally,” said Dr. Frank Byamugisha, World Bank Africa region lead land specialist and co-author of the report.

The Government of Uganda has begun the process of rehabilitating land institutions and computerizing land information systems. There are also initiatives to organize communal landowners in Northern Uganda into legal entities and to register their land. Today, approximately 20% of Uganda’s land is registered, which is higher than the average level of 10% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Both the insecurity and inefficient land markets are costly to development of agriculture, to effective urbanization, and the overall economy in Uganda,” said Hon. Matia Kasaijja, the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.

Using examples of development experiences from across the world, the update highlights examples of densely populated countries such as China and India where issues related to security and transferability of land rights were once the most binding constraint on the acquisition of sufficient land to promote transformation towards higher value agriculture, larger scale farming, industrial development, and the development of the related infrastructure to support these activities.

The update also notes the very high transaction costs, mainly resulting from corruption, weak laws and lack of transparency surrounding land transactions especially in urban areas in Uganda. As a result, urban centers are not developing efficiently, and are often characterized by horizontal expansion rather than more profitable high-rise buildings, according to the report.

If current patterns continue, the update concludes that rather than driving equitable economic growth, the process of urbanization will result in dysfunction in the form of the proliferation of slums, increased congestion, and a deterioration in the quality of, or a failure to develop, infrastructure due to an escalation in the costs of construction and payment of compensation.

Recommendations include:

  • Accelerate the process of land registration, including that owned communally, by religious and cultural institutions, and by government. Low cost technologies, such as that used in Rwanda, can raise the proportion of land registered well beyond the current level of only 20%.
  • Redesign the land fund to enhance its efficiency and equity in supporting resolution of overlapping rights.
  • Strengthen Institutions for Land Administration Management, including for dispute resolution, for documentation, information storage and retrieval, and valuation, and for urban authorities finances to allow them acquire land and pay for infrastructure development.
  • Review and prioritize the many existing policy commitments to identify and close critical gaps such as in restrictions on rental markets, disincentives such as taxation for speculative holding of land, urban land use, expropriation and compensation to promote equity and fairness in land transactions.


Sheila Gashishiri