REALISING VISION 2040: THE UGANDA MANDATE

Vision 2040 is Uganda’s economic development roadmap from 2010 to 2040. It is ambitious and optimistic, and anticipates the country will reach middle income status by 2040. What does that really mean? Uganda is supposed to become much richer, on average, in 2040. At about $600 today, Uganda has among the lowest per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in the world. A middle income country is defined as having a per capita GDP exceeding $9,400. Stated differently, based on UN projections of population growth, Uganda’s GDP in 2040 has to exceed $780 billion. This would be a remarkable improvement over today’s $30 billion GDP but would still be half of Canada’s GDP today.

UNDERSTANDING RAPID GDP GROWTH FROM $30 BILLION TO $780 BILLION PER YEAR

There are several ways to look at such economic growth. GDP has to increase 26 times in 24 years, or grow at 14% per year, every year, for 24 years. That is unprecedented even for China. Policy makers and government officials do not believe such growth is possible. Trouble is that the alternatives are almost unthinkable. If Uganda’s economy does not grow at this pace, it could become a breeding ground for delinquency and instability. In fact, sub-Saharan country populations are doubling every 25 to 30 years. If they do not match population growth with rapid economic growth, Africa will be ungovernable. Economic migrants seeking refuge in Europe will make the Syrian refugee crisis seem trivial.  Even North America could be overwhelmed with millions of African refugees arriving on boats.

Rapid economic growth isn’t just nice to have; it is essential for Africa’s survival. But how can historically poor countries whose recent history suggests weak economic management grow at rates that even China could only dream of? A focus on housing and urban development can do it.

This photo, “Colors” is copyright (c) 2015 Jake Stimpson and made available under CC By 2.0

BUILDING 13 CITIES

Vision 2040 talks about the need to develop 4 regional cities and 9 secondary cities by 2040. WARP consolidated both figures into one – 13 cities by 2040. The UN projects that Uganda’s population will increase by 43 million to reach 83 million in 2040. Accommodating 3 million people per city would take care of 39 million. In other words, Uganda has to build 13 cities each accommodating more people than Toronto in 2016. It is daunting but also exciting. The houses alone in each city will cost $25 billion or more. Infrastructure and other amenities will easily add another $15 billion for a total of $40 billion per city.

For 13 cities that is more than $500 billion. That translates into millions of jobs, thousands of businesses and a phenomenal amount of investment opportunity for foreign funds.

It is great for Uganda, the region, and foreign investment targeted at Africa but only if the cities get built.

URBANIZATION

Uganda at present is only 13% urbanized. Vision 2040 calls for an urbanized country but does not offer a specific target. Given that Cameroon has already achieved 50% urbanization,

if Uganda was to be 50% urbanized by 2040, 42 million people would live in urban areas while 41 would live in rural areas. In other words, there will be as many people in rural areas in 2040 as there are in the entire country today. That is sobering.

After the hard work of building 13 cities Uganda will have to contend with a larger rural population in 2040. Urbanization cannot focus just on cities. We have to ask the question — how and where will the rural population live? How will the whole country be fed, clothed, housed and moved around? How will we meet the energy and water requirements of such a rapidly increasing populations? These are all difficult questions that must be answered.