Govt targets $500B economy in 10 years via industrialization, tourism

by Business Times writer
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In January 2024, President Yoweri Museveni announced that government was drafting a strategy to expand Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ten times from USD 50 billion (financial year 2023/24) to USD 500 billion within a decade, starting financial year 2024/2025. The president instructed the Finance Ministry to ensure the realization of this ambitious goal.

“That is what I have told the [Ministry of] Finance people and the Cabinet. The GDP of Uganda must be expanded ten times from the current 50 billion [dollars] financial year 2023/2024 to US dollars 500 billion within a decade, starting with the financial year 2024/2025 driven by the value addition and access to export markets,” said Museveni in a televised address to the nation on the state of the economy in January 2024.

The Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary and Secretary to Treasury, Ramadan Ggoobi has now revealed the key growth drivers that government has outlined to grow the economy tenfold in the next decade. “We have already put up a strategy, and very soon we shall launch it officially, and we all know what we are going to do in the next one and a half decades of propelling the economy from about USD 55 billion to USD550 billion in our lifetime,” said Ggoobi at the Finance Ministry on Tuesday.

The key growth drivers that government hopes will grow the economy to USD 500 billion are four in number. Ggoobi referred to them as ATMs. They include; agro industrialization; tourism development; mineral based industrialization including oil and gas; and science, technology and innovation.

“Those are the the four key areas which we have identified as ATMs. The ATM is for giving you money. Now we have ATMs for Ugandan economy, which are going to give us money in the next 15 years: Agro industrialization; you want to make money in Uganda, invest in there [and] government will be supporting you. Tourism development; we want to propel that tourism industry to a USD 50 billion sector or program in our development agenda. You want to make money? Invest in tourism development, and government will support you,” said Ggoobi.

He added: “We have our mineral based industrial development. All of these minerals we have; from gold to tin to phosphates and so many others, plus oil and gas; you want to make money and you go in there, government will support you.” “You are an innovator, and you want to innovate and create new value out of intellectual property, government is going to support you.”


Uganda’s ambitious plan to expand its GDP to USD 500 billion in 10 years is a vision that will put the country’s potential to test. The government’s focus on tourism development is particularly noteworthy, given the sector’s remarkable resilience in bouncing back from the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which brought the sector to its knees.

According to tourism industry performance report 2023, released by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities in March 2024, Uganda’s tourism sector demonstrated remarkable resilience in 2023. International tourist arrivals reached 1,274,210 visitors in 2023, up 56.5 percent from 2022 (814,508).

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s international tourism recovered 82.6% of the pre-pandemic levels (-17.4% versus pre-pandemic year 2019). This means that 82.6% of international tourists that visited Uganda in 2019 have returned. Total recovery is projected to be achieved by end of 2024.

Regarding mineral based industrialization, Uganda is rich in essential mineral resources that could drive its transition to a green economy. The country possesses large deposits of gold, uranium, limestone, marble, graphite, iron, copper, and cobalt, among others. While these minerals significantly boosted Uganda’s economy in the 1950s and 1960s, contributing up to 35% of export earnings, the mining sector’s contribution has now dropped to below 3%.

In 2021, the sector accounted for 2.3% of Uganda’s GDP, according to Ministry of Finance.

This decline is partly due to the export of unprocessed minerals, the prevalence of artisanal miners, especially in gold mining areas like Buhweju and Mubende, as well as the influence of foreigners, government insiders, illegal miners, and smugglers. In December last year, Ruth Nankabirwa, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, signed a new regulation setting higher purity standards for tin exports. This initiative backs President Museveni’s directive to stop exporting unprocessed minerals, including tin.

The new regulation raises the minimum purity level for tin exports to 99.85%, up from the previous range of 67% to 70%. This is expected to significantly impact Uganda’s tin mining and processing industry. To further ensure realization of the growth of Uganda’s economy tenfold, government is implementing a programme-based budget aiming at full monetization of the Uganda’s economy through commercial agriculture, industrialization, expanding and broadening services, digital transformation, and market access.

The budget prioritizes investment in the people of Uganda through human capital development, peace and security, construction of the standard gauge railway and meter gauge railway, investing in wealth creation initiatives, such as the parish development model, Emyooga, agriculture credit facility, maintenance of the existing infrastructure among others.

The Uganda government’s ambitious plan to expand the country’s GDP tenfold to USD 500 billion within a decade is a lofty goal that requires careful planning and a lot of hard work. The country’s current infrastructure, including transportation networks, energy supply, and internet connectivity, may not be sufficient to support such rapid growth. Significant investments in infrastructure development are necessary to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

Additionally, the country’s human capital needs to be developed to match the demands of these growth drivers. Education and training programs focused on skills development in areas like technology, innovation, and industrialization are essential. Economic experts say that Uganda to expand its GDP to USD 500 billion by 2034 requires double digit growth of the country’s economy.

On the contrary, Uganda’s economy grew by 4.6 percent in the financial year 2021/22, and 5.2 percent in the financial year 2022/2023. The services sector grew at 6.2 percent (especially in trade, tourism, education, ICT, arts and entertainment); agriculture at 4.8 percent with food crops growing at 4.7 percent from 3.5 percent, livestock at 8.8 percent from 8.3 percent, and fish activities at 8.6 percent from 0.3 percent in FY2022/23 and FY2021/22, respectively. The growth in industry was 3.5 percent, slower than the 5.1 percent recorded in the same period the previous year.

To achieve double-digit economic growth and commit to the ambitious plan, economists say government must enhance international trade and promote exports.

Expanding international trade and boosting exports are crucial strategies for countries aiming to increase economic output and attract foreign investment. This involves building the capacity of producers and exporters, improving infrastructure, and investing in technology and innovation.

By implementing initiatives that government has outlined to expand the economy tenfold, Ggoobi also said that focus has been put on increasing revenue collection and controlling borrowing.

“We shall continue to focus on increasing revenue collection. Revenue collection is key. We are also continuing to control borrowing especially for those things which do not add to these four areas we have talked about plus of course the infrastructure. We are not going to be borrowing for them. We are going to ensure more efficiency and effectiveness in the use of the limited resources we have, controlling government spending. I want to assure you that every revenue that is collected from Ugandans is going to be accounted for going forward. And we have a very good strategy for that,” Ggoobi said.

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