Is Uganda’s Middle-Income Status Verified by the 2024 Census?

by Business Times writer
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President Yoweri Museveni has said that the 2024 Uganda population census results, released on Thursday by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) confirm the country’s transition from a low-income country to a middle-income country.

According to Museveni, this significant milestone reflects the country’s economic progress and development which underscores substantial growth in the nation’s GDP and per capita income.

President Museveni says Uganda is a middle-income country.

“This census is going to prove many things. You remember the other discussion we had [that] Uganda has entered the lower middle-income status. I was estimating that the population now is like 48 [million people]. That is what I was estimating, but as you hear, it is now 45.9 roughly 46 [million people]. And the GDP, the other day, they were saying it was 50 something billion. You can see now [that] the other level of middle-income status is being confirmed by figures. We have indeed entered the lower middle-income status,” said Museveni while releasing the census results on Thursday.

According to results, Uganda’s population has increased to 45.9 million, a significant rise from 34.9 million recorded in 2014.

This, Museveni said, confirms Uganda’s transition to a middle-income country.

The rise in population from 34.9 million people in 2014 to 45.9 million in 2024 indicates an overall population growth of 11.3 million over the last decade. Of the total population, 22.5 million (49%) are males, and 23.4 million (51%) are females, highlighting a slightly higher number of females. Additionally, 780,061 individuals within this population are identified as refugees.

Uganda’s population is now 45.9 million.

The average household size has decreased from 4.7 persons in 2014 to 4.4 persons in 2024, reflecting evolving family dynamics and possibly urbanization trends. Additionally, the household growth rate has declined from 3% to 2.9%, suggesting a shift towards smaller family units.

The census findings show that the country’s demographic profile is notably youthful, with 50.5% of the population under 18 years old. The youth, defined as those aged 18 to 30, make up 22.7% of the population. The working-age group, ranging from 14 to 64 years, constitutes 55.6%, while individuals over 60 years old account for 5% of the population.

While releasing the census results, Museveni stated that the findings provide an accurate population count for Uganda and confirm that the nation has achieved middle-income status.

“We are moving well. I was really surprised because when Dr [Chris] Mukiza (UBOS Executive Director) came to brief me the other time; I was thinking the population would be like 48, 49, 50 [million people]. I was surprised when he came to brief me last week, it was below 46 [million]. I congratulate UBOS, but I also congratulate Ugandans for listening to our advice and embracing our programs. You can see things are beginning to work out,” Museveni said.

The debate over Uganda’s progression to a middle-income economy ignited in 2022, marking a pivotal moment in the nation’s economic discourse.

In June 2022, President Yoweri Museveni, during his State of the Nation Address to Parliament, declared that Uganda had achieved middle-income status despite a series of crises over the previous three years, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Museveni cited official data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics to support his claim. According to UBOS data at the time, the nation’s economy was valued at approximately $45.7 billion using the exchange rate method or $131 billion by the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) system, just one week before the FY 2022/23 Budget Day.

“This means that the GDP per capita is $1,046. We have now passed that figure of middle-income status ($1,039),” Museveni confidently told Members of Parliament in his televised state of the nation address.

However, the World Bank later countered this assertion, stating in its report that Uganda remained classified as a low-income country. The World Bank’s analysis indicated that while there had been economic growth, it was insufficient to propel Uganda into the middle-income category.

The World Bank report highlighted that Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4.3% in the first half of 2022. This growth was largely driven by a robust and swift recovery in the service sector, following the lifting of travel and social gathering restrictions. Additionally, the information and communications sector continued to exhibit strong performance. Despite these positive indicators, the World Bank concluded that this growth was not enough to elevate Uganda to middle-income status.

The report, which provides a biannual analysis of the near-term macroeconomic outlook, pointed out that Uganda’s Gross National Income (GNI) per person was about $840 in FY 2021. Although there was a slight increase in the subsequent year, it was still significantly below the lower-middle income threshold of $1,045 per person. This marginal increase was insufficient to meet the criteria for middle-income classification.

President Museveni’s declaration sparked a broader conversation about the metrics and benchmarks used to define economic categories.

It also highlighted the importance of addressing structural issues within the economy to ensure that growth translates into tangible improvements in the quality of life for Ugandans.

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