Uganda’s local and foreign currency downgraded – MOODY RATINGS

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London, May 17, 2024 — Moody’s Ratings (Moody’s) has today downgraded the Government of Uganda’s long-term foreign-currency and local-currency issuer ratings to B3 from B2 and changed the outlook to stable from negative.

The downgrade of the ratings reflects diminished debt affordability and increasingly constrained financing options, amid greater reliance than in the past on comparatively costly domestic and non-concessional sources of external financing. External vulnerability risk also remains elevated, a reflection of a more challenging external debt servicing profile, the persistence of tighter global financial conditions, and diminished foreign exchange reserve adequacy.

The stable outlook reflects Moody’s assessment that at the B3 rating level Uganda’s credit challenges and strengths are incorporated. Downside risks relate to the debt affordability and external vulnerability challenges mentioned above. Gradual improvements in revenue mobilisation capacity would, if further sustained, support fiscal consolidation efforts and could eventually provide relief to the debt affordability challenges faced by the government, but face execution risks.

Concurrently, Uganda’s local and foreign currency country ceilings have been lowered to Ba3 and B1 from Ba2 and Ba3, respectively. The local currency country ceiling is three notches above the sovereign rating to take into account the low footprint of the government in the economy, notwithstanding relatively high external imbalances and exposure to domestic and geopolitical risk. The foreign currency ceiling maintains a one-notch gap to the local currency ceiling to reflect Moody’s assessment of limited transfer and convertibility risks in view of Uganda’s open capital account and a moderate level of external debt, notwithstanding constraints to policy effectiveness.

RATINGS RATIONALE

RATIONALE FOR THE DOWNGRADE TO B3

GREATER RELIANCE ON MORE COSTLY SOURCES OF FINANCING HAS WEIGHED ON DEBT AFFORDABILITY

The structure of Uganda’s debt has gradually but markedly become less favourable over the past few years. Higher reliance on domestic and non-concessional sources of external financing has contributed to an increase in the government’s borrowing costs. Although Uganda’s debt burden (47.1% of GDP in fiscal 2023, the fiscal year ending on 30 June 2023) is below the median of B-rated peers (53.1% of GDP), the weighted average interest rate for Uganda’s total debt stood at 7.3% as of December 2023, having risen from 6.4% in June 2022 and 5.6% in June 2019.

Comparatively expensive domestic borrowing has been key in financing a wider fiscal deficit since the COVID-19 pandemic. Net domestic financing amounted to 3.6% of GDP annually between fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2023 on average, compared to 1.4% of GDP over the preceding four fiscal years. Domestic debt makes up 41% of public debt as of fiscal 2023 but 80% of interest payments. The share of public external debt on non-concessional and commercial terms has also increased, representing 26.7% of the external debt stock in December 2023.

Debt affordability has consequently weakened, with a widening gap between Uganda and rating peers that Moody’s expects will persist. Interest payments consumed 22.2% of government revenue in fiscal 2023, up from 14.2% in fiscal 2019. By contrast, the median for B-rated peers has risen more slowly from 8.4% to 10.6% over the same period. Moody’s expects the ratio for Uganda to remain at similar levels of above 20% through at least fiscal 2025, limiting fiscal space to respond to future shocks. Efforts to contain borrowing costs have been complicated by a tighter global financing environment and the recurrent use of supplementary budgets, driving increased domestic issuances. For example, the adoption of a supplementary budget in December 2023 raised the target for domestic borrowing in fiscal 2024 by up to UGX3.5 trillion (1.7% of GDP).

Beyond the increasing cost of debt, the higher reliance in recent years on net domestic financing and ad-hoc funding methods – such as advances from the Bank of Uganda (BoU) to the government to cover temporary deficiencies of recurrent revenue – points to increasingly constrained access to funding. Notwithstanding the signature of a service-level agreement between the BoU and the Ministry of Finance in 2022 to govern central bank financing of the government, difficulties in securing timely financing have caused recurrent delays in the repayment of the stock of outstanding BoU advances. The latter stood at 3.1% of GDP in fiscal 2023 and are not included in the debt ratio reported by the government.

The suspension of new World Bank project approvals, which remains ongoing since August 2023 in response to Uganda’s enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), risks adding to the government’s growing dependence on non-concessional financing if further sustained. While the government could seek to reduce the number of projects it implements in the medium term if the suspension persists, or seek alternative concessional partners, a continuation of the freeze would nevertheless imply a reduced range of financing options: the World Bank is one of Uganda’s largest creditors, accounting for around a fifth of Uganda’s public debt. In turn, more restricted financing options risks contributing to keeping the cost of debt high.

EXTERNAL VULNERABILITY RISK REMAINS MORE ELEVATED THAN IN THE PAST

External vulnerability risk remains higher than in the past, a reflection of a more challenging external debt servicing profile, the persistence of tighter global financial conditions, and diminished foreign exchange reserve adequacy. More costly government debt service and lower new external financing inflows have complicated the BoU’s efforts to rebuild its foreign exchange reserve buffer. Foreign exchange reserves stood at a three-year low of $3.5 billion in March 2024, equivalent to around 3.3 months of import cover excluding oil sector development-related imports. Although Moody’s expects reserve coverage to stabilise at these levels and Uganda’s exchange rate flexibility acts as a mitigant, a sustained shortfall in official financing could weaken the country’s external position and further reduce reserve adequacy.

Uganda will continue to face a more challenging external debt servicing profile over the next few years, as principal repayments on external borrowings rise and repayments to the IMF begin from 2025 onward. Moody’s projects external principal payments to average 1.5% of GDP between fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2026, up from an annual average of 0.8% of GDP between fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2023. This is reflected in Moody’s external vulnerability indicator (the ratio of external debt payments and non-resident deposits to foreign exchange reserves), which is projected to remain at around 88% by the end of 2025, somewhat higher than the B-rated median of 64%, and up from 42% in 2019.

RATIONALE FOR THE STABLE OUTLOOK

The stable outlook reflects Moody’s assessment that the risks to Uganda’s credit profile are balanced at the B3 level. Planned fiscal consolidation efforts and a strong growth outlook will support a stabilisation in the debt burden at close to 50% of GDP in fiscal 2024, and gradual debt reduction over the medium term. However, a sustained consolidation path hinges on continued progress in the implementation of the government’s domestic revenue mobilisation strategy, as well as improvements in overall public financial management and the efficiency of capital spending to catalyse more growth. Moody’s projects the fiscal deficit to remain around 4% of GDP in fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2025, from 5.5% of GDP in fiscal 2023. However, a large upward revision passed by parliament to the planned fiscal 2025 budget introduces heightened uncertainty.

Gradual improvements in revenue mobilisation capacity could, if further sustained, eventually provide relief to liquidity pressures and the debt affordability challenges faced by the government. While revenue collection remains weaker than peers,

gradual improvements have been made since 2010; the overall government revenue ratio has nearly doubled from 8% of GDP in that year to 14.4% of GDP in fiscal 2023. Under its medium-term revenue strategy, the government remains committed to increasing the ratio of domestic revenue collection to GDP by 0.5 pp annually, including through the rationalisation of exemptions and improved tax administration. Moody’s baseline integrates further improvements in the government revenue ratio to around 15.6% of GDP by fiscal 2025, although higher interest expenditures will offset the impact on debt affordability. These improvements are subject to execution risks related to weaknesses in public financial management, underscored by the underperformance of budgetary targets in the current fiscal year to date.

Moody’s expects that Uganda’s track record of macroeconomic stability will be maintained. Uganda’s growth performance has been above that of B-rated peers over the past decade, with real GDP growth of 4.7% on average, compared with a median of 3.8% for B-rated countries. Moody’s expects growth to accelerate to a rate of 6-7% over the medium-term horizon, on the back of the developments in the oil sector, ongoing investments in transport and energy generation infrastructure to address structural constraints, and favourable demographic trends. These dynamics are balanced by the economy’s small size, vulnerability to climate-related shocks, and low wealth levels, limiting shock-absorption capacity.

Uganda’s prospects over the longer term will be shaped by progress in oil sector investment. Oil production is targeted to start in 2025 and reach peak output of 230,000 barrels per day (bpd). The sector could strengthen growth, fiscal revenue and the external position, which would bolster Uganda’s creditworthiness provided prudent management of oil wealth. Despite progress, the completion of oil infrastructure projects remains vulnerable to implementation risks, as past delays indicate. Further delays in the start of oil production would lead to wider external deficits over the longer term if debt — contracted mainly to finance oil-related projects — were not compensated by higher foreign-exchange receipts and revenue generation capacity.

ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, AND GOVERNANCE CONSIDERATIONS

Uganda’s ESG Credit Impact Score (CIS-4) reflects high exposure to environmental risk, very high social risk and very low resilience, reflecting a weak governance profile, low wealth level, and weakening fiscal metrics that exacerbate the exposure to E and S.

Uganda’s credit profile is highly exposed to environmental risks as reflected in its E-4 issuer profile score. The country relies significantly on the agricultural sector (accounting for about a quarter of GDP and employing two-thirds of the population) which is characterized by low productivity and vulnerability to increasingly frequent climate-related shocks that contributes to economic volatility and affects export receipts.

Uganda’s exposure to social risks carries very high credit risks (S-5 issuer profile

score), driven by poor access to basic services, low education standards, and high levels of poverty. Although progress was made on reducing poverty between 1992 and 2013, when the national poverty rate declined to around 20% from 56%, some of these gains have since reversed and the poverty rate has been recently on the rise. Challenges in education, which was one of the sectors most affected by the pandemic, are likely to be exacerbated, with a potentially long-term impact on human capital, inequality and poverty.

Uganda has a weak governance profile score (G-4 issuer profile). Uganda receives low scores on the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGIs). Uganda’s policy framework has been strengthened by the cooperation with international financial institutions but public service effectiveness and policy implementation have lagged behind the improvements of the policy framework. Institutional capacity remains limited, particularly due to shortcomings in budget planning and implementation and weaknesses related to public financial management.

GDP per capita (PPP basis, US$): 3,035 (2022) (also known as Per Capita Income) Real GDP growth (% change): 4.6% (2022) (also known as GDP Growth)

Inflation Rate (CPI, % change Dec/Dec): 10.2% (2022)

Gen. Gov. Financial Balance/GDP: -7.4% (2022) (also known as Fiscal Balance) Current Account Balance/GDP: -8.4% (2022) (also known as External Balance) External debt/GDP: 42.9% (2022)

Economic resiliency: b1

Default history: No default events (on bonds or loans) have been recorded since 1983.

On 14 May 2024, a rating committee was called to discuss the rating of the Uganda, Government of. The main points raised during the discussion were: The issuer’s economic fundamentals, including its economic strength, have not materially changed. The issuer’s institutions and governance strength, have not materially changed. The issuer’s fiscal or financial strength, including its debt profile, has not materially changed. The issuer has become increasingly susceptible to event risks.

FACTORS THAT COULD LEAD TO AN UPGRADE OR DOWNGRADE OF THE RATINGS

Upward pressure on the rating would arise from sustained progress in strengthening revenue generation capacity and access to funding at moderate costs, reversing the deterioration in debt affordability. A significant and durable strengthening of Uganda’s external position that restored and preserved external buffers would also support a

higher rating. Over the longer term, oil production being ramped up would also support creditworthiness by promoting growth and fiscal revenues, provided the oil wealth is managed prudently.

Downward pressure on the rating would stem from a more significant deterioration in external imbalances and foreign exchange reserve adequacy. Higher refinancing risks, for example due to challenges in the domestic banking sector absorbing new government issuances, would also exert downward rating pressure. A significant increase in domestic political instability, jeopardizing macroeconomic stability, would also be credit-negative.

The principal methodology used in these ratings was Sovereigns published in November 2022 and available at https://ratings.moodys.com/rmc-documents/395819 . Alternatively, please see the Rating Methodologies page on https://ratings.moodys.com for a copy of this methodology.

The weighting of all rating factors is described in the methodology used in this credit rating action, if applicable.

REGULATORY DISCLOSURES

For further specification of Moody’s key rating assumptions and sensitivity analysis, see the sections Methodology Assumptions and Sensitivity to Assumptions in the disclosure form. Moody’s Rating Symbols and Definitions can be found on https://ratings.moodys.com/rating-definitions .

For ratings issued on a program, series, category/class of debt or security this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series, category/class of debt, security or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody’s rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the credit rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular credit rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider’s credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the issuer/deal page for the respective issuer on https://ratings.moodys.com .

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this credit rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this credit rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

These ratings are unsolicited.

  1. With Rated Entity or Related Third Party Participation: YES
  2. With Access to Internal Documents: YES
  3. With Access to Management: YES

For additional information, please refer to Moody’s Policy for Designating and Assigning Unsolicited Credit Ratings available on its website https://ratings.moodys.com .

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

The Global Scale Credit Rating(s) discussed in this Credit Rating Announcement was(were) issued by one of Moody’s affiliates outside the EU and is(are) endorsed for use in the EU in accordance with the EU CRA Regulation.

Please see https://ratings.moodys.com for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody’s legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the issuer/deal page on https://ratings.moodys.com for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Mickael Gondrand

Asst Vice President – Analyst Sovereign Risk Group Moody’s Investors Service Ltd. One Canada Square

Canary Wharf London, E14 5FA United Kingdom

JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456

Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Matt Robinson

Associate Managing Director Sovereign Risk Group JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456

Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

Releasing Office:

Moody’s Investors Service Ltd.

One Canada Square Canary Wharf London, E14 5FA United Kingdom

JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456

Client Service: 44 20 7772 5454

© 2024 Moody’s Corporation, Moody’s Investors Service, Inc., Moody’s Analytics, Inc., and/or their licensors and affiliates (collectively, “MOODY’S”). All rights reserved

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