Some thoughts in the socio-economic engineering if fragile state in Africa: the case of Uganda

Course ID
Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA)
Tenkir Bonger

In pre-colonial sub-Saharan Africa [SSA], with the possible exception of Ethiopia and Eritrea, shifting cultivation and nomadic mode of production precluded the emergence of formed agrarian social classes and states based on the production, exchange and distribution of agricultural surplus in the mould of the other two developing regions of the world, Asia and Latin America. The colonial state in SSA overlaid itself on mostly loosely inter-connected social structures. In the post-independence period, the inherited fragility of the state has been manifested in military coup de etats espousing ethnic hegemony, nation building, socialism, Marxism, democracy and other political discourses. However, with the exception of some, most failed to establish a stable polity for economic development. The worst expression of the fragility of the modern state and its attendant negative consequences have been manifested in no other countries than in Uganda under Idi Amin and currently in Somalia.

Emerging from the chaotic years of the rule of Idi Amin when the fragility of the state had attained its maximum expression, Uganda has been in the process of building institutions for economic development within the framework of structural adjustment and liberalization of the economy. These have been anchored around three policy areas enunciated by the Ugandan Government vis. Agricultural Modernization, Poverty Eradication and Universal Primary Education (UPE) in relation to agricultural and rural development

The field observations on which this paper has built on were garnered in the course of poverty study in seven districts of Uganda – Apac, Lira, Soroti, lganga, Ntungamo, Bushenyi and Mpigi. They are meant to portray some observed phenomena on the ground. It is hoped that they will stimulate further discussion in tandem with the above policy pronouncement of the government. In doing so, the report seeks to explore the implications of the observations for institutional reforms in such areas as land tenure, education, social security, labour markets and regional policy. The aim is that the issues raised will contribute towards the illumination of strategies for rural development on the path to building a stable polity while evolving further policies and fine-tuning of instruments.

The mainly anecdotal observations are discussed around five main themes – Access to Land and Livelihoods, UPE & Poor Households, Poverty & Life Cycles, Three Hours as a Working Day and A Very Poor Village in a Rich District. By doing so, the paper attempts to bring into focus some of the operating institutions in the process of the social reconstruction of the country and derive implications for policy. It interfaces the observed institutional realities with the demands of sustainable economic development with far reaching implications for institution building.

Given its natural resources, including ease of social and economic access to land, good climate, network of roads, a reasonably high level of education, Uganda enjoys a potential capability and capacity to forge ahead with growth and development. In doing so, it has oriented growth towards empowerment and equality. Its publicly enunciated policies of poverty eradication, modernization and universal primary education can be viewed as important tools towards these goals which need to be anchored in viable institutions.Towards this end, policy analysts need to disentangle the economic, political, social and cultural roots of existing institutions and mould them to nurture and sustain policies and instruments chosen by society. In doing so, such institutions need to be socio-culturally comprehensible but also sufficiently reformist and modernist; inclusive of all stakeholders but attuned to the task environment; endowed with predictable behavior without being inflexible; durable but also adaptable in process and finally transparent and accountable enough to justify their autonomy from undue political interference in their operation

Corporate Author: Getnet Alemu and Edilegnaw Wale (Editor) & Ethiopian Economic Association/Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute
Publisher: Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA)
ISBN/ISSN: 978-99944-54-05-1
Primary Descriptors:


Geographic Descriptors: Africa, Uganda
Cataloge Date: 02/27/2013
Broad Subject heading: Finance and Development
Call Number: 330.963 PRO 2009
Serial Key Title: Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on the Ethiopian Economy
Publication catagory: International Conference
Content type: EEA Publication
Volume: I
Publication date: 2013-12-27 00:00:00
Forum or Discussion date: 2013-02-27 00:00:00
PDF file:  Tenkir Bonger_ Some thoughts in the socio economic engineering if fragile state in Africa.pdf
Place of publication: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Type of material: Book
Current frequency: Annualy
Author: Tenkir Bonger

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