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One Way to Understand the State of Uganda’s Economy is to Ask its Informal Workers

For the harried workers of Uganda’s informal economy, life is already tough enough. This might not be an economy in crisis, but millions of people face a daily struggle just to make ends meet. They testify to an economic model that has not brought industrialisation or created enough jobs.In the first decades of President Yoweri Museveni’s rule the economy grew rapidly. Its direction was influenced by two groups: a cluster of free-market technocrats, who made Uganda one of the most liberal economies in Africa, and the networks of powerful individuals around the president, who bent the rules to their advantage. This combination of economic openness, ruthless accumulation and foreign aid drove output upwards. With time, the shortcomings of that model have become more evident. Growth rates have slowed, popular frustration is swelling, and institutions are distorted to preserve Museveni in power. Some in government urge a more active industrial policy to drive economic transformation.