Uganda is estimated to have two billion barrels of oil reserves. Policy analysts say that the government has, however, done little to exploit the country’s vast mineral resources. Dickens Kamugisha, the executive director of the NGO Africa Institute for Energy Governance, told IPS the country’s resources have not been fully tapped to create jobs for locals and thereby combat poverty.
“Revenue from such a rich resource base has the potential to transform our economy. The fight against poverty and disease could be intensified and social services for all Ugandans improved,” he said.
Onesmus Mugyenyi, a policy analyst with the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, a local policy research and advocacy think tank, explained that Uganda’s poverty levels were closely related to its failure to sustainably exploit its natural resources.
“Uganda’s rural population is employed in natural resource-based activities, particularly agriculture. Therefore, sustainable natural resource utilisation is key to Uganda’s efforts to ensure poverty reduction,” Mugyenyi told IPS. He said the country had good laws and policies about tapping its natural resources, but they were not enforced. “We have instead degraded the same resources that we should have used for poverty reduction,” he said.
people of Karamoja, in northeastern Uganda, have been trapped in a cycle of poverty despite the presence of over 50 different minerals in the region. Uganda Bureau of Statistics data show that an estimated 82 percent of the population in Karamoja live in poverty, and only eight percent have access to sanitation. In addition, acute malnutrition is as high as 10.9 percent, compared to a national average of six percent.
“The minerals sector in Karamoja is characterised by unsustainable mining methods, dire health and safety conditions, child labour, gender inequalities, exploitative pricing and environmental degradation,” Isaac Kabong, the executive director of Ecological Christian Organisation, which conducted research on mineral exploitation in Karamoja, told IPS.
A report titled “Is anybody listening?” published in October by the Chronic Poverty Advisory Network stated that despite Uganda’s high levels of economic growth “unemployment is still high while the poorest and vulnerable continue to find it hard to access these basic social services. For example, more than 30 percent of the children from the poorest households are not enrolled in school.”