Expert Speak India with Africa
Published on Jun 04, 2020
The expected outcomes of the post-COVID19 Lockdown in Uganda

The government of Uganda instituted a nationwide lockdown on the 18th March 2020 before the country had a confirmed COVID-19 case. According to the Presidential address to the nation; all public gatherings and institutions, including schools, churches and mosques, bars and night-clubs as well as sports events were suspended until further notice. Soon after, public transport, private vehicles, businesses that do not deal with essential items/services were suspended for seventy-five days of the lockdown. These directives from the President have successfully saved the country and it’s under-funded health care system from exposing its fragility. As of 1st June 2020, Uganda has 457 confirmed COVID-19 cases and no fatalities. Many of these cases were either citizens returning from abroad or border-point truck drivers. Only 20% of the infections were through community transmissions. However, Uganda is currently staring at yet other challenges birthed by the  pandemic. Will her health care systems ever cope with the new challenges? There are also concerns around the recovery of the economy as well as the livelihoods of the citizens – Is this the new normal?

COVID-19 started impacting Uganda’s economy in early February, much before the lockdown was imposed. As per, Uganda’s Ministry of Finance, March 2020, Performance of the Economy Report, by early February there was not only a decline in the country’s exports but the imports from China had also declined due to obvious reasons.  The report says, “Export performance was affected by falling external demand and trade disruptions following the outbreak.” Restrictions were imposed on trade with countries like China to contain the spread of the virus.  In February 2020, compared to the previous month,  there was an 8.0% reduction in earnings. Uganda’s export earnings had fallen from USD 383.62 million in January to USD 352.91 million in February.

The fall in exports and imports have directly impacted the government’s ability to collect taxes. Uganda’s projected growth rate has also fallen from 6% to 3.9%. The government is promoting the local industries and manufacturers and encouraging the people to buy local. However, many questions arise on product quality compared to imported goods. Because of liquidity and capitalization challenges, many companies could soon close or file for bankruptcy even when the government eases on the lockdown measures. These include some sections of the agricultural industries, the hotel and tour companies and a number of other small-scale industries. The agricultural industry has also taken a beating because of the locust invasion from the Middle East this period. The health sector has done a commendable job in the fight against Covid-19. However, there concerns on other health matters such as HIV Aids, maternal health, mental health and sexual reproductive health prevail as not much attention has been given to these diseases during the total lockdown period. Many HIV patients were denied access to antiretroviral treatment during lockdown. This means that Uganda’s 1.46 million HIV infected population (Ministry of health data 2020) could soon be staring at high numbers of drug resistant cases. It is expected that Uganda’s population growth rate could also rise exponentially due to lack of access to reproductive health services such as family planning services. Health reports have also indicated an increase in the number of mental cases during this lockdown. While the pandemic has exerted pressure on many sectors in Uganda, it has also increased the burden on women. Women in both the formal and informal sectors have had to put up with increased chores which involves among others things preparing meals, helping the children with homework, sometimes walking out to the market to buy food, and washing clothes, on top of ensuring that they are delivering at taking full care for their husbands. Since families are in confinement, there has also been an increase in the number of domestic violence cases. Due to the on-going challenges faced by the country, the government has distributed food to more than two million citizens in Kampala and neighboring districts. On the flip side, Kampala has been spared the long traffic lines on its roads and the city looks and feels greener and cleaner. The children in homes have spent (both quality and quantity) time with their parents who have worked as part-time teachers for now close to three months. The crime rate in the city has dropped because of curfew hours between 6.30AM – 7.00PM. There is so much to speculate as to what lies ahead. Shall we learn from the pandemic and its lockdowns? Only time will tell if we acted wisely and never make the same mistakes if we were attacked by an unseen virus or bacteria again.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Isaac Mukama

Isaac Mukama

Isaac Mukama is a computer scientist with a passion for innovation and development in the fight against poverty in Uganda. He works with ICT4D Uganda ...

Read More +