Uganda, like many other global nations, is battling the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic reversed a decade of economic progress for the country. On June 28, 2021, the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for Uganda’s economic recovery in a critical time of need.
COVID-19’s Impact on Uganda’s Economy
According to the World Bank, Uganda’s real GDP grew less than half as much in 2020 than in the year before. A four-month nationwide lockdown deterred the economic activity of the industrial and service sectors. The country’s COVID-19 lockdown forced company closures and permanent layoffs, especially in the industry and services sectors. Many informal jobs were impacted, leading to a reliance on farming for income creation and food security.
A Rise in Child Labor
A 69-page report by the Human Rights Watch and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights explains that many families’ household incomes dropped due to the pandemic’s effects. Furthermore, with schools shut down, the burden of decreased income fell on many children. Child labor surged as many children as young as 8 years old had to work in hazardous conditions in order to provide for their families.
Nearly half of the Ugandan children interviewed in the report worked at least 10 hours a day, sometimes every day of the week. Some children even reported working as much as 16 hours a day. Most of the children only earned a meager $2 a day while subject to dangerous work conditions. Children in agriculture were injured by sharp tools used in fieldwork and “the sharp edges of sugarcane stalks.”
Other children working in quarries “suffered injuries from flying stones.” Many children also reported violence, harassment and pay theft during their employment. Many employers try to exploit child labor and maximize production. Due to these circumstances, Human Rights Watch asserts that part of Uganda’s economic recovery must include targeted assistance to households with children.
Funding From the IMF
The three-year loan approved by the board under the ECF includes the immediate disbursement of $258 million for much-needed budget support. The disbursement follows the $491.5 million release of emergency funds in May 2020 to support the post-pandemic recovery of Uganda. In an effort to strengthen Uganda’s economic recovery, authorities seek to increase household income throughout the country. Authorities are encouraging inclusive growth by investing in the development of the private sector and enacting reforms in the public sector.
Uganda’s Economic Outlook
Uganda seeks to combat its financing issues as it goes forward. Hopefully, the crucial aid from the IMF will help create jobs by investing back into the industrial and service sectors. Also, the financing aid may help children return to school as parents find new work. Economic growth in 2021 and 2022 is estimated to climb to 4.3% before reaching pre-pandemic levels of growth. While some industries such as tourism may remain subdued for a while, other sectors such as “manufacturing, construction and retail and wholesale trade” expect to rebound in 2021. However, Uganda’s economic recovery is currently still tenuous. The government will need to tread carefully as the economy remains vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
– Gene Kang