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Did President Museveni get his facts right about Uganda’s development?

The president was also mostly correct in his claim about rising adult literacy.

This article is more than 5 years old

  • President Yoweri Museveni said Uganda’s economy had grown steadily since 1986, and adult literacy has risen.

  • His claim of 6.3% average economic growth since 1986 was correct, but two other claims about growth were either misleading or incorrect.

  • The president was also mostly correct in his claim about rising adult literacy.

Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement has made big strides since 1986, President Yoweri Museveni said in a New Year’s Day message to the country.

These included growing the economy and significant gains in education over his 32 years in office, Museveni said.

We checked four of his claims.

Where did the president get his data?

The president’s statistics came from a number of sources, his spokesperson Don Wanyama told Africa Check.

These included “weekly cabinet briefings” from “technocrats in the different sectors”.

“Then we also have the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, which compiles these figures and does annual reports,” Wanyama said.

He also pointed to sources such as the World Bank and the World Factbook published by the US Central Intelligence Agency.


“In the last 32 years the economy has always been growing at the rates of 6.3% and above per annum except for the years 1986/1987, 2012/ 2013.”



The size of a country’s economy is measured by its gross domestic product (GDP). This is the market value of all goods and services produced in a given period, usually a year.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics compiles statistics on the country’s GDP. This data was credible, Dr Fred Muhumuza, an expert in economics and policy, told Africa Check.

But historical data on Uganda’s economy from 1986 and earlier could be sourced from global institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Before the statistics agency became a semi-autonomous agency, it was a department in the finance and planning ministry, Muhumuza said.

Both the bureau’s data and GDP data from the World Bank show that while the 1986/87 and 2012/ 13 financial years were indeed exceptions, from 1986 to 2018 each year’s economic growth was not always above 6.3%.

In at least 12 other financial years GDP growth was below 6.3%,  meaning the economy has not always grown at the stated pace. These included 1990/91, 1997/98, 2000/01, 2009/10, 2013/14 and 2017/18.


“The average rate of growth of the economy ever since 1986 has been 6.3% per annum.”



Annual economic growth rates reported by the Bank of Uganda worked out to an average of 6.3% from 1986 to 2018.

World Bank data also shows an average growth rate of 6.3% from 1986 to 2018. (Note: You can see our calculations here.)

In a 2016 book about industrial development in developing economies, scholars wrote that given Uganda’s challenges, such as civil war, its average annual growth rate of 6.5% in the 1990s and 2000s was noteworthy.


“In some years, the growth rate went up to 11% per annum. This was in the years 1994/95/96.”



Uganda’s financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June. According to Bank of Uganda data, the economy expanded 10.6% in the 1994/95 financial year. This slowed to 7.8% in 1995/96.

World Bank data shows that growth in each calendar year was 6.4% in 1994, 11.5% in 1995 and 9% in 1996.

Both data sources also show that in 2005/06 (2005 for the World Bank) growth was 10.8% – near the president’s figure of 11%.

While it is true that in some years Uganda’s growth has been about 11% or more, it was only at this level in one of the three years the president cited. We therefore rate the claim as misleading - elements of the claim are accurate but presented in a way that is misleading. (Note: Click here for more on how we rate claims.)


“Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education have raised the level of the adult literacy rate from 43% to 75%.”


Mostly Correct

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) defines the adult literacy rate as the “percentage of population aged 15 years and over who can both read and write with understanding a short simple statement on his/her everyday life”.

Universal primary education was launched in 1996, 10 years after Museveni took office. At first, up to four children in each family could attend school without paying fees. The cap on the number of children was later removed.

Universal secondary education was announced in November 2005 with a roll-out date of January 2007.

We have not been able to find when the literacy rate was at 43%. Unesco’s earliest data shows Uganda’s 1991 adult literacy rate was 56.11%, rising to 70.2% by 2012.

This data was from the 2012 national household survey, the head of education survey at Unesco Institute for Statistics, Dr Said Ould Voffal, told Africa Check.

So the available data largely bears out Museveni’s claim that the adult literacy rate has risen.

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