Fact checking President Museveni’s 2019 New Year address

How accurate were the president’s claims on economic growth and adult literacy rates?

On 31 December 2018, the President of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni gave his New Year address, highlighting achievements by his government while showcasing a few priorities they have set out for 2019.

In his speech, the president focused on nine national issues: the economy, youth development and employment, crime, ‘political discipline’, regional integration, corruption, political leaders as examples in wealth creation, irrigation, and land evictions.

PesaCheck has identified three claims made by the Ugandan president in his address for fact-checking and this is what we found:

During the address, the president talked at large about the country’s economic growth, explaining that Uganda’s economy is once again on track to grow at a fast rate. He claimed that in the 32 years since his National Resistance Movement (NRM ) party took power, the country’s economy has grown 6.3 percent and above per annum except for the 1986/1987 and 2012/ 2013 financial years.

PesaCheck has investigated this claim and finds it to be FALSE for the following reasons:

According to data from the World Bank, the growth rate of Uganda’s economy was below 6.3 percent for 12 years straight since 1987. The last time the economy grew at over 6.3 percent per year was in 2011. According to the KPMG Uganda Budget brief released in June 2018, the country’s GDP grew 5.8 per cent in 2017/18, an increase from the 3.9 per cent GDP growth the country recorded in 2016/17.

The two financial years (1986/87 and 2012/13) claimed by President Museveni to be the only financial years in which the country’s economic growth grew by a rate below 6.3 per cent in the past 32 years are not the only financial years in which the economy has grown at a rate below 6.3 per cent. In fact, out of the 32 financial years dating to 2017, the country’s economic growth rate has been below 6.3 per cent in 15 financial years, which is almost half of the entire 32 years claimed. This makes president Museveni’s claim FALSE.

Mr Museveni further explained that the slow economic growth experienced in various years was caused by a number of factors, such as the delay in constructing the Bujagali Dam in 2002. He went on to say how despite of the dives, the average rate of growth of the economy since when he took power (in 1986) has been 6.3 per cent annually.

PesaCheck has investigated this claim of the average rate of growth of Uganda’s economy since 1986 being 6.3 per cent per annum and finds this claim to be TRUE because of the following reasons:

Using the same data from the World Bank showed above, the average growth rate of the economy since 1986 is 6.267 per cent which rounds off to 6.3 per cent. This makes President Museveni’s claim TRUE.

Another claim made by the president in his 2019 New Year address was that the level of the adult literacy rate has increased from 43 per cent to 75 per cent. He said that the increase is attributed to the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) in Uganda.

PesaCheck has investigated this claim by President Museveni that Uganda’s adult literacy rate has increased to 75 per cent to be TRUE because of the following reasons;

According to a report released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Institute of statistics in June 2013, there was a noticeable increase in Uganda’s adult literacy rates from years of 1991 to 2010. The report noted that in 2002, 68.1 per cent of persons aged 15 years and over could read and write; which rate had increased from 56.1 per cent in 1991. The report also listed the adult literacy rate at 71.4 per cent in 2006 and 73.2 per cent in 2010. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) estimated that Uganda’s adult literacy rate would be at 78.3 percent in 2015. USE was introduced in Uganda in 2007 a few years after the introduction of UPE in 1996.

According to a more recent report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, theUganda National Household Survey 2016/2017 revealed that the literacy rate had gone up to 74 percent for persons aged 18 years and above. This puts the adult literacy rate close to the claim by President Museveni in his new 2019 new year address making it TRUE.

Uganda’s economic outlook for 2019 appears to be stable, with President Museveni indicating that his government would push for greater regional cooperation in the East African Community, increased irrigation to boost agricultural production, electrification through solar power, and a commitment to fight against corruption.

The president’s optimism appears to be driven by the fact that Uganda has all the elements for double-digit economic growth, such as power generation, economic policy reforms and increased access to education. Given the claims that we have checked based on the president’s speech, his hopes are not unfounded, but it remains to be seen whether they will actually be realized.

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