Uganda, a small East African country on the shores of Lake Victoria, has transformed itself from a country with a troubled past to one of relative stability. From its independence in 1962, Uganda endured a brutal military dictatorship under Idi Amin, which ended in 1979, followed by disputed elections in 1980 and a five-year war that brought current President Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986. Until the early 2000s, the country also had to contend with a brutal 20-year insurgency in the north, led by the Lord's Resistance Army.
All this conflict has hindered the country’s development. More than 80 per cent of the population still lives in rural areas. Despite some economic development over the last decade, largely driven by a growth in information and communications technologies and the agricultural sector, Uganda is still faced with high poverty rates, with over 60 per cent of the population living on less than USD 2 a day, in 2012. However, Uganda’s towns and cities are now growing fast, with the urban population projected to increase from 13.3 million in 2010 to 20 million in 2030. Currently, about the half of the urban population lives in slums.

Uganda’s government has approached this issue by developing policy frameworks and institutions. In 2006, it established the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. In 2007, the National Planning Authority agreed on the Vision 2040 for the future development of Uganda, with urban development as one of the fundamental issues. The government committed to improving living conditions of the urban poor by providing a framework, direction and plans to all stakeholders on how to improve slums. As a result, a number of partnerships were established with national and international organizations to empower the urban poor and actively engage in the urban transformation in secondary cities.

The Municipal Development Strategy (MDS), supported by the Cities Alliance, seeks to support 12 secondary towns in addressing urban development and providing basic urban services. Slum Dwellers International and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda mobilised slum communities and connected them to the national and local governments. Some of the partner NGOs have started to implement projects based on jointly identified issues related to water, housing and sanitation. The Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), a large program under UN-Habitat, has piloted a household enumeration in Mbale and Mbarara. The PSUP team has utilised the information gathered through this project to prioritize upgrading projects.

PSUP Contributions and Achievements

The PSUP became part of the country’s joint efforts towards inclusive urban development in 2008. The government of Uganda has adapted the PSUP to national needs and the program principles and approach contributed to the review of national programs.

This included the Transforming the Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU). The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and Makerere University are partnering in the implementation of the PSUP, which has contributed to strengthen research and knowledge of slums in the country. Uganda has maximized the potential for peer learning by enhancing urban forums in communities, municipalities and at the national level, involving different sectors and the civil society around the table.