The Impact of Macro-adjustment Programmes on Housing Investment in Kampala City, Uganda: Shelter Implications for the Urban Poor

  • Augustus Nuwagaba


Shelter is indisputably one of the basic needs of mankind. The improvement and state of the housing sector is part and parcel of the development process, a fact which evidence especially from poor countries apparently contradicts. In the worst cases, the current poor shelter state, reinforced by growing homelessness, is a far cry from the pre-historic caves, for the poorest of the poor. Hitherto, the shelter problem has continued to be a global phenomenon varying in terms of magnitude rather than presence. In Uganda's case, the causes of the urban housing problem are rooted in the country's turbulent history, inhibitive land tenure system, haphazard urbanisation and phenomenal demographic dynamics. Since the early 1980s, efforts to bring the economy back on the development track through adjustment programmes have undermined the housing sector in general and urban shelter for the poor in particular. Indeed Macro-Adjustment Programmes (MAPs) in Uganda have among other effects fuelled rural-Urban migration, reduced income opportunities, swollen the ranks of the urban poor and devastated the people's living standards. The programmes in their orthodox framework have deterred investment, both private and public. The adjustment methodology has side-lined and gravely undermined the housing sector thereby aggravating the shelter problem. The paper is neither an indictment of adjustment per se nor does it seek to exonerate Uganda's recent turbulent history. The gist is that while the past upheavals, uncontrolled edaphic and explosive demographic dynamics sowed the seeds of the current shelter problem, the orthodox Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) methodology as currently employed in economic management has ably nurtured the seeds so as to create formidable problems. These already threaten the very survival of the urban poor and urgent intervention to defuse them is imperative. Such intervention should aim at revising the current SAP methodology beginning with serious initiatives to identify the urban vulnerable groups, especially the poor, and to design strategies directed at cushioning them from `shocks' as a result of adjustment programmes. There is a need to incorporate and emphasise the social-human dimension in the adjustment programmes without which they are doomed to failure.

Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review (EASSRR) VOLUME XVI No. 1 January 2000, pp. 49-64

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eISSN: 1684-4173
print ISSN: 1027-1775