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The challenge of developing a national social protection system: The Ugandan experience

Time (GMT +00) 11:45 12:45


The Honourable Minister Syda Namirembe Bbumba - Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Government of Uganda

Andrew Shepherd - Director of Programmes, Rural Policy and Governance Group, ODI


Marie Staunton - CEO, Plan UK and Chair, Grow Up Free From Poverty Coalition

Honourable Minister Syda N Bbumba

The Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development described the development of the cash transfer pilot scheme in Uganda. She discussed the implications for cost and impact (coverage) of the different cash transfer options for Uganda.  The five options are:

  1. targeting the poorest 10% of the population in Uganda
  2. Universal old age pension
  3. Targeted old age pension of households headed by an older person
  4. Targeted old age pension of older persons living in poverty
  5. Disability grant targeting those with permanent disabilities

Andrew Shepherd, ODI

Andrew Shepherd raised two key points about the challenges to implementing social protection:

  1. Financing: that there is still a long way to go to make the case for social protection to be financed nationally, and supported by the Ministry of Finance
  2. Concerns around the view (both in government and the general public) that social protection may create dependency

Andrew also discussed the implications of different targeting mechanisms. Importantly, different targeting mechanisms will have implications for the objectives of social protection and on the extent to which the poverty gap will be closed.


Addressing structural vulnerability and poverty in Uganda
The Minister emphasised that social protection forms part of a wider approach to reducing poverty and vulnerability in Uganda. It provides part of a combined approach to address the needs of the poor, as well as providing a crucial intervention which reaches people other programmes do not – such as the elderly.

One participant brought up the concern that targeting the poorest 10% of the population can divide communities. The Minister responded by saying that creating social divisions is one of the weaknesses of targeting, but using community based targeting can be a way of reducing the negative impacts.

Cash transfers
Evidence from cash transfers to elderly people suggests that they spend cash transfers very wisely – on food, medicine, on grandchildren etc.


Over the last five years, the Ugandan government has given new attention to the conceptualisation of social protection as an approach, and as a set of specific public policies, both to reduce risk and vulnerability, and to act as a poverty eradication intervention. Social protection objectives are integrated into the four pillars of the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP) planning framework: human development; enhancing production, competitiveness and incomes; and security, conflict resolution and disaster management.

Like a number of governments in Africa, Uganda has set up inter-ministerial working groups and established pilot schemes in response to commitments made at the intergovernmental conference on social protection held in Livingstone in March 2006.

At this ODI and Grow Up Free From Poverty coalition event, the Honourable Minister Bbumba will explain the choices and challenges facing Uganda as it develops an affordable and sustainable system suited to the needs of its population.

Training Room