The war between Russia and Ukraine has done more harm than good to most of the African countries, Uganda inclusive. With the cost of living going higher by the day, a group of Ugandans called out to the general public through social media to stage a three day economic shutdown so as for the government to hear their pleas and reduce commodity prices..
The economic shutdown that was supposed to last three days had its kick off in Uganda’s Industrial city, Jinja. Youths in Jinja woke up to burn used vehicle tires along the Kampala-Jinja highway causing a halt to traffic. Their actions deterred both motorcyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike from accessing the highways. They were seen pelting all the road users who declined to obey their call of joining the protest. However business in Kampala and surrounding suburbs was normal despite the social media messages calling for closure. It should also be noted that this is the second protest against commodity prices in Jinja city in less than a month.
Unlike leaders from other countries within the East African Community-EAC region who are seen to be offering short term solutions to control the skyrocketing prices, not much has been done in Uganda. The protest later turned chaotic with a section of youths robbing valuables from members of the public under the guise of forcIng them to return to their homes.
At least 50 people have been arrested in Jinja City and Kampala Metropolitan Area on allegations of participating in mobilizing members of the public to demonstrate. Police spokesman Fred Enanga said Opposition politicians were behind the protests, but security agencies were able to prevent an escalation of the situation.
According to the latest report by Twaweza’s Sauti za Wanainchi, market prices for staple foods have risen sharply approaching levels of 2017 when the East Africa region expressed widespread stress. Millions of Ugandans are now struggling as prices soar, made worse by rising fuel costs. Marie Hilda Nanyanzi, the Senior Program Officer in charge of Sauti za Wananchi quoting data by the World Food Programme, said that market prices for staple food crops have risen sharply and therefore squeezing households.
According to records compiled by the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, this is not the worst inflation that Ugandans have faced. Back in 2009, it shot up to a record of 14.9% due to the global financial crisis. As a result of the high inflation companies that have been affected have been cutting back on their staff. Shortages in fuel and increases in fuel prices mean that more people are being affected. President Museveni and finance Minister Matia Kasaijja have refused to intervene, saying the trend is driven by forces beyond Uganda. In April 2022, the government said the headline inflation of 3.7% was moderate compared to other countries in the region.
Meanwhile, billions of people are facing the greatest cost of living crisis in a generation due to rising food and energy prices amid rapid inflation and increasing debt, leaving the most vulnerable consumers in a dire situation in Africa. According to UNCTAD’s analysis a 10 percent increase in food prices will trigger a five per cent decrease in the incomes of the poorest families, roughly equivalent to the amount those families would normally spend on healthcare. This setback could not have come at a worse time—as growth was starting to recover and policymakers were beginning to address the social and economic legacy of COVID-19 pandemic and other development challenges. The effects of the war will be deeply consequential, eroding standards of living and aggravating macroeconomic imbalances.