Getting Aid Right in Northern Uganda—Interview with Julius Kiiza of Makerere University, Kampala

March 01, 2010
I'm joined on the Wonkcast this week by Julius Kiiza, a visiting fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Julius is an associate professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and is spending time at CGD on a grant from the Canadian International Development Research Center. His research addresses the prospects for aid effectiveness and development in northern Uganda.

Julius tells me that northern Uganda has presented a difficult paradox for aid donors. For years, the country as a whole has been touted as a success story, and a potential model for other developing countries. It boasts one of the fastest rates of economic growth in all of Africa and has cut poverty nearly in half since 1992. However, Julius explains, the north of the country has made very little progress during that time. While the national poverty rate is around 30%, the poverty rate in the north is still around 60%.

How to explain (and thus overcome) northern Uganda's stagnation? In our conversation, Julius walks me through a five-part framework. His analysis seeks to understand the historical context of development and institution building in northern Uganda, the region's strikingly poor poverty and human development indicators, ongoing elements of state fragility, the challenges of aid coordination, and the importance of aid that helps to build the foundations for sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

In the end, Julius says, getting foreign aid right is important. However, what is most important is understanding the local context and fostering homegrown institutions that can drive the region's long-term success. "Whether Uganda attains development or not will largely depend on what happens within the domestic constituency," Julius tells me. "Foreign assistance is important...but the most important factors that determine whether Uganda will grow are domestic and institutional."

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