Unleashing the power of urbanisation for Uganda’s new cities

  • Kampala dominates Uganda’s urban system across a number of metrics, including population, production of GDP, and formal employment opportunities.
  • However, research has shown that such urban primacy can be detrimental to economic growth for countries at lower-income levels.
  • People are settling in these cities faster than infrastructure investments can be made, such that the costs of density start to outweigh its benefits. Furthermore, there is a growing evidence base that intermediary cities can have a larger impact on poverty reduction than primary cities.
  • As such, the declaration of 15 new cities, 10 of which were gazetted from July 2020, is a strong signal from the Government of Uganda reinforcing the commitments laid out in the National Development Plan (NDP) III to foster productive urbanisation across the country.
  • This brief suggests a series of actions to be prioritised to support liveable and sustainable secondary cities: land-use planning in advance of infrastructure development and large numbers of people settling; reconfiguring governance structures to create an enabling authorising environment for urban decision making; raising funding, particularly with a focus on own-source revenue, and enabling access to appropriate sources of finance; and improving the urban investment climate to spur local economic development and create job opportunities.