Electricity usage: An early signal of the impact of COVID-19 on Uganda’s economy

Policy brief Energy, State Effectiveness and State

  • Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda has put in place swift policy responses, including country-wide restrictions on the movement of people and a national curfew.
  • A critical challenge throughout this period has been a lack of timely economic indicators to better understand both the effects of the health crisis and of government policies in response.
  • This policy brief uses transaction-level data on electricity consumption as an indicator of economic activity and explores how electricity use by firms and households varied before and after the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed in Uganda between March–May 2020.
  • The data reveals a large and steep decline in average electricity consumption through the lockdown, with different levels between districts and regions, and a slow and incomplete recovery since then.
  • Given the availability of real time electricity data in Uganda, it may be valuable for government departments to use it as an indicator of activity for future economic monitoring and work with UMEME (Uganda’s largest electricity distribution company) to develop of a real time ‘dashboard’.