Abidjan, Ivory Coast — The latest African Economic Outlook (AEO) report indicates that foreign direct investment (FDI) flows following the recent issuance of oil exploration licenses and the investment in infrastructure development is expected to spur Uganda's economy for most of 2018.
The African Development Bank 2018 edition of the yearly flagship report released on Wednesday indicates Uganda's economic performance generally remained strong despite the recent slowdown in real GDP growth, which is projected to reach 5.9% in 2018, up from 4.8% in 2017 and 2.3% in 2016.
As a leading African institution, the African Development Bank is the first to provide headline numbers on Africa's macroeconomic performance and outlook.
Economic performance and outlook
Economic performance generally remained strong despite the recent slowdown in real GDP growth, which is projected to reach 5.9% in 2018, up from 4.8% in 2017 and 2.3% in 2016. The increase in economic growth in 2018 is expected to be driven mainly by public infrastructure investment; recovery in manufacturing and construction; and improvements in the services sector, particularly financial and banking, trade, transport, and information and communication technology services.
Uganda pursued a cautious expansionary fiscal policy stance to support key infrastructure projects in transport and energy, while keeping recurrent expenditure under control.
The overall budget deficit was slightly high in 2016, improved in 2017, and is projected to increase in 2018 and 2019. The balance of payments deteriorated, mainly as the result of external economic headwinds, including low commodity prices due to slow growth in Europe and China and tightening global financial and monetary conditions.
The macroeconomic policy stance remains focused on containing inflationary pressures, enhancing exchange rate stability, and stepping up domestic resource mobilization growth by 0.5 percentage point of GDP. Uganda continues to have a low risk of debt distress. However, the debt-toGDP ratio is increasing and is projected to reach 38.6% of GDP in 2016 and 45% by 2020 from 34.1% in 2014.
At these growth rates, the debt burden is growing faster than government resources; the revenue-to-GDP ratio stands at only 13.4%. However, the most recent International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group debt sustainability analysis in 2016 gives Uganda's risk of debt distress a low rating.
The main tailwinds for the 2018 economic outlook include increased agricultural production due to better weather conditions; higher foreign direct investment (FDI) flows following the recent issuance of oil exploration licenses; and the expected decision by the government to invest in oil infrastructure development in early 2018, given the projected increase in oil prices to an average of $55 a barrel in 2017-18 from $43 a barrel in 2016.
Major external risks to economic performance include low commodity prices and demand for the country's exports in major markets, appreciation of the U.S. dollar due to expected monetary tightening by the United States, tightening of global financing conditions that could discourage FDI and development assistance, adverse spillover shocks from fragile regional neighbors, and adverse environmental shocks. Major internal risks include reduced domestic revenue mobilization and higher public spending on contingencies, poor institutional capacity and governance, and weak public financial and investment management systems.