• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
30 Mar 2024

Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has been commended for maintaining its independence in generating evidence that has influenced many policy interventions in Uganda.

EPRC marked 30 years of impactful research in Uganda on March 21, 2024, by hosting key stakeholders for a sumptuous dinner at Kampala Serena hotel.

During the function, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Representative in Uganda Ms. Susan Ngongi Namondo, who was the chief guest, said: “As the premier think tank in Uganda, EPRC has over the years produced quality evidence-based products in various sectors, which the UN system in Uganda has benefited from in providing support to the Government of Uganda.”

She added that “what is really commendable is that the EPRC has managed to remain independent despite its strong relationship with the government”.

The idea to start EPRC was conceived in 1993 and in January 1994, the Centre opened its doors with its initial research aimed at supporting the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs). The Centre’s subsequent work informed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and later the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Centre has been strong in poverty analysis which was previously done by the World Bank.

EPRC first Board of Directors Chairperson Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile guided the young research institution in its formative years, placing it on a strong path for growth and influence.

Ms. Namondo said: “It took a community of dedicated stakeholders to establish EPRC. I congratulate Makerere University, Bank of Uganda, Ministry of Finance, and ACBF [African Capacity Building Foundation] for their contribution.”

For 30 years, the Centre’s impact has been weaved into the Uganda’s policy processes and influenced some of the most important interventions that have had immense impacts on the lives of Ugandans.  The EPRC future success will depend on the Centre’s ability to adapt to the future including harnessing opportunities arising from new technologies and artificial intelligence, said UN in Uganda chief.

Read, Speech: EPRC’s 30-year journey and the future ahead

Prof. William Bazeyo, EPRC Board of Directors member, while representing the chairperson Mr. Ramathan Ggoobi, extended appreciation to Makerere University for partnering with Ministry of Finance to support EPRC. He applauded the Government of Uganda for commitment to support EPRC, providing 70% of the resources to the Centre for the last 30 years. Prof Bazeyo pledged EPRC commitment to continue supporting the country’s policy processes.

Mr. Rodolphe Bance, the head of Economic & Social Governance Unit at the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), commended the EPRC “for evolving into a high-quality research organisation that has contributed significantly to formulating national policies and programs.”

EPRC shareholders and key funders were recognized.

He listed some of the achievements that EPRC has had overtime including, the Centre’s research work and studies have instrumental in informing PEAP process, the country economic memorandum, and the economic reviews, national budgets, the National Development Plan (NDP), the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA), the medium-term competitive strategy (MTCs) for the private sector, National Household Surveys (UNHS), and the Poverty and Social Impact Assessment, and Medium Term expenditure frameworks (MTEF), as well as public expenditure tracking studies in education and agriculture.

Mr. Bance said the future comes with challenges but embracing technological advancements could potentially revolutionalise the work of think tanks.

He said: “Think tanks should embrace data analytics, machine learning to enhance their research capabilities and policy analysis. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, they can process vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and generate insights critical for evidence-based decision-making.”

He added that “digital platforms and social media provide new avenues for disseminating research findings, engaging with stakeholders, and amplifying the impact of think tanks’ work.”

Also read, EPRC at 30: Our story

Our impact

Dr. Sarah N. Ssewanyana, the EPRC Executive Director, said that over the last three decades, the Centre’s research contributed to informing various government policy, regulatory and programming processes and actions geared towards delivering its commitments for sustained economic growth and transformation.

In a speech read on her behalf by Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye, the EPRC Director of Research, she highlighted some of the Centre’s key accomplishments:

  • Spearheaded jointly with MoFPED, the development of an Agro-industrialisation Agenda for Uganda and the Public Investment Management Strategy for the Agro-industry.
  • The extensive analytical work on poverty trends, pro-poor growth, poverty-inequality-growth nexus, and chronic poverty have greatly informed the design, implementation, and review of Poverty Reduction Strategies such as the Poverty Eradication Plan (PEAP), and the regular monitoring of poverty trends in Uganda.
  • Contributed to setting of the social protection agenda by offering technical support to the Expanding Social Protection programme with a focus on the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment Programme (SAGE).
  • Supported the peace restoration process in Northern Uganda through assessment of the social-economic issues and evaluation of government programmes such as the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) and Northern Uganda Reconstruction Programme (NURP). Our findings informed the design of the subsequent programmes, including the Peace Recovery and Development Plan IV.
  • Conducted research that enabled the rescinding of a government decision in 2014/15 FY to impose value-added tax on agricultural inputs.
  • Provided evidence that informed, and participated in the drafting of the Domestic Resource Mobilisation Strategy for Uganda
  • Spearheaded the development of the National Fertiliser Policy, Strategy and Regulations; and offered technical support and oversight towards the development of the Agricultural Finance Policy and Strategy, National Industrial Development Policy and The National Tea Development Policy. We also extensively contributed to the review of the Sugarcane Policy 2010 and the Sugar Act 2020.

On the future, she said the Centre aims to make its research and policy work more influential; this involves taking the following actions to maintain its independence as a non-profit policy think tank in Uganda:

  • Aggressive resource mobilisation to ensure continuity of its mandate besides having a bigger home or office premise.
  • A paradigm shift from focusing predominantly on economic dimensions of policy to a blend of socioeconomic and political economy.
  • Repositioning the trade and regional integration department to continue undertaking research at the local level, but with a focus on informing and influencing the continental and global trade policies and development programmes.
  • Re-purpose our stakeholder engagements to focus on citizens’ engagement to build trust and ownership of government policies and programmes.
  • Strengthening our relationship with Makerere University
  • Broadening and improving our capacity-building mandate by developing a sustainable post-doctoral training programme targeting fresh PhDs to prepare them for the job market and the policy world; institutionalising our secondment programme to create a demand for evidence uptake into the policy processes; Re-instituting our international fellowship programme to attract international scholars to work with EPRC, to cross-fertilise ideas, skills, methodologies, and technologies in doing research.

Watch the video here.

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