• Authored By: Alon Mwesigwa
20 Feb 2024

The Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) has kicked off activities to mark 30 years of impactful research excellence in Uganda. The first of these activities took place on February 15-16, 2024, with a career guidance to students, a public talk on how think tanks and academia can work collaboratively to use evidence to influence policy, and medical camp over the two days.

EPRC Executive Director Dr. Sarah Ssewanyana, said of EPRC roots: “Before the setup of EPRC, policy formulation in Uganda was largely ran by external [forces] – with the assistance of International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They used to come here and do these things [evidence generation] for us. Once they did, they moved out. There was little ownership of what was proposed and how it moved forward.”

She added: “That’s how EPRC came on board to fill this gap [of local ownership of evidence generation]. I hope that we have been able to fill the gap.”

EPRC Executive Director Dr. Sarah N. Ssewanyana during the open day

Set up

When EPRC started in the 1990s, the focus was mainly to do research to inform the structural adjustment policies at time. Towards 2000, we went into work that informed the Millennium Development Goals, Dr Ssewanyana said.

In 2000, EPRC also started doing poverty analysis which was originally done by the World Bank. In 2003, the World Bank decided that local capacity was needed for the same and they decided to develop that capacity at EPRC.

“We also started doing trade and regional integration research. This one was singled out because trade is very important [for Uganda]. We have been active in terms of designing govt programmes. The EPRC was involved in the design of Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA), and the SAGE project giving the elderly allowance was born at EPRC.”

The Centre has now ventured into conducting surveys, thanks to a project brought by the World Bank in 2015.

We have also evolved about our research approach. We used to sit here and think about the research agenda. Now we engage the stakeholders especially those in government and more so at the ministry of Finance. We tried to engage them to ensure that we remain relevant to them. We walk with them from the inception of the study up to the end to ensure uptake of our research.

Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, who gave the key talk, called for the strengthening of collaborative research and funding of evidence generation between think tanks and universities.

He said: “Universities and think-tanks can benefit each other when they have shared goals and interests. Makerere University celebrated 100 years two years ago, and we announced our strategic vision to focus on research and innovation for the next century.”

He added that “When universities and think tanks work together, it can bring better research outcomes and great impact. There must be cross-pollination.”

For example, he said, the College of Business and Management Science (CoBAMS) should be interested in what EPRC is doing and what issues the country is interested in.

Several people were attended to at the EPRC free medical camp.

Medical Camp

As part of the open day activities, a medical camp was organized on February 15 and 16th 2024 to offer Makerere University community a range of medical services for free. The camp with organized in partnership with Makerere University Hospital.

The services offered included eye check-up, circumcision, dental check-up, speech therapy, HIV and cancer screening, blood donation among other services. At least 750 people received medical attention during the medical camp.

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