• Authored By: Ibrahim Kasirye
11 Apr 2024

This speech was read by Dr. Ibrahim Kasirye, the EPRC Director of Research, on behalf of the Executive Director Dr Sarah N. Ssewanyana, at the EPRC dinner to mark 30 years of impactful research in Uganda. The dinner was held at Kampala Serena Hotel on March 21, 2024.

Hon. Ministers Present

The Chairperson of the EPRC Board of Directors

Our Chief Guest, the UN Resident Coordinator for Uganda

The Executive Secretary of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF)

All distinguished guests here present,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for honouring our invitation to mark this very important milestone in EPRC’s journey. We are delighted to have you join us on Thursday evening as we celebrate 30 years of impactful research by the Economic Policy Research Centre in Uganda.

Allow me to take you through parts of EPRC’s journey.

EPRC’s 30-Year Journey of Impactful Policy Research

EPRC opened its doors in 1993 as an autonomous not-for-profit organization with a mission to generate policy-oriented research and analysis to guide decision-making on socio-economic development in Uganda. The aim was to build national capacity to support the policymaking work of government.

Since then, our mission has been to develop and implement a responsive research agenda that facilitates the achievement of the long-term development goals of Uganda through three broad goals:

  1. Provision of timely policy evidence-based user-responsive research to inform and influence policy and practice.
  2. Fostering policy engagement and outreach for effective policymaking to support the improvement of the welfare and socio-economic status of Ugandans.
  3. Strengthening policy linkages and networks with national and international stakeholders for research collaborations and institutional strengthening
  4. Capacity building and technical support to stakeholders to utilise EPRC’s research products and services in economic policy development and management.

The Centre has been a crucial player in the key benchmark moments of our country’s economic transformation, and we present some of the highlights realised over the decades along with our strategic goals:

Provision of user-responsive policy research and engagement

In our first decade, 1993-2002, we set out to build the national infrastructure for rigorous research on the broad theme of Poverty Reduction and Structural Adjustments. Our research focused on the efficient implementation of structural adjustment programmes, considering prudent macroeconomic policies, private sector investment, and modernisation of agriculture.

In the second decade,2003-2012, we worked to contribute to accelerating the pace of Uganda’s development, and how it could attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Our research focused on the effects of structural adjustment programmes on poverty, social protection, employment, and growth; service delivery in education and agriculture; public expenditure tracking and potential impacts of the oil discovery on the economy, among others.

In the third decade, 2013 -to date, we continued to support the government in its goal of stimulating renewed growth that is inclusive and creates employment, particularly for the youth and women. This involved addressing the constraints on domestic revenue mobilisation and public finance management amidst declining donor support; renewed focus on social protection; service delivery mechanisms; and labour markets with a focus on addressing poverty inequality and food insecurity. Unlike the previous decades, we emphasised evidence to boost private sector development and competitiveness through research on agro-industrialisation; micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs); productive employment; access to financial services; informality, and domestic and external trade.

EPRC Board of Directors meeting at the 10th Annual General Meeting at the Centre’s offices at Makerere University

Research Impacts on Policy Processes

Over the last three decades, our research has contributed to informing various government policy, regulatory and programming processes and actions geared towards delivering its commitments to sustained economic growth and transformation.  We highlight some of our 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.

Achievements in Institutional strengthening and Capacity Building

  1. In the first decade, we established the Young Professionals/ Training programme to build the capacity for future policy research and formulation in Uganda. However, we halted the programme for some years and then re-introduced it in 2018 to provide placement for the professional development of top graduating students from the COBAM School of Economics.
  2. Initiation of the Staff Secondment Program for civil servants and private sector managers to build their expertise in how to use evidence to influence decision-making and policy implementation processes.
  3. Venturing into conducting large-scale surveys at household level and firm or business level. We were able to build capacity in this area.
  4. Deepened our policy engagement from mere dissemination of research results to engagement throughout the entire research process, as well as broadening our stakeholder focus to transcend beyond policymakers to all policy actors and beneficiaries.
  5. Strengthened strategic partnerships and networks both nationally and globally to pursue a common goal of evidence-based policy-making to change the welfare of Ugandans and the global structures that may hinder inclusive and sustainable development. We majorly focused on enhancing domestic institutions and homegrown solutions in addressing emerging challenges, such as COVID-19, Refugees, Climate change, Conflicts, and migration.
  6. The success realised over our 30-year journey demanded the enhancement of both the quality and quantity of human resources and infrastructure. To utilise the acquired human resources, the centre expanded the office space to accommodate approximately 20 additional researchers. However, the space is no longer sufficient.
  7. We have learned from our experiences to design better-focused strategic plans, seize research and financing opportunities, and strengthen governance and financial systems as well as, leadership and in-house research capacities.
  8. Development of a pool of researchers for the Centre, country and world through our internship, research associate, volunteer research and mentorship programmes. We have streamlined our recruitment processes to focus on talent development and growth through the ranks, which has enabled us to retain critical staff

 Our Future Focus

To make its research and policy work more influential, the center should take 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.

In conclusion

I do express our sincere gratitude to the audience, organizers, and anyone who contributed to the institution’s success.

-Staff

-Makerere University

-ACBF

-IDRC

-Ministry of Finance

-Board of Directors

-Media

Thank you all.

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