In 2010, BMI estimates that Uganda’s defence spending totalled US$450mn, up 37.21% from US$328mn in 2009. Per capita spending is still very low by global standards, at US$13.30. Defence expenditure was equal to 2.3% of GDP, a normal level for developed countries but quite low compared to some other African countries. Defence accounted for 12.9% of government spending, high by developed country standards, if not those of emerging markets in unstable regions. Therefore the expenditure reflects the small size and moderate level of development of the Ugandan economy, as well as the country’s military commitments.
In 2011, BMI expects defence spending to grow more slowly in nominal dollar terms, growing 4.72% to US$471mn, or US$13.50 per capita. In constant price terms, this represents a drop of 3%, though as a proportion of government expenditure, defence will rise to 13.4%.
Over the forecast period, as Uganda’s economy grows, and with regional risks and Uganda’s position as a military power in the region increasing, BMI expects defence spending to rise rapidly, peaking at 36.52% growth in 2014 in nominal dollar terms.
Uganda is therefore likely to follow the trend seen across Africa of heavy investment in military capacity over the coming years, with defence a major government priority. The wave of investment will taper down in the second half of this decade as the army takes delivery of new equipment, but growth will still remain relatively high. By 2019, we expect defence expenditure to total US$2.150bn, or US$47.89 per head still low by rich country standards, and remaining at 2.3% of GDP, but accounting for a huge 23.6% of government spending.
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Gen Aronda Nyakairima, Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces said that Ugandan troops are now able to participate in international peacekeeping missions, a signal of intent that the country, while still relatively poor, is ready to make its presence felt internationally, including theatres outside East Africa. Kampala has shown itself to be increasingly willing to step in to protect its interests and fight militants. Its armed forces, having had a considerable amount of success against the LRA, can be considered among East Africa’s strongest.
Internally, tensions have been rising in the run-up to 2011 elections. Some fear the army could intervene in the polls, and even that the military sees itself as an extension of the ruling party due to the latters militaristic policies. Therefore concerns have been raised that the army could intervene on the governments side in a disputed election, which could potentially lead to an escalation in violence and damage Uganda’s international reputation. After Kenya’s troubled 2007 election, there are serious concerns about the potential for political violence in Uganda, as an entrenched government faces a fractious and frustrated opposition.