Each month, we shine a spotlight on partners who are using budget advocacy to bring transformational change to their communities. This month we’re spotlighting Julius Kapwepwe, director of programs at the Uganda Debt Network. This interview is supported by the European Commission.
1. What is the Uganda Debt Network (UDN)?
UDN’s vision is a Uganda where public resources are prudently, sustainably and equitably managed.
2. What drew you to budget and advocacy work?
From an early age, I was interested in the public and economic affairs of my country. My parents were ordinary people—traders and farmers—but they were always politically aware, so I was naturally attracted to the public sector. My parents baptized me with the names “Kapwepwe” after the former vice-president of Zambia, and “Julius” after Julius Nyerere, the former President of Tanzania. They were both African liberation giants. So, I grew up Pan-African oriented, believing that African countries have the legroom and the space to finance their development priorities.
3. What is UDN’s connection to the International Budget Partnership (IBP)? And how has the partnership affected financial transparency in Uganda over time?
UDN has partnered on the Open Budget Survey (OBS) since 2006. The survey is an evidence-based process that visibly adds value for the government. They [the government] would say, “Oh, we thought we’re connecting with people, but now I see that there’s a gap [in communication] here and there.” Or, “Oh, we have generated this [budget] publication, but have not been conscious to upload it in time for the public to meaningfully engage with it.” The OBS has contributed to quicker uploading of key documents in Uganda such as the pre-budget statements.
4. How is UDN working towards greater transparency in the acquisition and management of government debt?
When the government is looking to acquire debt, we want to look at the quality of the terms of the proposed loan and the conditions for the loan. Through the national parliament (our legislative body) there is a regular window for stakeholders to offer input in the loan management process. We are seeing great activity now compared to where we were several years ago. We are in a much better position. The issue is that although we can provide input, our input is not always implemented. But we are moving toward a more open and inclusive process.
5. UDN has developed the kind of working relationship with Uganda’s government that other countries would love to replicate. For example, the 2021 OBS was launched in Uganda with the minister of finance at the Ministry of Finance. How did that relationship develop?
Budget advocacy has required a closer working relationship with select government institutions such as the Ministry of Finance, national parliament, inspectorate of government, auditor general and the Central Bank of Uganda. It goes back to the government’s recognition that evidence-based processes such as the OBS add value, which then builds value into the government’s budget processes.
6. What is still left for UDN to accomplish in Uganda?
Our OBS aspirations are progressive and broader democratization, poverty reduction and increased self-financing of our country’s budget and development priorities. If a country does not have its own financial muscle to determine its own budget priorities and actions, it cannot fully succeed in key areas of the OBS. We will therefore be pushing to increase our own revenue bases to finance our budget priorities, determine our own poverty reduction agenda and build our own capacities.