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The meeting, which was part of an annual alumni and scholars gathering, took place under the theme “Economic opportunities for the vulnerable through Social Protection Floors?” and focused on the rationale for social protection floors in general, as well as on feasible and practical protection measures for Uganda in particular.
KAS has been giving out scholarships for distance learning degrees at Uganda Martyr's University in the field of Democracy and Development Studies, and Local Governance and Human Rights for over a decade now. The programme aims to enable future leaders to attain higher qualifications in the areas of governance, human rights, and democracy promotion to become drivers for positive change in their communities and their country.
During the course of the programme, students benefit from the support given by KAS and subsequently become part of its alumni network. The idea of the annual scholarship forum is to intellectually challenge the scholars by involving them in stimulating discussions about substantial issues that affect our society.
In his welcoming remarks, Mathias Kamp, Country Representative of KAS, highlighted the importance of social protection floors in the context of the principles of a social market economy, one of the main objectives of KAS' work in Uganda. "When we look at social protection floors, we look at the core of what social market economy is designed for – a society, where the individual is not left behind." Moreover, he encouraged the audience to further engage in networking and emphasised the relevance of creating a platform for intellectual capacity and exchange, particularly for distant learning students. The high academic level of the scholarship programme, Mr. Kamp predicated, provides scholars with a fundamental basis to be at the forefront of bringing solutions to the current developmental challenges that we are facing.
Following this section, a very enlightening presentation on the topic of social protection floors (SPF) was given by Dr. Fred K. Muhumuza, Economist and Lecturer at Makerere University Kampala. He defined the concepts and operationalisation of SPF and demonstrated its urgent need in Uganda, specifically regarding the country's structure of the economy. The core objective of SPF, he stated, is to adhere to a minimum standard of equal opportunities and social protection. In Uganda, this has historically been addressed by some programmes focusing on access to basic health care, access to education, old age pension and basic income transfers to the needy or unemployed. Despite overall improved availability of social services, Dr. Muhumuza claimed that access is still limited for the bottom 40% of the population and that there are many concerns on the quality of service delivery.
Subsequently, Mr. Geoffrey Sajjabi, Head of Business National Social Security Fund (NSSF), discussed the importance of cultivating a saving culture in Uganda. As family dynamics around the continent are changing, he emphasised the role of patient funds, such as the NSSF, as one possible way to prepare for retirement.
The forum closed with a panel discussion on further opportunities to effectively deliver an SPF in Uganda. Participants were Dr. Muhumuza, Mr. Sajjabi and Mr. Yusuf Kiranda, Director of Centre for Development Alternatives. KAS-UMU scholars actively engaged in the discussion and posed critical questions regarding common trust issues among the public regarding saving funds. Considering the challenges faced by climate change, the scholars were particularly interested in opportunities SPF could offer for people who are active in the agricultural sector, which led to a vital concluding discussion.
Written by Katrin Hartmann