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From decentralisation to co-production in Kampala: changing the game for Uganda‘s urban poor?

Author / Authors:

  • Andrea M. Brown



This research asks if co-production in Uganda has greater promise than earlier decentralisation measures for inclusive urban development, despite continued limits posed by Uganda‘s hybrid governance. Uganda‘s National Revolutionary Movement (NRM) government has frequently adopted legislation and policies to promote decentralised authority and more-inclusive governance since coming to power more than thirty years ago, alongside practices of authoritarian control. A major example was when Uganda decentralised its governance system beginning in 1992. Decentralisation is a tool to promote greater democracy and public service delivery efficiency, allowing the government to be more responsive to local concerns. However, as the policy evolved, critics pointed to the utility of the decentralisation model to instead institutionalise client networks and solidify patronage control, functioning to centralise power and support authoritarian practices. Uganda has recently adopted co-production practices in response to domestic and international pressures for greater participation and the challenges of rising urban poverty. An ambitious approach to slum upgrading and urban-poverty reduction has been initiated in Kampala and several secondary cities, grounded in co-production and in partnership with Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI). Once again, Uganda‘s approach is being interpreted by some as an example of inclusive governance with significant potential to empower the urban poor. This research argues there are indications for this co-production strategy to surpass some of the limitations seen with earlier decentralisation. However, top-down government priorities remain paramount and can be expected to severely limit pro-poor inclusive development goals, especially in Kampala, where the local government has been centralised and opposition to President Museveni is high, particularly in informal settlements.

Trialog - A Journal for Planning and Building in a Global Context #137 “Co-production of knowledge in urban development”. Volume editors: Josefine Fokdal, Astrid Ley and Yassine Moustanjidi


  • Journal Article