The Dynamics of Neoliberal Transformation

Edited by Jörg Wiegratz, Giuliano Martiniello, and Elisa Greco


An exploration of the making and operation of the New Uganda, providing a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary account of one of Africa’s most contentious capitalist market societies.

For the last three decades, Uganda has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Globally praised as an African success story and heavily backed by international financial institutions, development agencies and bilateral donors, the country has become an exemplar of economic and political reform for those who espouse a neoliberal model of development. The neoliberal policies and the resulting restructuring of the country have been accompanied by narratives of progress, prosperity, and modernisation and justified in the name of development.

But this self-celebratory narrative, which is critiqued by many in Uganda, masks the disruptive social impact of these reforms and silences the complex and persistent crises resulting from neoliberal transformation. Bringing together a range of leading scholars on the country, this collection represents a timely contribution to the debate around the New Uganda, one which confronts the often sanitised and largely depoliticised accounts of the Museveni government and its proponents.

Harnessing a wealth of empirical materials, the contributors offer a critical, multi-disciplinary analysis of the unprecedented political, socio-economic, cultural and ecological transformations brought about by neoliberal capitalist restructuring since the 1980s. The result is the most comprehensive collective study to date of a neoliberal market society in contemporary Africa, offering crucial insights for other countries in the Global South.

Author Bio

Jörg Wiegratz is Lecturer in Political Economy of Global Development at the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds.

Giuliano Martiniello is Assistant Professor of Rural Community Development in the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut.

Elisa Greco is a Post-Doc Researcher at the Sustainability Research Institute, University of Leeds.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Interpreting Change in Neoliberal Uganda - Jörg Wiegratz, Giuliano Martiniello and Elisa Greco
  • Part I: The State, Donors and Development Aid
    • 1. Donor-Driven State Formation: Friction in the World Bank–Uganda Partnership - Jon Harald Sande Lie
    • 2. Our Friends at the Bank? The Adverse Effects of Neoliberalism in Acholi - Ronald R. Atkinson
    • 3. Neoliberal Discipline and Violence in Northern Uganda - Adam Branch and Adrian Yen
    • 4. ‘Movement Legacy’ and Neoliberalism as Political Settlement in Uganda’s Political Economy - Joshua B. Rubongoya
    • 5. More is Less? Decentralisation and Regime Control in Neoliberal Uganda - Kristof Titeca
    • 6. Neoliberal Neverland: The Millennium Villages Project in Uganda - Japhy Wilson
  • Part II: Economic Restructuring and Social Services
    • 7. The Impact of Neoliberal Reforms on Uganda’s Socio-Economic Landscape - Godfrey B. Asiimwe
    • 8. Social Service Provision and Social Security in Uganda: Entrenched Inequality under a Neoliberal regime - Malin J. Nystrand and Gordon Tamm
    • 9. Neoliberal Health Reforms and Citizenship in Uganda - Sarah N. Ssali
  • Part III: Extractivism and Enclosures
    • 10. Neoliberalism as Ugandan Forestry Discourse - Adrian Nel
    • 11. Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Neoliberal Uganda - Kristen Lyons
    • 12. Neoliberal Oil Development in Uganda: Centralisation, Accumulation and Exclusion - Laura Smith and James Van Alstine
    • 13. Water Grabbing or Sustainable Development? Effects of Aquaculture Growth in Neoliberal Uganda - Karin Wedig
    • 14. The Politics of Land Law Reforms in Neoliberal Uganda - Rose Nakayi
  • Part IV: Race, Culture and Commoditisation
    • 15. African Asians and South Asians in Neoliberal Uganda: Culture, History and Political Economy - Anneeth Kaur Hundle
    • 16. Religious Economies: Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches and the Framing of a New Moral Order in Neoliberal Uganda - Barbara Bompani
    • 17. Youth as ‘Identity Entrepreneurs’: Emerging Neoliberal Subjectivities in Uganda - Julia Vorhölter
    • 18. Neoliberal Times: Leisure and Work Among Young Men in Rural Eastern Uganda - Ben Jones
    • 19. The Transformation of National Performance Arts in Neoliberal Uganda - David G. Pier
  • Conclusion: Neoliberalism Institutionalized – Jörg Wiegratz, Giuliano Martiniello and Elisa Greco


‘A long-overdue and timely study of neoliberalism in Uganda and the resulting political, economic and social order under Museveni. Theories and statistics rub against lived reality to reveal a country at a crossroads.’
Daniel Kalinaki, Nation Media Group

‘This scholarly and well researched book is a must read for all Ugandans and Africans. It exposes the fraud behind the neoliberal ideology that has confused policy making in Uganda.’
Yash Tandon, author of Trade is War: The West's War against the World

‘Convincingly demonstrates that Uganda’s three decades flirtation with neoliberalism has had far-reaching consequences – from the environment, to religion and even the performing arts. A provocative account of a phenomenon that has had a much wider impact than previously assumed.’
J. Oloka-Onyango, Makerere University

‘The most comprehensive and nuanced critique, so far, of how the neoliberal posture has impacted Uganda over the past three decades. An invaluable and urgently needed addition to the literature on the political economy of Uganda.’
Moses Khisa, North Carolina State University

‘Bringing together an exceptionally strong group of contributors, this volume provides a fresh perspective on the political economy of development in a critically important African country. Indispensable.’
Alfredo Saad-Filho, SOAS University of London

‘An exemplary collection of essays. It packs an enormous punch of analytical heft in critiquing capitalist political economy in Uganda, and raises the bar as to how critical African studies can and should be assembled. A must read!’
Raymond Bush, Leeds University

‘The essays in this book pierce the veil of the “neo-liberal success story” that is contemporary Uganda under Museveni. Activist scholars are encouraged to read these essays closely.’
Issa Shivji, Director, Nyerere Resource Centre, Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology

‘A definitive contribution both to our understanding of Uganda’s contemporary development and the mapping of actually existing neoliberalism. It is within the subject matter of this book that Uganda’s future prospects will be contested.’
Graham Harrison, University of Sheffield

‘This extensive and well-researched collection examines Uganda as a compelling case study of the scope and effects of the neoliberal economic policies that have come to define global capitalism over the past three decades.’
Lydia Boyd, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

‘Provides an insight into how a country can grow "at the top" while the citizens at the bottom continue to experience abject poverty. It is a great lesson on how neoliberal reforms can fail to resolve core socioeconomic problems.’
Fred K. Muhumuza, Makerere University

‘The contributors to this excellent book highlight the diverse impacts of neoliberalism on the lived experiences of Ugandans since 1986, revealing how it has insinuated itself into every part of society. It’s rare to find such in-depth analyses.’
Kean Birch, York University (Canada)

‘The New Uganda presents a paradox. On the one hand, it is a tale of success and liberal modernization; on the other, one of an increasingly repressive and violent regime. In disentangling this paradox, not much escapes this volume’s piercing analysis.’
Sverker Finnström, Uppsala University


Publication Date: 15 November 2018
408 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786991089
Hardback: 9781786991096
eBook ePub: 9781786991119
eBook PDF: 9781786991102
eBook Kindle: 9781786991126

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