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Uganda vs. Oregon: Size Does Matter (when you’re talking about population)

Uganda vs. Oregon: Size Does Matter (when you’re talking about population)


As a reference point for how big Uganda is, one frequent comparison is that it is about the same size as the State of Oregon in the U.S. (not that that means anything to anyone outside the United States).  Usually I quote this statistic to talk about how amazing the birding is in this country:  “Did you know that Uganda, which is only the size of Oregon, has over 1,000 bird species and all of North America only has 810?) or something like that.

However, it came up in a new context recently in a conversation about the population pressures in Uganda.  The current population of Uganda is just over 33 million.  I tried to picture 33 million people in Oregon, but I had no idea how many people actually do live there, so I had to look it up.  It turns out that there are only 3.8 million people in Oregon.  That means that Uganda has nearly 10 times as many people living in slightly less space than Oregon, not even factoring in that Uganda’s surface area is about 20% water, which can’t be lived on or farmed.  Combine that with the second highest population growth rate in the world and there is a crisis afoot.  Now try to imagine 100 million people living in that same space, which is Uganda’s projected population in 2050.  Yikes.

This little bit of research made me curious about how these two entities compare on other measures, and here is what I came up with:


Oregon Uganda
Total area 254,810 sq. km. 241,038 sq. km.
Highest point 3,426 m – Mt. Hood 5,110 m – Margherita Peak
Lowest Point Sea Level at Pacific Ocean 621 m at Lake Albert


Oregon Uganda
Total Budget $30.3 billion $3.9 billion
Gross Domestic Product $161.6 billion $41.7 billion (adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity)
$17.12 billion (at official exchange rate)
Per capita income $38,801 per year $1,200 per year adjusted for PPP
$410 per year at official exchange rate
Total debt $26,365,021,034 $4 billion (I am not sure how accurate this is)
Percent of budget spent on education 15% 3.3%


Portland, Oregon’s largest city, has more breweries than any other city in the United States Uganda has the highest per capita alcohol consumption of any country in the world according to the World Health Organization


Oregon Uganda
# of National Parks 1 10
# of bird species nearly 500 about 1,065
# of mammal species 136 345


Oregon Uganda
Electricity production 46,971,120 megawatt hours/year 2,256,000 megawatt hours/year – As of 2007 – should increase dramatically with the new hydro projects underway
CO2 emissions per capita 11.71 metric tons/year 4.6 metric tons/year


Oregon Uganda
Arrival of first humans 15,000 years ago 40,000 years ago (much earlier for proto-humans)
Arrival of first European explorer Late 1600s 1862
Total Population (2010) 3.8 million 33.4 million
Percentage urban 78% 12%
Percentage rural 22% 88%
Annual population growth rate Approx. 1.5% Approx. 3.563% (2nd fastest in the world by some measurements, with 6.7 children per mother on average)
Average life expectancy 77.8 (but on some Indian Reservations in Oregon, the life expectancy is below 50) 53
Projected population in 2050 5.8 million 96 – 120 million


There are a few other comparisons that I wasn’t able to get specific figures for.  One is the overall growth of the economy.  Even in this time of global financial stress, Uganda’s economy continues to grow at about 5.6%.  I couldn’t get an exact statistic for Oregon’s economic growth, but I would imagine it is much lower than Uganda’s, if not a negative curve.

An interesting similarity is the cultural divide in each place.  In Uganda, the division is between north and south, with ethnic, language, livelihood, and landscape differences.  In Oregon, the division is east-west, with the Cascades dividing the wet, liberal, urban west from the dry, conservative, rural, agricultural east.

There are bright spots and dark spots in this comparison.  It is great that Uganda’s economic growth rate is higher and its debt lower than Oregon’s.  Uganda’s carbon footprint is much lower, and it has far more abundant biodiversity.

On the other hand, there is the one big factor that might trump any advances this country makes – a population heading towards 100 million people on a landscape that isn’t getting any bigger.  How can the government possibly provide health services, water and power, security, transport, etc, to so many people when it can’t even provide those things to the current population?

Uganda has amazing potential as a nation.  It has abundant natural resources, enormous agricultural potential and a population that is ready to work hard when opportunities are presented.  Getting this population growth under control, though, needs to be Uganda’s top priority.  Without addressing this time-bomb, the rest is just rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

Some of the Sources:

Uganda Bureau of Statistics
CIA Factbook – Uganda
Oregon Fact Sheet
Uganda Information