Growth in assets, investment portfolios and benefits payments defined the state of Uganda’s pension industry in the aftermath of Covid-19 lockdown measures amid growing appetite for short term access to pension savings.
Latest data compiled by the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority shows total industry assets increased from Ush17.8 trillion ($4.8 billion) in 2020/2021 to Ush19.9 trillion ($5.2 billion) in 2021/2022.
The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) accounted for the lion’s share of industry assets valued at more than Ush17 trillion ($4.5 billion) while private fund managers held less than Ush3 trillion ($801 million) in assets.
The industry’s investment portfolio similarly grew from Ush17.9 trillion ($4.7 billion) in 2020/21 to Ush19.5 trillion ($5 billion) in 2021/22.
Whereas increasing appetite for mid-term access benefits among pension savers is blamed for modest growth in member contributions, a small collection of exiting pension scheme contributors with big savings is cited for the big jump in benefits payments. Recent changes made to the NSSF Act provide for mid-term access benefits equivalent to 20 percent of a contributor’s accumulated savings.
Eligible contributors must be above 45 years of age and must have saved consistently with the Fund for at least 10 years, the amended NSSF Act of 2021 says. More than Ush300 billion ($80 million) has been paid out by the Fund since commencement of mid-term access benefits payments in 2022.
A recent cohort of retiring employees with accumulated pension savings estimated at more than Ush250 million ($66,724) per member reportedly withdrew funds in lump sum amounts from various retirement benefits schemes.
“Many companies laid off staff, cut pay and scaled down operations during the Covid-19 lockdown. But most of the affected businesses have since recovered from the lockdown effects and have added some jobs to their operations and restored salaries,” said Simon Mwebaze, Chief Executive Officer at UAP-Old Mutual Financial Services Uganda.
“Many NGOs opted for pension schemes for their staff instead of paying gratuity alone and are also complying with new rules requiring employees to board NSSF,” says Patrick Sempijja, of ICEA Lion Investment Management Services Ltd.