How True Are The New York Times Claims About Loans In Uganda?

In an article that was published by the New York Times on the 26th of June 2023 by Patricia Cohen; the following claims were made and we are going to attempt to do an assessment of how true these claims are;

  • In wealthy countries, thinner individuals tend to be richer, while in Uganda, one of the poorest nations, obesity is seen as a sign of wealth and can influence loan decisions.
  • A study conducted in Uganda found that loan officers were more likely to view obese applicants as creditworthy and financially stable.
  • In the absence of readily available information in poor countries, signals of wealth, including obesity, play a crucial role in economic interactions.
  • Historically, corpulence was valued in parts of sub-Saharan Africa as a symbol of wealth and cultural ideal, but obesity is now a growing health concern on the continent.
  • Obesity has been linked to severe diseases and hospitalizations, including among Covid-19 patients.
  • Efforts are being made by organizations like the World Health Organization to promote healthy diets and physical activity in African countries.
  • While cultural associations between wealth and weight persist, providing concrete information about an applicant’s income and occupation can mitigate the influence of obesity in loan decisions.

You can read the full article here.

Important Notes To Take

One of the most important details to note was that the study was fictional. There is a repeated reference to loan officers without identifying whether these were bank loan officers or were merely money lenders. In Uganda, it is currently impossible (legally) to get a loan from more than one bank.

It is also important to note that it is impossible to get a loan without a bank account. There is quite a lot of ambiguity in the article that seeks to make a claim that being fat is a sign of wealth in Uganda. However in Kampala, most of the rich people are not obese, so where did she pick the idea that being obese is a sign of wealth?

If you mention names such as Hamis Kigundu, Patrick Bitature, Charles Mbire, Ian Clarke among several others; none of these people are obese. Actually, it is not common to find obese people in Uganda.

Another important matter to note is that in Kampala; the richest people are in the informal sector. They are not very presentable but they have money.

Is being Obese a sign of wealth in Uganda?

Being obese is a sign of well-being but it isn’t a sign of wealth. When people see a fat person, they place them somewhere in the middle-class society of Uganda not in the wealthy class.


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