BY MOSES SSERWANGA
Many Ugandans are excited about the Ugandan built Kayoola EVS (fully electric) buses that have been plying the Kampala – Entebbe and Express highway routes for the last two months -while offering shuttle services to Civil Aviation Authority, (CAA).
When Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) Uganda’s automotive industry leaders entered into a partnership with CAA to validate their production- fully electric buses many naysayers were caught with pants down -since they deliberately don’t want to see anything positive coming out of Uganda.
But for the staff of CAA, the locally built buses are a marvel and a true testament that Uganda doesn’t not only have the talent but capabilities to match any other vehicles producing countries- if the right environment and resources are provided for the engineers and other value chain actors to express themselves in the nascent automotive industry .
One cannot tier to repeat themselves that all the major economies in the world are thriving on their respective automotive industries. Available data shows that all the top economies of the world have budding automotive industries. From America ‘s automobile heartbeat in Michigan (General Motors), China’s Shanghai General Motors, Malaysia’s Proton, Japan’ s Toyota, South Korea’s Hyundai to South Africa ‘s Honda, the automotive sector has played a leading role in the development of these countries respective economies.
All the top world biggest economies in 2019 to 2020 which include the USA, China, Japan Germany, United Kingdom, India, France and South Africa, governments have invested heavily and continue to support their automotive industries. Governments in other relatively small economies like Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey are funding their car producers too.
In Asia, governments of major vehicle production countries such as China, South Korea, Malaysia, and Japan have played a virtual role to ensure that their automotive industries, do not only grow and survive the global economic turbulences due to the global-novel-Covid 19 pandemic that’s has left economies shutdown for months – but that such industries are at the center of a fast recovery program .
But in Uganda and East African it is a completely different story altogether. Despite the growing demand for vehicles in Uganda and the EAC, vehicles are predominantly imported as Fully Built Units without domestic value addition. This is a big shame!
Studies have also shown that the Uganda Vehicle Import Value has grown from US$ 190 Million in 2005 to a whopping US$ 550 Million in 2015 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 11.8% representing approximately 10% of the National Gross Import Value. For the same period, vehicles were the second highest valued imported goods after petroleum products.
It is further worth noting that the vehicle market size in the EAC has grown from 158,000 in 2011 to 257,000 in 2015 and is projected to reach over 6300,000 by 2030. Unfortunately, many of the 45,560 vehicles registered by Uganda Revenue Authority in 2014, 15% were new and 85% used with an average age of 16 years at registration. Can you imagine the total waste here! This not to mention that the importation of end-of-life vehicle technology has resulted into low fuel efficiency and hazardous transport-based carbon emissions contributing to climate change.
And yet Kiira Motors continues to demonstrate as highlighted above that it does not only have home grown technology but it now has the capabilities to produce vehicles locally starting with buses both fully electric and combustion engine ones which are fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. Already, mainstream media has reported that Kiira Motors can for now produce 8 buses a month at their Nakasongola base and this will be scaled up to at least 22 buses a day – once the construction of the Kiira Vehicles Plant is completed by the UPDF mid next year.
Therefore, the development of Uganda’s automotive industry has come a long way in the last decade or so. Milestones after milestones have been registered and documented by the media. In case you have forgotten, just last year, Uganda was assigned for the first time, a World Manufacturers Identifier (WMI) by the International Society for Automotive Engineers’ (SAE)- paving way for production of vehicles in the country.
The SAE WMI Coordinator, Mr. Kris Siddall stated that Uganda has now been officially assigned WMI codes to be used by vehicles manufacturers. This means that Uganda is internationally recognized as a car producing country.
Perhaps the same reason why President Museveni has now come out to state that the Uganda government will no-longer allow the importation of fully built buses. While launching the 3-day National Resistance Movement (NRM) National Executive Committee (NEC) and delegates – virtual conference at State House in Entebbe, Museveni empathized the need for value addition across all productive sectors (including the automotive industry) to ensure jobs and wealth creation.
Museveni underscored the need for government to prioritize the post Covid-19 interventions to boost the economy by supporting key nine production sectors including transport, where local industry champions like Kiira Motors Corporation Ltd under the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation are taking the lead.
With Shs.400billion, President Museveni noted, the automotive industry can take off and any balance of payments support should go towards development of local manufacturing capacity to ensure the country is competitive in terms of import -substitution and export- promotion.
Yet the bureaucrats as usual have maintained a notable silence about these presidential directives and others are busy involved in machinations with briefcase middlemen to siphon off public-tax payers’ money by importing fully built buses and deny Ugandans job opportunities and income.
These individuals must be stopped in their tracks and the presidential directives implemented rather urgently.
The writer is a Media Communications Consultant/trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda
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