The outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic should present a unique window for the Uganda government to fix many broken-down public service systems while promoting local manufacturing – starting with the Capital Kampala. This is the time for both Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) working together with the Central government to restore order to what has become a chaotic public transport network in the Central Business District (CBD) and the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA).
KCCA , for starters, should repair all its pubic taxi and bus parks starting with the old taxi park(which according to social media images looks like a cattle holding ground )- to ensure that all the much needed public health amenities like clean running water, passenger shades, and public convenience areas are functional and up to acceptable standards.
The renovations and any other public works should be undertaken while using locally sourced materials to promote the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy. Revamping public health facilities in the taxi and bus parks and elsewhere in the city , is particularly important because virology scientists have stated that even if the threat of the spread of Covid- 19 infection curve is flattened ( contained) specially in congested public places- such as taxi and bus parks, it could take up to two years to wipe out the virus .
So even when the curfew is lifted, there will still be a possibility of a second or third wave of the pandemic. It is incumbent upon the authorities at KCCA to bite the bullet and restore sanity in its public holding areas perhaps the more reason President Yoweri Museveni listed the authority as a public ‘essential’ service provider and thus exempted from the lockdown.
Fast going forward, the KCCA management and the central government should temporarily forget about the Kampala voting bloc and take some decisive actions to streamline the flow of traffic and not allow back the crazy boda bodas in the CBD together with the taxis -which in any case -should stop four miles either side of the city. Fuel efficient buses should be introduced including electric ones to ferry passengers from the points where they are dropped off by the taxis and bodas and transport them to the city center to reduce the congestion.
By operating a robust public transport system in Kampala , KCCA will help to greatly reduce on the massive pollution of the environment caused by second hand vehicles some older than the people who own them –with end of life technologies that affect the good health and general wellbeing of Kampala’s estimated 4 million people.
The government owned Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) has produced two validation executive 12 meter Kayoola electric buses at the UPDF’s Luwero Industries in Nakasongola and have since been deployed to provide shuttle services for dignitaries that attended the European Union Business Summit in Kampala recently. The Speaker of Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga just last month was also driven in the same Kayoola electric bus from the Jinja suspended bridge to Kiira Motors Vehicles plant in Mutai some 20 kilometers along the Jinja –Kamuli highway.
This clearly demonstrates that Uganda now has the capacity to produce and deploy on its roads electric and fuel-efficient combustion engine buses. The Minister of Science Technology and Innovation Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye and the KMC management led by Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa have stated that Kiira Motors now has the capacity to produce locally- up to eight electric buses in a month. The government should commit to rolling out some of these buses to sort out the mess that Kampala has come to be known for.
Motor vehicle importation is ranked the second-highest valued call on Uganda’s foreign exchange bill at 450Million US dollars, the first being petroleum products. The government’s import substitution should be focused on the development of internal-Uganda’s automotive industry.
These interventions will stave off the country’s foreign exchange hemorrhage through the importation of used vehicles and create many job opportunities across the automotive industry value chain.
The introduction of buses also requires KCCA to put in place the necessary infrastructure including specially designed lanes for buses in the short term as it prepares to implement the wider Kampala Metropolitan Rapid Public Transport System.