By MOSES SSERWANGA
The Minister of Finance Matia Kasaija has presented a $ 12m (UGX 45bn) request to parliament’s committee on the national economy to operationalise the Eco- bus project in Kampala central district . It is proposed that special lanes be put in place for the Eco- (sic) electric and combustion fuel-efficient buses starting at the City Square in a ring road stretching to Jinja road, Nakawa, Ntinda- Bukoto, Kamwokya –Wandegeya and back to City Square.
The project dubbed Kampala City Roads Rehabilitation is in line with the recently adopted National Development Plan III Integrated Transport Infrastructure Services Program whose major objective is to develop a seamless, safe, inclusive and sustainable multi-model transport system in the city. The plan if well executed is intended to reduce the travel lead times in the Great Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA) from an average 4.1 min/ km to 3.5min/km .
This will be achieved by significantly investing in the rehabilitation and maintenance of the transport infrastructure. This comes at the backdrop of a city which is annoyingly congested, disorganized, heavily polluted and ultimately places a very huge cost to the ordinary traveler in terms of healthy living and the man-hours lost in grid-locked traffic jams that has come to define Kampala.
It can’t be over empathized that the overall city aesthetics and quality of life is hugely compromised by the dilapidated paved roads and sidewalks, unpaved shoulders which are all sources of the wanton mud and dust that hovers over large sections of the city.
KCCA plans to fix the problems associated with a disjointed public transport system are welcome especially now that other East African member states are already embracing the green mobility technologies. The Central government and KCCA’s efforts to clean up the city also offer unique and abundant opportunities across Uganda’s nascent automotive industry value chain .
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic that has necessitated prolonged lockdowns by governments, it is imperative to have new thinking in the management of public affairs with special attention being directed at harnessing the available local resources to make nations self-sustaining .
Uganda’s capacity to produce goods and services locally
The new normal going forward will essentially entail local production of goods and services and cutting down on the country’s foreign exchange hemorrhage in imports. In his address to the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) E- Conference last week, President Yoweri 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, in which with local industry champions like Kiira Motors Corporation Ltd under the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation take 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.
The President’s vision is correct in a sense that experts have projected that the automotive industry together with the ICT sectors will be key in reviving the global post Covid-19 economies. Kiira Motors Corporation Limited has over the years demonstrated that Uganda has the capacity and capabilities to produce cars locally .
Operating under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation which is led by minister Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, KMC has already produced two market validation executive 12 meter Kayoola electric buses which were built by the UPDF’s Luwero Industries in Nakasongola. This capacity should be leveraged by KCCA when they set out to implement the Eco Bus project in Kampala.
Although it is not yet clear where KCCA intends to source their Eco buses, it is obvious that a local partnership with Kiira Motors is not only ideal but offers a lot more linkages in the national economy. What Ugandans need to know is that the car- just like any other manufactured product has many components or parts that can be sourced locally and thus offer huge opportunities to the local parts fabrication suppliers. A car, on average, has over 30,000 parts by the time it leaves the production line and this gives an indication how vastly Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) will connect to potential suppliers all over the country for its much anticipated Vehicle Production Plant opens in Jinja next year.
Uganda has abundant minerals and other natural raw materials for car production and enterprising Ugandans should be prepared to grab these economic opportunities . The available minerals include copper and cobalt deposits in the border district of Kasese, gold in the areas of Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Busia, Mubende, Hoima, Karamoja, parts of West Nile and Iron ore in Mityana. Other raw materials needed for manufacturing modern cars like lithium can be found in Kabale, Mukono, Mbale and Mubende. Minerals like tin, zinc, kaolin, and sand for glass are all locally available.
The challenge now is for the government to facilitate the business minded Ugandans to benefit from these natural resources across the automotive value chain.
There is no doubt that promotion of the local automotive value chain enterprises through the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy -will be a very important government intervention after the Covid-19 quagmire and the KCCA Eco-bus project could be a good starting point if well handled.
The writer is a Media and Communications Consultant/trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda
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