As the global economies were battered and distressed by a rampaging novel Covid -19 Pandemic, Uganda had its  indigenous vehicle production company -Kiira Motors Corporation register a key milestone -when for the first time in the country’s history – it deployed its fully electric buses , the Kayoola EVS for public transport services.

For the last five months the Kayoola EVSbuses  have been deployed to offer shuttle services for the staff of the Civil Aviation Authority , in a bold move to have Uganda added on the map of car producing nations in the world .   This is after the Uganda National Bureau of Standards acquired a WMI from the  International Society for Automotive Engineers (SEA) for Uganda “BU”. This implies that vehicles which are produced in Uganda can now be uniquely identified in the international market paving way for export vehicles made in Uganda to the international market.

Government has also undertaken steps through the Ministries of Science Technology Innovation ; Works and Transport led Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye and by Gen. Katumba Wamala, respectively- to institute the necessary protocols for defining the Vehicle Identification number (VIN) system for  products that will be produced by Uganda’s motor vehicle industry. 

But why has the production and deployment of Ugandan made fully electric buses for public use  been a significant milestone for Uganda in the year 2020 which has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over a million lives worldwide.

The answer is simple.  The global motor vehicle industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with an average annual turnover estimated at nearly USD 3 trillion which is an estimated 3.7% of the world GDP from which Uganda should be a major beneficiary going forward. The vehicle industry in Africa alone, (meaning vehicles sold on the African continent ) stood at 1.2 million in 2017 and is projected to increase to 10 million units in the next 9 years that’s by 2030 according to the Africa Development Bank.

Already , there is a mad- rush for the virgin vehicle market in Africa by the multinational vehicle manufacturers  who are setting up vehicle plants in Angola, Ethiopia , Ghana, Kenya , Namibia , Rwanda and South Africa among others.

This clearly shows that there are abundant opportunities for the Ugandan people if government takes a determined and deliberate policy to promote the growth of the domestic automotive industry which is being championed by Kiira Motors and other locally based  vehicle production companies .

In the Ugandan context , vehicle import volumes grew to over USD 450 million per annum in the period 2005-2017 . During this same period ,vehicles were the second highest valued imported goods after petroleum products .  And the vehicle market size in the East African region grew from 158,000 in 2011 to 257,000 unitssold  in 2015  and is projected to reach a record 630,000 by 2030.

It is obvious that a  vibrant motor vehicle industry is evidenced by the medium-term market projections in Uganda and the region where an estimated 34,500 buses , 20,000 pickups , 50,000 trucks , 125,000 SUVs and 175,000 tractors will be purchased  to addresspassenger mobility , cargo freight , utility and agricultural mechanization .

This figures/projections speak to a readily available market for any car production company  and for Uganda’s case Kiira Motors and other private car producers.  Last year , President elect, Gen Yoweri Museveni directed at there should not be anymore importation of fully built buses in Uganda.

This means that all buses should be produced locally  to ensure that the indigenous motor vehicle industry contributes to the desired economic and social transformation . That’s why government has rightly so , adopted technology transfer , supply chain localization and contract manufacturing as the best strategy for the nascent- indigenous motor vehicle industry in Uganda .

This government strategy is in the right direction because global automotive industry experts like  Edward T. Hightower  who has authored a book titled  -Motoring  Africa -Sustainable Automotive Industrialisazation , have argued that local  industrial manufacturing creates more jobs across the value chain and results in more lasting improvements to a nation’s productive capabilities .

That’s why it is imperative that the presidential directive to produce buses locally should be followed up by government putting in place a robust say a five- ten  year offtake agreement where at least 2,500 Kayoola buses , 1,000 pick-ups and 5,000 tractors can be produced and supplied by local manufacturers led by Kiira Motors .Kiira Motors has already proved that it has the capacity and capabilities to produce world class vehicles and its vehicle production plant in Jinja now at 68% completion should be ready mid this year with a capacity to produce 22 buses everyday and an estimated 5,000 a year.

Let Uganda ride on the milestones registered in 2020 to champion and realise mission vehicles made in Uganda while not losing sight of Kiira Motors home grown green mobility  technologies  because the pace by which gasoline combustion engines are being replaced by battery electric vehicles (BEVs) is accelerating and Uganda should not be left behind.


Writer is a media and communications consultant And Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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