THE ELECTRIC VEHICLES REVOLUTION: WHY UGANDA NEEDS AN EFFECTIVE NATIONAL AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY POLICY
By Moses Sserwanga
President Yoweri Museveni has intensified efforts to mobilise international investments for Uganda’s nascent automotive industry especially now that the world is swiftly switching to electric mobility to among others – mitigate the widespread effects of climate change.
Luckily for Africa , several countries on the continent have mobilized resources to keep pace with the advanced global north – by deploying their home grown E- mobility technologies to ensure the mass production of – clean energy-efficient electric vehicles and phase out the internal – combustion engine (ICE) cars by the year 2030.
Uganda with its automotive flagship -Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria and Mauritius are among Africa’s early leaders in the EV market projected to have 145 million electric vehicles on the road by the end of this decade.
This is a vey encouraging effort for a continent that is hugely endowed with mineral resources but which has lagged behind in almost everything that is produced and consumed by the world’s population of 7.9bn people .
Uganda, together with other EAC regional governments, should seize the opportunity in 2023 to pronounce themselves clearly-with well articulated road maps and policy documents on greening our cities by promoting clean and efficient e-mobility solutions. Kampala and many other African cities are ranked among the most polluted in the world due to the dumping of end-of-life secondhand used vehicles.
Why Uganda urgently needs National Automotive Industry Policy
It’s now an open secret that Uganda’s automotive industry with automakers Kiira Motors Corporation in the lead -is emerging with the potential to contribute towards economic and social transformation of the country. This is evidenced by the growing regional motor vehicle market anticipated to reach sales of over 630,000 vehicles annually by 2030.
Coupled with government ‘s industrialization agenda –as a top priority to transform Uganda into a middle-income economy through innovation, utilisation of local raw materials, import substitution and export-oriented production- there is an urgent need for government to put in place a robust a National Automotive Industry Policy to guide the nascent sector .
Global experiences have shown that government industrialization policies in tandem with demand and skilled workforce play a leading role in the success of the motor vehicle industry.
We need to streamline skilling and upskilling of the majority unemployed youth while opening domestic and regional markets to guarantee demand as a catylist to deepen value addition, and support the mineral-led industrialization agenda for import substitution and export promotion.
It can be argued therefore, that a healthy and sustainable domestic automotive industry is underpinned by the development of an elaborate ,practical automotive policy to boost the industry for regional and global competitiveness.
The Automotive Industry Policy will provide the necessary instruments for promoting the nascent industry with multi-sectoral linkages placing emphasis on deepening automotive value addition to engender supply chain localization, import substitution and ultimately export promotion in the short, medium and long term.
Among the key potential linkages can include energy – clean energy access for mobility (charging infrastructure )-the ministry of Energy should take note of this ; agriculture – fiber from banana stems, bamboo, leather and textiles for automotive interior parts and upholstery; minerals – automotive steel, silica – sheet glass for automotive, cobalt for batteries; ICT – digital mobility solutions such as ticketing and revenue management, Transport – providing sustainable solutions and eco buses for transport in cities to mention but a few.
This policy should also address other critical areas in the mobility eco-system for an enabling environment to spur innovation and value addition across the automotive industry value chain and enhance automotive standards.
going forward, a clearly thought through National Automotive Industry Policy should be the guiding government blueprint –for specific policy actions. It should offer policy makers, government, and private sector actors and or operators- a coherent direction for coordinated investment and implementation of the policy. This will go a long away to avoid duplication and overlaps like it is in other sectors . It will also be the door –step for investors to understand the available opportunities and how to harness such without being bogged down in the wanton government red tape –which in most cases breeds corruption.
Finally , the National Automotive Industry Policy should offer a certain degree of protection to the already established industry players like Kiira Motors and other start-ups- Zembo, Safe Boad , International University of East Africa (IUEA) and Bodawerk among others -that have worked against all odds to bring the electric-car revolution to the streets of Kampala with the production of electric-vehicle fleets and motorcycles.
Government should in the year 2023 put in place a National Automotive Policy and other attendant laws to ensure proper coordination in the development of the nascent industry.
The writer is a media and communications consultant and advocate of the High Court of Uganda
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