URF at10: Road Maintenance Creating New Business Opportunities
A building on Opiyai Road in Soroti that had been empty finally got tenants recently. The reason for its being empty, Rose Akello, a tenant tells us was due to dust and lack of customers. Akello lives nearby and had seen one tenant live after another prompting residents to believe that the building had been cursed.
“I knew that it wasn’t a curse. It was just dust and generally the area lacking customers. Where people used to live after a month or two, I have been here for six months so far,” she says. “Business is going to improve because many tenants are renting now in this area unlike before the road was constructed,” she adds.
The turn around for Opiyai Road was due to financing from the Uganda Road Fund (URF), which enabled the municipality to apply low-cost double surface sealing technology.
Well-maintained roads attract investments in the area. “Nobody wants to establish a good restaurant or salon in a very dusty area because hygiene is key. So people prefer areas that have well-maintained roads,” says John Bigabwa, the Soroti Municipal Engineer.
In Wakiso and Mukono districts, a mere announcement that a road is going to be sealed leads to overnight increases in property values. “The cost of land doubles once people see heavy equipment on the road. Even landlords, once the road has been sealed, increase their rent charges,” says Musa Nahabwe, a Boda Boda rider in Wakiso.
Due to consistent funding from URF, municipalities now have more people expecting new roads than ever. Property dealers want roads in their areas because they know the values will go up. This has led to increased pressure to designated agencies.
“We have set high standards leading to high expectations. We now spend a lot of time sensitizing people of what is possible. The timely release of money from URF helps us to meet these expectations,” says Alex Tumusingye, the Kabale Municipal Engineer.
Politicians with eyes on the 2021 general elections see road maintenance in specific areas as a game-changer. “A well-maintained road is a sure way for a politician to win an election. It is a big campaign issue,” says Joy Odong of Akor trading centre in Lira District.