Why 2022 was good for Uganda’s automotive industry

By Moses Sserwanga

In the year ending 2022 , Uganda has made significant strides in the development of its nascent automotive industry with government owned  automakers Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC) taking the lead by producing  electric and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) buses.

This growth has been fueled by the government of Uganda led by President Yoweri Museveni’s strategic vision  and commitment to invest heavily in the development of the local automotive industry to tap into the global market now estimated at 2.86n trillion US dollars and projected to hit 9 Trillion USDs by 2030.

There is already a marked mad rush in the global north to cash in on the lucrative automotive industry as automakers  switch to electric vehicles . Around 4.3 million new battery-powered EVs (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were sold globally in the first half of 2022 and its only fair that African countries-Uganda inclusive – should not be left out of this huge market .

Vice President Jessica Alupo having a feel of the Kayoola fully bus during the science week in Kampala

 In the year 2022, Uganda has captured global headlines –in its concerted effort to champion locally produced automobiles and E-mobility technologies  in the East African region – growing its fleet of locally produced electric buses and executive coaches –the Kayoola Evs and the Kayoola Diesel Coaches (KDCs)- respectively .

What the government of  Uganda is doing

As Kiira Motors Corporation has leveraged the Luwero Industries facilities in Nakasongola to build and put on the market its validated fully electric buses and the KDCs –government has continued to invest in the construction of a world class – Kiira Vehicle Plant (KVP) located in the Jinja Industrial and Business Park –with the first phase (production line ) at 99% completion and the  second phase ( body shop, chassis line, paint shop, Quality Inspection and Testing (QIT) building and test track among others) –now underway .

Once the Kiira Vehicle Plant is fully operational , it will have the capacity to produce at least – 500,000 vehicles annually in Uganda by 2030 along with the establishment of efficient, integrated, sustainable, safe and inclusive public transport system(s); and promotion of environmentally friendly transport solutions in the EAC region and the rest of the African continent.

Uganda’s automotive flagship – Kiira Motors has produce more electric buses and the diesel coaches which are being operated by Kilita transporters on the Northern bypass and hired out to government and private organizations. Uganda Airlines and Civil Aviation Authorities are some of the early government entities to give a public endorsement of the Ugandan produced vehicles- some of which have covered 50,000 kilometers on the road  without a hitch.

During the year , KMC also produced  the beautiful orange Tondeka buses with fuel efficient engines and low carbon emissions. This deal was done through contract manufacturing and the buses have been deployed by Tondeka in a move intended to decongest the city and offer affordable transport solutions for urban centers.

Uganda Airlines committed to deploy Ugandan made E-buses

Although much of what KMC has achieved thus far has been through technology transfer partnerships with establish and tested Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and sourcing materials and parts from the global supply chains; the company is now working with the  Secretariat of Science Technology and Innovations (STI)- led by Dr. Munica Musenero to ensure the localization of Uganda’s automotive industry materials and parts supply chain.  

“ The automotive industry is ‘an industry of industries’ and its essential that we harness our rich minerals to establish a local supply chain for vehicle parts , components, systems and mobility engineering services,” Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa the Executive Chairman of Kiira Motors Corporation stated in an interview for this article .  Prof . Tickodri-Togboa is also of the firm view that Uganda should not sit back because it doesn’t have a “comparative advantage” for vehicle production –arguing that such economic theories were designed to keep the least developed countries backward.

“ We have all that it takes to produce vehicles in Uganda and Africa . The continent is rich in minerals which should  be harnessed to add value by producing vehicle parts and materials locally ,” he added .

Dr. Musenero is in total  agreement  and through her |STI Secretariat –she has decided to take the bull by the horns and established –one-stop-center to mentor innovators in the automotive value chain space .  The STI Secretariat is  now mobilizing the informal sector mobility tech-preneurs to guide them on the innovation path from  ideation through prototypes to commercialization. All these are encouraging signs- that a clear pathway has been set and there is no turning back for mission vehicles made in Uganda.

Dr. Musenero Minister of STI met local innovators in the E-mobility value chain space

Economic Impact

Economists have established from global trends-that building an indigenous motor vehicle industry provides an unprecedented opportunity for value addition to the country’s minerals and other natural resources in line with government’s policy for import substitution and export promotion of motor vehicles, parts, components and systems.

Globally, it has been established that governments through their targeted industrialization policies together with the ready market demand and a skilled workforce play a leading role in the success of the motor vehicle industry.

Kiira Motors and other players in the industry have demonstrated that Uganda has the skill set and technical knowhow to produce vehicles locally, reduce on our import bill for –end of –life vehicles and mitigate the climate change challenges by adopting E-mobility solutions.

Tondeka buses built by Kiira Motors with low emissions and fuel efficient engines are now operating in Kampala to decongest the city and mitigate effects of pollution

What must be done urgently

Government through the ministries of Energy and Mineral Development led by Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa and Permanent Secretary Irene Batebe and Ministry of Works and Transport led by Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala should fast-track investments to set up adequate  charging infrastructure for electric mobility in Uganda .



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

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