Many Ugandans are excited about the Ugandan-made Kayoola EVS (fully electric) buses that have been plying the Kampala – Entebbe road and Entebbe Expressway routes for the last two months.
The buses have been offering shuttle services to Civil Aviation Authority, (CAA). When Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), Uganda’s automotive industry leaders, entered into a partnership with CAA to validate the production of these buses, many naysayers were caught with pants down since they deliberately don’t want to see anything positive coming out of Uganda.
But for the staff of CAA, the locally-built buses are a marvel and a true testament that Uganda does not only have the talent but capabilities to match any other vehicle-producing countries if the right environment and resources are provided for the engineers and other value chain actors.
All the major economies in the world are thriving on their respective automotive industries. Available data shows that all the top economies of the world have budding automotive industries.
From the United State of America’s automobile heartbeat in Michigan (General Motors), China’s Shanghai General Motors, Malaysia’s Proton, Japan’s Toyota and South Korea’s Hyundai, the automotive sector has played a leading role in the development of these countries’ economies.
All the world’s top economies have invested heavily and continue to support their automotive industries. Governments in other relatively smaller economies such as Vietnam, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey are funding their car producers too.
In Uganda, it is a completely different story altogether. Despite the growing demand for vehicles in the country, vehicles are predominantly imported as fully-built units without domestic value addition. This is a big shame.
Studies have shown that the Uganda vehicle import value has grown from $190 million in 2005 to a whopping $550 million in 2015 at a compound annual growth rate of 11.8 per cent, representing approximately 10 per cent of the national gross import value. For the same period, vehicles were the second highest valued imported goods after petroleum products.
It is worth noting that the vehicle market size in East Africa has grown from 158,000 in 2011 to 257,000 in 2015 and is projected to reach over 6300,000 by 2030. Unfortunately few of the 45,560 vehicles registered by Uganda Revenue Authority in 2014 were new (15 per cent) and 85 per cent used with an average age of 16 years at registration.
Can you imagine the total waste here? This is not to mention that the importation of end-of-life vehicle technology has resulted into low fuel efficiency and hazardous transport-based carbon emissions contributing to climate change.
And yet Kiira Motors continues to demonstrate that it does not only have home-grown technology but it now has the capabilities to produce vehicles locally, starting with fully-electric buses and combustion engines, which are fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly.
Already, mainstream media has reported that Kiira Motors can for now produce eight buses a month at the NEC Luweero Industries Nakasongola base and this will be scaled up to at least 22 buses a day once the construction of the Kiira Vehicles Plant is completed by the UPDF mid next year.
Therefore, the development of Uganda’s automotive industry has come a long way in the last decade or so, and has achieved different milestones. In case you have forgotten, just last year, Uganda was assigned, for the first time, a World Manufacturer Identifier (WMI) by the International Society for Automotive Engineers’ (SAE), paving way for the production of vehicles in the country.
President Museveni has now come out to state that the Uganda government will no-longer allow the importation of fully-built buses. While launching the three-day National Resistance Movement (NRM) National Executive Committee (NEC) and delegates – virtual conference at State House in Entebbe, Museveni empathized the need for value addition across all productive sectors (including the automotive industry) to ensure jobs and wealth creation.
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, where local industry champions like Kiira Motors Corporation Ltd, under the ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, are taking the lead.
With Shs 400 billion, President Museveni noted that the automotive industry can take off and any balance of payments support should go towards the development of local manufacturing capacity to ensure the country is competitive in terms of import-substitution and export promotion.
Yet the bureaucrats, as usual, have maintained a notable silence about these presidential directives, while others are busy involved in machinations with briefcase middlemen to siphon off taxpayers’ money by importing fully-built buses that deny Ugandans job opportunities and income.
These individuals must be stopped in their tracks and the presidential directives implemented urgently.
The writer is a media communications consultant/trainer and advocate of the High court.