18 February 2013

Uganda Completes U.S. $50 Million Ferry Deal

Kampala — For a long time the island district of Kalangala in Lake Victoria has been isolated because it does not have territory on mainland Uganda.

Because of this, the people of Kalangala have been facing it rough to access social services like good schools, access to hospitals, electricity, and clean water.

Kalangala is situated on Bugala Island together with 84 other islands is the largest of the Ssese Islands within Lake Victoria. It is located approximately 60 kilometers, across water, southwest of Uganda's airport city of Entebbe, in Wakiso District.

The island is a leading tourist destination with beautiful beaches waiting to be developed to modern standards. Its major and indigenous economic activity is fishing but the government alongside investors dealing palm oil growing provided alternative.

As a mitigation move the government of Uganda together with a host of donors is beginning to register some achievement after a multimillion dollar deal was signed to link the isolated island to mainland Uganda.

In 2009, the government signed an agreement with Kalangala Infrastructure Services (KIS) in a public private partnership to link the island with two modern ferries that can ply the route on a regular timetable. The first ferry was delivered and construction of the second ferry is underway.

The project expected to cost USD50M is owned, financed and will be operated by KIS, it will involve the provision of two ferries, generation of up to 1.6megawatts of electricity, upgrade an existing 66km road and develop a water supply system.

Kalangala Infrastructure Services is a brain child of InfraCo Africa a donor-funded infrastructure development company.

InfraCo Africa as an broker seeking to create viable infrastructure investment opportunities that balance the interests of host governments, the national and international private sector and providers of finance. It has a big presence on the African continent.

David Wakikona, Minister of State for Trade, while addressing a meeting at which KIS met other stakeholders in the project in Kampala revealed that the project was initiated in 2005 to address the critical infrastructural challenges arising from the uniqueness of Kalangala being an island.

The chairman Local Council Five (LC5) Kalangala district, William Lugolobi, believes the project will be handy in improving the lives of over 65,000 people who live on the island. The population, Lugolobi revealed, doubles every after ten years presenting a high populate growth challenge.

"The people of Kalangala believe that this project is going to lead our people out of poverty by providing water, transport, and power. The ferry to the people of Kalangala is life." Lugolobi told East African Business Week.

Lugolobi narrates that being an island the island has a problem of connectivity. It is connected to the main land by a ferry provided by KIS. The island has no electricity because it is not connected to the main grid. The political head of the island adds that the area lacks clean water and access to health service is a challenge with Masaka regional referral hospital being the nearest.

But a ray of hope is becoming more visible as Kalangala Infrastructure Services the people tasked with delivering the much needed services and infrastructural progress promised to have everything ready within twelve months.

"We have a commitment with the government to deliver the first ferry which we have delivered and it remains the only link to Kalangala.

"We have a commitment to deliver the second ferry after fourteen months. It's now under construction, so we will live up to that expectation.

"The power construction has twelve month and the water project has also twelve month to be completed," The Manager Director Kalangala Infrastructure services John Opiro explained the progress of the project.

Opiro also revealed that electricity poles are being delivered on the site and that in the next one month construction of the road will be commissioned. All components of the project will be implemented concurrently.

Opiro is upbeat the project will improve the infrastructure and standard of living for Kalangala people as well as provide accessibility to social services. Opiro said "The people of Kalangala do not have access to social services but with this infrastructure they will."

The cost of the 66km road, 10km of which will be tarmacked, cannot be recouped using road tolls, so the Government will pay for the cost of building the road and a margin for the investors. The ferry will also be used free by the islanders and their visitors, with government bearing the cost.

The Minister said government cannot charge the poor people of Kalangala for services they are entitled to like roads.

"Government is supposed to make a road to Kalangala but since the road cannot reach there the ferry is like a road and it's free. The poverty level in Kalangala is not solved; you cannot tell people going to a regional hospital in Masaka or Entebbe to pay to reach the hospital. You will kill them; the ferry as it is now is like a public road to be used by people in Kalangala and Masaka." Wakikona said.

However the people of Kalangala will pay for water and electricity.

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