Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) has suspended licensing new billboards along highways until tougher regulations come into force in the near future.
John Ssejjemba, the Unra director for Infrastructure Protection, said: "Part of the road reserves are used for advertising. A few weeks ago we stopped it and we want to regulate this industry."
Ssejjemba said most companies doing outdoor advertising place their advertisements with approval from Unra. Ssejjemba said the regulations will come into force soon.
Under the new regulations, those who want to place billboards along trunk roads will now have to pay a fee depending on the size, how busy the road is and for how long the advertisement will be placed.
According to the coming regulations, which Unra says have been approved by cabinet, outdoor advertisers will have to pay Shs 5 million as registration fees renewable after five years. They will also have to pay between Shs 1 million and Shs 3 million for big billboards depending on how busy a road is.
Advertisement signs placed on the dual carriageway road islands for single and double side will be charged Shs 1 million. Banners placed on ferries will go for Shs 5 million per ferry per year. In the Unra regulations 2017, the roads authority says it has powers to provide temporary space for whoever wants to erect a billboard.
It adds, though: "Where Unra requires to use a road reserve on a national road or ferry landing facility, the authority shall notify any person permitted under these regulations to use the road reserve, to remove the structure, billboard, signage or infrastructure for utilities or any other development or stop any activity within a period specified in the notice and restore the area to a standard acceptable to the authority at the permitted person's cost."
Bernard Kipkemoi from Atom Advertising Agency told The Observer recently that they haven't seen the new guidelines but said Unra asked outdoor advertising members to submit their views.
He said they will be happy if the road's authority engaged them more before operationalising the coming regulations.
Another industry player said the new rules have huge cost implications and will make it hard for the industry to thrive.
Outdoor advertising draws in billions of shillings in revenue annually, according to industry sources. But it has also become common ground for conflict between different government agencies and advertising agencies, especially on fees and where exactly to place advertisements.
In 2014, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) pulled down up 1,000 billboards within the city centre and outskirts saying they were erected in defiance of 2008 guidelines.
Most of these billboards, the city authority said, were erected in road reserves and without seeking approval as stipulated in the Roads Act.
KCCA said outdoor advertising infrastructure was inconveniencing road construction works and pedestrian traffic. Now, Unra says it is facing the same challenge and that some advertising boards affect visibility for motorists.
In the new regulations, Unra will set up a road infrastructure committee to consider and approve applications for temporary use of a road, road reserve or ferry landing facility. The committee will consider applications to register new advertising firms and those applying must show that they have been paying taxes to government.
"The committee will also ensure that materials used for billboards and other signage are approved by a relevant authority after taking into account the safety, visual, environmental, technical and legal implications," the draft regulations read in part.
The committee would also ensure that messages on advertising signage are objective, decent, sensitive in content, and comply with applicable laws, Unra added.