8 January 2019

Uganda: Car Production - Can We Make Realistic Promises?

editorial

This newspaper yesterday reported that the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovations, Mr Elioda Tumwesigye, has said Uganda will have its own made solar-powered buses by the end of this year. His revelation about the buses intended to ply the Kampala and Entebbe routes comes amid a host of promises by government officials on manufacture or assembly of vehicles locally over the years.

For instance, in 2014, Uganda Investment Authority commissioned two companies to start car production in the country by 2018. Kiira Motors Corporation owned by Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology and China Engineering Limited were then allocated 100 and 60 acres of land respectively in Kagogwa village in Kakira Town Council, Jinja District.

The then acting executive director for Uganda Investment Authority, Dr Francis Ssebowa, said the China-based company had been limited to production of only pick-up cars to avoid unnecessary competition. Again in 2015, Kiira Motors Corporation launched its business strategy with production of vehicles expected to start in 2018 through assembling.

According to Prof Tickodri-Togboa, the then minister of state for Higher Education, Science and Technology, the idea to start making vehicles in the country begun in 2007 when a group of Makerere University students and staff participated in Vehicle Design Summit in the United States, hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This is 2019 and no vehicle has rolled off the factory nor have we put any car on the road. Yet none of the officials who promised the vehicles by 2018 has explained what caused the delay or what went wrong altogether. Leaders ought to take the public seriously or at least hold themselves accountable for the promises they make.

It is a good thing to dream big. And it is even healthier to plan well ahead just like in the 25-year blueprint launched by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda in 2015 to help Uganda achieve Vision 2040 development goals through manufacturing. However, it is depressing if we keep making the promises year in year out without tangible results. This is tantamount to taking the public for a ride - that we can say anything and get away with it.

The recent remarks by Dr Tumwesigye could, thus, be taken just as one of the many 'empty' promises if nothing comes to pass by December.

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