By Moses Sserwanga
As Uganda’s nascent automotive industry nears the take off stage with the construction of the Kiira Motors vehicles production plant at the Jinja Industrial and Business park taking shape- there is an urgent need to put in place a policy and legal framework that will govern the sector .
A couple of things need to be done including inter-alia the gazetting of Kiira Motors Corporation and any other industry players as vehicle manufacturers in Uganda, an international requirement aimed at ensuring that the domestic manufacturers remain competitive in the global automotive markets .
It can be argued therefore , that growth and sustainability of Uganda’s automotive industry is underpinned by the development of enabling policies that will guarantee global competitiveness of the domestic car manufacturers like Kiira Motors to produce products that suit the export market over and above mere import substitution.
It is heartening to note that the government through the Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation, headed by Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, takes cognizant of the fact that Uganda should focus on domestic value addition for manufacturing of quality products including cars where possible in partnership with well established and reputable Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) as a strategic entry point in the global automotive market place.
That’s why the need for a home made Uganda Automotive Industry Development policy should not be overlooked at this critical stage of the sector’s development . The policy and other relevant laws should essentially provide for a management framework of all interested and key stakeholders . These could include but not limited to , the entire automotive value chain , car parts suppliers (a car has more than 30,000 different parts ), manufacturers, products developers , dealers and service centers .
Other areas which should be considered while putting in place the Automotive Industry Development Policy are , quality of standards to ensure safety and protection of the environment , milestones against which industry players/ automotive value chain actors are licensed and incentivized not only to contribute to the growth of the sector but also become industry champions . The policy should also be employed to regulate the export and importation of vehicles as a whole .
The benefits for a well streamlined industry can not be overstated . Apart from stimulating the domestic car, auto-parts and components manufacturer, it can also be used as a tool to facilitate automotive market development with special focus to affordable and available end-user financing options , strategic high -purchase programs and support enterprise and human capacity development to enable as many Ugandans participate in the domestic automotive industry value chain. Further still , the policy should be crafted in such a manner that it will kick start automotive technology development and transfer across different institutions such as universities , research and technology incubation centers , enterprises and vocational institutions.
If well nurtured, therefore, the automotive industry can become a major contributor to economic growth and structural transformation. This is particularly pertinent as Uganda strive to transition from subsistence to middle income status where the rise in per-capita income is expected to boost demand for production and sale of new vehicles .
Already, road transport is predominant across the East Africa region. Estimates show over 2.5 million road –going vehicles were plying roads across East Africa, with Kenya accounting for 48.6%, Tanzania for 28.0%, Uganda 17.6%, Rwanda 3.0% and Burundi 2.9%.
However new vehicles accounted for miserable 15% while imported –used- end of life vehicles were about 85%. Some Ugandans even drive cars which are older than their birthday with the average age of vehicles ranging between 15 and 20 years or even higher . The ramifications for this situation are dire . A vehicle’s age has negative impact on the utility ‘s performance , productivity and maintenance .
A good , well thought through Uganda Automotive Industry Development policy will cure all the mischief that there is to ensure fast , steady growth of the country’s nascent automotive industry.
The writer is a Media and Communications Consultant/Trainer
and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda .