Kampala: The transport sector grew immensely this year, with the resultant increase in the number of vehicles, flights and cargo flows. In Uganda, road transport is dominant, as is the case in most land-locked countries, says Godfrey Wandera, the works ministry’s acting director of transport. About 95% of the country’s goods and 99% of passenger traffic use roads. The other means of transport are air, railway and water transport.
'The availability of door-to-door collection and delivery over a wide network make roads a popular mode of transport,' observes Wandera. This is shown by the increase in the number of vehicles that rose from 552,653 in 2009, to 635,656 in 2010, according to the works and transport ministry.
About 129,694 new vehicles were licensed in 2010 compared to 102,375 in 2009. The growth in vehicle numbers, experts predict, will continue due to a poor railway and public transport systems, plus easily accessible car loans.
Because more people want to buy cars, the number of bonds has jumped from 97 in 2009 to 112 in 2010, forcing the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to suspend registration of new ones. 'We stopped licensing car bonds because the ones available can meet the demand,' says Peter Kaujju, a media management officer at URA.
However, road accidents have also risen, with over 2,000 people dying on the roads annually! Road accidents were 17,428 in 2007, but rose to 18,200 in 2008 and 22,699 in 2009. About 7,480 people lost their lives over the period.
According to the works ministry, international passengers into Uganda were 966,045 in the 2009/10 fiscal year. Domestic aviation travellers were 14,627.
Although air transport is quicker, it is expensive, meaning only a small fraction of the population use it. This is mostly for international journeys.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) manages 14 of Uganda’s airports, with five designated as entry/exit points. Jinja, Tororo, Soroti, Moroto, Lira, Masindi, Kisoro and Mbarara airfields are also run by CAA. Over 17 international scheduled airlines serve Uganda, including KLM, British Airways, SN Brussels, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airways, South African Airways, Air Uganda and Emirates.
'Uganda has also concluded over 35 bilateral air service agreements with other countries,' says Wandera.
On the other hand, the railway sector has almost collapsed. Of the 1,266km of the total rail network, 337km are operating, including the main line from Malaba-Kampala, a section of Tororo-Mbale and the Kampala-Port Bell line.
While it formed Uganda’s lifeline, linking the country to Mombasa Port in the past, the railway network was abandoned despite its advantages.
However, railway traffic volume rose from 601,000 tonnes in 1998 to 904,000 in 2002. It fell to 755,000 tonnes in 2005 and to 585,000 in 2009. It is expected to reduced further this year. But with the signing of a concession between the Kenya and Uganda governments and RVR in August 2010, the railways line will be revitalised soon.
The water mode of transport was greatly hit by the sinking of MV Kabalega in 2005 and has never recovered.
* By Joel Ogwang