By Moses Sserwanga
Kampala- As Uganda moves steadfast to put locally made cars on the market for the first time in 2018 many Ugandans are wondering how they could benefit from a budding automotive industry when it finally takes off.
What they need to know is that the car just like any other locally manufactured product has many components or parts that can be sourced locally and therefore offer huge opportunities to the local parts fabrication suppliers. A car, on average, has over 30,000 parts by the time it leaves the production line and this will not be any different when Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC)’s much anticipated Vehicle Production Plant is set up in Jinja next year.
While major carmakers the world over, source car parts from a broad range of global automotive suppliers overseas, in Uganda with the availability of abundant natural raw materials for car production, enterprising Ugandans should be prepared to cash in on the economic opportunities that will be created across the country’s nascent automotive industry.
Already, the country is promoting the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy which encourages local content participation, a good strategy if fully and well implemented. The policy will very much be part of the national industrialization agenda and the automotive sector can take the lead in the realization of this ambitious government development program. The BUBU initiative should, therefore, continuously be fast tracked to enable local sourcing of services and consumables that are essential for the consolidation of Ugandan components in the automotive supply chain.
This is because the country is endowed with a variety of rich minerals that are key to the successful implementation of the car manufacturing sector. Among the minerals that are abundant across the country include copper and cobalt deposits in the border district of Kasese, gold in the areas of Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro, Rukungiri,Kanungu,Busia, Mubende, Hoima and parts of West Nile, Iron ore in Mityana and lead in Kamwenge.Other raw materials needed for car manufacturing like lithium can be found in Kabale, Mukono, Mbale and Mubende; tin, zinc, kaolin, glass and sand are all locally available. The challenge now is for the government to facilitate the business minded Ugandans to benefit from these natural resources across the automotive value chain.
There is no doubt that promotion of local automotive value chain enterprises willbe a very important tgovernment intervention that will lead to the creation of jobs and spread wealth among a wide spectrum of the population. Car body builders, vehicle canopies for pick-ups, fiber glass components manufacturers, leather seats makers, after sales car service providers like garages, fuel stations should all prepare to seize and benefit from the economic opportunities that will come with the development of the automotive sector.
Fortunately, there are already many young men and women in the areas of Katwe, Nsambya and Namuwongo who are involved in the interior upholstery business, an established industry since there is relatively high demand for transformation of service vans into passenger mini vans that are the main form of public transport in Uganda.
These young Ugandans who are beating all odds to participate in the development of the Ugandan auto industry need every support that government can offer.
In order to have as many Ugandans benefit from these prospects, there is also need to have a targeted skills development and training program which must be responsive to the technical requirements in the automotive manufacturing business. There is a need to develop and rollout specific curriculum for the automotive industry at our higher education institutions of learning.
With the Ugandan economy facing a huge task to absorb some 392,000 new entrants into the labor market and the growth rate in the youth labor force now standing at an estimated at 5.7 percent annually, the automotive industry could as well be a very good entry point in mitigating some of these national development challenges.
The writer is a Media and Communications Consultant /trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda.
This article can also be found at: msserwanga.blogspot.com