Traffic jam one of most pressing concerns in Kampala, says study

Kampala suffers hours of traffic jams on a daily basis. PHOTO/EDGAR R BATTE 

What you need to know:

  • According to the Political Economy of Public Transport in Greater Kampala study, traffic jams and congestion in Greater Kampala are some of the most significant concerns when it comes to everyday urban problems. 

A study by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has found that traffic and congestion remain significant concerns for people living and working in Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area. 

The study, titled ‘the Political Economy of Public Transport in Greater Kampala’, notes that traffic gridlocks and congestion in Kampala that spill into the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area are by far, the most significant issues that concern city-dwellers when it comes to everyday urban problems. 

“The … study speaks to government agendas concerning urban transport reform, to the interests of key stakeholders within the transport sector and concerns of the general public …  KCCA’s own social media campaign demonstrate that traffic and congestion is by far the most significant issue that city-dwellers are concerned with,” the study authored by Mr Paul Isolo Mukwaya from Makerere University and Mr Tom Goodfellow, from Sheffield University, reads in part. 

As a result, the study notes, not only time is lost but thousands of people have been killed in Greater Kampala, “with the role of motorcycles in road traffic accidents steadily increasing”. 

Therefore, the study notes that whereas it is clear that the challenges of achieving a sustainable transport sector are overwhelming, improving public transport is not an agenda that can be abandoned or marginalised.

Kampala and its suburbs remain highly congested, with road users having to brave traffic that lasts hours. 
The city, which now extends into Mukono, Entebbe and Wakiso, also lacks an efficient transport system with the present one characterised by erratic increase in fares, uncoordinated route movement and unprofessionalism. 

According to Kampala Capital City Authority, 50 per cent of people who work in Kampala access the city by walking to and from home on a daily basis, while 30 per cent use taxis, 10 per cent boda bodas and 10 per cent personal cars.

A 2017 World Bank study indicated that traffic jams were costing Uganda more than $800m (about Shs2.8 trillion) in lost gross domestic product with a daily loss of 24,000 person-hours in Kampala alone.  

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung study, which is part of the Just City programme that looks at urbanisation dynamics in African cities, seeks to provide the stakeholders with a better understanding of the transport sector in the Greater Kampala to ultimately match the regulatory ambitions of political institutions with the needs and livelihoods of informal sector workers. 

The study, which was conducted through evaluation of documentary sources, grey literature and media, interviewed individuals and groups and reviewed texts on public transport, government planning and policy, international donor and consultancy reports to understand the extent of public transport needs and emerging challenges. 

However, the study also highlighted a number of issues, among which include disputes within government agencies and the private sector as key spoilers that continue frustrating the establishment of an efficient public transport system. 

For instance, the study noted inter-ministerial or agency disputes, particularly between ministries competing to host the new Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area Authority, inter-jurisdictional disputes, particularly between KCCA and surrounding districts and municipalities that continue to frustrate efficiency in public transport.