Is an acre in Kisenyi really worth Shs37b?

The land in Kisenyi, Kampala, that belongs to businessman Bosco Muwonge which Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago said could be sold to KCCA at an exorbitant price. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Real estate dealers in Uganda told us that the Shs37 billion-per-acre unit cost is troubling in more ways than one. They cite the cost of the same in the leafy suburbs of Kololo and Nakasero whose asking rate is significantly less.

At a cost of $10 million (Shs37 billion) per acre, the Kisenyi land that Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago last week said the central government purchased from John Bosco Muwonge rivals the unit cost of prime places in cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, New York and London.

The Kisenyi land straddles 10 acres, translating to $100m (Shs370 billion) as per Mr Lukwago.

A Ugandan real estate dealer based in South Africa told the Monitor that 200 acres in Stellenbosch—one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in South Africa—have an asking rate of $26 million (Shs97b). 

Real estate dealers in Uganda told us that the Shs37 billion-per-acre unit cost is troubling in more ways than one. They cite the cost of the same in the leafy suburbs of Kololo and Nakasero whose asking rate is significantly less.

“Kololo is the most prime land in the country. An acre goes for a maximum of $3 million,” one real estate dealer said, adding: “Even at that price, it is clearly over-priced, but it never goes beyond that price.”

Mr Godfrey Kiweewa Maato, Buganda Land Board’s chief executive officer, laughed off at the price.

“You cannot value that location at that amount. I do not have the right answer, but the value is too much. I am not conversant with the market value, but you look at how much other people are selling land in Kampala vis-a-vis the location,” he said.

Dr Dan Twebaza—the chief executive officer of TWED Property Development—told Daily Monitor that the most expensive land in Uganda is found in Nakasero. He puts the asking rate for an acre there at $1.5 million (Shs5.6 billion) or $2 million (Shs.7.4 billion) and Kololo at anywhere between $1.3 million (Shs4.8 billion) and $1.5 million (Shs5.6 billion).

“For Kisenyi, I do not know the price because it is above my pay grade. I have never owned property in Kisenyi, but I know that property prices have been dropping gently due to the economy,” he said.

Mr James Galabuzi, the president of Uganda Land Owners Association, asked the government to always involve the government land valuer in all land transactions.

Asked whether they still find value in buying the land at that price, Mr Simon Kasyate, the director communications at KCCA, said the land in Kisenyi has not been acquired because it is private land.

“You know that this is a free market economy. You and I know the price of land. KCCA hasn’t acquired the land,” he said.

Although Ms Minsa Kabanda— the Kampala and Metropolitan Affairs minister—said the government hadn’t yet bought the land, she added that they had written to the government valuer to establish the actual value of land in question.

“The executive director of Kampala Capital City Authority told us about the amount that the owner of the land wanted at first, but it was a lot of money,” she said.

 “I don’t remember the amount but I think it ranged between Shs100 billion to Shs300 billion. I can’t estimate the value of that land, but I want a reasonable price,” Ms Kabanda added.

Mr Sam Ssebuliba, a real estate agent based in Bweyogerere, said an acre of land there now goes for Shs1 billion for commercial use while that for residential purposes is Shs400m.

He said this is because of the Namanve Industrial Park. He added that in Kireka, an acre for commercial use costs between Shs800 million to Shs15 billion while a residential plot will cost between Shs500 million and Shs800m.

Mr Ssebuliba said areas around Namugongo are cheaper, ranging from between Shs80 million and Shs150 million. Places like Kyanja, he adds, are a tad inflated with half an acre going for Shs500 million.

He said the presence of Somalis and Eritreans in Kisenyi could be responsible for the unit cost of an acre being in millions of dollars.

When asked whether an acre of land costs Shs37 billion in Kampala, Mr Dennis Obbo, the Lands ministry communications officer, said the government chief valuer’s input will be instructive.

“It is not difficult to get the values,” he said, adding: “They are reached at scientifically and if they need this information, we shall avail them.”

What they said

Erias Lukwago, Kampala Lord Mayor: “It is dubious that the central government has earmarked $100 million to purchase 10 acres of land from a one Bosco Muwonge, ostensibly to resettle street vendors. How can an acre of land in the shoddy Kisenyi be purchased at $10 million (Shs37b)? This is obscene. This is another cash bonanza for the cartel and mafia. We passed a resolution that instead of buying Mr Muwonge’s land, let the exorbitant amount be channelled to KCCA for constructing markets in the five divisions. This was blackmailed because it irked the cartel.”

Dorothy Kisaka, KCCA executive director: “KCCA intends to acquire land and establish two markets in every division. We currently have 16 government markets. The land in Kisenyi is on short-term renewable lease. We have not purchased it. The land belongs to an individual. KCCA aims at establishing trading spaces in the city to decongest the streets of hawkers and those who sell their merchandise on the veranda. We are doing all this under the smart city arrangement. We want to see a clean and organised city. Another alternative site is Kalerwe and is currently being graded for use by those who needed trading spaces. All hawkers who need trading space downtown Kampala should go to Smart City Bazaar in Kisenyi.”

Yusuf Nsibambi, the former chairman Kampala District Land Board: “I was lucky to serve the Kampala Land Board and what is blinding us in Buganda is that in Buganda we are clapping that land has gained value and yet it is being taken. The land sold in Kampala measuring 50m by 100m at Shs1 billion is not anywhere in the world.

The price of land in Uganda is more expensive than land in New York or London. This is taxpayers’ money given to individuals to displace land owners in Kampala.”