Why multi-billion markets remain unoccupied

President Museveni inspects Kasese Central Market after commissioning it on December 15, 2020. Such establishments remain unoccupied despite massive expenses incurred in setting them up. PHOTO/ KELVIN ATUHAIRE

What you need to know:

  • Vendors complain of  stall designs, lack of electricity, water and inflated numbers of unknown traders.

Some modern markets have given towns across the country a facelift, but since they were commissioned by President Museveni, the structures remain unoccupied.

The markets, constructed under the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) project, are meant to create organisation and proper handling of foodstuffs for a complete chain of food supply.

In Soroti Town, the Shs24b market, which is to accommodate close to 1,300 vendors, remains unoccupied after several people who originally did not own stalls were allocated stalls.

Ms Grace Kongai, a vendor, told Daily Monitor that the transition is pending and may expose acts of corruption.
“They are hanging on hope that they will be able to find space at the market being constructed, but the numbers are inflated, so who is telling the truth?” she asked.

Mr Samuel Ojirot, another vendor, said: “The President commissioned the premises with the hope to improve our livelihoods, but we are still stuck at this filthy place, where sanitation facilities and garbage disposal is still very poor”.

Mr Ojirot said the initial numbers known to vendors is about 900, but the current confusion has close to 2,000 vendors.
Mr Ted Enangu, a hardware vendor, said disputes are holding vendors from shifting.

Mr George William Eriebat, the chairperson of Soroti market vendors association, said he could not comment on the matter since the town clerk is the market’s spokesperson.

Mr Moses Otimong, the acting city clerk, said the Ministry of Local Government has given them a resettlement plan, with a fixed date of May 11.
“Currently, market vendors’ association is screening the list of vendors, following complaints raised,” he said.

Soroti market was constructed at Shs24b by Techno Three construction company with funds from African Development Bank.
In Masaka City, Nyendo market, which was constructed in 2015 at Shs12.7 billion and commissioned by President Museveni a year later, has also remained deserted.

The lockups, which were allocated to vendors dealing in clothes, crafts, salons and electronics, are empty while stalls of vendors of agricultural produce such as matooke, sweet potatoes are half way occupied. 

After failing to forcefully push vendors back to the gazetted stalls, authorities have resorted to dialogue.
Vendors, who are operating in the market’s parking lot, say the stalls were poorly constructed.

The Masaka City clerk, Mr John Behangane, said they have embarked on sensitising vendors on the importance of occupying the stalls and lockups.
“The parking lot was gazetted for vehicles that bring merchandise to the market, but today you find vendors displaying their goods everywhere. This has to stop because this place is not ideal for such stuff,” he said.

The Masaka City commercial officer, Mr Joseph Ronald Mugerwa, said the number of vendors operating in the area has increased in the last five years. 
“That market was designed to accommodate only 834 vendors, but the number has since increased to more than 2,000 vendors and all these people cannot fit in the existing market,” he said.

In Kalungu District, the new Lukaya Roadside Market, which was commissioned in February by Works minister Edward Katumba Wamala and Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi has remained closed.

Mr Magyezi had ordered authorities to open the market on March 1. 
The outgoing Lukaya Town Council chairperson, Mr Gerald Ssennyondo, said there are still a few things they want to fix.   
“We haven’t labelled the stalls and lockups and that is what we want to do first. We ask the vendors to remain patient as we address those concerns,” he said.

He added that they expect to complete the works at the end of this month. The market has 64 stalls and 24 lockups but 160 vendors have so far applied to work in the market.

Meanwhile, the Shs25b  Moroto Municipality Market, whose works started in 2018, was completed in 2020, however, vendors still operate under dilapidated structures.

The  market  was  constructed under government’s Markets and Agriculture Trade Improvement programme (MATIP) with funding from government and  the Arab Bank of Economic Development in Africa (BADEA).
The market, which was constructed by Ambitious Construction Limited, has a capacity of 4,000 traders and comprises shops, stalls, toilets, parking and rumps.

Mr Hajji Sebaduke, the Moroto Town clerk, said some parts of the market are not yet complete. He said it is also not known when the contractor will install the solar system, although it was not part of the initial plan. Mr John Wamuno, a vendor, decried theft outside the market.
 “I wish the municipal council could allow traders to enter the facility then those remaining parts can be finished when traders are inside. I am one of those making losses to thieves. We need the market handed to us as Moroto Town has always been centre of Cholera during the rains, and we ought to operate in a clean environment,” he said.

Resettlement plans underway
The Tororo Central Market is among the markets that government under African Development Bank through Markets and Agricultural Improvement Programme constructed at a cost of Shs28 billion.

The market remains empty and vendors have held several protests expressing their disappointments over its delayed operationalisation.
Mr Justinian Niwagaba, the commissioner of  Urban Administration in Ministry of Local Government, said meetings for the resettlement exercise are underway.

Tororo Municipal Council mayor John Opio called for transparency in the exercise.
Town clerk Paul Omoko disclosed that verification of the beneficiaries as well as cleaning of the vendors registers has been concluded with one complaint registered. Under the resettlement, vendors shall be required to pay monthly rent. 

In Kasese, vendors are still operating at Rwenzori Square Gardens, a place where they were relocated in 2018 when the construction of Kasese Central Market started. It was constructed by China New Era at Shs14.9b, with funds from African Development Bank.

The Resident District Commissioner, Lt Joe Walusimbi, said the market would be occupied this month.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government Geoffrey  JJ Ettedu said the process to occupy the market has started with verification.
He said ministry has organised a team of technical officers to oversee the exercise.

Mr Elevest Muhindo, a vendor dealing in clothes, said they are not sure whether they will occupy the market. 
Vendors’ Association Secretary Alexander Mukara said the new market has 788 stalls yet 1,113 vendors need space.
Poor lighting forces vendors out
For nearly two years, Gulu police have been battling with vendors to clear them off the streets. Daily Monitor established that electricity at the facility has since been off, forcing vendors onto the streets.  

Unoccupied stalls at Gulu Central Market. Traders complain of lack of electricity. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA 

Ms Nighty Aromo, a matooke vendor, said beyond 4pm, buyers fear to reach their stalls because of darkness.

“It has been very unfavourable to us because of the lack of electricity. At least by the roadside, one makes more money in a short time than sitting inside the market the whole day,” Ms Aromo said.

Mr Patrick Omaya, the market vendors’ chairperson, said they were also forced to close the toilet facilities at the market due to lack of water.
 “You can imagine water and power are very key but you find that they have been missing, although they are being rectified. Many traders have been forced to leave the market and relocate,” Mr Omaya said. The market has  2,800 traders.

In Mbarara, traders continue to work in deplorable conditions at Mbarara Independence Park, where they shifted four years after the launch of the construction of Mbarara Central Market.

The handover ceremony of the Shs21 billion market has had several extensions from January to February last year, March and now May 31.
On March 30 during the site visit, State Minister for Local Government Jenifer Namuyangu warned the contractor (Roko contractors) that this is the last extension or else they would face consequences.

The chairperson for Mbarara Central Market Traders Association, Mr Muhammad Nyombi, on Wednesday said they are disappointed by government failure to prevail over the contractor to complete the market on  time.

“We are losing a lot of money at this place where we are working. Now that it is the rainy season most of our merchandise get destroyed, as leaders we have been convincing traders to be patient but it’s too much,” he said.

Authorities say
Mr JJ Ettedu, who is also the national programme coordinator for MATIP, said among the new markets, it was Kasese,Kitoro in Entebbe, Lugazi, Tororo and Soroti, which were commissioned by the President.

Mr Ettedu said there are administrative processes that the ministry had to implement before resettlement, among them managing power issues, sanitary facilities, training managers, leaders, and technicians.

The commissioner said the training delayed because they had to observe standard operation procedures.
He said the third step that the ministry has been doing is registering vendors.

Mr Ettedu admitted that there has been conflict of interest where some leaders, and technical persons smuggled and inflated numbers of vendors.
“If there are officers who pocketed money from people thinking they will take first priority during resettlement, they will have to sort themselves out, the priority is the old vendors who were relocated,” he said.

“We have been verifying the registers, that of 2010, updated to 2016, and the last one 2020-2021, must be the ones to be relocated first, if there is additional space, the urban authorities can advertise for people to apply,” he said.

“There has been fighting for leadership between Soroti market vendors association, and Soroti vendors association limited , but as ministry we can’t allow someone’s registered company to take control of government facility, it has to be controlled by loose association Soroti market vendors association,” Mr Ettedu said.

Mr Ettedu said a team of experts would be flying to German and Turkey to access works on the machines, which will be installed at the produce market opposite Soroti Central market.

He said resettlement has already started, adding that vendors for the new Kitoro market in Entebbe was finalised last week. He said on Monday, vendors at Lugazi, Busia and Tororo markets will be resettled.
Mr Ettedu said Kasese, Tororo and Soroti will be resettled on May 11.

The first successful markets constructed under Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Programme (MATIP), are Gulu, Lira, Mbale, Jinja and Mbarara , but they are not fully occupied as vendors prefer operating outside.

The second phased markets still under MATIP programme, are Tororo, Busia, Lugazi, Kitoro in Entebbe, Soroti, Kasese and Kabale among others .
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Local Government Ettedu JJ Geoffrey, said some of the  markets constructed in the second phase, that is  Lugazi, Kitoro have had their vendors resettled last week, while Tororo and Busia are due for resettlement in the new premises on Monday (today).

Compiled by Simon Peter Emwamu, George Muron,  Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa &Gertrude Mutyaba, Steven Ariong, Joseph Omollo   & Fred wambede, Robert Muhereza, Joel Kaguta, Felix Warom Okello, Rajab Mukombozi, Jolly Tobbias Owiny