By Henry Mutebe

I do not know what the planners of Kampala are doing, but one day, one time, this town will come to a standstill. The congestion on the roads and poor traffic management and control has far reaching consequences on the productivity of people but also cuts deep into their pockets.

At an individual level, it doesn’t seem to make sense but lets fly above the individual and take an aerial view of this problem. Apparently, by around 2016, we had over 500,000 cars in the country. Every month, the Uganda revenue authority clears anywhere between 1000-2000 ‘new’ cars that join the Ugandan roads.

Let’s look at Kampala. Kampala City council authority collects 120,000UGX from Taxis (Matutus or minibus). This money comes to about 1.5 billion every month. This means there about 12,500 ‘taxis’ or matutus oscillating in and or around Kampala.

Kampala is the administrative and business center of Uganda. It is also the connecting point between the west and east, north and south. Kampala is estimated to be having a day population of 2.5 million people and a night population of about 1.5 million. This means that one million people are making a return journey to Kampala on a daily basis. They come in during the day and leave in the evening or night. These people are using the 12,500 taxis and thousands of other cars.

Taking a conservative estimate, most prices to and from Kampala range between 500-3000shs. If we maintain that conservative estimate – and say on average, every one, of the 1 million people that come and leave Kampala every day, uses 700shs per trip, this would mean each of the 1 million people uses about 1,500shs every day in transport. This means that the transport industry makes about 1.5 billion every day. However, of that money made by the transport industry, there is a very huge chunk that is being wasted or burnt to waste due to the daily traffic Jam.

Let’s take another estimate. Most taxis make more than 10 trips in and around Kampala. We know that traffic jam is mostly dense in the morning and rush hours between 5- 8pm. The evening jam is too severe that some cars spend in excess of two hours stuck on the road. However, for purposes of getting an impression of the problem, let’s redistribute that time and simply get an average. Assuming, that each taxi that comes or leaves the city spends about 15 minutes in traffic jam for every trip, after 10 trips, it would mean each taxi has spent 2.5 hours in Jam, every single day.

Consider that we have about 12,500 taxis on the road, each spending 2.5 hours of each day in Jam. An average car, let’s assume it has a displacement of 1.8cc, would consume about 1 liter of fuel per hour while idling. If the car is blasting AC, and the oil is cold, and or the car is old (which is the case for most cars in kampala), the fuel consumption is even higher. Since most of the cars are old with some functions no longer working, few of them are able to switch off fuel supply to some cylinders when the car is idling or in traffic jam.

So you have 12,500 taxis, spending about 2.5 hrs each, in traffic jam, consuming fuel but not moving. It would mean each taxi wastes or fires 2.5 ltrs of fuel in traffic Jam alone during those 2.5hrs. This fuel is simply wasted since the car is either at standstill or moving at snail pace. So if you multiply the 2.5 lrs of fuel wasted by each car in jam, with fuel going for 4000shs at the pump, you arrive at 10,000shs for each car-each day

This means each taxi wastes 10,000shs in fuel spent in traffic jam alone. If you have 12,500 taxis, this means we are wasting 125 million every single day because of the heavy jam. This means that every month, we waste 2.5 billion (if you consider just 20 days in a month, discounting Saturdays and Sundays). This figure does not include the money wasted in fuel by other cars.

Uganda spends about 5 million litres of fuel every day. This total accounts for both petrol, diesel and kerosene. So while petrol is going for over 4000shs, lets take a conservative estimate and say, each litre of fuel is buying at 3600shs as the average of the three fuels, it would mean that everyday, as an economy, we burn 18 billion UGX in fuel.

So if traffic jam in kampala alone eats away over 125 million each day in taxis alone, it means that a sizeable percentage of fuel consumed is simply wasted and burnt away in traffic jam. So our economy is bleeding a good percentage of its total daily fuel expenditure due to traffic jam fueled by poor traffic management and control and narrow roads.

I want to say its poor management because I cannot understand why you would let certain things happen. As Uganda traffic police, how do you, for example, allow three institutions of higher learning, to conduct their graduation ceremonies on the same day? How does it pass your judgement that their locations are so sensitive to traffic and that these events would cause a breakdown in traffic flow?

When an institution is planning its dates for graduation, ideally, in any organized society, they would report to police, the police would consult with its fire department to see if it has enough supplies and manpower to man that event, consult with traffic department to find out if there are any major issues with those days and accordingly harmonise to ensure that two or more big events don’t occur on the same day, or in similar locations that would inflate the traffic on the road.

You wonder how these things are done without forethought! Does this one require one to have a PhD to understand that traffic flow is a security issue? Supposing all roads are blocked due to jam and there is a security emergency? Where would the mambas pass? (Atleast they pass through the bush but we no longer have any left in kampala). What if ambulances and other vital cars are blocked due to the clot in the transport lines, how would you account for that?

Traffic jam costs us in excess of 2.5 billion every month and its impact on productivity can not be over emphasized. When people arrive late at work, they delay delivery of services to those in need, there is more airtime and money spent calling to communicate to someone that you are delayed but will be there soon, it means that we have lost time with family as one needs to leave either too early, thus having less sleep, or get home so late and have very little time with their family.

If people arrive late at work, it also means they work less due to the fewer hours available, but also the stress and psychological effect of being in jam for hours. Before one arrives at work, they are worrying about being late, and after work, one is worrying about how late they will be home or how they will get to pick their kids from school.

In some cases, people are forced to use boda bodas as a way of getting home faster, which has inflated traffic and congestion, increased road accidents because of the errant boda riders. The effect of traffic jam is so astronomical that planners ought to start thinking about how a richer Uganda with more cars is going to work?

Traffic jam causes more expenditure on individuals, stress, lost productivity, increases congestion, accidents and most of all, denies families the opportunity to be together during the social hours. Many children see their parents very late in the night and or hardly see them in the morning. Fewer hours with our children also has consequences. You have children who are growing in trhe hands of nannys and maids, totally unguided and not parented.

Traffic jam is a security threat, an economic problem and a social evil. Someone in Ministry of transport and works, KCCA, National Roads Authority and other line ministries should be thinking very seriously about this issue. Even with all this said, I acknowledge the efforts of the good officers who do their job to address this problem. However, more serious thinking needs to be done to cure the problem before it gets more problematic. The cars are increasing, the roads remain narrow and the same. Traffic managent still needs more thinkingand refining. What will happen in the next 20 years?