Onlookers admiring ‘Kayoola’, the first solar powered bus in Africa
at the Powesa exhibition at Wankulukuku stadium on Saturday
It has been close to a year since President Museveni launched Uganda’s prototype of a solar powered bus popularly known as ‘Kayoola’ as the country looks to establish itself as a manufacturer of automotives.
This milestone sparked off mixed sentiments of excitement and skepticism while some critics referred to it as an overly ambitious plan for a country struggling to achieve middle income status.
The gist of the argument being that Uganda is majorly an agrarian economy whose priority should be investing in modernizing the agricultural sector rather than embark on a long term and capital intensive venture.
However Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), the makers of the solar powered bus among other two concept cars; Kiira EV (electric) and Kiira SMACK (hybrid of solar and petrol) maintain that car
manufacturing is achievable in Uganda. They have so far undertaken a market research and developed a business strategy that will see Uganda produce 7,000 hybrid vehicles each year starting 2018.
By and large, the concept of the ‘Kayoola’ remains the biggest innovation to come from Uganda and
the continent as well. Exclusively using solar energy through lithium batteries, the bus can travel 80kms in a day.
The bus has attracted attention from international media as well as environmentalists and the public in general since its unveiling.
At a recent UN Sustainable Energy exhibition in Nairobi where the bus was showcased, leaders and environmentalists hailed the innovation as a trail blazer in the promotion of clean energy.
Last weekend, the public got a maiden opportunity to view the bus at the annual Powesa exhibition at Wankulukuku stadium.
Chimpreports spoke to a few individuals to make sense of their reaction to Uganda’s plan to venture into car manufacturing. Majority were astonished by the discovery that the ‘Kayoola’ was made in Uganda. They believe that the automotive industry will present better prospects for Uganda but it will require more of government support.
Kabugo Majid a local trader said; “I am pleased. The rest of the world despises Uganda as not being able to produce anything. They think Africa is still backward. My appeal is that government supports this project financially because it has the capacity to employ both the educated and the uneducated.”
He also thinks that government could further encourage young innovators involved in such projects to build their confidence.
“It’s a great idea. We import too much stuff compared to our exports which affects our economy. Producing cars is critical if Uganda is to improve its place on the global market. Cars that are manufactured locally will be more affordable compared to those that we import because the taxes are usually exorbitant,” said Denis Luwaga a businessman in the city.
Denis Luwaga (R) a city businessman enjoys the comfort of the bus
seats together with a colleague
According to Luwaga, it’s important that local industries are protected from foreign competition through incentives like tax holidays.
Olivia, a university student who also took part in Saturday’s exhibition noted; “It’s a good idea and I think we should continue with the idea. If other countries can do it then Uganda too can. Government should give them (KMC) land and capital.”
In the Kiira Motors visitors’ book lay similar comments, all of them indicative of appreciation, hope, surprise and anxiety. Some read “Inspiring”, “So Promising”, and “Comfortable” while another one said “The journey to restructure Uganda has started. We have what it takes.”
A one Geoffrey Semulaba told Chimpreports; “We have been spending a lot on importing cars but now that government has taken a step into this direction, it’s good. The Kayoola bus is also environmental friendly.”
“However, government should inject more funds into the industry so we can curb the unemployment problem. If I was to buy a car, it would be one that is locally manufactured regardless of its quality,” he added.
KMC is currently seeking a sum of USD 350M from government and private investors to build a car manufacturing plant so as to realize their dream. Government has so far allocated the Corporation 100 acres of land in the Jinja Industrial Park for this plant.