Jemba Kanakulya-Mulondo, the head of port security at Kampala City Traders Association- KACITA says about 4,000 Uganda-bound cargo containers are stuck at Mombasa, with truckers not willing to take the risk. The government has been encouraging Ugandans to use the Tanzania route until the situation in Kenya stabilizes.
Business activity between Uganda
and Kenya resumes though on a slow note as post-election uncertainty persists
among the business community and the general public.
This comes amidst reports that
the containers destined for Uganda at Mombasa are piling up at the Kenyan port,
the main cargo gateway into the East African region. The Kenyan route, the
Northern Transport Corridor, accounts for about 76 per cent of the cargo
destined for Uganda. But the figure had dropped over the last few years as more
importers embraced the Tanzanian route.
The elections in Kenya usually
create uncertainty amongst the business community and the general public in the
region as a whole, since the violent post-election violence of the 2007 polls
there led to importers and transporters losing billions of shillings in
Jemba Kanakulya-Mulondo, the head
of port security at Kampala City Traders Association- KACITA says about
4,000 Uganda-bound cargo containers are stuck at Mombasa, with truckers not
willing to take the risk. The government has been encouraging Ugandans to use
the Tanzania route until the situation in Kenya stabilizes.
The route through Tanzania, the
Central Transport Corridor, was boosted last year when Uganda piloted the
importation of petroleum products through Dar Es Salaam port onto the Lake
Victoria vessels to Kampala. However, Byron Kinene, the chairman of the
Regional Lorry Drivers and Transporters Association says that even with the
uncertainty that comes with the elections in Kenya, some Ugandans will find it
hard to switch to new routes.
“I want to tell you, someone who
does business through Mombasa cannot easily switch to Dar-Es-Salaam,” says
Kinene. He also says apart from the importers being used to the route, it is
also cheaper compared to the Central Corridor.
KACITA-Uganda Chairman Thaddeus
Musoke says the Kenya elections came at a time when business was already low in
Uganda following a slowdown in economic activities mainly due to high
“Even if it has not been the
Kenya elections, the traders and importers were already seeing falling business.
You import goods and sell them to who?” Musoke wondered, adding that this is
the same reason why there is not a lot of business switching to the Tanzania route
despite the efforts by the governments of Uganda and Tanzania and the private
“Only those who are importing as
an emergency can bring their goods through Tanzania. Otherwise, the route is
very expensive and slow,” he said. Amidst the debate on the routing,
Maritime Kenya, a shipping and logistics company based at Mombasa said on
Wednesday, that trucks had resumed moving cargo from Mombasa to Uganda as the
business community felt the situation was becoming clearer.
“Trucks destined for Uganda,
Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo etc. from Port of Mombasa, have started to Move.
Election anxiety is now behind us. With the next government administration, we
are inclined to an increase of cargo throughput into Kenyan Ports, thus
increase in TBL (domestic and transit) shipments,” the company said in a
This was also echoed by Ugandan and bus operators and traders in Kampala.
Francis Kisekulo, a manager at
Simba Coach said that the company had cut down on the number of buses plying
the Kenya route when campaigns started. The company has at least 10 buses but
because of uncertainty, they could not risk all their buses to Kenya. He however
says they did not stop their operations.
//Cue in; “Luli tubadde tutwala…
Cue out…nebayitako Eldorate.”//
Fredrick Katumba from Mash Poa
Bus Company said that the company stopped plying to Kenya a day before the elections
in fear of what could happen. Katumba adds that most of the bus companies in
Uganda stopped going to Kenya during the same period and they have just resumed
today although the passenger flow is still very low as passengers still fear
going to Kenya even after the elections.
//Cue in; “Akalulu k’e Kenya…
Cue out…tewabaddewo kizibu kyona
One trader, an importer of shoes
who had run out of stock said he attempted to go to Kenya last week, but was
informed that his suppliers in Nairobi had not opened. “Now more stores in
Kenya are opened and I intend to travel later today to bring more stock,” said Fahd Kanyike, a shoe importer at Farmers’ House at Container Village, along
Uganda Cargo Consolidators
Association, a group of transporters of cargo between Uganda and the ports,
says that they are still waiting for the situation to get clearer. They say that
most of their partners in Kenya first closed business and went to their homes to
participate in the elections while others took longer saying they were
monitoring the security situation before returning to Mombasa, Nairobi or
Consolidators arrange transport
for importers or exporters especially those who cannot afford to hire a
container, group them and contract a truck to ship the consolidated cargo.
“After the election, still the situation is not yet stable because Kisumu is
unpredictable, and that is where we pass. We don’t want to risk, so we are
first waiting to understand the situation,” said Kenneth Ayebare, the Chairman
of the UCCA.
This is also changing the way the
sector was operating, with truck owners asking not to be liable for any loss or
damage to the goods in transit.
“Even transporters that intend to
transport your goods now are telling us that look, you need to write to us
indicating that if anything happens to the goods on the road then we are not
liable. And that is something that we are not comfortable with,” Ayebare says.
On the Dar-es-Salaam route as an
alternative, Ayebare says it is not viable for them because of the costs
involved. He says for example, that it costs 1,800 dollars more to transport a
container from Dar-es-Salaam, and so it is only viable for bulk cargo like
“And multimodal transport is not
yet developed to the extent that they cater for general cargo. They are only
looking at bulk cargo. So traders are looking aside. You can’t give someone
your container to spend a month on the way. There are no guarantees, for now,
there is no arrangement for general cargo, mostly cargo for traders, which is
really a bit tricky,” Ayebare said.
The multimodal transport through
Tanzania involves using the railway from the coast to the Lake Victoria port of
Mwanza, from where a ship will move the cargo to ports in Uganda. However,
Ayebare says that while this system was well-thought, it is only ready on the
Tanzania side, while in Uganda a lot has to be done.
“Uganda Railways Corporation has
no arrangement totally for the railway, for water… for general cargo. They are
still looking at fuel…bulk cargo generally. So for general cargo we still have
to use Mombasa,” he said.