After many years of waiting, Kampala city finally has buses. The Kayola Electric Buses built by Kira Motors Corporation (KMC) started operations on 27th August 2022. The buses move from Bweyogerere to Busega (21km) on the Northern bypass only. They make a maximum of ten trips per day. This is a trial run which when successful. This is a trial run which when successful will be extended to other parts of the city. The buses which are fully electric can go without charging for a maximum of 300km. This means that the buses are capable of making about ten trips per day on the said route without running out of battery. The bus is currently operated by Kalita Bus Service which has been in bus transport business for over 25 years. Kalita owns over fifty buses some of which ply the route of Kampala-Nairobi
Kira electric vehicle project was launched by President Yoweri Museveni in 2011. At that time the corporation had just successfully assembled the Kayola Bus together with a small sedan car named Kira EV. KMC, a government funded business entity traces its origin from Makerere University Faculty of Technology students as part of their research and innovation project. The project was later expanded with government support. KMC also manufacturers a diesel buses and other types of Electric vehicles. The introduction of buses in Kampala is a very welcome move by government to decongest the city that is currently being choked by Bodaboda and 14-seater mini buses. The bus also cones as a big relief to passengers as an alternative to taxis which are costly and quite unreliable.
The Kayola bus though will not operate through the city Centre for now but plans are underway to include as many routes as possible in future. The other route, according to KMC sources which will be added after the northern bypass shall be Kampala-Entebbe and thereafter Kampala- Mukono among others. Whereas the bus operations were supposed to commence in 2019, the project was delayed due to several technical and financial issues. It’s anticipated that this bus service will open up the market for bus transport business within Kampala metropolitan area which may create competition in the long run. With competition, the public should expect better service and competitive rates. Currently, the only bus company which was licensed to operate in the city is Pioneer Easy Bus and Wakula Enume bus services. The two have been largely inefficient with the former operating 30-seater buses while the latter has very old DMC buses that operate along the route of Kampala- Gayaza. Wakula Enume is owned by taxi drivers and operators who were previously under the defunct Association called Uganda Taxi Drivers and Transporters Association (UTODA). Another bus company which has been given license to operate in the city but is still mobilizing is Tondeka Bus Service. They expect operate up to one thousand bus within the city.
Bus business is not necessarily a profitable venture in Uganda due to high investment and operating costs. Most bus companies do not survive beyond ten years. Besides they face very stiff competition from taxis which are more flexible and do not take long to fill-up. Buses also have very few embarking and disembarking stages which means that passengers in between the said stages are often not catered for. On the other hand, taxis can pick and drop passengers almost at every point along the route which makes passengers more comfortable. Buses also take a longer time to arrive at their destination compared to taxis. All this however could become history as more people embrace buses and as they also improve on their timely operations. When buses have specific times of departure and arrivals, this will give customers confidence to get confidence about them as this is still one of the limiting factors why passengers prefer quick means of taxis and Bodaboda.
The buses have one fair advantage over taxis and Bodaboda though which is on pricing. Whereas taxis change an average of four thousand shillings from Kampala to Gayaza, Buses charge only two thousand for the same route. The other advantage is that buses are very safe compared to taxis and Bodaboda when it comes to accidents. These are some of the positives that bus companies should build on to convince the public to embrace their services. It has taken Kampala many years to allow buses to operate within the city. It will take some more years for the buses to function more efficiently. Like any other business, competition and better services will bring more customers hence improving the city’s urban mobility in general. It will not be easy to have an efficient bus transport system overnight, but it’s a great decision to have them operational. In the years to come Ugandans will look back with admiration why it took the country took long to implement the project that is too crucial for the operations growth and productivity of the city.