The heavy rains being experienced and which will continue until 2017 are bombarding the road network in Uganda causing pavement submergence, mudslides, culvert/bridge failures, embankment washouts, and other damages caused by floods. The heavy rains are disrupting road maintenance work and travel plans.
The damages expose the weakness of the road networks due to lack of maintenance. As a result, the travel time has increased from 1.83 to 2.02 minutes per km.
Considering the vehicles on the road has increased to 8,500 from 3,755, the journey time has also increased from 2.4 to 2.9min/km.
Uganda has the highest road fatalities in Africa totaling to 3,500. Due to the sorry state of the roads, the user satisfaction has dropped from 51.7% to 45% due to congested, dusty, narrow, ad accident prone roads according to a report released by the Uganda Road Fund.
The poor state of roads in Uganda has remained even with the government providing $4b for road infrastructure. The money was initially scheduled for reclaiming lost roads, upgrading existing roads and operationalizing new institutions and to increase the paved roads.
However, the roads need to be modernized as economic, demographic and technological factors are contributing to the bad state of the roads. The increasing urban population means that there is need for wider road networks to decongest the roads.
A good road network will require long distance high capacity bridges, stronger pavements, underground roads and rails, and elevated roads and interchanges. Tunneling and upgrading existing roads such as the Big Seven Bridges should also be considered to be able to make use of modernized motor technology such as electrical and autonomous vehicles. The current taxation is not enough to cater for the modernization of the current roads as it requires high capital. The world is already experiencing an infrastructure gap of $0.4b each year so it’s not just Uganda.
The only hope to close the gap is public private partnership (PPP). It offers efficiency, financing and innovation which are needed in modernization of current roads. For PPP to work the risks related to the project must be identified and revenue streams such as airport charges, utility bills, fees, and road tolls identified.
Uganda can use the strategy to raise the money needed to construct the roads but they need to balance private sector capital and public sector needs. PPP will also ensure an operational maintenance regime through performance based and output schemes. Road maintenance has not been possible in Uganda. Dependence on the fee-for-service principle for road maintenance is no longer working and there is need for them to fully implement their 2G fund.
Economic, demographic and technological challenges should be considered even as Uganda launches its investment on roads focused on modernizing the infrastructure. Uganda should focus on PPP schemes as a way of improving its roads.