Uganda’s 21,000km road network is the key facilitator for the development of agriculture, commerce and trade – as well as the movement of people for business, social needs, leisure and the delivery of healthcare, education and extension services. The government recognises that an efficient road network is crucial to the success of its social and economic development initiatives, and critical in linking the centre to the periphery of the nation.
The last 50 years have been very challenging for the roads sector and transport in general. After Independence, the government invested in all-weather roads and by 1971, Uganda had more than 1,500km of paved roads.
Unfortunately, the roads built in the 1960s started to disintegrate in the 1980s at the expiry of their 15-year life, necessitating reconstruction. By 1986, when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government came to power, the country’s road infrastructure was in a dire state of disrepair due to the years of civil strife and economic mismanagement. The government’s first priority was to restore peace and security as a fundamental precondition for development. As security was gradually restored, the government began the implementation of its policy to develop an independent, integrated and self-sustaining economy with the road network playing a pivotal role.
Since 1996, the government of Uganda’s policy has been focused on improved transport and communication infrastructure for the accelerated development and consolidation of national unity, implemented through its road development programme.
In that regard, the 10-year Road Sector Development Programme (RSDP) focussed on providing a safe and efficient road network by removing the existing major transport flow constraints. Under the RSDP programme, paved national roads increased to 3,000km in 2008.
In July 2008, the government decided to increase funding to the road sector by UGX320bn (US$125.5m) annually for three years with a special focus on constructing transport corridors. This additional funding increased the overall budget for roads to UGX1.1trillion ($4.3bn – including development partner commitments, the road maintenance budget and the government’s development expenditure).
Most of the increase in funding was channeled through the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), a new agency responsible for planning, building and maintaining the nation’s roads. It marked the first time that the government was allocating its funds for development projects without external support.
UNRA has started delivering on its mandate. In the last three years paved roads have increased to over 3,500km and are expected to increase to over 5,000km by 2017 with 1,500km of major roads currently under construction. In 2013, construction of over 1,000km of roads is expected to start.
While the last 50 years have been challenging for the roads sector, the next 50 years are going to be very exciting. Improved management capabilities with increased funding from government from anticipated oil revenues, will totally change the face of road construction and maintenance in the country.
Construction of the new 51.4km Kampala–Entebbe Expressway project is to start this year. This project will provide an efficient mass transit route between the two most important cities in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area and Entebbe International Airport. A new Nile Bridge at Jinja is also planned for completion by 2015.
Today, the road network comprises of 21,000km of national roads; 13, 000km of district roads; 2,800km of urban roads and about 30,000km of community roads, connecting communities, districts as well as linking landlocked Uganda to neighbouring countries. Rapid development is expected to continue, especially as an indigenous oil sector develops in the coming years. The existence of a sound road network and transport sector in general will ensure the development of agriculture, industry, and commerce.