Alozius Gonza | Managing Director
November 21, 2014 09:08 AM

Being the only capital in the country, Kampala has been and continues to be a magnet for a big population of the rural populace, searching for employment opportunities in the city. This rural to urban migration is the driver for urbanization which plays a key role in the development process.  The urbanization process in Kampala however has been characterized by uncoordinated planning and developments that have resulted in unrestricted sprawling of the city horizontally, with limited focus on vertical development.

Estimates put Kampala population to be ranging from 4 to 5 million during the day and about 2 million people during the night. The implication thereof is that about 2 to 3 million people (working, shopping or visiting) come to the city and leave it daily.  The traffic consequences of such movement are very immense given the sizes of our roads.

But investing in road constructions and maintenance alone may not be a sustainable approach. More Ugandans are moving to middle income status. The lack of a proper public transport system in the city dictates that more people will turn to use of private means of transport. It is visible that more people are buying cars every year. If for-example you wake up at 6:00AM to move to your work place, in a few years you may have to wake up between 4:00AM and 5:00AM to prepare and drop the Kids at school  lest they will not study.

Living and working in the same place.

It seems however that the new management at KCCA is alive to this fact. They are opening up new road networks and maintaining old ones in bad shapes to make it easier to move in and out of the city. But as already pointed out, this approach though commendable, is not sustainable.

There is need for the new management at the city to start working on strategies that make the big percentage of this population to start working and living in the same place.

To ensure that people can work and live in the same area, the authority should adopt policies that encourage developers to construct buildings that are mixed use in nature. The ground and first floors can serve as commercial retail while the upper two to three levels can serve as offices. Upper floors thereafter can be dedicated to target middle income residential users.

Incentives such as lower approval costs of plans for floors dedicated to residential use would be something for the developer to think about. At present, most new constructions in the city are focused on providing office and commercial retail space (arcades) regardless of the number of floors of the building. A few however such as Mabirizi Complex have actually incorporated residential use at the top floors.

It should be noted that occupancy levels for office and commercial retail space is low especially for buildings without elevators/lifts. Residential use would be a more appropriate user to boost occupancy rates.

The authority can engage new developers through a carrot and stick approach to implement this strategy.

Mixed use high-rise buildings cannot be considered without giving due regard to composite complementary services like the sewerage system. Just like the road infrastructure in Kampala has been receiving a facelift, the same should apply for the sewerage management system. The new Kampala cannot function without a new sewerage management system. This is the time to start thinking and engaging in joint infrastructure planning and funding programs for sewerage management by both National Water and Sewerage Corporation and KCCA. Joint ventures for infrastructure funding seem to be working at the East African Level. It’s unlikely that they can fail at this level.

Adopting a mixed-use high-rise construction can also reduce on pressures of land demand in the urban periphery. As long as demand for residential space in the urban periphery reduces (due to a shift to the town Centre), pressures on land will reduce and so are the prices of land.

With urbanization at about 15% and the national population growing at 3%, efforts that focus on vertical rather than horizontal expansion of the city should be given serious consideration since the supply of land is fixed. Satellite cities should also be encouraged with clear programs that target their spatial development.   

The new Kampala needs to be envisioned holistically with each and every program individually contributing but jointly leading to a modern city. The new managers of the authority cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes that were made by the previous managers.

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