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Matatu: A Case Study of the Core Segment of the Public Transport Market of Kampala, Uganda

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In Uganda, public transport is provided by a four‐tiered public transport system, with the Matatu (usually Toyota cabin‐transporters of 1990s make) as its backbone, providing the widest, densest and cheapest connectivity. The article shares findings of a survey on perceptions, profiles and aspirations of drivers/conductors/stage personnel and of passengers. They show that entering a career within the Matatu business opens choices and promises inclusion into a relatively strong social network. For passengers, the Matatu offers a cost‐effective opportunity to commute to places of work, transport goods and connect with business partners. The findings also point to limitations of the current public transport system, with emphasis on lacking client care, e.g. fare cheating by conductors. There is a need to better understand the dynamics of urban transport systems against the background of expanding urbanization in low‐income countries. This article has attempted to contribute to that need.
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Matatu: A Case Study of the Core Segment of the Public Transport Market of
Kampala, Uganda
Regina Kamuhanda a; Oliver Schmidt b
a Imani Development (EA), Kampala, Uganda b Sa-Dhan, Hyderabad (seconded by German Development
Cooperation), Andhra Pradesh, India
First Published:January2009
To cite this Article Kamuhanda, Regina and Schmidt, Oliver(2009)'Matatu: A Case Study of the Core Segment of the Public Transport
Market of Kampala, Uganda',Transport Reviews,29:1,129 — 142
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/01441640802207553
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Transport Reviews, Vol. 29, No. 1, 129–142, January 2009
0144-1647 print/1464-5327 online/09/010129-14 © 2009 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/01441640802207553
Matatu: A Case Study of the Core Segment of the Public
Transport Market of Kampala, Uganda
REGINA KAMUHANDA* AND OLIVER SCHMIDT**
*Imani Development (EA), Kampala, Uganda; **Sa-Dhan, Hyderabad (seconded by German
Development Cooperation), Andhra Pradesh, India
Taylor and FrancisTTRV_A_320922.sgm
(Received 5 October 2007; revised 12 March 2008; accepted 15 May 2008)
10.1080/01441640802207553
Transport Reviews0144-1647 (print)/1464-5327 (online)Original Article2008Taylor & Francis00000000002008OliverSchmidtoliver@sa-dhan.org
ABSTRACT In Uganda, public transport is provided by a four-tiered public transport
system, with the Matatu (usually Toyota cabin-transporters of 1990s make) as its back-
bone, providing the widest, densest and cheapest connectivity. The article shares findings
of a survey on perceptions, profiles and aspirations of drivers/conductors/stage personnel
and of passengers. They show that entering a career within the Matatu business opens
choices and promises inclusion into a relatively strong social network. For passengers, the
Matatu offers a cost-effective opportunity to commute to places of work, transport goods
and connect with business partners. The findings also point to limitations of the current
public transport system, with emphasis on lacking client care, e.g. fare cheating by
conductors. There is a need to better understand the dynamics of urban transport systems
against the background of expanding urbanization in low-income countries. This article
has attempted to contribute to that need.
Introduction
Globally, mankind is leaving its rural roots behind, roaming the streets (and
potholes) of the city; since 2007, one out of two humans around the world has
been living in an urban area.1 A major means of travelling is public transport. In
low-income countries, public transport systems are the major provider of inner-
city mobility for the vast majority of the urban populations.
Likewise in sub-Saharan Africa, urban population is growing considerably
faster than rural population. For example, Kampala, the 2.3-million2 capital of the
east-African landlocked country of Uganda, experienced an average annual
growth rate of about 25% (equals 1.2 percentage points) above the national aver-
age between 1991 and 2002. Given a significantly lower reproduction rate in
urban compared to rural areas, this represents a strong trend of rural-to-urban
migration, in line with international trends. The ‘Greater Kampala Metropolitan
Area’ is expected to grow to 3.6 million inhabitants by 2020 (Government of
Correspondence Address: Oliver Schmidt, c/o Juergen & Christine Schmidt, Thursoer Str. 21, 59929
Brilon, Germany. Email: oliver@sa-dhan.org
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130 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
Uganda [GoU], 2005). This represents positive though shrinking average annual
growth rates of population.3
Just like the population, the growth rates of traffic are significantly higher for
Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area than for all other regions of the country.
Overall average annual growth rate of traffic is projected at about 7% up to 2020.
Close to one out of two vehicles in Uganda are for public transport—minibuses,
known as ‘Matatus’, motorcycles and buses. The Matatu is the major regular
means of transport for the majority of urban Ugandans.
Public transport plays a key role in providing income opportunities for urban-
ites, both directly and indirectly. Directly created income opportunities include
drivers, conductors and stage personnel professions. Indirect income opportuni-
ties arise from (inner-city) mobility, such as commuting to places of work, trans-
porting goods, connecting with business partners. To better understand these
direct and indirect income opportunities, a survey was carried out about perspec-
tives, profiles and aspirations of Matatu drivers, conductors, stage personnel and
passengers. In this article, Section ‘Studying Matatu Services in Kampala’ lays out
the methodology and rationale of the survey. Section ‘Background: Kampala
Profile and Public Transport System’ provides an overview over the four-tiered
public transport system of Uganda and its capital Kampala. Sections ‘Matatu and
Directly Created Income Opportunities’ and ‘Matatu and Indirectly Created
Income Opportunities’ present the survey findings of Matatu staff and passen-
gers, respectively. Finally, the last section provides the conclusions.
Studying Matatu Services in Kampala
Rationale
The Matatu market impacts on income in two ways: First, there are income
opportunities created directly through the mere fact that a Matatu is being run.
Second, there are income opportunities created indirectly because the Matatu
service renders choices feasible which would otherwise not be there.
The income opportunities created directly are those for the car dealers and
brokers (including the corresponding financial services), for the drivers and
conductors, and for all the people who maintain the car (to provide parking space
overnight, to wash it, to repair it and the like). This includes all public servants who
deal with Matatu licences, taxes, etc., and the Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers
Association (UTODA) personnel. Furthermore, there are those opportunities,
which focus on the passenger in a narrow sense, such as carrying luggage. One
example is the ‘Stage broker’—the people who call out the destination of the Matatu
or direct passengers. The value addition of this ‘job’ might be doubted.4 It is a typical
example of informal sector activity with an extremely low productivity.
Indirect income opportunities arise from expanding markets or improving
access to markets through availability of transport. This market expansion can be
thought of in terms of geography or volume. Geographically, improved transport
facility—that is either faster or cheaper connection between two given points—
allows for reaching more distant (potential) clients or buying from more distant
(potential) providers. Volume-wise, improved transport facility allows for reach-
ing more (potential) clients or providers at a given cost. Indirect income opportu-
nities are optional; people may or may not opt to take them for various reasons
such as consideration of risk that might render the option unattractive.
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Matatu and Public Transport in Kampala 131
Methodology
The survey sought to study career paths and income of Matatu personnel and
owners, mobility options and costs of passengers and the perceptions that these
stakeholders have of each other. The bulk of questions were of multiple-choice
kind, only few questions required the respondents to give their views in their
own words.
The survey was carried out between 16 and 24 June 2005 under the supervision
of the authors. Parts of it eventually were fed into a comparative study about
service market outreach to the poor in Uganda, commissioned by an ILO/DFID
project in Uganda (Kamuhanda and Tanburn, 2005). Different stakeholders
involved in the Matatu market of Kampala were interviewed. Altogether 377
questionnaires were filled; 161 from passengers, 75, 64 and 56 from drivers,
conductors and taxi owners, respectively. A small sample of 21 respondents
covers the stage personnel who are officially appointed by UTODA.
The percentages presented in this article refer to the corresponding numbers of
respondents or, in case more than one choice per respondent was allowed, to the
corresponding number of ticks given to one answer. Significance levels and vari-
ance corridors would demand a randomly defined sample which was not possi-
ble here. However, it can be said that the results for the passengers, drivers and
conductors are straightforward, given the size of the respective sample. Caution
is required in interpreting the results for owners and stage personnel, as these
samples are relatively small. But then, these groups are closely related, often over-
lapping; drivers being owners or stage personnel, such that the interpretation of
these figures should not be very problematic.
Matatu data is very limited. The figures provided by UTODA and GoU (2005)
are likely to be of mild inadequacy. For example, UTODA reported a membership
of 60 000 in February 2008 (Kamuhanda, 2008); the same figure was already
recorded by Baker (2004), and yet according to vehicle statistics, the number of
Matatus increases every year. Against that background, the survey presented
here is unique in adding views and perceptions of the people who ‘run the show’
on the ground, and those who buy it—the Matatu passengers.
Background: Kampala Profile and Public Transport System
Kampala Profile
The city of Kampala evolved from a fort founded by the East Africa Company in
1890. It only became the capital of Uganda in 1962, replacing its western neigh-
bour Entebbe—still home of Uganda’s international airport. The central region
roughly stretching from Entebbe up to Jinja in the east of Kampala forms the
economic centre and densest populated area of Uganda (approx. one-fifth of
Ugandans living here). From 1991 to 2002, the Greater Kampala Metropolitan
Area experienced an average annual growth rate of population of 4.5%. Seven out
of ten Kampalans (and six out of ten urban Ugandans outside Kampala) are esti-
mated to use the Matatu (Kamuhanda, 2008).
Trade routes from all over the country meet in Kampala—connected by road
and railroad (however no passenger train connection exists in Uganda) to
Mombasa, Kenya (via Nairobi) on the Indian Ocean; by road to south-western
Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda, respectively; and by sea port to Tanzania (via Lake
Victoria).
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132 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
Ugandan economy has reported robust GDP growth since the second half of
the 1980s, although growth rates have been declining from over 10% p.a. to some-
thing near 5% p.a. Transport and communication accounted for about 7% of GDP
in 2002, up from about 5% in 1991. Poverty in Uganda has been shrinking remark-
ably within the 1990s from over 50% to 35% living below the one-dollar poverty
line in 2001. Since then, poverty is reported to be increasing again.
The Public Transport System of Uganda
The public transport system consists of four tiers—buses, Matatus, motorcycle-
taxis (‘Boda-Boda’) and car-taxis (‘special hire’). Matatus, buses and motorcycles,
which form the bulk of the public transport supply side, account for nearly half
(46%) of the traffic on Uganda’s roads—Kampala drives the national picture; e.g.
80% of Ugandan Matatus operate in the capital (GoU, 2005; Kamuhanda, 2008).
Reliable numbers are hard to get by. Twelve thousand Matatus are registered offi-
cially, but the actual number is sure to be considerably higher; 20 000–25 000
appears to be a robust estimate.5
The number of vehicles in Uganda tripled within ten years (1994–2004). Still,
per four-wheel vehicle we count only eight persons in Uganda. The fastest grow-
ing category was motorcycles with a rate of more than 600%, followed by Pick-
Ups/4 WDs with a growth rate of approximately 200%. Minibuses (Matatus)
grew by a rate of 250%; their share of total vehicles on the road remained pretty
much stable with approximately 14%. Buses serve inter-city and inter-national
connections. Matatus do compete on the inter-city connections; they usually stop
more often and are thus slower than buses; people who live in small towns and
market-places may be spared a change of vehicle by a long-distance Matatu stop-
ping over. They do not run by fixed schedules and are thus less reliable than
short-distance Matatus because the latter run more frequently. No Matatu runs by
a fixed schedule, but rather by a ‘last passenger counts’ principle. Usually they
depart when all seats are filled (sometimes when one or two seats are double-
filled) or when some seats are vacant hoping to pick passengers along the way.
Within Kampala, such waiting times are not limited to the taxi-park or respective
starting point, but can occur at any stage that the driver or conductor considers
promising for additional passengers to show up—a practice that is usually not
pleasing to the passengers who are already in the vehicle.
Matatus are second-hand cabin transporters, usually of a Toyota make, manu-
factured in the 1990s with an official capacity of 12 passengers. Matatu owners, driv-
ers and conductors constitute the membership of UTODA, reported to be 60 000,
composed of drivers (70%), owners (20%) and conductors (10%) (Kamuhanda,
2008). UTODA has a strong role in organizing Matatu services. With a staff of about
650, it operates the 125 stages around Kampala and all other stages around the coun-
try. More importantly, UTODA has a contract with Kampala City Council (KCC)
to operate and maintain taxi-parks, which are the central points for Matatu connec-
tions within Kampala, and between Kampala and the rest of the country. UTODA
collects user fees from every Matatu, and only registered and paid-up Matatus are
allowed to board passengers in the taxi-parks. UTODA has also been mandated to
collect local taxes from the drivers. UTODA also supports the police in regulating
city traffic through a force of about 100 traffic wardens (Baker, 2004).
The main competitors of in-town Matatus are the motorcycle-taxis (locally
known as Boda-Boda). Theoretically, they are limited to one passenger, but in
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Matatu and Public Transport in Kampala 133
practice, they are not.6 Howe (2003) called them the ‘missing middle’ of Uganda’s
transport system. Their competitive advantage lies in their speed—no waiting
time at stages and nearly no waiting time through traffic jam. It may be argued
that the emergence of traffic jam is one of the drivers of motorcycle-taxi growth,
alongside the difficulty of getting a Matatu-seat during rush hours. They are also
an expression of growing income. On the same distance, motorcycle-taxi fares are
four to six times those of the Matatu. In Kampala, motorcycles have nearly
completely replaced bicycles, while they remain the dominant feature of small-
town streets (e.g. Kabale in southern and Lira in northern Uganda).
The fourth option is the car-taxi, known as ‘special hire’. Their fares are on
average seventeen times those of the Matatu. Their competitive advantage is
convenience—both of seat properties and ‘just-in-time’ availability—and some-
times transport capacity. For late evening and night rides, they add security
which the motorcycle-taxis chronically lack. The security is in terms of probability
of (fatal) injury in case of an accident and in terms of defrauding drivers. Regard-
ing the latter, recent years have seen the rise of central call-taxis. They are known
as ‘yellow cabs’ and (since 2006) ‘blue’ taxis, and operate strictly on meters (well,
close to strictly) and promise well-trained drivers. They are also employers to
Kampala’s first female drivers who appear to have gathered a good reputation.
Matatu and Directly Created Income Opportunities
Matatu Drivers
The average Matatu driver is a man between 34 and 35 years of age.7 His educational
background is usually secondary school, with one out of five having got primary
education only. Vocational training is practically not existent in this group (see
Figure 1). Consequently, a driver rises to his profession not by formal qualification
but by personal relationship. Approximately, three out of five got their position as
a driver through connections of family or friends. However, they usually have had
an affinity to that kind of business before. More than three out of five come out of
0%
10%
20%
30%
40%
50%
60%
70%
80%
90%
100%
Primary S econdary Tertiary Vocational
drivers conductors
Figure 1. Educational background of Matatu drivers and conductors
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134 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
‘car-related businesses’ such as driving for other employers (often NGOs), mechan-
ics and—about half of this group—conductors. Of the drivers interviewed, 14%
have been unemployed before and 3% have been employed in farming. Differently
put, approximately one out of five drivers come from the abundant workforce
which forms the core of Uganda’s poor. This stage of career seems to be a relatively
‘safe haven’: The average time having worked as a Matatu driver is around six years,
and the average time intending to go on working as a Matatu driver is nearly the
same. However, 8% of the drivers interviewed say that they would like to change
their job as soon as possible, only 1% considers it as a life-long assignment.
Figure 1. Educational background of Matatu drivers and conductors.
For an average of 12 hours/7 trips per day, the driver brings home around
20 000 Ugandan Shillings (Ug. Sh.) (approx. US$11.80) of which about 8000
(US$4.70) has been earned somewhat illegally, that is, through operating on
routes for which the taxi is not registered.
The term ‘relatively safe haven’ refers to the options available. Matatu drivers
are vulnerable, because their employer might at any moment decide to sell the car
or lay off the driver. However, at least there is a small welfare fund initiated by
UTODA, where stage personnel collect money from every Matatu that stops on
the stage. This money is used to support drivers or conductors when they occa-
sionally lose their jobs. More importantly, the network of drivers, conductors and
other Matatu-related workforce—from which the driver usually came in the first
place—might offer a certain security to gain an income from one of these activities
again. Matatu drivers are less vulnerable than those employed without relying on
such financial and social networks. However, the options are quite limited
towards other activities. Consequently, only a third of the drivers indicate skill-
based future plans. Most of them are hoping to become Matatu owners them-
selves;8 the second biggest group would like to do farming which they are proba-
bly skilled for to a certain extent owing to their family contexts. A few intend to
go (back) to driving for NGOs or to being a mechanic. The big majority has no
particular idea how to forge the future; 14% reveal that right away. About 51%
indicate that they would like to do ‘business’; this is a fancy, but not very conclu-
sive term. Business could be anything—or nothing. Most probably it refers to
some kind of goods trading activity. Given their occupational backgrounds, it is
more than doubtful if the majority of taxi drivers have a particular understanding
of the demands of a trade or a shop.
Drivers have a good chance to realize their aspirations of owning a vehicle
(Matatu). This indicates that their jobs help them to build a certain enterprise
management competence, at least an idiosyncratic competence that is needed to
manage a Matatu successfully. There is no indication that Matatu owners who are
drivers at the same time are better educated than employed drivers.9 Moreover,
there is no difference between the owner-drivers and the owners who employ
drivers.10 Neither do the latter own on average more vehicles than the owner-
drivers, nor is the income different, that is controlling for the salary of the
employed driver which reduces the income of an owner compared to an owner-
driver. Also, if the owner sample is disaggregated into those with a car-related
background (such as car dealers, UTODA staff, etc.) and those with any other
background (such as traders, civil servants, etc.), no significant income difference
is found. If formal education of the latter does help them manage their Matatu
business, the outcome is non-monetary. The main difference is the time of experi-
ence in that market. Owner-drivers have approximately two years more experi-
ence in the Matatu market than pure owners (on average 7 compared to 5.2 years).
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Matatu and Public Transport in Kampala 135
Matatu Conductors
The average Matatu conductor is a man of about 27 years of age. Just as for the
drivers, his usual educational background is secondary education, but there are
more conductors than drivers with primary education only (33% of the conduc-
tors interviewed as compared to 20% of the drivers interviewed, see Figure 1).
Just as for the drivers, the conductor got his job through personal and family
relations. The figure is slightly higher (70% for conductors compared to 59% for
drivers). Both figures might well be displayed as even higher when those who
got the job by a driver or a car owner, respectively, are added. While conductors
indicated they regularly ‘befriended’ drivers, the drivers did usually not disclose
if the relationship with the owner has a private dimension. It might be guessed
that the professional or skill-based relation in case of the drivers is a bit more
common than in case of the conductors (because of the driving licence). More
remarkable is the significantly higher involvement of the family in getting a
conductor’s job than a driver’s job (32% compared to 22% for drivers). In partic-
ular, quite a few conductors got their job through their fathers’ intervention.
This, in combination with the younger age,11 points to a calculated entry strat-
egy of the families for their (male) offspring. This line of reasoning is strength-
ened by looking at where the average conductor comes from. Nearly half of
them had no job when they started as conductors or were at least partly unem-
ployed—13% indicated to have been ‘casual workers’. It might be concluded
from this figure that the absorption of urban poor by this segment of the Matatu
service market is highly significant. However, only 3% of the conductors have
been working in farming before. Rural poor heading for the town seem not to
enter easily into the Matatu service market. This should be noted as a question
for further research.
The work experience in the current job is a little more than three years, and the
conductors who were willing to indicate so intend on average to work about four
years more in that position. For both drivers and conductors, about two out of
five cannot answer that question. The question for their future plans reveals some
interesting differences between conductors and drivers. The figure for skilled-
based future plans is considerably higher for the conductors: 57% are looking for
a future profession within their skill range (compared to 35% of the drivers). Most
of them (31%) wish to become drivers (31%) or driving car-owners (16%). Five per
cent and 3% would like to go back to car-related occupations and farming, respec-
tively; 2% (one respondent) would like to drive for an NGO. Note that no conduc-
tor and no driver wishes to work for UTODA. Yet, practically all stage personnel
interviewed have been conductors or drivers before. On the other hand, the figure
of conductors with no or relatively blurred (‘business’) future plans is 41% only
and considerably lower than the same figure for the drivers (64%). This strength-
ens the view that the position of a Matatu conductor is a promising one, under-
stood to be the entry point to a career which is hopeful to go at least to the driver’s
seat, and even towards ownership of a Matatu. The average conductor appears to
be a man of youth, optimism and ambition, whereas the average driver appears to
be less young, more settled but more disillusioned also, with few valid options of
where to go.
For an average of 12 hours/7 trips per day, the conductor earns around 10 000
Ug. Sh. (approx. US$5.90) of which around 3000 (approx. US$1.80) have been
earned on unregistered routes. Like drivers, conductors have choices and securities
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136 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
that derive from the skills their occupation offers and from the social network they
rely on. The same social network offers to some extent income and inclusion into
the huge group of informal workers around the Matatu services, such as stage
brokers. Indeed, those are often unemployed—or future—conductors and drivers.
Stage Maintenance Staff
As the government is lacking capacity to adequately regulate the Matatu service
sector, it has delegated the responsibility to UTODA. However, the outcome
mandating regulatory power is not convincing. UTODA has not yet managed to
be recognized by passengers as a reliable and trustworthy partner. Likewise, driv-
ers and owners rated UTODA low on trustworthiness. Drivers trust them less
than they trust anybody else, and driver-owners, although less interacting with
their conductors than drivers-only, put them on one level. Even owners-only rate
UTODA lower than the conductors on trustworthiness. These findings are
surprising because, after all, the owners and drivers are UTODA—it is them who
form the membership of that organization and thus should feel they own its poli-
cies. But they seem to feel that they do not.
Interestingly, nobody wants to be a UTODA personnel. Yet, three out of four of
those are former drivers/conductors or from a car-related job, and unemployed
drivers and conductors are often ‘helping’ (no qualification of that here) to
perform the stage personnel’s tasks. So we find that UTODA is no longer
perceived as a member-organization but as some kind of hassle—just as hassling
to drivers and owners as conductors are to passengers. Also interestingly, the
complaints reported by UTODA personnel are the same as those found with the
passengers. Additionally, they are bitterly complaining that they are abused and
disrespected by the drivers and conductors.
This disrespect might root in the perception that UTODA personnel are drivers
who have not quite made it—they are on average older than the drivers but
younger than the owners. Somehow, they represent a failed role model, or even a
traitor, given the fact that they are liaising with ‘the hassler’ UTODA. Some of
them are, in fact, successful taxi owners—what every conductor/driver wants to
be—this seems to be unknown.
This interpretation may or may not hold true, but more probable is that it is the
simple fight about money that poisons this relationship, as so many others. The
UTODA stage management personnel collect about 110 000 Ug. Sh. (US$64.90)
per day (on average 12 hours of work) from the drivers/conductors. Per Matatu,
this equals between 8500 (US$5.00, according to UTODA) and 9500 Ug. Sh.
(US$5.60, according to the drivers). The amount per Matatu has been calculated
by the formula ‘average stage fare per trip’ multiplied by ‘average number of
trips a Matatu makes per day’.
That is roughly 6% of the turn-over per Matatu per day.12 Not exactly a share to
get upset about. Yet, obviously the drivers do not see the point of giving ‘their’
money to UTODA. It seems not to be transparent how that money is used. Repair-
ing potholes at parks, cleaning stages sounds reasonable, but is not very visible
(we do not know how these places would look like otherwise, but it is hard to
imagine them much worse). To blame the taxes for KCC on UTODA might not be
justified as they are only an agent. It comes down to the point that whatever
UTODA does with the money is not much appreciated by the drivers (nor by
anybody else) despite the fact that some of that money is supposed to serve the
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Matatu and Public Transport in Kampala 137
needs of the drivers (welfare in case of unemployment, sickness as well as salary-
loans). The question this dataset cannot answer is: Do drivers not understand that
welfare-system or do they not appreciate it, and what are the reasons for that atti-
tude—maybe some insider-knowledge about the internal ways of UTODA?
Matatu and Indirectly Created Income Opportunities
Public transport is the first and, mostly, only option available to the average
Matatu passenger. About 91% of the respondents do not own any means of trans-
port—that figure holds more or less for most of the sub-samples. The seven sub-
samples analysed are male, female, employed, self-employed, not employed,
under 30 and over 30 years old. Most of those who own a means of transport have
a motorcycle, only few have a car. Only one bicycle has been mentioned. Slightly
above half of the respondents intend to buy a means of transport as soon as their
financial means allow to do so (this figure is the highest in the gender sub-sample
for males—58%).
To those who opt for motorized public transport, the Matatu offers the lowest
fares on inner-city distances, as shown in Table 1. The average employed Matatu-
user—shop and office attendants/messengers, policemen, teachers, service staff
like hair dressers and the like—earns between approximately US$47.20 and
US$118 (80 000–200 000 Ug. Sh.) per month. Commuting daily from the suburbs
one would spend about US$32 monthly.
Figure 2. Average fares (US$) of Matatu, motorcycle and car-taxi in Kampala. Source: Kamuhanda (2008), Authors’ Research
Respondents indicate that they spend about one out of four shillings of their
income on public transport. However, there are significant differences for some
sub-sample groups which will be discussed below. The biggest share of this
‘mobility budget’ (the share of income spent on public transport) goes to the
Matatu. More than two out of three shillings spent on public transport are for
Matatu services (see Figure 2).
Figure 3. Income spent on public transport as distributed by transport means.
Comparing the mobility budget as per survey (26%) with the commuting cost
as per fare charges (between 27% and 68%), the former appears to be on the lower
side. However, Howe (2003) found that Kampala households spend only
between 6.5% and 13.5% of their monthly income on transport, based on income
brackets (low, medium, high). The differences may be explained by the element
of subjectivity in this survey or by the wedge between household and individual
income. Note also that the interviewees are actual users of the Matatu—it is most
likely that earners at the lower end of the income bracket (i.e. closer to US$50) do
not use the Matatu regularly, hence show up less among the respondents. Indeed,
at dawn, before the Matatu traffic hits Kampala’s roads, a great many people can
be seen walking from the suburbs into town.
The effect of Matatu on indirectly created income opportunities shall be esti-
mated by looking at the reasons and purposes why people use the Matatu, and
Table 1. Average fares (US$) of Matatu, motorcycle and car-taxi in Kampala
Distance Matatu Motorcycle Car-taxi
Short distance (up to 3 km) 0.29 1.28 3.25
‘Suburb’ distance (up to 12 km) 0.53 2.98 9.96
‘Outskirts’ distance (up to 30 km) 1.20 Not applicable 21.50
Source: Kamuhanda (2008), Authors’ Research
Downloaded By: [Schmidt, Oliver] At: 05:38 27 November 2008
138 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
the relationship between Matatu services’ fares and passengers’ incomes. The top
four reasons to use a Matatu are given in Table 2. Price is the frontrunner
followed by availability of the services, and then availability of space. These are
income-relevant properties, as reveals the top four ranking of purposes to use the
Matatu. Reaching the workplace and doing business (which needs space as far as
goods are transported) are the frontrunners, followed by fulfilling educational
goals. However, there is a difference in the ranking by the number of respondents
mentioning the property and by the average mark scored (best score: 1, worst
score: 3). A lot of people use the Matatu for seeing relatives and friends, but they
rank it of lower importance than the fewer people doing business and education
rank those activities.
Figure 4. Ranking of reasons and purposes to use the Matatu.
Consequently, 77% of the passengers interviewed think that any change in
Matatu services would reflect directly or partly in their own income. Particularly,
about one-third of the passengers interviewed, who indicate self-employment,
are vulnerable to changes of Matatu services in prices as well as in availability
and/or speed. For example, the increasing traffic jam in the town centre of
Kampala might be such a change which has been answered to by the invention of
the Boda-Boda. They are more expensive but also faster than the Matatus as they
0
25
50
75
100
% of income spent on
public transport in total
% of income spent on
Matatu service
% of income spent on
other public t ransport
Figure 2. Income spent on public transport as distributed by transport means
Table 2. Ranking of reasons and purposes to use the Matatu
Reason
Rank by
number of
respondents
mentioning it
Rank by
average
mark Purpose
Rank by
number of
respondents
mentioning it
Rank by
average
mark
Price 1 1 Going to the
workplace
11
Availability 2 2 Doing business 4 2
Space 3 3 Going to school/
university
53
Speed 4 5 Seeing relatives
and friends
24
Downloaded By: [Schmidt, Oliver] At: 05:38 27 November 2008
Matatu and Public Transport in Kampala 139
are nearly independent of traffic jam. This points to the importance of both price
and other properties of the public transport.
The question for suggested improvements might be another indicator of the
impact of the Matatu services on the income of the passengers. The choice of
answers referred to security, convenience, price and other factors which might be
labelled ‘structural’.13 The strongest demand is about the attitude of the conduc-
tors in handling the fare. Majority of the respondents over all samples wish a
strict control over conductors to avoid fare betrayal (24%) and/or to ensure that
change money should be available (18%). Both are closely related, as not having
change money is a way of betraying with the fare. But it is also a source of delay.
These are followed by the demand for more careful driving (14%) and avoidance
of overcrowding (13%). Two of these answers had been categorized as conve-
nience (overcrowding and change money), which is their direct impact, but they
are also related to security and price, respectively. Therefore, we might say that
‘price stability’ (in the sense that the official price should equal the price actually
paid) with over 40% and security with over 25% are the most important demands
of the current customers of Matatu services, and that they feel to suffer a direct
income constraint (by being cheated with the Matatu fares) and an indirect
income constraint (by being confronted with reduced security). Only 7% of the
passenger sample call openly for price reductions, but this minority ranks it over-
proportionally high.
There are no striking differences between the sub-samples regarding the ques-
tion for suggested improvements. All of the respondents give structural changes a
very minor weight. The concerns are about relatively simple day-to-day experi-
ences which are felt to be hassling. This is supported by the answers to a question
on problems caused by drivers/conductors. Again, over 40% of the respondents
complain about lack of change money (27%) and overcharging (19%). Also nearly
40% complain about delay. The delay is caused either by refusal to stop at the
requested location (23%) or/and because of long waiting periods/stopping often
in search for more passengers (16%). The latter might be categorized as conve-
nience factor, if the adage ‘time is not money in Africa’ should hold true.
However, more than anything else it is about (lack of) respect. This category
might well describe most of the suggested improvements as well. Indeed, there
seems to be a serious shortfall in respect for customers in Uganda (and else-
where). Lack of respect signals or results in lack of voice (since there are no mech-
anisms for redress), and lack of voice will eventually lead to lack of access to the
various resources that nurture everyone’s capabilities.
There is a slight indication that hassling of various kinds is more relevant to
women than to men—the former express more often the demand for avoidance
of betrayal with the fare and for improved stage security. This seems to be in
accordance to anecdotal evidence and conventional wisdom. Yet, the dataset
does not allow for strong gender-related conclusions, and more research would
be necessary on that perspective.
By age and gender perspectives, the income impact differs significantly from
the overall sample figure of 26% of ‘mobility budget’. Women and young people
spend a significantly higher part of their income on public transport than others—
29% and 30%, respectively. If we look at the group of unemployed (students and
housewives), the figure even rises to 51%. Note that all these percentages for the
different sub-samples refer to roughly the same amount of time spent on the
Matatu, around two hours per day. This supports the conclusion that the higher
Downloaded By: [Schmidt, Oliver] At: 05:38 27 November 2008
140 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
percentage is indeed due to higher parts of the income dedicated to mobility,
rather than a different way of spending available time.
One reason is the distribution of the ‘mobility budget’ into the different choices
of public transport. Compared to men, over-30s and employed, women, under-30s
and not employed spend a relatively higher portion of their ‘mobility budget’ on
more expensive choices such as Boda-Boda or other taxis than on the Matatu. This
indicates different needs and structure of mobility which are partly reflected in
reasons and purposes of the use of public transport. Women and young use it more
often to go shopping or to see friends and relatives, while men and over-30s use it
for business reasons. However, the real-life difference behind these expressions
might be rather small. As mentioned before, ‘doing business’ is a rather popular
expression—and a particularly male one—but not very conclusive when thought
about. So it is possible—but of course indecisive from the data available—that
women and younger people are just more honest in describing their activities.
UTODA seeks to be recognized as a rule- or standard-setter in the Matatu
service market. Thus, the nature of that recognition by passengers should be an
indicator of how far mobility demand is met. Judging by attitude of passengers
towards the legal framework of consumer protection, there is room for improve-
ment. Although a majority (59%) is aware of the existence of such a legal frame-
work, nearly three out of four respondents have never benefited and/or do not
expect to benefit from the framework. Interestingly, the pessimism about legal
enforcement is stronger with men than with women (75% and 67%, respectively),
although more men than women are aware of the legal options (61% and 55%,
respectively). While the awareness is lower with younger respondents, the pessi-
mism grows with age—that tells something about the experience with law enforce-
ment over the years.
In line with this finding—although there is not necessarily a causal link, because
the understanding of passengers about the role of UTODA is probably limited—
the UTODA personnel at the stages are poorly perceived by the passengers. Forty-
nine per cent of the respondents consider them to be partners or friends. But 50%
consider them to be somewhat hassling and not trustworthy. This is far from
impressive, given that they are the representatives of an organization mandated
with public order tasks. At least UTODA personnel are perceived clearly more posi-
tive than conductors. More than two-thirds of the passengers see conductors as a
hassle and not trustworthy. Only 29% consider them to be partners or friends. The
drivers score surprisingly strong—61% consider them as partners or friends, ‘only’
38% see them as a hassle and not trustworthy. Regarding quantitative levels of trust-
worthiness, drivers score 3.7 on a scale ranking from ‘1’ to ‘6’ (1 = not at all, 6 = fully
true), followed by UTODA with 3.3, while conductors receive a poor 2.4. However,
conductors score 2.5 for their dangerousness, while drivers score 2.2 and UTODA
only 1.7. The best scores and characterizations, however, are granted to taxi owners
who are ranked top in all categories of these questions.
Conclusion
The urban way of life has become a predominant human aspiration and chal-
lenge. One of the challenges is the provision of inner-city mobility. In the case of
Uganda, public transport provision has been entrusted with private, mostly
small-scale (i.e. one or few vehicles per owner) investors. Such an institutional
setting has been able to meet a certain degree of needs. It is embodied in the
Downloaded By: [Schmidt, Oliver] At: 05:38 27 November 2008
Matatu and Public Transport in Kampala 141
four-tiered public transport system of Uganda, with the Matatu as its backbone
providing the widest, densest and cheapest connectivity. Its limitations are low
workplace security for drivers and conductors; low standards of service provi-
sion, i.e. driving conduct, vehicle security; and above all protection and enforce-
ment of passengers’ (clients’) rights. Public rules and regulations have proved
inefficient and often ineffective. UTODA apparently has created its very own
clout but failed quite obviously to gain recognition and trust by both providers—
who are its members and nominal owners—and Matatu passengers. It may be
added that it has also failed to provide reliable data about its realm, not only to
the present authors but also to its line ministry or any other public stakeholder.
The survey findings shared here are one of the few attempts to trace percep-
tions, profiles and aspirations of drivers/conductors/stage personnel and of
passengers. They document the limitations of the current public transport market
listed in the previous paragraph, with emphasis on client care. However, survey
respondents found it hard to picture structural changes of the institutional setting
that would benefit them. They rather focused on day-to-day improvements. One
might feel bound to be sceptical if these improvements are likely under the
current setting; inevitably, a good number of providers are marginal entrepre-
neurs who operate on the assumption of lowest expenses for staffing and vehicle
quality and security. They are bound to oppose changes which render that
assumption invalid; although in the long run such changes might offer the same
scope of income opportunities at improved workplace conditions. Also, it is not
obvious how UTODA can improve its performance without undergoing some
fundamental change. Here is not the space to discuss these questions in depth; it
would require studying alternative settings, e.g. introducing a conventional bus
service. This requires looking into other (or potential) relevant stakeholders’
capacities. For the Uganda/Kampala case, such is presented by Schmidt (2007)
and—with more emphasis on the contemporary evolution of the current institu-
tional setting—Kamuhanda and Tanburn (2005).
There is a need to better understand the drivers and dynamics of urban trans-
port systems against the background of expanding urbanization, often rapidly so
in low-income countries. This article has attempted to contribute to that need,
labouring from the belief that the people concerned most—drivers, conductors,
stage personnel (owners are only touched on cursory here) and passengers—
should be the starting and revolving point.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank the ILO/DFID project ‘Business Service Market
Development’ in Uganda for financial support to our survey. We are particu-
larly grateful to two anonymous referees for a thorough review of our article
which led to a considerably improved presentation of the arguments. Of
course all mistakes remain of the authors.
Notes
1. The urbanization data displayed in the ‘Introduction’ section draws on the ‘State of the World’s
Cities Report 2006/7’ report from UN Habitat. See e.g. Hove (2006) for reference and further
details.
2. Figure for Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (2004/2005), compared to estimated 1.2 million
inhabitants for the city of Kampala (GoU, 2005).
Downloaded By: [Schmidt, Oliver] At: 05:38 27 November 2008
142 R. Kamuhanda and O. Schmidt
3. Whereas most countries of the world are experiencing shrinking population growth rates, Uganda
is one of the few countries with high population growth.
4. One might feel tempted to refuse the label ‘passenger service’ here. Indeed, the shouters are taking
over the task from the conductor. Yet, the objective—however doubtful the impact might be—is to
serve the passenger by reducing the time of searching for the car of his/her destination.
5. Kamuhanda (2008) reports 12 000 registered Matatus. However, she also reports 12 000 Matatu
owners among UTODA members (20% of 60 000). For a fact, many owners operate at least two
vehicles, often more. Assuming that half of the UTODA member-owners operate at least two
Matatus, the minimum number comes to 18 000. From the numbers of GoU (2005), 138 000 public
transport vehicles are reported (300 000 motor vehicles in total, 46% of them Matatus + motorcy-
cles + buses). For a fact, there are more Matatus than buses but less than motorcycles. Going by the
registered Matatus, and assuming a relation of 2:1 Matatus to buses, there would be 120 000
motorcycles—ten times the number of Matatus. Assumingly, a realistic low-side estimate of the
relation Matatu to motorcycles would be 5:1—equalling about 21 000 Matatus. All these estimates
suffer inaccuracy because there is a significant number of non-registered Matatus and motorcycles
out there on Ugandas roads, at least several thousands.
6. Motorcycles are regularly seen with two passengers; anecdotal evidence has it that three and more
have been spotted. Reference are adult passengers; children are—as in the Matatu—added at will.
7. Among the respondents, all drivers and conductors were male. However, anecdotal evidence
indicates that there are a handful of pioneer female Matatu drivers in Kampala. The penetration of
driving business by women is a bit more advanced for individual taxis (‘special hire’).
8. A goal that approximately 40% of the drivers realize eventually (according to UTODA data; see
Kamuhanda and Tanburn, 2005, p. 49).
9. Unfortunately, the questionnaire for taxi owners does not ask for the educational background. The
indication is drawn from the question for the reason to become a taxi owner. Here, owner-drivers
answer regularly that it is their profession/experience/means of living.
10. Note that the owner-driver sample is very small (14 respondents) and thus less conclusive. The
reason is that this group was not thought of when compiling the questionnaire, it was rather
‘discovered’ through it.
11. The age of the conductors interviewed ranges from 19 to 40 years, compared to 26 to 49 years for
the drivers interviewed.
12. Note that the percentage (6% of daily revenue) does not include the monthly membership fee of
20 000 Ug. Sh. per minibus operator. Furthermore, the Matatus entering the taxi-park pay a daily
fee of 4500 Ug. Sh. (Kamuhanda and Tanburn, 2005, p. 48).
13. Proposed answers for ‘Security’: ‘drive more carefully/slower’, ‘control strictly for misuse of alco-
hol’, ‘improve stage security’. Proposed answers for ‘Convenience’: ‘avoid overcrowding’,
‘conductors should ensure to have change money’, ‘increase number of stages/routes’. Proposed
answers for ‘Price’: ‘control strictly for conductors betraying with the fare’, ‘reduce prices’.
Proposed answers for ‘Others/structural’: ‘employ female drivers/conductors’, ‘establish a regu-
lar time schedule’, ‘vehicles should be smaller (7 places)’, ‘vehicles should be bigger (30 places)’,
‘no need for improvement’.
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Hove, T. (2006) By 2030 Africa will Change from Rural to Urban Society. Available at: http://www.
citymayors.com/society/urban_africa.html (accessed 4 August 2006).
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Minibus taxi public transport is a seemingly chaotic phenomenon in the developing cities of the Global South with unique mobility and operational characteristics. Eventually this wide-spread fleet of minibus taxis will have to transition to electric vehicles. This paper examines the impact of this inevitable evolution on a city-wide scale in Kampala, Uganda. We present a generic simulation environment to assess the grid impact and charging opportunities, given the unique paratransit mobility patterns. We used floating car data to assess the energy requirements of electric minibus taxis, which will have a knock-on effect on the region's already fragile electrical grid. We used spatio-temporal and solar photovoltaic analyses to assess the informal and formal stops that would be needed for the taxis to recharge from solar PV in the region's abundant sunshine. The results showed energy demand from a median of 224 kWh/day to a maximum of 491 kWh/day, with a median charging potential (stationary time) across taxis of 8 h/day to 12 h/day. The potential for charging from solar PV was 0.24 kWh/m^2 to 0.52 kWh/m^2. Our simulator and results will allow traffic planners and grid operators to assess and plan for looming electric vehicle roll-outs to the most-used mode of transport in Africa.
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Active travel, as a key form of physical activity, can help offset noncommunicable diseases as rapidly urbanising countries undergo epidemiological transition. In Africa a human mobility transition is underway as cities sprawl and motorization rises and preserving active travel modes (walking, cycling and public transport) is important for public health. Across the continent, public transport is dominated by paratransit, privately owned informal modes serving the general public. We reviewed the literature on active travel and paratransit in African cities, published from January 2008 to January 2019. We included 19 quantitative, 14 mixed-method and 8 qualitative studies (n = 41), narratively synthesizing the quantitative data and meta-ethnographically analysing the qualitative data. Integrated findings showed that walking was high, cycling was low and paratransit was a critical mobility option for poor peripheral residents facing long livelihood-generation journeys. As an indigenous solution to dysfunctional mobility systems shaped by colonial and apartheid legacies it was an effective connector, penetrating areas unserved by formal public transport and helping break cycles of poverty. From a public health perspective, it preserved active travel by reducing mode-shifting to private vehicles. Yet many city authorities viewed it as rogue, out of keeping with the ‘ideal modern city’, adopting official anti-paratransit stances without necessarily considering the contribution of active travel to public health. The studies varied in quality and showed uneven geographic representation, with data from Central and Northern Africa especially sparse; notably, there was a high prevalence of non-local authors and out-of-country funding. Nevertheless, drawing together a rich cross-disciplinary set of studies spanning over a decade, the review expands the literature at the intersection of transport and health with its novel focus on paratransit as a key active travel mode in African cities. Further innovative research could improve paratransit's legibility for policymakers and practitioners, fostering its inclusion in integrated transport plans.
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The aim of this small-scale research study was to improve knowledge regarding the influencing factors of ride-hailing in Uganda, addressing the potential impacts of ride-hailing on clients (riders) as well as customers, and establishing the challenges, and opportunities in the fast-growing industry. The research aimed to highlight gaps in the evidence base and outline future research priorities on this topic, and was commissioned by Seconds Uganda, a company providing solutions for transport sector challenges, among them being ride-hailing services. From the findings, Safety amongst others was a major factor that was considered by customers to be an important factor influencing their choice to use boda-hailing services as opposed to regular motorists, and that boda-hailing companies regarded safety as important in the recruitment process, with emphasis to training riders on road safety, use of safety wear such as helmets and reflecter jackets, which in turn led the to customers feel safer with boda-hailing riders, as compared to regular motorists. Women also felt safer when traveling with boda-hailing services as compared to traveling with regular motorists. On the other hand, motorists felt that by joining ride-hailing services, they would reach a large client base due to the marketing effort input by ride-hailing platforms in comparison with the stage system of regular motorists. The findings also indicated that there was more trip time for boda-hailing motorists as compared to regular motorists. The dynamic pricing method of transport fare determination was also assessed, indicating both the challenges and opportunities that it causes to the clients and customers of boda-hailing companies. Further more, the commission based business model was also assessed to indicate how they impact customers and clients.
Chapter
Owing to population explosions, many developing cities are experiencing rapid and chaotic urbanization processes filled with undefined urban transport systems that can’t respond to the growing demand. This study aims at examining how Street-infrastructure supports and encourages NMT in Developing cities. The survey highlights the role of the ‘Walkability’ mode of mobility in developing cities where most individuals still have no access to public transport. The study used a roadway characteristic-based model to assess the Pedestrian Level of Service (PLOS) for Kampala urban city center. The survey identified that Kampala city street-facilities caters less towards pedestrian safety. Most studies focus on NMT in cities from developed countries, and no previous studies have used LOS tools to measure ‘Pedestrian’ facilities in Uganda in particular. Therefore, the findings of this investigation would contribute to the scientific community by bridging the cross-cultural mobility-related literature gap.
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Transport Planning and Mobility in Urban East Africa, Edited By Nadine Appelhans, Wolfgang Scholz, Sabine Baumgart, Copyright Year 2021, https://www.routledge.com/Transport-Planning-and-Mobility-in-Urban-East-Africa/Appelhans-Scholz-Baumgart/p/book/9780367410742
Article
Uganda developed bicycle-based passenger and goods transport services in the 1960s. They were complemented by a motorcycle-based version in the 1990s. These have extended the range and capacity of services, known locally as boda boda . Both have spread over the entire country and the bicycle version into neighbouring Kenya. This paper explains the origins of boda boda, the factors conditioning development, its operating characteristics and the problems they face. This analysis is used to examine the benefits boda boda services have brought to the poor. Boda boda operate where more conventional services are uneconomic or physically impossible. They are found in urban and rural areas where they act as feeder services to the towns or major public transport routes. Because of limited capacity and short trips fares per kilometre are two to seven times those of large-capacity buses. Popularity derives from their ability to meet demands other services cannot. While the poorest make only occasional use, due to low incomes and high costs, for many they enhance income by extending the range and intensity of productive activities. Their main impact on the poor is through the employment provided. Operators are drawn from the least educated classes and each supports five dependants. About 1.7 million people, or 7% of the population, receive part of their livelihood from the industry.
Making Service Markets Work for the Poor: The Experience of Uganda (Kampala: ILO/DFID)
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Kamuhanda, R. and Tanburn, J. (2005) Making Service Markets Work for the Poor: The Experience of Uganda (Kampala: ILO/DFID).
UTODA on membership, Matatu service volumes and related figures”. Personal interview with UTAODA Executive Director Rev
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Note that the percentage (6% of daily revenue) does not include the monthly membership fee of 20 000 Ug. Sh. per minibus operator. Furthermore, the Matatus entering the taxi-park pay a daily fee of 4500
Note that the percentage (6% of daily revenue) does not include the monthly membership fee of 20 000 Ug. Sh. per minibus operator. Furthermore, the Matatus entering the taxi-park pay a daily fee of 4500 Ug. Sh. (Kamuhanda and Tanburn, 2005, p. 48).
Post-conflict policing: lessons from Uganda 18 years on
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Baker, B. (2004) Post-conflict policing: lessons from Uganda 18 years on, Journal of Humanitarian Assistance. Available at: http://www.jha.ac/articles/a138.htm (accessed 25 July 2005). Government of Uganda (GoU) (2005) The Draft Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan (Kampala: Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication).
The Draft Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan (Kampala: Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication)
Government of Uganda (GoU) (2005) The Draft Greater Kampala Transport Master Plan (Kampala: Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication).