It is a day Ugandans have waited more than any other, and the question is, will it ever come? Nobody knows the answer to this question. I mean the day, a “real” Ugandan made car will ride down the red carpet! You realize, I am using the word “real” and this is because we have had many so called prototype Ugandan made automobiles since the mid-90’s but none has proved to be real or trustworthy innovations but scams looking for cheap popularity. Recently, the College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology at Makerere University claimed to have made Uganda’s first electric car: the so called Kiira EV. When the Kiira EV news came out, politicians and the Ugandan public at large went into celebratory mood, I stayed home doing essentially the same thing like my fellow Ugandans, the only difference is that when I was done researching, I had this article to show for it. I have argued here before that Ugandans are obsessed with making these modern machines and have essentially failed to understand what it takes to make such products. First of all, I am highly sceptical of the “Kiira EV electrical car”. The famous Kiira EV is probably an assembled car with parts imported from China or some other country. Why would I make this claim? There are a number reasons: First of all, all metallic car parts need to be forged or casted at highly controlled conditions and frankly speaking we do not have the facilities (dies, molds, presses etc) at Makerere University for this kind of work. As a patriotic Ugandan, there is a part of my heart which makes me believe that part of the work might have been done at Makerere. Let’s assume that is indeed the case. According to my experience, I believe that the hardest part of making a car is not the real making of the car but the development of modern materials which make up the car or any other automobile. It is impossible to import all the materials from metals, ceramics, electrical wires, tyres etc etc in order to make the car. This is because; the final product will be far more costly than the ones on the market and hence will never move from the research laboratory to commercialization. We all know what happened to Uganda’s only radio and television set manufacturer: Sembule Group. Sembule electronic products dominated the Ugandan market in the late 80’s and early 90’s but soon went out of business because of the emergence of cheap Chinese products.
As it is the objective of http://www.scienceuganda.com to offer solutions rather than just criticisms. If we are indeed very serious with advancing science, research and development, we need to have a clear and unhurried plan. Moreover, this plan should begin with investing in materials research and production. Uganda is blessed with lots of minerals like iron ore at Sukulu, gold in Karamoja and of recent oil in Hoima and others. All these are important raw materials in the development of metals, plastics (polymers) and other advanced materials needed in car parts’ manufacturing.
If Uganda gets serious with materials production, making a car or any other automobile for that matter will be a piece of cake. This is because Uganda has the skilled workmanships in most of our local garages and body shops. With abundance of the needed materials, these guys know how to get the job done. We will finally have a “true” Ugandan made car with Ugandan materials and Ugandan hands.
Alex Luyima: The writer is a research fellow at the Department of Materials Engineering,
Missouri . and
Tech. He is also a PhD candidate, a holder of Master of Science in Materials
Engineering from Univ. of Sci of
Sci. and Tech. He also holds a Bachelor of Sci. in Industrial Chemistry from Norwegian Univ. .
He has worked as a metallurgist at Kasese Cobalt Company and as a mineral
dresser at Dept of Geological survey and Mines, Entebbe Makerere University