Uganda is notoriously known for terrible roads and consequently heavy traffic jams. Kampala specifically is worse being the capital of the country. And if you hope to have any level of success driving through Kampala, you have to adopt the rule of the jungle which is — there are no rules — unless of course you spot a traffic officer ahead.
When there’s no traffic officer, you quickly realise you are on your own. No one on the road is your friend. There are only a handful of civilized drivers. Taxi men are the most offenders. They don’t follow their lanes just like some government vehicles who have a sense of self-entitlement. It’s not even strange to find a car driving head-on to your direction. You have to negotiate a head of time which side you will take and it’s not obvious that you have to keep left as is the law in Uganda.
Main roads are usually congested which is why several drivers take shortcuts or panya which aren’t any different from an urban footpath. They are so narrow to even accommodate a single passenger car and so rugged being a community road. Because every driver assumes no one uses them, every driver ends up using them causing yet another trail of off-road traffic jam.
With this kind of driving, collisions, scratches on your car are inevitable. In fact, car owners in Uganda are already used to high costs of maintenance for their cars. On average I see my mechanic at least twice a month and I drive a fairly “new” car. I spend about Ugx 500,000 ($132) on minor fixes but on a terrible month like when I need to replace shocks or brakes or tyres, that figure could even shot to Ugx 1,400,000($371) which is roughly my rent for 3 months.
When I look at my expenditure on transportation, I am terrified. No, seriously, who spends Ugx 0.3m/month on a car without even counting the cost of fuel?
Traffic jams are only going to get worse because the rate at which cars are imported into the country is much much higher than the rate at which Gov’t is repairing or making new roads. I know I offered some solutions to Kampala’s Traffic problems; good public transportation system and ride sharing. It’s been over a year now since I wrote that post, but so far I have not noticed even a slight change in the public transportation which is why I decided to buy a personal car.
I have thought of leaving my car at home for ride hailing service like Uber. When I did the math, I spend much less driving my own car than taking an Uber. For instance, I spend roughly Ugx 20,000 on fuel from home to work and back. If I took an Uber to and from work, I would have to part with not less than Ugx 35,000. See, the prices are still high, so I will have to hold on until Uber prices become much lower than what I would have to spend on personal transportation.
For now though, Panyas could be the solution to Kampala’s notorious jams even though they cost us (the Panya users) an arm and a leg.