As businesses struggle to pick up after the COVID-19 crisis, the rise in prices has hit a flashpoint, and traders are calling for quick fixes.
According to Thaddeus Musoke, the Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) Chairman, the government should come in handy and try to fix the rail transport question and allow them to import from elsewhere where essential commodities are relatively cheaper.
Traders are calling for the revamping of rail services if the government cannot regulate increasing fuel pump prices.
“We call for active railway services to substitute the cost of skyrocketing fuel in the country. I stay in Mukono, and I spend sh50,000 to and from there. If the train and commercial buses are activated, we would save up sh1billion…,” he told the New Vision in an interview.
Musoke said the government should also consider the alternative route through Dar es Salaam for goods from and to Uganda if the Mombasa route is becoming a challenge.
The Mombasa - Kampala route has always been preferred as the first door but it has been characterised by long queues and the looming strikes by fuel truck drivers in Kenya recently, something traders say has caused a spike in commodity prices in Uganda.
He noted that there is no consumer protection due to the increased demand for essential products; consumers are facing wrath from local manufacturers who are overwhelmed by demand from the region, and as traders, they need another alternative source for substitutes.
“We ask the government to allow us to import essential commodities because here, the commodities have become very expensive to afford,” he explained.
According to Musoke, traders can step in with options for cheaper commodities if the commodities remain expensive.
He asked the government to reign on the prices of fuel and also initiate a policy in which public transport is a priority.
Musoke cries foul over low purchasing power and the prevailing increase of rent fees by landlords.
“It is hard to find a promising business. We thought when schools open, things will get better, but the parents are also crying because, in Kikuubo, scholastic materials are expensive,” he said.
Both waves of COVID-19 and the containment measures, especially the two lockdowns, have had an unprecedented impact on Uganda’s businesses.
Francis Kisiriginya, the Chief Membership Officer at Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), told the New Vision that although the economy was completely shattered, it will eventually bounce back.
Since February, he said, “the economy was performing at 7%, but the problem now is the sky-rocketing prices. The economy is improving, and we only need to empower it and be patient.”
He observed that the night economy was yet to pick up.
Essential commodities like cooking oil prices have increased by 21% and 77% in the last three months and one year. The price of bar soap has increased by 20% and petrol by 15% in the same period.