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By Morrison Rwakakamba

Last week Agency for Transformation team and broader membership of the Road Safety Coalition of Uganda joined Joe Walker (Joseph Beyanga) for a walk from Kampala City to Mbale City to yet again highlight the challenge of safety on our roads. The number of crashes and crash fatalities on roads in Uganda remains unacceptably high, with an estimated 18,035 road traffic crashes reported in 2021.

According to the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data published in 2021 road traffic death rate was 29.4 (per 100, 000 population), which ranks the country number 30 in the world.

Road crashes were estimated to cost the Ugandan economy more than sh4.4 trillion ($1.2b), which is 5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per annum in terms of loss of productivity, property damage, and medical and administrative costs. This excluded annual expenditures on road infrastructure, equipment, personnel emoluments, and road safety awareness campaigns to ensure safe mobility on roads.

According to WHO and World Bank reports, road traffic injuries and their associated burden are largely preventable, when proven measures are adopted, enforced and sustained. The Uganda Road fund estimated that for every sh1b invested in road safety, road crashes will reduce by 0.3% of the current fatality rate. However, road safety has not benefitted from the increased funding of the roads-sub sector, which in recent years has been in the range of 12% of the total national budget. For several financial years road safety allocations have remained at less than 1 percent of the roads-sub budget.

The Agency for Transformation (AfT) undertook a study with the objective of reviewing and analysing Uganda’s budget allocations towards road safety over the last five years and found out the following;

The road sub-sector is funded through several agencies which include those under the works and transport sector and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The budget allocations to the road sub-sector declined by 8 percent from sh4,355b in 2018/18 to sh3,990b in 2022/23.

As the share of the total national budget (excluding domestic re-finance, and external debt amortization), the roads sub-sector budget also declined from 19% in 2018/18 to 14% in 2022/23. According to the Uganda Road Fund (URF), designated agencies are required to allocate up to a maximum of 5% of their road maintenance budget towards road safety activities, however, apart from the Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT), this study found no explicit budget for road safety by all other roads implementing agencies.

The road safety budget increased from sh19b in FY2018/19 to sh52.7b 2021/22 but declined to sh19.8 in FY2022/23. However, spending was lower averaging sh37.5b during the four FYs (2018/19 to 2021/22). As a share of the roads sub-sector, spending on road safety averaged 1% during the four Financial Years. Nearly two-thirds of spending on road safety was under the MoWT for support to computerised driving permits, and transport regulation. The other was under Uganda Police Force for traffic regulation and road safety and URF for designated agencies.

In terms of budget performance and absorption, on average during the last four FYs (2018/19 – 2021/22), 88% of the budgeted funds for road safety were released by the MoFPED, and the entire (100%) of the released funds were spent. The road safety budget performance and absorption were better than that of the roads-subsector which averaged 85% for releases and 90% for spending during the same period.

The Global Plan under the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 adopted the Safe System Approach and recommended that countries work within the five pillars of action which are: Road Safety Management, Safer Roads and Mobility, Safer Vehicles, Safer Road Users and Post-Crash Response. Though there were no detailed budget allocations towards these pillars, this study found that most of the funding was under road safety management, followed by safe road infrastructure, and safe road use. However, there was minimal or no explicit funding for vehicle safety, and post-crash response.

This study found that Rwanda allocated the highest share of the country’s national budget towards road safety averaging 0.8%, among the four EAC countries. Also, Rwanda registered a reduction in road crashes between 2018 – 2020, from 5,755 to 4,203 casualties. Although there is a relationship between funding for road safety and a reduction in traffic accidents, this study was not able to ascertain causality (relationship between cause and effect.), since there are many factors that can lead to a reduction in road crashes.

There are a number of opportunities, which can be used to advocate for increased funding towards road safety in Uganda. These include among others: The availability of information on road safety; Existing policy, legal and institutional frameworks; International goodwill for road safety; Active and informed media; stakeholder acceptability, especially the legislative arm of government; and active participation of civil society organisations. However, there are still challenges which need to be addressed such as low prioritisation of road safety funding, especially at local government levels and road implementing agencies; ineffective implementation of planned road safety activities; inadequate funding for road maintenance; limited appreciation of road safety by the executive arm of government and inadequate road safety data/statistics.

High-performing countries in reducing road accidents such as Singapore which adopted the Safe System Approach had witnessed reductions in road traffic deaths and injuries despite increasing motorisation, following continuous interventions over several years. Uganda needs to replicate and implement this approach.

The Agency for transformation recommends the following interventions;

  1. Uganda should allocate funding for road safety in line with the pillars of the Safe System Approach that delivered great results for countries like Singapore and Mauritius.
  2. MoFPED and MoWT need to allocate/increase funding towards road safety at both central and local government levels.
  3. The MoWT needs to use the National Road Safety Action Plan to advocate for extra funding from Government, development partners, civil society organisations, and the private sector.
  4. The transport programme should ensure that each new road development and road maintenance contains a minimum of 10% proportion of funding dedicated to road safety.
  5. The government needs to establish a National Road Safety Commission under the guidance of the Prime Minister’s Office and comprised of key ministries and departments with the objective to provide the necessary leadership and high-level monitoring of all the actions being implemented to achieve the ambitious road safety target of the Strategy.
  6. The MoWT needs to establish a Road Traffic Database (RTD) that will make available the traffic data needed for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the country's road network.​
  7. The MoWT need to establish a Traffic Modelling Unit (TMU) with a view to supporting strategic-level decision-making and long-term planning.
  8. The Uganda Police Force needs to develop a robust and accurate road crash database to enable the identification and monitoring of locations and road user groups that are at risk.
  9. The MoFPED should create a code for road safety in the chart of accounts -rather than categorizing road safety activities under seminars and workshops – to project it from budget cuts.
  10. The MoWT needs to under Road Safety Audits on new roads, and traffic centres and in the implementation of new traffic schemes and submits the reports to Parliament for adoption.

The writer is the CEO of the Agency for Transformation (AfT), a think tank based in Kampala

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