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Travelling Through Uganda

By Jessica Chen

After living in Kampala for just over a month the sheer amount of dust and traffic is what continues to surprise me. Boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) seem to dominate the streets of Kampala, abiding by little to no rules, and continually cutting off or invading the space of not only cars but pedestrians alike. Everyday within the chaos and madness, my life feels at stake. Indeed, boda boda accidents are often the leading cause of death and injury on the road in Kampala and statistics show that 10-20% of hospital visits a day are related to their use[1].

Despite this, they provide a quick and effective way to navigate the congested streets of Kampala, weaving in and out of traffic with no bounds or restraint. Boda bodas make up a vital part of many people’s livelihoods in Uganda, providing a source of income to those who may not otherwise have any other employable skill-set. Yet the fact that many drivers are not licensed or registered raises concern of not only safety but the meaning behind a vast and informal economic industry. As the rate of urbanization and unemployment rise, it will be interesting to see where the business trajectory of this service lay and whether stricter regulations will be put in place to grapple with the problems that such transportation creates.

My job at SEATINI has been a good learning experience and it has been interesting to work on the many issues tied to trade and agriculture. I have been mainly exploring issues related to structural transformation, regional integration and economic resiliency. The many factors that go into the global supply chain, achieving value addition and empowering small-scale farmers are amongst the other things I am working on. As I have learned so far, despite the fact that Uganda is rich in natural resources, there are issues tied to lack of standards and compliancy that is preventing the country from reaching its full export potential. Weak industrial structures, institutional deficiencies as well as lack of capabilities and awareness amongst farmers are amongst some of the hindrances to enhancing competitiveness in trade. SEATINI and its partners are currently leading in the dissemination and sensitization of EA standards for maize grains.

Raising awareness is the first step in ensuring compliancy of standards in trade and is a stepping stone to building an agricultural trade where producers and consumers of goods are positioned and empowered to make informed decisions about what and how they are growing crops and how this affects the general population of Uganda.


[1] Nakiyimba, Gloria. “Boda-Boda: Uganda’s Silent Killer.” The World and All its Voices. 25 Mar 2012.

Jessica Chen is working as an Intern in Rural Livelihoods with South and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI) in Kampala, Uganda.


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