Uber introduces new safety policy

By Patricia Osman
Uber has introduced a new hour’s policy for driver-partners across Sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda to help enhance driver and passenger safety.
Aaron Tindiseega, Country Manager for Uber in Uganda says the new feature on the app prompts drivers to go offline for six straight hours after a total of 12 hours of driving time.
He adds that drivers who do not take long enough breaks will not be able to log into the app and take trips before that period expires.

Inflation subsides to 1.8% in April

By Edwin Muhumuza

Uganda’s inflation has dropped to 1.8% in the month of April  compared to  2% registered in the previous month of March.

The drop is attributed to reduction in prices of food crops especially fruits such as oranges. Others  include  maize flour, sugar, milk, and simsim.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics,principal statistician,Vincent Musoke,a drop in  inflation does not mean prices have come down but rather the speed at which prices are rising is still slow. Musoke, clarifies that unless the drop is down into negatives then that is when you expect prices to come down.

‘’However it should be noted that this is a general measure .You find that some products, their prices come up while the others come down. When you put them together you get the correct figure of the annual inflation.’’

Uganda continues to grapple with increasing prices of some essential products amid proposed tax increases. Among them include, all types of fuel, cement, construction materials, spirits, social services and foods like Rice, Matooke, Onions, and Apples.

According to the Uganda Bureau of statistics,this trend will sharply determine the public’s consumption behaviour.

During the release of the consumer price index for the year ended April 2018,it was also noted that Arua registered the highest annual inflation of 3.9% though lower than 4.8% recorded for the year ended March 2018.The rise was mainly driven by annual inflation for housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels .The second highest was Fort Portal,followed by Kampala High Income and then Mbale.

Economic Outlook

The growth outlook for 2018 is positive. Rebounding investment activity and healthy domestic demand fueled by accommodative monetary policy, are set to underpin GDP growth this year. In the medium term, economic activity should be buttressed by the sustained expansion of the agriculture sector and planned government investments in oil and gas production. Focus Economics panelists project growth of 5.7% in 2018, which is up 0.3 percentage points from last month’s forecast, and 5.9% in 2019.

 

Price fluctuation deters sugar sales at Kinyara

Kinyara Sugar Company Limited in Masindi district is stuck with more than 18000 tons of sugar because of distortions in the sugar prices in the country.

Kirunda Magoola, the Corporate Communications Manager Kinyara Sugar Limited, says the sugar stock has been piling since November last year.

He however, didn’t explain the source of the sugar being dumped on the matter. URN was unable to independently verify the claims.

Last month, Masindi District Sugar Cane Growers Association Limited-MASGAL resolved not to supply sugar cane to Kinyara sugar limited accusing it of reducing cane prices from Shillings 141,000 to Shillings 100, 000.

Magoola explains that the price Kinyara is giving to farmers is not the final one but advance payment pending the completion of their negotiations with the sugar cane farmers

Sugar cane farmers in Masindi district have for long been pushing Kinyara Sugar Company to increase the cane price.

Last year, Kinyara Sugar Company increased the price of sugar cane from Shillings 78,000 to Shillings 141,000 a ton.

However, the price has been lowered to Shillings 100,000 due to the fluctuation of the price of sugar.

Minet Launches Uganda Operations

By Edwin Muhumuza

Minet, formerly AON, has launched operations in Uganda.

Strategically its risk, reinsurance and human resources advisory operation is the beginning of a new push to increase insurance penetration in the corporate sector.

Group CEO, Joe Onsando notes that at the beginning of the financial crisis in 2008,regulations in the west and the US affected AON’s operations in Africa, and so in order to keep footprint in Africa, Aon opted for a correspondent agreement with Minet.

In February , AON Plc announced its decision to change the ownership structure of its operations across 10 sub Saharan countries including Uganda, converting what were once owned entities into Aon’s largest global correspondent network.

Minet , will on its new expedition in Uganda focus on research on risk and emerging risk, with the ability to tap on the expertise of Aon colleagues. Mr.Onsando , in regard to the nascent oil sector, has revealed that early risk was done by Aon in oil exploration and still remains, including bench-marking risk a across the globe in regard to transfer, pricing and re-insurance.

Among the drivers for there decision is that local companies are growing across Africa, a growing middle class and more people are buying assets.

On insurance penetration which is very low in Uganda, CEO,Maurice Amogola attributes the challenge to poor packaging of insurance messages, which he say will now be solved through digital distribution strategies.

Meantime, Capital Works,an African Investor has opted to partner with Minet on its new endeavor. In the near future, the company is expected to expand into Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland and Tanzania.

Court permits former Crane bank employees to sue DFCU

By Sania Babirye

The high court in Kampala has given permission to 10 former crane bank employees to sue DFCU bank on behalf of their 400 colleagues  over wrongfully  dismissal.

The permission has been given by deputy registrar Sarah Langa.

The group which is seeking  6 billions in damages among others includes Managers,tellers and cleaners.

These accuse  DFCU bank of discriminatively firing them in a period of only one month after they took over from Crane bank in January of this year with out a valid and sound reason.

They are seeking compensations for the   mental, reputation and financial damage they continue to suffer as a result of their alleged wrongful termination.

They claim that Crane bank had promised its 700 employees that they will not lose their jobs after the take over.

However when DFCU bank took over  and it laid off some employees in a restructuring exercise.

Through their lawyers of Center for Legal Aid led by Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, the group wants to sue DFCU bank for breaching their alleged employment contract and rights which resulted into many of them losing their jobs.

The aggrieved  former employees are claiming that  DFCU bank contravened the Employment Act by sucking them yet during receivership, their contracts including maintaining their jobs were transferred to DFCU.

These are also seeking compensation after DFCU bank allegedly failed to fulfill any liabilities and obligations of crane bank in relation to their job security as agreed upon.

Crane Bank was the third largest bank in the country by the time Bank of Uganda took it over after its working capital went down below the required minimum  which bank of Uganda  ruled that it poised a risk to the client’s  money.

The shilling hits its lowest against dollar in two years

The shilling this week slumped against the US dollar, getting to its weakest point in two years.

The shilling shifted from its stable range of 3,600 and traded in the range of 3,645/3,655, for the first time in two years.

According to Stephen Kaboyo of Alpha Capital Partners, which watch the market, the shilling was under immense pressure on account of strong demand from the inter-bank, as commercial banks rushed to cover their short positions.

Kaboyo says significant demand was also seen from the energy, manufacturing and importers. By close of the week the shilling registered a modest rebound from its earlier losses as demand receded.

Kaboyo forecasts that the shilling will remain volatile as pockets of demand continue to play out coupled with an undercurrent of negative sentiment on account of domestic and regional political developments.

The Kenyan Shilling was also under pressure due to negative sentiments around the planned repeat presidential election and the deteriorating political and security situation in Uganda’s biggest trading partner.

Kaboyo says the anxiety kept the markets on the edge and the central bank of Kenya intervened and sold dollars in order to calm the markets.

The last time the shilling breached the 3,650 mark was in the last quarter of 2015 on account of prolonged drought and upsurge of conflict in South Sudan, then Uganda’s biggest trading partner.

Speaking to the media Thursday, Uganda’s Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi said the Kenyan political turbulence is not yet having any significant effects on Uganda.
 

-URN

Shops down town open to business amidst “togikwatako” tension

Streets in Kampala’s central business district (CBD) are bustling with activities despite public anxiety and heavy deployment over the upcoming presidential age limit debate in parliament.

With the deployment of police and the military in several strategic locations, speculation was rife that people would keep off the Central Business District in anticipation of demonstrations over the proposed move to remove Article 102(b) of the Constitution.

The motion for the amendment of the Article, which caps the presidential age at 75, is expected today after a failed attempt last Thursday. Amid the anxiety, various political groups and civil society organizations are mobilizing supporters to come out and challenge the planned amendment.

Last week, when the matter was expected in parliament, police engaged demonstrators in running battles, paralyzing business in several areas. But shops in Kampala are all open with business going on normally. Taxis and other motorists are also operating normally.

Jacob Okoku, a resident of Kireka, says he had feared to go to the city centre but is surprised with the calmness.

The Constitution Square in the centre of Kampala has been declared out of bounds for unauthorized personnel. The Square, usually a target for demonstrators, is closed to the public with tapes blocking all entrances.

While the police and military are stationed in the middle of the Square, crime preventers are manning the entrances, turning away people. Armored vehicles and fire engines are on the ready, in anticipation of any riotous developments.

Noah Bukenya, a boda-boda cyclist at the Square, told URN that the crime preventers started their operations in the wee hours of the morning.

Anti-riot police is also deployed at the Democratic Party (DP) headquarters at City House. A police patrol pickup full with heavily armed policemen is parked at the entrance to the DP offices as other police men are positioned around the building.

DP coined the anti-age limit removal campaign slogan, Kogikwatako, which has since caught on with different ethnicities coining their own versions.

Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, Emilian Kayima, says the deployment is in response to, as he put it, “what’s going on in the country”.

City House also houses the offices of the youth wing of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

 

-URN

Cooperatives must return – experts

By Edwin Muhumuza

Economic experts have hailed the role of cooperatives in economic development arguing that they are still relevant following concerns of a struggling economy.They argue based on their potentialto increase vibrancy  in economic activity especially in the agriculture sector.

Economist, Dr.Fred Muhumuza says all strategies outlined in the budget 2017/18 will not push Uganda to middle income status unless small holder farmers are organized and empowered through cooperatives.

Development is anchored on institutions .People do not trust people but institutions. To re organize agriculture is going to involve revisiting our institutions and one among these is the cooperatives, trying to improve the quality of those small holder farmers.”

He disputes the narrative that small holder farmers are not commercial citing examples of matooke and milk producers in western Uganda who are commercial.

it is people who want to grab other peoples land who say people must leave the land so that we can commercialize, you can still commercialize under small holder farming models.’ says Muhumuza.

He further notes that under the current regime of governance,there is need to ensure that they are competitive through stringent regulation and accountability.

Senior Development Consultant,Denis Tukahikaho notes that without cooperation Uganda will not advance inspite of aspirations to reach middle income status by 2020 and 2040.He expressed concern on common sentiments that cooperatives were killed and buried by the regime with the aim of impoverishingUgandans so they can be easily ruled. Tukahikaho defers that Union leaders participated in looting of assets of cooperatives and willingly consented to lend assets to rebels.He notes that with liberation Uganda’s coffee was devalued on the market and farmers lost morale,faulting union leaders on excitement to abandon the movement to individual buyers.

‘In Uganda because of the  land tenure system we have no space for commercial farmers like in South Africa but only individual farmers who when brought together they make a pool for mass production.’ said Denis Tukahikaho.

Participants have called for change in perception regarding cooperatives  as not only agricultural based but diverse inform of health,finance,transport,IT among others during a workshop organized by the Uhuru Institute for Social Development in Kampala, on the role of  the cooperative movement and whether it is still relevant in Uganda.

Between 1960 and 1980, cooperatives were the engine for Uganda’s economic development, employing two halves the country’s civil service and handling over 70% of Uganda’s cash crops. In the early 1990’s the economy was liberalized and other private businesses entered the market and cooperatives died out but there is increasing demand for their restoration today.

Nakumatt closes amidst court battles with suppliers

The regional retailer Nakumatt closed three of its Uganda outlets last week but the remaining stores lack basic products, with many empty stalls and fridges, Uganda Radio Network has established.

The cash-strapped retailer closed stores at Acacia Mall in Kololo, Village Mall in Bugolobi and at Victoria Mall in Entebbe last week. In a statement, Knight Frank Uganda, the property manager of malls that housed the shut Nakumatt outlets said “the supermarket space at these malls will go under redevelopment.” In April, Nakumatt also closed its Katwe branch after it accumulated over 290 million shillings in rent arrears. It’s the same story in neighbouring Kenya where they have been closing underperforming outlets.

Nakumatt has five operational outlets in Uganda, four situated in Kampala and one in Mbarara town. Uganda Radio Network visited Nakumatt flagship store at Oasis Mall, along Yusuf Lule and Bukoto outlet which are half empty.

There are no beverages in the Oasis Mall outlet. For instance, buyers can’t get a 500-millilitre or 300-millilitre plastic bottle of soda in this outlet. There are less than 50 plastic sodas of two-litre volume remaining in this outlet.

When our reporter inquired why there are no beverages, an attendant said, “They have not been bringing them sodas and water for about two months.” Fridges and stalls in the beverages section are empty.

It’s the same story in the food section. Apart from bread, there are no food items in the supermarket. Stalls in the food section are empty. Our reporter was informed that the outlet’s butchery unit was closed months ago.

“Things are bad. We don’t know what will happen next,” an attendant lamented on Sunday at Nakumatt Oasis Mall. “We hear that there is no money and you can’t tell which shop will be closed next.”

On whether workers are paid, another attendant said, “Yes, they pay but things have changed. They don’t pay as they used to do two years ago.”

The only remaining items in Nakumatt Oasis Mall are mainly electronics, furniture and clothes. “They last brought stock here more than two months ago…I think, they bring in bread only and newspapers. That’s all,” an attendant explained.

The situation at Oasis Mall is similar to the one at Nakumatt Bukoto outlet. There are no beverages and food items in this store. Fridges and food stuff stalls are empty. An attendant told URN: “I hear they might close this store next.”

Court cases

Nakumatt has been sued by a number suppliers demanding payment. Last week, Britania Allied Industries Limited, a leading food and beverages manufacturer sued Nakumatt over unpaid debt amounting to 302 million shillings.

The regional retailer has also been sued by State Minister for Veteran Affairs, Bright Rwamirama and wife Florence Rwamirama, together with Mpororo Group demanding payment of over two billion Shillings in rent arrears. Nakumatt is operating its Mbarara branch at Multiplex Complex which is owned by Rwamirama. The four-storey building is situated on Plot 4, along Buremba Road in Mbarara town.

Nakumatt is a wholly Kenyan, privately held company, owned by the Atul Shah family. In a statement issued last week, Nakumatt boss Atul Shah apologised to the employees, creditors, suppliers and shoppers for the sorry state of affairs at the supermarket.

“We have learnt a painful, humbling lesson. We shall emerge stronger, firmly focused to place Nakumatt high on the continental and global retail map,” Atul said. “Allow me this opportunity to once again express my sincere apologies to all the stakeholders we have let down. I can’t say it enough, but I am sorry and sincerely committed to facilitating the turnaround of Nakumatt, whatever it takes,” he added.

-URN

 

Small businesses thrive around Namugongo as pilgrims continue to arrive

By Robert Segawa

Namugongo is now a sea of human activities as crowds of pilgrims in hundreds continue to flock the martyrs’ shrines a day before martyrs day celebration.

Motorists can no longer access the road to Namugongo because they have been banned in order to give way to the pilgrims.

A combined force of both military and police personnel including plain clothed officers has been deployed in and outside the shrine to provide maximum security.

Transport fares have been hiked since motorists used feeder roads to access Namugongo shrine. Transport from Kampala to Namugongo has been 2000 but taxis are now charging between  3500 to 4000 .

A number of traders have also  shifted their businesses to Namugongo bringing their services closer to the pilgrims.

Meanwhile, Father Jude Ssemambo the chairperson organizing committee for this year’s celebrations said all set for martyrs day tomorrow and asked believers to keep time adding that players of both shrines will begin at 9.30 am and expect to conclude players at 1pm.