Last week, Mbarara Town was the recipient of a Shs235 billion beer plant. On the same day that Nile Breweries Limited (NBL) unveiled its mega brewery to the world, Ankore Gardens Mall also opened its multi-billion business project in Kakyeka. The modern shopping mall and the first of its kind in western Uganda, is owned by AMPROC Inc, an American multinational company managed by Robert Mwesigwa Rukaari.
Planted on eight acres of land, the mall will house a super market, pharmacy, two banks, laundry mart, a salon, two restaurants, a health club and bookstore. It will also boast of a modern discotheque, sports bar, kids play centre, a forex bureau and several offices. “It is a source of revenue for local government, it provides employment opportunities to people in the region and it will be a convenient shopping centre,” Mwesigwa says.
Presiding over the mall’s opening, President Museveni lauded Mwesigwa, also the Honorary Consul of Malawi in Uganda, for his entrepreneurship. “I am happy he has developed spectacles for opportunities. There are many in Uganda but the problem is that many people don’t see these opportunities. He is a good example to many young people,” Museveni said.
Road to development
For a region that tops the country’s list in milk production, Mwesigwa says APROC plans to establish a ghee centre in Kibega Sanga in Kiruhura District to add value to ghee such that it can fetch better prices. There are 18 small and large scale milk-processing plants. In June, Indians opened a multibillion milk processing factory – Pearl Dairies Firm Limited in Koranorya Kakiika Mbarara, with a capacity of 300,000 litres.
The company produces skimmed milk powder, whole milk powder and butter oil, mainly for export to Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Arab World markets. These were preceded by other giant industries such as GBK, Coca Cola, BMTS and Kazaire Health Products.
Establishment of other multibillion ventures; Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union milk factory and Bushenyi Banana Processing factory in Nyaruzinga is underway.
Further South in Kanungu District is Kigezi Highland Tea Factory – Rugyeyo, Kigezi Highland Tea Factory – Bwindi and Kayonza Growers Tea Factory, which process tea for both local and international markets. Plans are also underway to establish an iron ore factory in Kabale and a paper factory in Mbarara.
Addressing athletes who represented Uganda at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow at his home in Rwakitura last week, Museveni said unlike in other regions, the people of western Uganda do not sabotage establishment of industries.
“You can’t get anybody opposing factories in the west because they are looking for jobs. But in other areas, it is as if they are doing me a favour if a factory is built. I must lobby, negotiate,” Mr Museveni said. “Parliament is the one that has been slowing down my plans for industrialisation. You have been hearing me talking about industries, industries… People have delayed a sugar factory in Amuru District for two years. That’s why these children are not getting jobs…” he said. About 90 per cent of factories in the country are located in Mbarara, a thing that has contributed to the fast-growing rate of the town.
The fast development of the town has seen politicians hurry to chip in, with some already demanding for municipality status. “If already we are a regional centre, there is no reason we should remain a small town. Actually we qualify to be a city,” Mbarara Woman MP Emma Boona said during a stakeholders meeting in the town last week.
The meeting was convened by the acting commissioner for urban administration at the Ministry of Local Government, Hajj Issa Gumonye, who was on a fact-finding mission for the viability of the proposed city. He will present his finding to the minister who will then table the matter before Cabinet.
The Local Government Act (Cap. 243, Third Schedule Part VI -32) provides that for an urban area to be declared a city, the population must be above 500,000 residents. The area must also have capacity to meet its costs of service delivery, have its own offices, master plan for land use and water sources.
This may, however, not favour Mbarara for now. According to a 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census, Mbarara Municipality had a total population of 69,208 people. The municipal council planning unit puts the town’s current night population at 112,564 people. “The population issue is not important. Planning should come first. Let’s have a city, plan it well and then people will come and stay here. There are cities in Europe with 60,000 people. What is important is quality infrastructure and services,” Mayor Wilson Tumwine says.
He adds that Mbarara town is a potential home to the 10 million people who live in western region, who are expected to pour into the town by 2025 looking for jobs and services such as education and health.
But during the opening of Ankole Gardens Mall, the President said, although the town was growing fast, city status would come with a lot of administrative costs and should, therefore wait because the government has to first fix road infrastructure and power in the country.
“There are a lot of costs (that will be) involved; the director and ministers who get a lot of money. I want us to first sort out what is crucial. We are now working on roads,” Mr Museveni said.
Hopeful days ahead
But it looks like not only the multi-billion mall is promising hope for the western region. The newly-established NBL plant in Ruharo was not only a milestone hit for the beer company, but was also seen as another blessing that had rained down on the region.