Construction of the multi-billion Okuti International border market in Kitgum district has failed to take off due to lack of an access road to the area.
Okuti is one of six markets identified by government in the year 2011 to be upgraded into international border markets. Others are Elegu in Amuru, Katuna in Kabale, Mutukula in Rakai, Malaba in Busia and Bwera in Kasese.
However, works on the market are proceeding at a snail’s pace as there is no major road connecting to the site.
The vice Chairperson LC V, Kitgum district, Billy Graham Odongkara, told theCooperator that the district is still struggling to ensure that a road that connects to Okuti is opened.
Odongkara says they had hoped that the market project would be up and running six months after it was launched in 2015, but very little has been done to date.
“We opened a small portion of the road under the NUSAF [Northern Uganda Social Action Fund] project, but a bigger portion of the road still remains unfinished. More money is needed to complete it,” Odongkara said.
He said the district would have opened the road if local revenue collections did not consistently fall below their projections.
“Last financial year, we projected to raise Shs 350 million but we got less than 200 million; so we need help to open this road,” Odongkara said.
On a related note, application for plots of land at the market site by members of the business community started in 2016 and has not been completed since.
Mathew Otto, the Kitgum District Land Officer, told theCooperator that already 60,000 local investors have applied for plots in the market area that has a capacity of 100,000 plots.
In 2014, 17 clans in the project area offered land measuring 269, 482 hectares for the construction of the market. The district subsequently acquired a land title for 109, 005 hectares of the land for the construction of the international border market by the Ministry of Trade and Cooperatives.
The proposed development of a modern market at the Uganda-South Sudan border was birthed by the Common Market for East and Southern African (COMESA) policy to promote regional trade.
Expected benefits of the market
Otto says that the market will help resolve some of the challenges that Uganda faces as a landlocked country and open its borders to the greater horn of Africa which comprises of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, in addition to serving all the six East African Countries, with a total estimated population of 520 million.
The immediate benefit of the market to the district, Otto says, is that the plots will be leased out for 49 years at a rate of Shs 4m per plot, raising at least Shs 52 bn shillings from lease titles.
Besides, it is projected that the district will earn revenue from satellite businesses surrounding the border market in daily, monthly and annual fees, depending on the business.
“Okuti linkage is the best in terms of distance, terrain and strategic location. This means even a person who roasts maize in Namukora sub county in Kitgum district will sell all their maize by the end of the day, because there will be so many people from many countries trading there,” Otto said.
More benefits are expected to come in form of royalties from graphite in the sub county. In 2014, Discovery Africa Ltd, a private exploration company, said it had found graphite grades of up to 25.3% in Orom Hill in Locomo village, Akurumor parish, Orom sub county.
Graphite is a high-quality commercial mineral used for making pencils, electronic rods and batteries, among others.