On April 18th, the parliament of Uganda approved the creation of 15 new cities in Uganda. Some municipalities are being upgraded to city status, i.e., Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara, Fortportal, Mbale, Masaka effective July 1st, 2020. The other eight will roll out in 2021 (Hoima), 2022 (Entebbe and Lira) and 2023 (Moroto Naksongola Soroti kabala Wakiso)
Article 179 A of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda provides for the alteration of borders, and section 7(2) (a) of Local Government Act provides for the creation of new cities. Different countries have different considerations to designate a city, and this can be in terms of population, economic development, geographical location, and size. However, is this the right time for Uganda to create cities? Have we delayed? or should it have rolled out slower?
It is common knowledge to us all that the development of new cities will significantly improve the standards, generate wealth as there will be the creation of new employment opportunities. Due to the decentralization of services, we hope for better social services. If well planned, this should be a step that will significantly improve Uganda’s GDP.
However, this action also comes with its strings attached—for example, the administrative cost to run the cities. One would then ask if our current revenue is sufficient to accommodate all the cities being created. If not, does this mean taxes are going to increase, and how does this affect the taxpayers? There have been numerous reports of misuse of funds and rampant corruption within the only city in Uganda, Kampala. Are our accountability mechanisms adequate to ensure value for money with regards to service delivery at the same time preventing leakages in the form of corruption and abuse of funds?
A city in itself has a structured system of governance, delegated powers to oversee local legislation, management of resources, and also political positions. We hope to see better democratic practices and accountability systems. Whether this will be the case is left to time.