Uganda and Sweden have such strong historical ties that even the two countries’ ambitions are becoming somewhat similar, as we shall presently see.
During Uganda’s difficult days in the 1970s, our people started seeking asylum in Sweden and many found it so good there as they managed to take their careers to higher levels. Among the most notable were two (now departed) musicians Philly Lutaaya (an early anti-Aids crusader) and Sammy Kasule (he who took Nairobi’s music scene by the storm in the 1980s with his Swahili hits and the Kenyans rewarded him with a wife called Marie Wandaka, whom he relocated with to Sweden).
As April came to an end, two events in the two countries showed that indeed Sweden and Uganda are distant twins. Europe and the engineering world at large were startled by the announcement that Stockholm started building a permanent electrified highway.
They already built a short electrified road in 2018, the two-kilometre eRoadArlanda, which connects Stockholm to the airport, but now they are giving themselves two years to make the world’s first electric highway!
Electric charger road
So, while America, China and others who are racing to manufacture as many electric cars and charging stations as they can, the Swedes are making the road itself the electric charger, so the vehicles running on it just keep going and going as they are getting recharged constantly by the road. The immediate objective is to make electric cars cheaper to buy and maintain, as they only need smaller, cheaper batteries that are moreover easier to recycle.
The overall objective is to “decarbonise” or simply clean the country from emissions that caused and still cause climate change.
At the same time, Uganda decided to clean up its cities and towns, not of invisible carbon emissions, but of the solid rubbish that its people scatter elsewhere. Uganda’s decision was communicated by Executive Order, which is even more ambitious than Sweden’s plan to make an electric highway that charges the cars that run on it.
While the Swedes have given themselves two years to finish the electrified highway, the Ugandan urban authorities have been given only six months to ensure that all the country’s towns and municipalities have skips at a distance 200 metres apart, which must be emptied every three days or whenever they fill up, whichever comes first.
Are the two targets miles apart? Uganda’s ambition to collect rubbish is really basic and should have been set six decades ago at independence, while Sweden’s sounds like science fiction to be achieved in two years.
Energy from garbage
Actually, Sweden in the past used to use garbage to make energy, and was importing it from less advanced countries like the UK. But in 2018, the Swedes found that the garbage from UK and some other European countries was of such poor quality that converting it into energy was still not a hundred percent friendly to the environment. So they stopped the garbage imports altogether.
However, both Uganda’s and Sweden’s April-set targets are about cleaning up. And after collecting the rubbish systematically, the Ugandans are supposed to recycle it into new industrial products or into organic fertiliser.
And when, we may ask, will Uganda also dream about making highways that charge the vehicles that run on them? Well, though we were only cajoled into fixing the gaping potholes in the roads of our Stockholm (Kampala) by angry citizens’ social media campaign this very same last month, building electric highways may not be a pipe dream.
Maybe not exactly electrified highways but electrified railways. Tanzania next door is doing it, and Uganda has all that it takes in materials and energy to do it. Or to did it, as somebody said the other day.
Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail: [email protected]