What makes a town a city: The official edict or its behaviour?
Saturday December 11 2021
Kenya and Uganda have entered a new race, competing to determine the answer to one of mankind’s oldest riddles: What came first between the egg and the chicken? Kenyans seem to be saying the chicken while the Ugandans are swearing it is the egg. So each side should explain where the chicken or the egg came from if it was the first, respectively.
This contention comes to the fore in the wake of the global climate crisis which has heightened concerns over the environment and human activity, especially in urban areas. Kenyans have spent years nurturing Nakuru town and it was only last week when they deemed it developed enough to be accorded city status, becoming the country’s fourth city after Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.
At the very time President Uhuru Kenyatta was being joined by opposition supremo Raila Odinga to unveil the country’s new city, draped in her own flag, ten political and administrative teams in charge of Uganda’s ten cities that have enjoyed city status for nearly a year and a half were in a meeting lamenting their not being given the resources to make their cities look and behave like cities. So which comes first, the declaration of city status or the development of the status of the city?
Under Kenyan law, for an urban area to be proclaimed a city, it must first fulfil several conditions, including having infrastructural facilities, disaster management capacity, integrated development plans and capacity to generate sufficient revenue to sustain operations.
As Kenyans were celebrating the birth of their fourth city and Uganda mourned the incapacitation of their 10 not-so-new ones, their mother or former colonial master was enacting a new policy that requires any new house or public structure built in England on or after January 1, 2022 to have an electric car charging port.
So England, from where the two countries get their official language, laws and systems, is once again at hand to teach them the new, broader definition of infrastructure. Thus, as Uganda and Kenya determine whether infrastructure is found in the egg or in the chicken, they need to know that it now includes electric car charging facilities.
These are not semantics but inescapable realities of the new order. The bell is tolling for the internal combustion engine for vehicular locomotion. City plans are for long term. All auto-making countries are busy setting deadlines for fuel cars. This should particularly concern Uganda’s rich, being a major destination for cars stolen from the UK, presumably because of their being left-hand-drive.
Insurance companies in the UK are unhappy with this and, once a year, there is dubious ritual when the government in Kampala hands over sleek, mostly Rover cars to British High Commission officials after they have been tracked in Uganda using digital tracking devices by UK authorities. And the following year more get stolen and shipped to Uganda.
So the new cities of Uganda will need electric car charging stations if stolen vehicles for our rich folk are to move. Failure by Uganda to install these charging stations would only please the British insurers but it would certainly cause our rich folk some stress.
Besides, Uganda itself has been an early starter in developing e-mobility, having had electric buses on the road for two years now. It cannot successfully roll out electric vehicles all over the country without first providing enough charging facilities in the new cities, which are well distributed across the republic.
Even in the UK, the main concern of the political opposition over Boris Johnson’s new legislation is inadequacy of public charging points. According to the BBC, the opposition argue that the middle and lower class may not afford fixing car charging ports at home, hence the need to quickly increase the number of public charging stations currently numbering “only” 25,000 in the whole of the UK.
Well, if private charging ports can hardly be afforded by the British, Kenyan and Ugandan motorists are less likely to afford them.
Nakuru and Uganda’s ten cities that require a paragraph to list need to start building those charging stations very fast. Our chicken needs a new drinker, whether it came before or after the egg.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:[email protected]