The Kampala City Teaders Association ( KACITA), the umbrella organisation for Kampala city traders, has rallied the city’s merchants and urged them to organize a peaceful rally on September 1, 2021, in accordance with Article 29(1)(d) of Uganda’s 1995 constitution.
The protest is primarily about excessive rent expenses and hefty taxes. On both times of COVID-19 lockdown, Kampala traders under KACITA have been frustrated and feel ignored since the government has failed to act in their issue of rent arrears, leaving them to suffer at the hands of ruthless landlords.
To add insult to injury, the government has raised tax rates to levels that traders deem excessive and unfriendly. Tax costs to clear one container of clothing ranged from Uganda shillings 120 million to Uganda shillings 150 million before the second COVID-19 lockout.
Currently, the amount necessary in taxes to clear the same ranges from Uganda shillings 375 million to Uganda shillings 450 million – a difference of more than double.
Traders in Kampala have long had rent problems with their respective landlords, but it’s past time for both parties to come to an agreement.
The city’s biggest landlords, such as Drake Lubega, Hamis Kiggundu, Mansour Matovu alias Yanga, and others, should band up with Kampala traders — their tenants — to fight excessive taxes.
When the cost of importation skyrockets, the selling price of imported goods will skyrocket as well. As a result of such high selling prices, the volume and pace of sales made per unit period — per day, week, and month — is reduced.
Due to the substantially reduced volume and rate of sales, most traders will be unable to pay rent for their premises in city arcades, forcing many to close their doors and leaving empty arcades behind.
Import expenses are astronomically high, which raises the cost of beginning a business and, as a result, limits the number of new people starting businesses each year.
The fresh entrants into business should be the ones to inhabit the new premises being built by the well-known landlords.
Traders who abandon arcades may find better ways to live outside of the city center, and those who refuse to join businesses that require rent spaces in arcades due to high startup costs may find better options, but arcade owners may struggle to find serious tenants for their towering arcades because, even now, most arcades, including the old and popular ones such as Qualicel Bus T, are struggling to find serious tenants. Some of them have occupancy rates that are less than 50%.
As a result, it should only make sense for the biggest landlords to join angry Kampala shopkeepers for a peaceful rally on September 1, 2021.
Drake Lubega, Hamis Kiggundu, Mansour Matovu, and others in this category should produce placards with well-crafted slogans in advance of the demonstration. If they don’t show up, landlords will have turned a blind eye to a worthwhile cause.