President Yoweri Museveni’s directive to allow local vendors to be given first priority in redevelopment and management of the Nakasero market is a positive move towards economic empowerment. It is the right step given the fact that vendors have a lot at stake if they are forced to vacate the market which is not only the vendors’ source of income and livelihood, but also an avenue for easy accessibility to commodities by many locals at relatively cheaper prices. This move will also give the vendors an opportunity to own, invest and develop a resource.
The battle to manage and develop local markets in Kampala was a disturbing issue. Local investors and vendors were pulling ropes over who should manage and develop Nakasero and Kisekka markets. Nakasero market was years back leased to Sheila Investments Limited; a firm owned by local tycoon Hassan Bassajjabalaba through a fraudulent and corrupt process that saw Mr. Bassajjabalabba oddly running the market devoid of a contract, even after his lease expired in 2005. There was no open biding, which limited the lease of the market since other potential bidders were not given the chance to deliver their tenders for competitive bidding making the business tycoon Mr Bassajjabalaba the only bidder.
The then Town Clerk William Tumwine, proceeded to lease the market to Sheila Investments Limited for a paltry Ugsh248 million for a 49 year period in December 2006. This transaction inspired a parliamentary watch dog committee to order the cancellation of the contract. On February 2, 2007, Mr. Bassajjabalaba was issued a new contract. This was done by Kampala City Council, a day after the parliamentary watch dog committee ordered the cancellation of Sheila Investment Contract.
In the new deal, shares were divided inappropriately to the stake holders. Thirty percent of the market shares were given to the vendors and the remaining 70 percent to the private investor Mr Basajjabalaba. This sparked off wrangles and strikes which resulted to vendors protesting the lease and presenting a petition to the president. Mr. Bassajjabalaba who wanted to evict 60 vendors from the market opted to seek redress from court.
The process by which this market was acquired by the Sheila Investments was not right. Besides, the investor failed to measure up to the terms of his first contract through defaults on market fees totaling to Ugsh 5 billion unremitted revenues. The firm’s investment history should have been considered before issuing another contract.
If local investors must manage markets, open domestic bidding should be encouraged since its open to participation on equal terms by all the investors. This can be achieved through advertisement which creates awareness to potential bidders and provides maximum possible competition to both domestic and international investors allowing the best bidder chosen to perform quality work.
Investors (both local and foreign) should also be evaluated and given feedback on their past performance so that those who don’t perform to the terms of the contracts are terminated, blacklisted and phased out from performing other investment opportunities. The awarding entities should maintain the highest possible standards of integrity in all their business relationships both inside and outside the organizations by rejecting any business practices which might reasonably be deemed improper.
The nature and length of investments and business relationships should always be constructed to ensure deliverables and benefits. Arrangements, which might in the long run prevent effective operation of fair competition, should be avoided. Promoting efficiency in investments, contributes towards the creation of a sound business climate where transparency, fairness, non discrimination, teamwork, accountability and independence in role performance is conducted.