In the late 1980s, private bus operators took centre stage in Uganda. At the time, the government had just closed down the state-owned Uganda Transport Company and its sister People’s Transport Company, after they became financially untenable.
The two companies plied the country's upcountry routes faithfully. Their closure left the door open to private operators to make a killing.
More than 20 years later, many of the companies that were on the road at the time, like Horizon buses and Gateway Transport are struggling to stay afloat. Many of those that came later have since folded.
According to Paul Wanume, a lecturer in transport and logistics at Uganda Management Institue (UMI), this has created an opportunity for them to resolve the problem.
“We note that this is because issues of transport management are lacking in these businesses,” he says. “For some time now, there has been a vacuum in professional transport management logistics in Uganda from a professional standpoint.”
He explains that UMI has started offering classes leading to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), as a way of resolving the problem.
“We would like to see bus and taxi operations evolve beyond stage associations and thrive as successful businesses.”
He adds that lack of expertise in transport and logistics was evident in the early 1990s, when the government attempted to liberalize its transport services, giving leeway for the private sector to take over.
“In the private sector, the bulk of budgets went to acquisition, operation and maintenance of transport assets [vehicles],” he says. “But it should go beyond acquisition, operation and maintenance to also include disposal.”
The programme gives its graduates access to employment the world over, as it is chartered in the UK, like ACCA (for accountants), CIM (marketing), CIPS (procurement professionals) and others.
Wanume says he hopes that with the programme, transport management will begin to be taken more seriously in many organisations.
“In the past, anyone who studied some administrative practice was made the transport officer. From practice, they tend to look more at issuing fuel orders and that is all. But in professional terms, it goes beyond fuel and logistics,” he adds.
“For instance, determining the size, age and composition of your fleet is very important. It is important to tell the advantages and disadvantages of having a small fleet or a large one. All these are professional issues that will be addressed on the programme.”
Apart from becoming a better transport professional, attaining the CILT opens up more avenues for graduates.
The starting point is the international certificate in Logistics and Transport, followed by the diploma in Logistics and Transport and the advanced diploma in Logistics and Transport.
Once one attains the certificate, they are eligible to become member of the institute of Logistics and Transport (MILT). This leads to the diploma, which after graduation and a two-year work experience allows one to become a chartered member (CMILT).
"After this, the next step is becoming a fellow. Uganda has only three fellows of the institute of Logistics and Transport … so the opportunities are out there,” Wanume concludes.
UMI has organized the programme in a way that it runs two classes each year (each running for six months) – on a modular basis.