The media has for the last decade been awash with redevelopment plans for St. Balikuddembe market, the last of which was a 1.5 Trillion 13 storied market which was officially unveiled in 2015. Two years later, particularly following the meteoric redevelopment of ramshackle Park yard market next door into a modern commercial complex that has transformed the face of Kampala’ s down town, development minded Ugandans naturally can’t help asking; what happened to St. Balikuddembe’s redevelopment agenda?
The Sunrise’ s Peter Muwonge posed the same question to the Executive Director of St. Balikuddembe Stalls Space and Lock-up Shops owners Association (SSLOA) Godfrey Kayongo Nkajja who also doubles as the presidential adviser on markets during his interaction with him last week.
Below are excerpts:
Qn: I am one of those who witnessed an occasion in 2015 when the architectural plan for St. Balikuddembe market was unveiled. But two years down the line there is nothing tangible on the ground to show. What went wrong along the way?
Ans: A lot of things have happened to explain this delay but key among them has been political interference particularly from some government actors who made it their duty to mislead and frustrate stake holders including vendors whose involvement is key in the execution of this project:
For example they kept on telling lock up owners that the project was too big for us to execute and that the stall owners did not need to pay towards the construction of the new market on grounds that it was the sole responsibility of the government.
Qn: Why would they have wanted to frustrate such a community based development agenda like this one?
Ans: We have information that some of people had selfish interests of parceling chunks of this market among themselves but the only way they could succeed in doing that is when and if that redevelopment plan failed so that they could run to the president and ask him to give it to them since the vendors would have failed.
That is when they would rush to present rosy redevelopment plans to the president, like it happened regarding the former Park yard market from where vendors were pushed out to give way for the rich to redevelop it.
But we are so grateful to God that all those schemes have never succeeded and that is why we are still on course to execute our plans, to the dot.
Qn: I remember you boasting, on the same occasion, of investors including one from a a Canadian Company called Ketiza whose representative excited and assured vendors of his company’s readiness to fund the first phase of the project. Were they fake?
Ans: Indeed we got over ten willing investors and Ketza was just one of those who had promised to fund the project and recover their money after an agreed period. The truth is that they were not fake but all of them were being frustrated in similar stiles by similar elements,God willing.
Qn: To what extent did the wrangles surrounding the ownership of the land for this market contribute to the scaring away of investors?
Ans: To a great extent and KCCA made it even worse?
Qn: In which respect?
Ans: Well, because each time prospective investors like Ketza for example went to KCCA for consultations about the project, they were told that we (SSLOA) they were our land lords and that they were not going to give us the land title on grounds that we did not have the capacity to execute such a mega project.
They (in reference to KCCA) also reached an extent of sending a letter to Canada dissuading the company administration from proceeding with the project citing capacity and land issues. And that is how our would be investors were discouraged and went on pulling out one by one!
Qn: Don’t you think KCCA was just telling the bitter truth that you just dint want to hear and accept?
Ans: No way. This is the mistake you journalists have been making regarding this narrative. KCCA were only camouflaging as our land Lord claiming to have the title until we were forced to drag them to Court where they confessed that they did not have the land title for St Balikuddembe market.
Qn: Then who was in possession of that land title if it was not KCCA?
Ans: It was in the hands of the Kampala District land board
Qn: What did you do after this revelation?
Ans: We applied afresh to theboard for the opportunity to buy the land and we subsequently, mounted a massive drive amongst our selves towards mobilizing Ushs 4.2 Billion which we paid to the board in exchange for our three titles of this three acre land sitting on four plots;24,m34,20A-22A and 77B
But in addition, we also bought another two acres piece of land in Kisenyi Kakajjo Nalinnya road in Kampala Central Division on block 12 plots; 1431, 1339 and 1081. This is where we are going to relocate our vendors when the project finally kicks off.
Qn: Around what time did you achieve this resounding success on land titles?
Ans:This came in December 2015 after the investors had pulled out unfortunately.
Qn:Now what is the way forward?
Ans: Now that we have the lease title for 99 years we are firm that the project will be done but this time in phases.
Qn: How do you intend to solve the funding puzzle this time round?
Ans: we are going to partner with local funders a good number of whom we have already solicited especially to help us cover the first phase of the project.
Qn: Then what will be your next resort after the completion of the first phase?
Ans: We are sure by that time, other investors both local and foreign will be more than willing to come on board and besides, we shall by then have the luxury of using the first finished phase of the project and the land titles as collateral security to enable us access development finance if need be.
Qn: How so far are you engaging the vendors towards this project?
Ans: We have not yet asked our vendors to contribute towards redevelopment for the simple reason that we first wanted them to contribute Ushs 1,000,000 each towards the Ushs 4bn which we borrowed to pay off the land which many of them have done
Qn: How are they responding so far?
Ans: Quiet fairly, and as I speak now, 3600 lock up owners have paid up and the drive is on to ensure that all of them fully respond before the project finally kick starts before the end of this year.