President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni yesterday Friday commissioned Uganda’s first-ever railway concrete sleeper Factory in Kawolo, Lugazi, Buikwe district.
During the ceremony, President Museveni applauded the proprietors of the factory- Imathia Construction, headed by the company’s Chairman Mr. Julian Garcia Velverde for helping Uganda achieve part of its vision of building an economy that is integrated, independent, and self-sustaining.
“If you remember right from the beginning, point number five of the NRM program which we wrote long ago, we advised Ugandans and Africans in general to build an economy that is integrated, independent, and self-sustaining. This is part of the problem in Africa today; when you hear of all these endless crises in Africa, it is because of failing to get that point,” President Museveni said.
“I want to thank the Spanish Group, Imathia for helping us, in this case in implementing part of this effort because Uganda needs the railway system which needs several things like sleepers and rails. Now, if they are all not made here what does it mean? It means that you must buy them from outside and if you buy them from outside, transport alone is too high, what will happen?” he added.
President Museveni further revealed that the government was in the final stages of developing Uganda’s steel industry, an attribute that will help the country to start manufacturing rails, also used in the construction of railway lines.
“We also need the rails themselves for the Standard Gauge Railway. We may not do it immediately because the rails need very good steel but we shall also work on it because we are developing our steel industry in Kabale. We shall be able to produce that type of steel that is needed by the railway system, not only here in Uganda but also in other parts of East Africa.”
The Minister of Works and Transport, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala thanked President Museveni for creating a conducive environment where investors like Imathia can thrive.
“It wouldn’t have been possible for Imathia Construction and those other investors to reach out to you to construct this factory in Uganda if this country was not a very good destination for foreign direct investment,” Gen. Katumba said.
“Your Excellency, the idea of a concrete sleeper was conceptualized following a feasibility study undertaken between 2017 and 2018. The study was one of the many studies undertaken in preparation to rehabilitate and revamp the railway infrastructure in Uganda, which had deteriorated due to many years of neglect. The study results were clear on the need to explore complete sleepers on the railway line to replace the steel sleepers that are more prone to vandalism, and rust and the high expenses to replace them in case need arises. And having our factory in the country means that the cost of doing business would also be reduced.”
On the other hand, the chairman of Imathia Construction Mr. Julian Garcia Valverde commended the President, the Ministry of Works and Transport, the Board, and the Management of Uganda Railways Corporation for the wonderful hospitality and support they have given to them since deciding to invest in Uganda.
“As you have seen during your tour of the Plant Sir, this concrete plant has a 90% local staff component. The young Ugandan men and women have learned how to operate this plant and I am in no doubt that one day we shall be 100% Ugandan Operated,” he said.
“Your Excellency, the investment we here could supply sleepers for all the rehabilitation works the railway is undergoing, I wish to appeal to you and to the Honourable Minister of Works to consider utilizing this new technology in Uganda and replace the current steel sleepers with these concrete sleepers.”
Mr. Garcia further informed the President that concrete sleepers are the most suitable technology in modern railways for meter gauges and also the SGR railway option that is on the country’s transformational agenda.
“The concrete sleepers increase safety, comfort, speed as well as decrease the maintenance cost of the track and there’s less vandalism associated costs.”
Mr. Garcia also noted that Imathia was contracted to renovate the Kampala- Mukono line and he assured the President that they are working within schedule to complete the project.
“Your Excellency, the investment we here could supply the sleepers for the rehabilitation of all railway lines in the country. We are also using local suppliers in our factory.
The factory whose workforce is over 90 percent made of Ugandans, has a daily production of 208 concrete sleepers of meter gauge sleepers for the Refurbishment Kampala-Namanve-Mukono.
Meanwhile, on his way to Lugazi, President Museveni made a stopover at Namawojolo where he preached to the people in the area about wealth creation.
The commissioning ceremony was also attended by the Minister of State for Transport, Hon. Fred Byamukama, the Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President of Uganda who is also the Woman Member of Parliament for Buikwe district, Hon. Diana Mutasingwa, among other officials.