I had never fancied moving long distances by road because I develop motion sickness and you never know how bumpy the roads can be. This assumption has changed after traversing half the country with Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC)’s newly built luxurious executive Kayoola Diesel Coach (KDC). It is the honest truth and many who have traveled on this coach will agree with me.

After conquering the ranges of Mountain Rwenzori in February without experiencing what many refer to as the young children’s sickness, I tightly crossed my fingers hoping and praying I don’t feel woozy as I prepared for the longest Kayoola Diesel Coach roadshow to West Nile, Northern Uganda, Eastern Uganda and the return journey back to Kampala.

A Jump I made in front of the Kayoola Diesel Coach in Nwoya District through the Murchison Falls National Park (Pix by Rachel Landman)

The five-day trip dubbed the Kayoola Diesel Coach Grand Expedition Roadshow just like other roadshows conducted since the Flag off in Nakasongola early February, are experimental marketing strategies to showcase the capabilities, validate the performance of the coach on the road and create face-to-face relationships with potential customers KMC makes the buses for.

I hope this explains to sections of the public who keep asking which routes the Kayoola buses ply with a misconception that KMC is a passenger transport operator rather than a manufacturing company.

My fear for nausea and excitement to be in the districts lined up to receive the Ugandan made KDC left me more conflicted than I had ever been but I had a plan. Sit back, relax and let the Electronically Controlled Air Suspension System installed in the KDC work its magic on the roads, like it did while in Western Uganda.

The beauty about traveling on the KDC is the comfort long distance travelers desire for receive. Designed with two wings, the VIP lounge and the executive section fitted with reclining leather seats plus a foot rest, KDC ensured there was no way motion sickness could creep up on me. Not forgetting this was a work trip, I focused my energies on updating the world on the KDC’s swift movements into the high temperatures of West Nile as I admired the beautiful sunrise, hills, Mountains and grassy landscapes through the tinted large windows. I must applaud Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) for the well-constructed highways up country connecting to all the cities and districts.

The Kayoola Coach’s wide windows give a panoramic view of the surrounding.

How the KDC was received

For starters, sharing my first trips to now cities and districts such as Pakwach, Nebbi, Arua, Gulu, Lira, Soroti, Moroto, Mbale, Tororo, Iganga with the KDC was rewarding.

I watched the evolution of the Kayoola Diesel Coach from piles of steel reshaped by welding to connecting parts together and fastening them using bolts, screws, nuts, rivets, studs, washers, clamps and so much more I am yet to learn in this automotive journalism journey. I once in a while joined the engineers on a shop floor to make my modest contribution as a Ugandan but this experience is one for the books. Such Nostalgic moments on the KDC pile up when I remember the look on the faces of Ugandans who have had a chance to see the Ugandan built Kayoola buses which are the Kayoola Diesel Coach and the Kayoola EVS.

In Pakwach, students, police officers and district leaders gave the KDC a grand welcome. Ushering the team through the Pakwach Bridge was a procession lead by a police patrol car, boda bodas, three columns of students donning their uniforms and another patrol car at the tail end. Despite the scorching sun, the groups soldiered on from Pakuba to Pakwach town centre a few metres away shouting and chanting our bus made in Uganda’.

Those who made it in the bus sneaked their upper body parts through the windows raising the Ugandan flag. I could only just imagine their reaction after seeing the on board toilet which left many locals in awe throughout the entire expedition.

The pupils in Nebbi district where we made the second stop melted my heart. I was later informed that they had been waiting for the bus since morning at the field where the district leaders had camped to receive us.

On arrival, I saw queues of pupils and students from about ten (10) schools through the sky view mirror of the KDC. These broke when they saw a huge metallic grey high floor bus drive towards them and halted in front of the raised brownish tents. Many of them had a glimpse of the interior that some compared to that of the three Ugandan Airlines Bombardiers. I couldn’t agree more.

The second day of the roadshow was crowned in Arua City where business came at a standstill for about two hours as a procession went through the major streets and markets. Residents joined in the procession as some stood outside their shops to see the Ugandan made bus. Led by the Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Martin Oroch, the city mayor Al Hajji Isa Kato, MP elects Hon. John Lematia Geofrey, Hon. Jackson Atima and the KMC Executive Chairman Professor Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa who is also a son of the city, the turnout was a clear indicator that the kinsmen appreciate the works of their own for spearheading the revolution of Ugandan made vehicles.

The Kayoola Diesel Coach made ecstatic roadshows through the three regions; the welcome in Lira City, Soroti City and also Moroto district was massive. I can’t forget Mbale City. It brought back the memories of West Nile. The third day of the Expedition started off in Soroti City where we had spent a night and drove about five hours to Moroto District in Karamoja sub region and then made a return journey back to Soroti to drive South West to the newly created city Mbale. I give credit to the frequent siestas I took within those afternoon hours on the road or else my worst fear would have consumed me – motion sickness.

We arrived in the land of Bamasaba around 4.00’clock. The sun had not yet descended down the Mount Elgon before we met the Resident City Commissioner Pamela Watuwa who had spent the whole day attending radio shows in the city informing the public about the Ugandan-made bus that was coming to the city. Different from many of the leaders we had met earlier, Watuwa knew each and every feature on the bus. She kept calling on the public to see the bus through the markets, major roads, busy streets and later ended the three-hour roadshow at the bus park. Before I got off the bus, Watuwa would be seen authoritatively answering all the questions about the bus asked by market vendors and boda boda cyclists in and out of the bus at the main market. She was also dancing to patriotic music playing through the speakers of the bus and cheering everyone on.

This was the only area I saw the Director Marketing and Sales Allan Muhumuza get a break from informing people about the bus and Kiira Motors. At some point during our difficult engagements with town kids who continuously followed the drone and did not listen when we cautioned them from getting closer to it before its takeoff, we failed to locate which route the bus had taken and rested along the street till a colleague informed us they had parked at the bus stage.

Strategic engagements

Our generation is blessed. Growing up in a country that has the capacity to make its own vehicles was a thought far-fetched for our elders but a reality for us. Contributing to the takeoff of Uganda’s automotive industry is an opportunity I can never take so lightly. More than two decades ago, only a fraction of Ugandans above the age of 40 would describe to you the smell of a brand new car or share an experience told to them by someone relatively older. If you have read the Ugandan Paradox, Joachim Buwembo describes the smell of the “kavera” wrapped on brand new car seats as “wildly intoxicating and almost sensuously arousing smell” and states many Ugandans below that age would never have a chance to encounter.

This was true then but technology partnerships have changed the lens. I missed the building of the all-electric Kayoola EVS bus that was built on the same shop floor where the KDC was built and watched the fitting of all the interior by our engineers. I sat on all the seats and took in the moment seeing their hard work get to fruition after long hot days and nights in Nakasongola at Luwero Industries ltd.

The Kayoola Bus Fleet – Kayoola Diesel Coach and the two Kayoola EVS units made in Uganda.

At the end of our engagement with the district leaders in Pakwach, the district chairperson Omito Robert Steen issued a letter to the KMC Chief Executive Officer requesting him to consider establishing a vehicle plant based on environmentally friendly technology in the Pakwach Science and Technology Industrial Park which we saw on our way to Nebbi District.

My mental vision inspired by this letter was a fleet the Kayoola Solar buses plying the West Nile region and Northern Uganda and the neighboring districts to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. These areas are known for their high temperatures which could be leveraged on. Besides the expansion of Ugandan made vehicles on the continent, creation of employment leading to economic growth will be an achievement by Kiira Motors, a state enterprise championing Value Addition in the nascent domestic automotive industry for job creation and diversification of the economy, as Uganda aspires for economic transformation to an upper middle income economy by 2040 with industrialisation as the foundation of this Vision.

The Kayoola Diesel Coach, the first of its kind on the continent made this round trip covering 1,833 kilometres with no hindrances through the journey positioning itself as the best alternative indigenous means of transport aimed at addressing the need for a novel and innovative transportation solution that meets the demand for comfortable, long distance mass transportation on the continent.

The luxurious Executive 47 seater Kayoola Diesel Coach

Other manufacturers on the continent have got to compete to stay relevant in the country not forgetting a ban on importation of buses in Uganda that was issued in October 2020. Ugandans traveling long distances have a good option presented before them and transport operators don’t have to squander any more time sourcing Fully Built Units since KMC, the manufacturer are here.

State your specifications, discuss the pricing method and wait to have your custom made buses in no time. The Kiira Vehicle Plant Start-Up Facilities are designed for a capacity of 22 Vehicles a day, those are 8,000 vehicles every year.

Leaders from the newly created cities such as Arua, Lira, Soroti, Mbale were optimistic to purchase Kiira Motors’ Kayoola EVS buses which are fully electric, low floor buses designed for urban mass transportation once the charging infrastructure is in place.

The automotive industry is also known to be the backbone of so many industries. If one cannot be a transport operator, the chance to start up an enterprise that supplies key vehicle parts and components is before us.  Be the lead supplier of brake pads, vehicle seats, bolts and nuts, bumpers, vehicle electronics, navigation systems or the supplier for their raw materials for these products and more. The sky could be the foundation for us all.