Energising Uganda: An Alternative Perspective on Uganda's Energy Crisis (Part IV)
Uganda's growing population (2nd highest growth rate worldwide)
has almost tripled since 1970. Will supply of energy ever meet an ever increasing demand?

Energising Uganda: An Alternative Perspective on Uganda's Energy Crisis (Part IV)

This article, which comes in four parts, argues that the current approach to solving Uganda's energy problems is fundamentally flawed, not only in itself but also, and equally important, in the kind of economic development it will engender.

Part I
Part II
Part III

By Tom Sanya
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First published: June 28, 2007

Based on the reasons given in Part III against a centralised approach to electricity generation, this article now suggests the alternative in the form of decentralised small-scale electricity generation as a prudent choice for Uganda.

Small-scale decentralised production would require less financial capital investment - making it possible to raise the monies locally in many small communities (promptly forestalling the need for borrowing monies). This would serve the extra purpose of spurring local communities to take their destinies into their own hands as opposed to waiting for government to provide electricity as if it were manna from heaven.

Furthermore, decentralised generation would distribute the risks and benefits. Failure of one small generation project wouldnt be a national fiasco but would actually provide valuable lessons for future small projects. Equally important, but I believe not factored in by Ugandas current team of energy policy makers, decentralised generation would power many small industrial and business units in all parts of the country thereby creating jobs everywhere.

An additional consideration is that small-scale decentralised electricity generation would require simpler equipment which, with the right attitude, can be fabricated at home by local people (creating jobs in equipment making) and can also be operated by local people (instead of expatriates). For example, with a conscientious approach, it could be feasible to train Universal Primary Education (UPE) leavers to fabricate and use the simple equipment required for the generation of decentralised electricity. This way, jobs would be created at home while reducing the outflow of foreign exchange.

The same arguments apply to the industries. Decentralised energy generation would spur the growth of small-scale industries which would use simple machinery too. Such simple industrial machinery could also be fabricated and operated by locals - thus replicating the job and foreign currency saving advantages. Finally, the homes benefiting from the electricity would be numerous and decentralised like the energy generation. This way, development would be evenly spread throughout the country.

Nyaka kids at independence day 2005 (Kanungu District)
Nyaka kids at independence day 2005 (Kanungu District).
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In conclusion, this article (which came in four parts) has presented electricity generation as being only a single component of the entire repertoire of energy strategies. In the introductory Part I, the definition of energy as well as its various sources was given. In Part II, it was argued that numerous possibilities exist for elimination of the need for energy in the first place. It was further argued that where energy must be used, it is worthwhile to make use of animal energy (particularly that from man) and directly utilise the freely available non-fuel energy sources in lieu of electricity. Parts III and IV acknowledged that Uganda, as a modern state, cannot escape from the need to produce electricity. In Part III, the prevalent centralised approach to electricity generation was criticised as being inappropriate for Ugandas impoverished context. Subsequently, in Part IV, the article motivated electricity generation based on a decentralised model as an alternative to the centralised one. This is because, unlike centralised generation, a decentralised approach ultimately augments the local economy with jobs and income while also evenly distributing the benefits of development.

I have a dream
A dream of decentralised power sources
Powering a decentralised economy
Where numerous vibrant small towns are foci of prosperous villages
Each village with cottage industries
With skilled UPE leavers
Capable of harnessing the local resources
To produce the energy
For powering homes and cottage industries
I have a dream
A dream full of radiant Ugandans
Using brain and brawn
To build the nation.

By Tom Sanya
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First published: June 28, 2007
Tom Sanya qualified as an architect at Makerere University in 1996 and was called back to lecture at the Department of Architecture. In 2001, he attained a Master of Infrastructure Planning Degree from the University of Stuttgart (Germany). His Master's Thesis was entitled "A Study of Informal Settlements in Kampala City".

He undertook his doctorate studies at the Oslo School of Architecture. His doctorate research proposal was entitled "Living in Earth the Sustainability of Earth Architecture in Uganda".

By 2005 he worked as an Architect in Technology Consults Limited, a cross-disciplinary firm that offers consultancy services in architecture, engineering, computing and surveying.

Now with a PhD in architectural sustainability, he is involved in an experimental practice whereby he feeds lessons from actual building projects into academia and vice-versa.

Currently, Tom is a lecturer in the School of Architecture at the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.

His interests include: sustainability of the built environment, the link between development and architecture, and building technology.

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