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What will be the new normal in post-Covid-19 Uganda?

During his last televised address, updating Ugandans on the Covid-19 crisis in the country, President Yoweri Museveni noted that the government was working on reducing the movement of cargo by trucks to instead use trains.

The President explained that the increasing number of truck drivers testing positive at the border had helped the government to discover the irrationality of using lorries to move cargo for long distances.

“It is cheaper and safer [against accidents, cargo theft, spreading diseases, damaging roads] to use rail and water transport where they are available,” he noted.

Asking Ugandans to be patient with the current trend where truck drivers are coming in with the virus, the President’s address is clear that there is going to be a fundamental shift from use of road transport.  The government will put more effort in repairing the old railway line as it prepares to build the new standard gauge railway.  “The old line fully functional would reduce the lorry trips,” he added, reiterating his call on Ugandans to be patient with the truck drivers.

Aviation

Meanwhile, in March, when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Uganda, the government swung into action, closing its airport to international passenger flights. The move, aimed at stemming the importation of the virus from countries with a high prevalence, came as no surprise since most other countries had done so before. But even to countries where flights are still permitted, air travel has been greatly affected. Many airlines across the globe have since registered heavy losses resulting from a major deep in the number of travelers.

American billionaire, Warren Buffet, last week sold his shares in four major US airlines, warning that the “world has changed” for the aviation industry because of the coronavirus crisis. His move comes despite a plunge in prices of markets internationally. It was expected that the billionaire would use the plunge to invest, but he noted that he saw nothing interesting in the airline industry.

Working from home

In Uganda, people who previously had to travel abroad for meetings or business, have had to resort to virtual meetings in order to continue working.

President Museveni has stated on several occasions that he has held virtual meeting via digital collaboration tool, Zoom with his Kenyan and Rwandan counterpart. A recent summit of the East African Community heads of state was to be held via zoom but was cancelled.

As part of support to Uganda’s response against Covid-19, the United Nations Development Programme several weeks ago launched support for government business continuity through digitalization. The UNDP  provided Zoom licenses and ICT gadgets worth $697,000 to enable government conduct business online as routine operations in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government was suspended and most staff asked to work from home.

Private companies have also followed suit in asking their staff to work from home. Daily Monitor Editor for Health Features, Victoria Namatovu has for the last three weeks conducted business from home. She says she calls reporters and assigns them, when they file the stories; she edits and sends the stories to the next level for preparation to be published.

John Tugume, an editor for digital platforms at New Vision says they had to reduce the number of staff members required to report to work and others told to operate from home. Mr Tugume notes that the work model has proved efficient; adding that it just as well might become the new normal even after the pandemic passes.

New ideas

During a two-day E-conference on how the Ugandan economy would recover after Covid-19 crisis, National Information Technology Authority Executive Director James Saaka said the gig economy in Uganda is going to grow, and advised businesses to think of digital products to present to their companies as a recovery plan.

Written by Peter Mwayi

Mr Mwayi is media communications strategist and trainer.

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