Alex Ndibwami of Uganda Martyrs University offers his perspective on urbanisation in Uganda, and its energy challenges.
Today’s municipalities as we know them are the cities of tomorrow. I have come to terms with the fact that cities are inevitable but, much as development of any sorts borrows from global trends, it is also possible to plan how sustainably a society will harness the resources the environment provides. If only as a warning, it has been predicted that the least developed countries unfortunately, will have the least resilience in the event of any [imminent] natural disasters – the consequence of a wasteful attitude toward our natural resources.
Top of the list of resources is energy, or rather where it is harnessed. Energy at a social level contributes to how we live, how we work, how we relate, how we think and how we consume. But for some time and now, today – the main question is about how efficiently it is used and how accessible it is.
In Uganda, like any other (Sub-Saharan African) society, there are a number of different sources of energy and end uses. Hydro is a ‘popular’ albeit unreliable source of energy and in households for example, this electricity: is used for lighting, cooking, among other household needs or luxuries. Nationally though, wood based fuel is the most utilised resource because it is not only affordable, but fits within the traditional way of living and preparing meals. The urban dimension of things however, requires us to look beyond that household threshold to how accessible for example electricity is and how efficiently oil/gas is used and perhaps what alternatives there are in order to mitigate the impacts of (uncontrolled) consumption at both domestic and commercial scale.
But, this is not a concern of many a consumer, because all they need to know is how to survive. Research initiatives are one way to fill this gap – to advance knowledge on how to deal with some of these issues. As such, it is a great privilege to be part of such a formidable team. Indeed, SAMSET is well situated to cater to as wide a context for Africa in West Africa (Ghana), East Africa (Uganda) and Southern Africa (South Africa); and such seasoned partners from the United Kingdom. The Faculty of the Built Environment at Uganda Martyrs University is committed to research on energy and SAMSET adds an action-oriented dimension for which we are eager to undertake. The level of service delivery and how far issues to do with energy are understood varies in each context; what is common though is that it ought to be improved. In this regard, the first network meeting reiterated the need for a careful stakeholder analysis and appreciation of cultures of reception. As such, for SAMSET to make significant strides, the selection of stakeholders has to take into account the contribution they will make and how strategically situated they are – in local government, community based organisations and the like. In addition, we will be dealing with municipal councils and their constituents whose context we have to appreciate for them to embrace any interventions.
We look forward to a successful project.