Uganda: And Voila, a $0.4m/Km Road – I Believe Chinese Are Magicians

By Joachim Buwembo

When we were growing up we used to hear wild legends about the Chinese. The village wags assured us that the Chinese were magicians and one very popular story about them would be told and retold during the football season.

According to that story, the Chinese were banned from the World Cup after they scored one hundred goals against a European team.

The story claimed that the European goalkeeper would see one hundred balls whenever the Chinese striker approached and so was completely bamboozled. The match, the story went, led to China's expulsion from World Cup.

I put away the belief in Chinese magic when I grew up but now, I am no longer so sure. In fact, I believe there is definitely something magical about the Chinese, and my belief is evidence-based, as they say.

Last week, we celebrated a superb, new road that has just been built by the Chinese in western Uganda, somewhere in the oil fields. Seeing the road on TV as it was being commissioned by the big men of the country, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was somewhere in Europe.

Only the skin colour of our big men indicated that it is in Africa. The road is 10 kilometres long and has cost a mere four million dollars!

Unless my maths is wrong, that is an average of $400,000 per kilometre. Now in Uganda, that is beyond a miracle.

Building a kilometre of road here at $400,000 is more miraculous than finding a cure for Aids or inventing a single-dose tab that eliminates cancer. For in this country, we are used to making a kilometre of road at a few million dollars. Forget that talk of the world average for building a kilometre being one million dollars.

We are a special nation that hates cheap things. For example, there is an ongoing project to build another fifty kilometres of road connecting Kampala to Entebbe costing over five hundred million dollars. This comes to 10 million dollars per kilometre, which is more acceptable than the paltry one million world average.

Now when a Chinese company, moreover an oil company and not your famous domestic road contractors, builds a road at $400,000, isn't that magic?

There is another road we just built a couple of years ago called Katosi Road. That cost about a hundred million dollars and its total length after construction with all the money spent is zero kilometres.

From my rusty primary school maths, any number divided by zero equals infinity. So even if Katosi Road had cost only a million dollars, the average cost per kilometre is infinity million and no other country in the world can beat that record. But I think the commonest figure is three to five million dollars per kilometre in Uganda.

Now with the Chinese on the ground, the whole story of road construction could change. Imagine if the money for the Entebbe-Kampala express road had been given to these magicians -- by the way, it was $550million -- they would have built us 1,375 kilometres around the country.

But it is never too late. Let the magic era begin.

Source: All Africa


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