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In St. Balikuddembe Market, Kampala, while the day winds down, Ssemwogerere Andrew digs into a bale of rubber shoes, determined to secure a last-minute sale. The market's history hasn't always been this forgiving for vendors like Ssemwogerere, who have often faced early closures.
“These lights are very important. Before they were installed, we used to have limited time to work but from the time the government provided the lights, we started making reasonable revenue,” Andrew explains.
Popularly known as Owino Market, this is the biggest market in Uganda and among the 16 public markets that the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) took over. The takeover comes following a presidential directive banning old market leaderships and seeing to the subsequent appointment of 36 new administrators under the KCCA.
As part of the rehabilitation plan, the KCCA kicked off installation of solar lighting and standalone street lights.
Simon Kasyate, the KCCA spokesperson, explains that the project is part of “social responsibility or sustainability relationship with organisations, both state and non-state.”
“We are working with several LED partners to do installation of the solar powered lights. For example, you have seen solar powering of our yard in Owino market the biggest market in this city,” he explains.
The rehabilitation is expected to boost economic and retail activities for the over 50,000 local businesses and over 30,000 people coming into the market daily, according to Aptech Africa. Before this, vendors had to close early and put away their merchandise because of lack of security.
The project was funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in partnership with KCCA.
In a past interview with the Nile Post, Dorothy Kisaka, the Executive Director, KCCA applauded the Ugandan government for making the partnership a success.
She thanked the Ugandan government for giving them friends who supported them in the rehabilitation of the market. Together with UNDP and Aptech Africa, KCCA was able to install solar systems, improve revenue collection as well as installing pavers.
Aptech Africa, the company behind the installation, commissioned and designed the five hybrid solar systems and twenty-three standalone streetlights. According to the company’s website, each of the systems is roof mounted with 14.25kWp of solar panels and 50kWh of lithium-ion batteries totalling to 71.25kWp and 250kWh.
“All the systems are hybrid integrated with the main grid. Deye inverter technology was used, a hybrid inverter that has two AC inputs and outputs also allowing an additional power source like generators to be connected whenever required.
“Each system has two inverters that meet and exceed the load available, the inverter has inbuilt MPPT and hence no need for a charge controller. The inverter is programmable to communicate with battery which is lithium-ion type and has a display to give the entire system overview,” said Aptech Africa.
This means Owino market is now operating on an uninterrupted electricity supply which will ease the problem of security that has plagued both the traders and buyers.
As Andrew further explains, the lighting initiative has an array of benefits for vendors like himself and their customers.
“Buyers who would in the past fear to buy fake merchandise because they could not see in the night-time can now see. The lights are helping me and others work for extended hours because the lights are there,” he explains.
“People are enjoying themselves now, people are happy, you can see now, there is no darkness, even the thieves who used to steal have vanished because with the lights, everyone can see,” Andrew concluded.
For vendors like Andrew, the working hours will increase and they no longer have to worry about power bills for lighting. The traders’ income is expected to increase hence their livelihoods.
In addition to lighting up Owino market, KCCA is also tasked with the overall sanitation and hygiene of the market. With the 24-hour lighting, cleaning can be done even at night, ensuring the cleanliness of the market and safeguarding the health of the people in the market.