KAMPALA - Uganda banned the use of public and private transport in late March to curve the spread of COVID-19. With the ban on cars, the country has seen a boom in demand for bicycles.
While most Ugandan workers are worried about losing their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, business is booming for bicycle repairman Kiyemba Musiri.
Uganda’s March lockdown to curb the virus included a ban on motor vehicles — both public and private — for nonessential personnel.
Musiri says that made the demand for bicycles and bicycle repairs skyrocket.
He says he has really benefited from the lockdown. He says because generator and lawn mowing machine owners have not been coming, he got more people asking for bicycles. He says he had lots of bicycle stock and sold them all. It’s been very profitable, he says, and he has achieved so much these weeks that he’d only hoped to do in the future.
Bicycle dealer James Kirembeka agrees the transport ban has boosted business.
But he says the high demand and economic impact from the coronavirus has also raised costs for bicycles and spare parts.
He says most people are broke. They no longer have money. Because you’ll buy a bicycle like this one at $93 or $106, you sell it to a customer at $132, he says, yet the customer wants to buy it at $66.
Uganda earlier this month eased the lockdown by allowing skilled laborers, such as factory workers, mechanics and builders back to work.
But commuting by bicycle is a challenge for many like painter Zziwa Ramadhan, who must travel 18 kilometers to get to work.
“The president said we must stop by 5:00 p.m. And you find yourself by 5:00 p.m., you’re still at work and you have to ride a long way. Sometimes, you just have to lift it up, or you just have to walk, pushing, pushing it for you to pass by the roadblocks,” said Ramadhan.
While there are still concerns about COVID-19, many Ugandans are looking forward to the day when public transportation resumes and they can get a lift back to work.