Ugandans to pay Shs714,300 for the digital number plates

by Mmeeme Leticia Luweze
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New motor vehicle owners face a significant financial burden as they prepare to pay Ushs714,300 for the new Intelligence Transport Monitoring System (ITMS) digital number plates by February 1, 2024. This new regulation also affects those replacing old registration plates, with fees of Ushs150,000 for cars and Ushs50,000 for motorcycles.

The announcements were made by Government on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. The Government introduced the ITMS, enabling real-time vehicle tracking by government authorities and other authorised parties. This system necessitates the installation of digital number plates on all Ugandan vehicles and motorcycles.

The digital number plates were initially slated for implementation on March 3, but were repeatedly delayed, finally settling on a February 1, 2024 launch date. The concept of these plates was first proposed in 2018 following a series of high-profile assassinations involving motorcycles. Now, they come at a steep cost for Ugandans already grappling with the country’s high cost of living. Not only are these digital plates mandatory, but they also require a payment of Ushs714,300 for installation.

“The cost of a motorcycle is about shs5million and if one pays for it on a loan period of about three years, it brings the total to about Ushs8million. If you add the cost of the digital plate, it will cover 20 per cent of such a cost which is too high,” said Kazo County Legislator Hon. Dan Kimosho

On Tuesday, August 8, 2023 the Minister for Security, Hon. Jim Muhwezi, made the revelation while appearing before the Committee on Physical Infrastructure that the cost of the new number plates that are expected to be rolled out were a result of a financial model used for their pricing.

During the launch on Wednesday, the Security Minister further explained that the ITMS is a government-led project. He explained that it was a build-and-transfer project, emphasising that the government did not invest any money in it.

“The company responsible for the ITMS project is financing it for over 10 years and will recoup its investment. We collaborated with the Ministry of Finance to create a model that benefits both the company and Ugandans, with the Attorney General’s Chambers involved in drafting the agreements,” said Hon. Muhwezi

Winston Katushabe, the Commissioner for Transport Regulation and Safety at the Ministry of Works and Transport said the Government will receive a share of the non-tax revenue generated over the 10 years as Joint Stock Global Security implements the digital number plates

During the launch, vehicles from government entities, including the Office of the President, Uganda Police and the Ministry of Works and Transport, were selected as samples for the project. These vehicles had digital number plates installed, marking the nationwide rollout scheduled for February 1, 2023.

Hon. Patrick Oshabe (NUP, Kassanda County North) reiterated that the cost of the digital plates is too high for ordinary Ugandans. “I do not know why the ministry does not take into consideration that the people they are bringing the technology to, cannot afford it. If I already have a number plate, why charge me shs50,000? Leave Ugandans and just replace the number plates,” said Oshabe.

Hon. Nathan Byanyima (NRM, Bukanga North County) expressed reservations about how government will benefit from the non-tax revenue to be generated after the project has been rolled out.

General Katumba Wamala, the Minister of Works and Transport who presided over the launch explained that the project will have a positive impact on National Security and safety as well as deter motor vehicle-related criminal activities.

However, the mandatory cost of these digital number plates has generated mixed reactions among vehicle and motorcycle owners. Many argue that it will exacerbate their ongoing financial crisis. Moses Magala, a motorcyclist residing in Mengo, stated, “The digital numbers are new to me, and I didn’t know much about them. The government should reduce these costs because money is currently scarce, and Sh.714,300 is too much for some of us.”

Jane Nakato, a business owner in Kampala says “While I understand the importance of improved security, the cost of Shs714,300 for digital number plates is a significant burden for many small business owners like me. It would be more equitable, if the government considered a tiered pricing system based on vehicle value or income.”

Andrew Mukasa, a teacher noted “I believe the introduction of digital number plates and the associated cost is a necessary step to enhance security in Uganda. If it helps reduce vehicle-related crimes, I am willing to pay Shs714,300 for the added protection. However, I do hope the government ensures transparency in how these funds are utilised.”

Karim Kibuuka, the Principal Vehicle Inspector in the Ministry of Works and a project team member, shared details about the new registration number plates, highlighting that they will contain a security chip synchronised during registration with a device capable of indicating real-time vehicle locations.

Susan Kataike, the Head of Communications at the Ministry of Works and Transport said they are implementing a communication strategy to sensitise stakeholders and the public on the rollout of the Intelligent Transport Monitoring System and what it entails.

The approval process for registering new number plates will be conducted online and will initially roll out in Kampala before extending to other parts of the country.

The Intelligent Transport Monitoring System (ITMS) is to be implemented in a phased manner and will be managed by Joint Stock Company Global Security for 10 years before it is handed over to the government.

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