Car importers in Uganda now have their own car depot in Mombasa, in neighbouring Kenya. A 21,000 square metre site belonging to Uganda Property Holdings at Changamwe has been made available to Unifreight Cargo Handlers (UCH).

The new facility can accommodate 3,500 vehicles, which are brought into Africa via the port of Mombasa prior to transfer to the depot.

Unifreight's managing director, Geoffrey Tindimwebwa, said that the initiative is a response to Kenya Ports Authority's request to the private sector to invest in freight services as a means of reducing congestion at the port. "This is a milestone for the Uganda business community as their units will now be well handled and delivered," he said.

Nevertheless, UCH has already complained that the terms of its licence are unfavourable and will make it difficult for it to operate its business profitably. Initially, it asked the Kenyan authorities to allow it to handle both domestic and transit vehicles, but has only been given permission to handle the latter. Tindimwebwa told local media that the refusal to allow it to handle domestic cars is a ploy to drive it out of business. This is because 30% of the finished vehicles traffic passing through Mombasa is in the form of transit volume and this is currently divided between 18 existing handling facilities, therefore making UCH's business non viable.

Around 4,000 vehicles en route to Uganda pass through the port of Mombasa each year and, according to Tindimwebwa, Unifreight needs to handle 50% of this is to be able to operate profitably.

The original idea behind the depot surfaced in 2003, with the facility to handle vehicles bound for Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, DR Congo and Burundi, all of which use Mombasa to import finished vehicles.