Ugandan Government not ready for Digital Number Plate switch

A meeting chaired by Uganda Finance ministry Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Ramathan Ggoobi

Kampala, Uganda HABARI DAILY I  What I have come to know about the virtual world is that preparation is not only crucial but also critical. If anything, digitally speaking, if one doesn’t prepare for their prosperity in the digital world, they might as well prepare for their death.

Obviously, the Uganda Government has not had ample consultations about shifting from issuing normal number plates to digital ones. Just three days prior to the scheduled launch of new digital number plates, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) raised a red flag

The body revealed that it heeded up to sh1.1 billion ($318,716) to automate the revenue collection process. Since car licensing and issuance of number plates, which both attract a levey, are major revenue streams for the Government, the tax body deserved to be heard.

In a statement released by Robert Mutebi, URA’s Commissioner for Information Technology and Innovation, the organization expressed its lack of readiness to cover the expenses associated with implementing the transition.

In an embarrassing revelation, URA disclosed that  the Ministry of Works and Transport had requested it to finance the cost of $318,716 for the desired automation of etax, which obviously falls outside the URA budget framework.


Earlier on in February, Ramadhan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and Secretary to the Treasury, had stated that the registration of new and replacement government number plates for vehicles and motorcycles would cost up to shs735,000 each.

With an estimated 2.4 million vehicles and over 1.4 million motorcycles in Uganda, the government stands to generate up to Shs2.8 trillion if each vehicle and motorcycle undergoes fresh registration. My question is: Since this switch is likely to become one of the Government’s milk cows, why doesn’t it like to invest in it during this time of operalisation?

The other bottleneck URA pointed out was the major complexity of the new registration process, which included a learning curve, low staff numbers and limited fitting centers. This is obviously likely to slow down the motor vehicle market and negatively impact URA’s revenues.

One major thing is that failure to deliver the new digital number plates on time would disrupt business operations and potentially lead to public uproar. This is because all existing contracts with in-country number plate manufacturers were set to terminate on June 30th, 2023.

There is also a possibility of vehicles disappearing without a trace before plate issuance and proposed the issuance of manual vehicle movement permits by the Ministry of Works and Transport at points of exit from customs-controlled areas to the fitting centers.

While the new digital plates could streamline revenue collection and deter vehicle theft, they could also enable data abuse by the government. The Uganda government would arguably become the big brother breathing down people’s necks and peeping into their private affairs.

There has also been a lack of consultation with key stakeholders such as car and motorcycle importers, bonded warehouse owners, and other relevant parties. This means the new number plates will be rolled out in a vacuum.

Since car owners and motorcyclists will be required to part with Sh735,000 for the digital number plates, they would have deserved to be consulted. The move is also likely to lead to an increase in transport fares.

Thank God that the rollout of the new digital number plates, previously scheduled for July 1st, have now been suspended.


To make matters worse, the contract with a Russian firm responsible for delivering the new plates lies in murky waters. Officials who visited Moscow in March were unable to see a single sample of the specified plate embedded with a chip and affixed with a hologram.

The contract stipulates that the plates should be pre-inspected and verified before shipment, a requirement that has not been fulfilled. Furthermore, the necessary cameras to integrate with the digital plates have reportedly not been secured or installed, raising concerns about the feasibility of integrating the plates into an intelligent transport model.

It has also been noted that the Russian firm has not complied with the law by publicly advertising or recruiting Ugandan personnel for the project.

Despite the impending launch of the new digital number plates later in the financial year 2023/24,, several challenges and concerns surrounding the implementation process remain. This leaves both authorities and stakeholders with significant tasks to address in the coming months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *