Saturday, September 02, 2006


They dont speak VISA.

I'm just back from Uganda. The country shows you what 20 years of Civil war and uncontrolled liberalisation can have on the National psyche.First of all coz of the war there are no long term established businesses. Most of the tycoons i.e. Mukwano, Wavamuno, Sudhir, Saleh...... really made their money in the past decade(with the exception of the Madhvani family).

Imagine if Kenya was at war in the past 20 years of course there would be no old time businesses & family businesses like Kenchic, Text Book Centre, Pattni Jewellers etc.Now that is downtown Kampala. It looks like Tom Mboya with exhibition stalls.Street after street is filled with buildings that are exhibitions. Imagine World Business centre on Tom Mboya replicated from Koinange street up to river road and you get the picture.

There are no large/significant indigenous enterprises, everyone is a suitcase Dubai/China importer so no one will oppose the mushrooming of such businesses.
However from the Sheraton Hotel towards the State House it looks modern a mix of Gigiri/village market and Hurlingham.


The big firms i.e. MTN,Stanbic, Shoprite are all owned by South Africans.I went into a Shoprite supermarket and apart from Farmers Choice and Del monte everything was air- freighted from South Africa.
The worst thing about the Shoprite supermarket was that i couldn't use my VISA credit card there. Then after buying on the way out i had to give my receipt to a watchman who tallied it with my shopping before i could leave the store.Can you imagine going to Nakumatt/tuskermatt/Uchumi then a watchie asks for your receipt before allowing you to go? That shows you how backward the country is.

Then i later discovered i couldn't use my card anywhere (unless it was an ATM), apparently they fear card fraud. so to use it in a hotel you have to be a guest.
If you cant use VISA in a country, then definitely regardless of what they say, they are backward.

By the way cars, land,and booze(even in a 5 star place are cheap).But electronics are way cheaper in Nairobi(i think coz of competition).Some Electronics traders dont bother going to Dubai, they source their stuff in Nairobi.

P.S. I looked at the latest Actuarial numbers and Uganda is one of the countries which as at 2004 had no indigenous Actuaries.

4 comments:

Mwenye Nchi said...

Quite some catching up the Ugandans need. That might probably be the case with Tanzanias too. Though they are not that far behind, the one thing that impressed me when I was in Dar is the sense of order there is over there. Now they are investing in this transport system that will have bus lanes.
Anyway point is, all three East African countries harmonising their policy in finance, transport etc would obviously speed things up for all.

coldtusker said...

I hope Kenya does not go the "briefcase trader" road though I see it all the time!

Whereas local businesses should be exposed to competition, I think Kenyans should support LOCAL businesses when there is no cost or quality difference.

Riba Capital said...

Karibu Kenya..
Guess we should appreciate the dynamism in our economy more.
Good insights.. Did you step into their stock exchange??
These guys have like 5 listed companies while tanzania has like 4. Damn, Najivunia kuwa Mkenya..

pesa tu said...

@Mwenyenchi:Yes, TZ has order, while UG has courtesy and KEnya: dynamic and outgoing.Of course they are moving but it will take a while to catch up with us.

@Coldtusker:Yep, we have birecase traders but est. biz keeps them fro overrunning us.Imagine if we had no UNILEVER orKenchic? All our fast food joints would be South African and all our soap would be from Turkey. Established biz lobbies GVT and other stakeholders(as well as use other tactics) to keep such products out and protect some Kenyan jobs

@RIBA: No i didn't. the stock mkt culture isn't entrenched over there.The guy i asked to take me to the stock mart took me to a Forex bureau instead.He thought all 'Exchanges' R the same. Ha...ha.
Of course Najivunia..