I’m currently in Kampala, Uganda on what has been a bit of a whirlwind business trip involving 6 countries in 5 weeks. More about that later.
I have heard great things about Uganda and also some things that will make your hair stand on end. That being said, I love what I do and always up for a bit of a challenge and adventure.
When our member firm in Uganda finally invited me to come spend a few days with them, I immediately took up the opportunity.
I will be going a more in-depth article about my recent travels but for now I wanted to share some observations from my first 12 hours in the country.
Lake Victoria is massive. You have no idea. It is also the birthplace of the Nile river. Flying in over lake Victoria at sunset (and it looks like you’re about to land on water) is one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen. No picture can do it justice.
The United Nations uses Uganda’s Entebbe airport as their main operational peacekeeping base in East Africa.
The military has a visible presence, partly in response to the recent terror attacks in Nairobi, Kenya. Don’t be alarmed by the imposing looks and the AK47′s.
ATM’s give better exchange rates than the Bureau de Change or Hotels – but then you knew that?
Fishing is a major source of exports, so Europe, enjoy your tilapia.
One of the local beers is called the Nile Special. I have yet to try one. People already get into the weekend spirit from Wednesday, partying into the late night hours of Sunday. Monday mornings are a bit slow.
The road from Entebbe to Kampala is lined with formal and informal traders. Apparently there are still not enough shops for the numbers of people.
Unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges for the country.
Traffic is a nightmare, but then it is a common issue across Africa. If your flight leaves at 7am, this means you need to leave Kampala by 4am. This is made of suck.
Motorcycles are called boda boda. Some of the more reckless drivers you have seen in your life. Passengers, especially the women ride side saddle.
Timekeeping is usually a target, not a deadline. This is Africa. Things are more deliberate and take time.
Security around hotels are extremely tight. Metal detectors and pat downs. Again largely in response to terror attacks in the region. This adds time to your journey. Plan for it.
Expect to pay a premium for everything. US currency will get you much further than local. Always carry cash. Luxury hotels are not necessarily so.
Watch out for pick pockets, or as my driver called it – pocket picking. They will remove your underwear from you without so much as a wedgy. Thankfully I have no experience of this.
There are heaps of British, Chinese, South African, Nigerian and Spanish business people around. Everyone trying to capitalise on the growth opportunities in Africa. Let’s hope these projects are for the benefit of the communities and leave a sustainable legacy.
It turns out no self respecting hotel can do without a bottle opener fixed to the wall, next to the toilet. This is weird. But next time you want to park off and have a couple of Nile Specials, you know where to sit. This is a business opportunity for student digs, mark my words.
If you move it, you loose it. Make sure you have something that indicates you are going to return to your breakfast table, otherwise someone will take it.
Bananas are a staple dish, you will find them in small, medium and OMG size. The small ones fill you up just as well as the large ones.
South African stores are everywhere, MTN branding is very pervasive.
So there you have it. Some initial perceptions and observations of Uganda.