Think about staying in your village infinitely 

Raymond Mujuni

What you need to know:

  • Kampala is the city that gives us its heart every new year and before the next Christmas we have broken it into the million little unrecognizable shards.

It is unlikely that any of you reading this will stay in your village after the festivities. More unlikely that you would recreate the social, economic and political circumstances you enjoy it with in Kampala in your village. 

At least, not this year. 

And so, before the new year comes, let’s use this column to talk about economic migration. 

Kampala is Uganda’s capital city. Not many people pause to reflect on what that actually means; It is the center of capital for the entire Uganda. Close to 1/3 of the national GDP is made in Kampala or it’s greater metropole, 10% of the national population lives here – the highest percentage population per square meter of land. The World Bank speculates that 46% of all formal workers of Uganda’s economy are employed in it – or it’s metropole. 

Kampala is the prized jewel of Uganda’s capitalist fortunes – and yet, somehow, years of independence, aggressive investment in decentralization of education, health and other services, Kampala remains the only meaningful economy for Ugandans. 

We all emigrate here to work and make money, use that money to lord over land, opportunities and resources and then flee the city for holidays to catch a fresh breath. Meantime, in Kampala we’ve reclaimed swamps, decimated nature to harbor 70% of Uganda’s manufacturing, built brick and mortar homes funneling out tonnes of garbage every day – some unrecyclable – with the promise that if it goes wrong here, we all return to the villages. 

This is only a capital hub and transit centre. 

This kind of thinking is dangerous. At least to the supposed development we are trying to chase. Many of our villages and hometowns cannot raise the capital requirements for business to thrive there neither can they raise the necessary consumer class to service industry and manufacturing. Quietly, without causing a scene, pass a chit to the bank manager of your town/village during church service and ask; how much money can they lend you on a long term for a large investment? 

And yet, somehow, we all aspire for a life of retirement away from Kampala! 

This Christmas don’t give your heart to anything other than thinking about how you can thrive in your village without the migratory labor you bring to Kampala. Think about Saccos, saving cultures and actual production. Think about living on less for a decade to grow the economy of your village. Think about the politics of decentralization for government. Think about federation, devolution – whichever way it comes to you. 

Kampala is the city that gives us its heart every new year and before the next Christmas we have broken it into the million little unrecognizable shards; we the Kampala men and Kampala women.      

Raymond Raymond is a Ugandan Investigative Journalist.


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