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Friday, May 21, 2010

City Tour/Owino Market

Today we started the day off by meeting the MUBS students. After getting to know them we got on the big blue bus that has been our mode of transportation since we arrived in Uganda and headed to exchange our dollars for shillings. As we rode the bus we were able to see a lot of what the city of Kampala looks like. This was our first day time look at the city. I had the pleasure of sitting by one of the MUBS students, Sharon, on this bus ride. She had lots to share about the city. She pointed out the many hotels in the area such as the Kampala Serena Hotel which had a beautiful landscape. She also talked about an area beyond a wall that we passed that held several different types of restaurants which she called fast food restaurants. She said you could find almost any type of food that you would want there. Lastly she pointed out an important building to note, the Ugandan Bank of Commerce. We were then dropped off at a Shell station right next to the Grand Imperial Hotel where we exchanged our dollars for shillings. After all of us did this we headed for a walk to our lunch destination, Nandos. This place served a variety of burgers, chicken, and wraps. Many of us learned that sweet and sour sauce tastes good with fries since ketchup appeared to be replaced with this restaurant. The meal process took a while but once we had all eaten we gathered and split into several small groups. Each group of Drake students also had two to three MUBS students in them. These groups were to travel together to the Owino Market. My group was led by MUBS students Robinah and Miria. When we split off into our groups is when everyone’s experiences and sights they saw really differed. The route we took to this market was one I would never be able to repeat. We took several streets creating a maze as we walked between parked cars, motorcycles, and bikes. Along these roads were several shops and stands selling anything and everything you could think of. We even went through the old part of the market we were heading to. We finally made it there with a half hour to explore. We were told to keep our belongings close and that if someone tries to get close to get you to buy something to pretend that they do not bother you and to keep walking. No one in my group was prepared for what we were about to enter. The market had a tiny walk way that was scattered with people and the items they were selling. Every vendor was selling a variety of items. The entire market contained items from food to electronics to clothing. Every vendor wanted you to buy something and maneuvering through the market was a difficult and draining task. After winding our way through the market for a short period of time my group was ready to go. After meeting back up with the rest of the Drake and MUBS students and faculty we were told that this market would be our biggest culture shock here and we completely agreed.
What sights did you see on the quick city tour or what information did one of the MUBS students provided you with during this tour? How were you feeling while walking through the Owino Market? What stood out to you? How can you connect what you learned in the city tour and the Owino Market to sustainable development in Uganda?


  1. Wow! So far so good here on the African continent. The Owino Market was a huge cultural experience to start off the trip with. So many new sites, sounds, and smells while bustling down the crowded pathways. There was hardly any time to take a breath as we made our way through the vendors, while being sure to keep our sights on our groups so we wouldn't get lost. I couldn't believe all of the people in the market, and while all of the vendors wanted us to make purchases from them, they sure were cautious when they were presented with a camera for a photo-op (except for one man who was proud to pose and then was excited to see his picture on the screen). The atmosphere was so hectic that I am not sure that many purchases were made, but being able to experience the market first hand was quite a thrill. I can see why so many people from all over the country come to the market to shop/sell, as its not only a one stop shopping experience for the buyer, but it must generate quite a bit of income for the business owner, which would be beneficial in the long run for their business and their family.

  2. I thought our walk through the Owino Market was very interesting. I am curious how so many individual vendors can stay in business when many of them have very similar products. It seemed like the major goods that were being sold were shoes, clothing, small electronics, and produce. There were rows and rows and rows of vendors, and they were often selling the same product at the same price. I think because of this, it must be hard to standout and beat your competition. I am also curious about what kind of business procedures the vendors practice throughout the year. What do they do in terms of marketing, accounting, merchandising, pricing? I have a feeling these practices would be different for each individual small business owner, and it makes me question the sustainability of this type of market.

  3. I felt pretty uncomfortable walking through the chaos of Owino market. The space was extremely cramped, vendors were shouting, and strange smells were coming from all directions. I'm glad we had MUBS students with us at the market because otherwise I definitely would have gotten lost and would have felt exponentially more unsafe. I'm glad we got to experience this part of Ugandan culture though, it was a once in a lifetime experience.
    In the market I noticed that many of the vendors were selling the exact same merchandise as their neighbors, the same brand name and style and everything. The same is true for vendors on the streets and all the little boutiques we drive past. It seems that there are too many vendors and not enough demand for their all too similar products. I'm left wondering how a vendor can earn a profit with so much competition. I think this most likely hurts sustainable development in Uganda. It seems that little development can happen with so many independent businesses operating in such a close space. Instead, I think vendors should come together to create small businesses that work towards achieving a common good.

  4. One of the things I found most surprising about the market was the merchandise. As Josie said, it all seemed to be the same stuff from "store" to "store." But what most surprised me about the merchandise was what Fred, one of the MUBS faculty members, told us. He said that a lot of the merchandise is actually from donations from the US and from Europe that were meant for orphanages and the poor but the merchants in the market stole it to sell at Owino. Wow.
    I also felt kind of clausterphobic in there between all of the people, things, and calls of "Muzungu!" (white person in their language, nothing disrespectful though!).

  5. I really can't believe that this is how people make their livings. It was nothing like any market that we would see in the U.S. I saw children running around everywhere and people sleeping on top of their merchandise. Even the MUBS students told us that they don't really like Owino market, either. It was stressful and chaotic. Even if I really was trying to buy something, I wouldn't have known which way to turn to find food as opposed to clothing. People were amazed to see white people walking around in there.. I'm not sure what was being said, but they sure had a lot to say as we walked by! It was definitely quite a shock to be dropped into that scene on day one!

  6. The market was probably the biggest culture shock of the trip thus far. I found it surprising how vulgar many of the vendors were towards the girls, even sometimes proposing to them. I think this was surprising because with the way women dress and the current anti gay rights bill I expected the Ugandan culture to be extremely conservative.
    Also, the structure of the market was shocking. It seemed clear that Uganda is not a very litigious nation. In the States, these vendors’ casualty insurance premiums would be monstrous or the vendors would have to fix up the flooring and improve the safety of their shops.

  7. I'm glad I experienced Owino Market, especially since the MUBS students that I have talked to have said they buy all of their clothes and most of their food items at the markets, but I found the environment to be extremely disrespectful. I don't like being grabbed, yelled at, or seeing food products that I am probably eating sitting out on tables (in the heat with the flies on them). It's important to realize that most Ugandans don't like Owino Market either, which shows the type of vendors that sell products at this market. The other markets in Kampala have more variety and the vendors are less rude according to the MUBS students. It will be nice seeing a different atmosphere and the other markets that are more preferred. The main criticism I have for Owino Market is the way in which business is carried out. Here in the U.S., we have clean shops (because appearance is everything and shop-owners and workers are pleasant. Owino Market is nothing like the flea markets that I have been to in the states. While walking through the market, I saw mothers with small children walking around barefoot, being bathed, and eating the food they were selling. This made me, as a consumer, feel like the product I was about to buy was extremely unsanitary. The ground was a dirt floor with broken glass, bottle caps, and other trash items which people don't feel the need to throw away. The products are impossible to view because each vendor's area is so cramped. Like others have already stated, the products didn't differ too much which seems like it would be difficult to make a profit. However, this does not excuse the grabbing (which did not make me want to purchase the vendor's products), the dirtiness, nor the fact that the initial goods were stolen from orphans. When I do business, I want to know that I am buying from a well-reputed and honest store. Nothing about Owino Market impressed me other than the fact that the market was organized in sections like clothes, shoes, electronics, food, etc. Cleaning up the environment and allowing consumers to approach the vendors and their shops would allow for more items to be sold.

  8. The market was quite an experience. People everywhere, tight spaces, a huge assault of smells. After talking to some of the MUBS students and faculty, I have found out that the vendors are rude to everyone, not just tourists. I wonder how that affects their sales, or if they have enough regular customers to maintain a steady flow of income? It was mostly the clothes and shoes salesmen who were so rude, though, and since the typical dress for men here is khakis or dress pants and the kind of shoes found at the market, I bet they have enough customers who come regardless of the rudeness. It doesn't seem like a great way to expand your business, though, or market well. It doesn't seem very sustainable, in short.

  9. I found the Owino Market to be very interesting, but I did not enjoy it at all. It was too crowded and I couldn't believe how it was supposed to be equivalent to a mall in America. It seems crazy that it is their everyday way to buy and sell goods. I really don't feel that even if I was a Ugandan I would be able to feel comfortable going to the market and being a regular consumer in that atmosphere. Talking with some of the MUBS students also made it very clear that they feel very similar about the market. They told me that they don't go there for goods and that they try to avoid it, which I found interesting because of the reputation that the market has gotten.

  10. I was overwhelmed by the Owino market there was just so much stuff and so many people packed into the crowded stalls and narrow pathways. I don't know how these people could be making enough money to sustain themselves when a lot of them are selling the same exact things right next to each other. Plus, setting up those stalls every day and spending there whole day sitting in the stall takes away from time that they could be doing something else to make money.

    The vendors sold a wide variety of items, but most of the items were just like the stuff we buy at a Walmart in the states - clothes, shoes, appliances, electronics. The Owino Market is definitely not aimed at tourists. The vendors themselves varied as well from those who slept in their stalls to those who grabbed your arm and would say anything to get you to even look at their little stall. Several men yelled out to us women in the group that they loved us or asked us to marry them.

    I'd be interested to know how much money these vendors make every day and if that really is enough to provide for their families. I also found it interesting that there was a big area where food was being prepared for the vendors - it wasn't clear to me if they had to pay for that food or not. The food area was where I saw fried grass hoppers for the first time - definitely not for me!

    I guess the Owino Market had a large fire recently, so what we saw was actually better than what it used to be. I guess the market must be successful because people still want to have stalls there and they rebuilt a lot of it. Sharon, one of the MUBS students, was telling me that if she goes to the market, she usually goes for a specific item and goes directly to the stall she wants to buy from. Usually she doesn't just wander around like she did while she was exposing us to the market.

    I think Owino Market was definitely the biggest culture shock experience, but it was probably good to have so early on in the trip because being exposed to the most intense experience first made everything else a little easier to handle.

  11. At first the market experience made me really nervous and uncomfortable, but after spending three weeks in Uganda, I can look back at the market and realize that is just how people sell their merchandise to provide for their families. Walking to the market I had no idea what to expect and when we arrived at the entrance of the market I did not quite know what to think. There were people everywhere and shops all over the place. Then when we started walking through the market, the paths were so narrow, I was very uncomfortable and then to make things worse, people were grabbing me to get my attention. This was also the first time I was exposed to the word muzungu. I thought this was a way to offend us, but after being in Uganda for three weeks, this was a word that we learned very well and we also like using it too.

    Looking back at the market and talking with some MUBS students, the market can be profitable, but it can also be the opposite. I was told that the shops in the middle of the market can get no business some days, so the shop owners go home with no money for the day. If I were to go back to the market today, I would have different feelings towards the shop owners and the tight space because it is all a difference in culture.