IMPRESSIONS: Just trying to figure out…Capitalism or Socialism?

This time round, my mind will not ramble all over the world but just within the vicinity, within Rwanda and Uganda.

This time round, my mind will not ramble all over the world but just within the vicinity, within Rwanda and Uganda.

So near yet so distant are these two neighbouring countries; I am yet to come to terms with the way people in these two countries behave.

Today, am going to dissect people’s behaviours and by the time I finish, we will know which country is ‘socialist’ or ‘capitalist’.

Well to begin with, I have spent most of my life in Uganda and I have never seen a place where people behave and live ‘economically’ like they do in Uganda.

That’s why I say capitalism reigns in Uganda.
Everything has value attached to it, and as a matter of fact, we in Uganda have one question that pops up in our minds before we take on anything: “Nfunilamu wa?”  literally meaning ‘How do I gain from this?’ Even something simple, like directing a stranger to their desired destination, will require them to part with a few bucks if they are to get the right directions.

1. Take whites, many Ugandans will quickly double the amount of an item or service if the client is a mzungu, since these fellows are associated with dollars and pounds.

2. “Dead serious” this is how I describe a Ugandan in business. There’s no time to laugh, no time to drag your feet, or else be knocked off your feet while unserious buyers will not be attended too.

So it’s advisable that once you are in Kampala, act fast, decide fast and waste little time. If you are shopping, pretend to know the price of something and of course act like you have money. Take the first price you are told, cut it in half and you will be good to go.

3. Get used to the dynamics of taxis and goods. Ugandans are keen on analysing demand and supply forces, so you won’t be able to enjoy fixed prices. Early morning and late evening (to and from work) taxi fares will double. Don’t refuse to board in protest, because others will take your place without flinching. Wait till 9pm for the fares to stabilise.

Let’s go to Rwanda

For Gods sake who told shop attendants that there’s enough time to greet and laugh about with clients? Business time is business time, but since it’s the trend, we will say Rwanda is ‘socialist’ because people are social, they converse in taxis, interact freely with strangers, prices are fixed and there is this ‘feel at home’ atmosphere in the air.

Once a shop keeper told me a commodity price in French, I explained to her how my French is not that good, she happily translated it to Kinyarwanda and went on and on asking me where I come from.

In any capitalist country, such a price is inflated twice during the translation process and you won’t like what you will pay.

Trusting Strangers

This one really puzzles me. My friends and I entered a pub in Remera, ordered all the drinks and brochettes we wanted, we went on and on, then finally we had to look around looking for the waitress that served us to give us the bill.

Poor lady was in the kitchen not aware that in a capitalist nation like Uganda, it is ‘order with cash’. The server must ask for pay or the served will run away without paying a coin.