In the Pearl of Africa

In the Pearl of Africa

Back to Kampala: to the hills, the trees, the rust-red earth and the steady flow of motorcycle taxis that keep this city moving. It’s good to be back, and reassuring to find the same sense of ease as two years ago. It’s urban Africa for beginners – unthreatening, unoppressive, walkable. Or #laidbackinthepearlofafrica, as one of the mobile providers puts in in their latest ad campaign.

Reassuring in a way, too, to be semi-prepared for the usual mild irritations: the Rihanna songs blaring from the building next door, the way too large ants in my kitchen, the reliably unreliable electrics and phone connections.

Some stuff has changed. There’s a flash new shopping mall up the road, and the chains of Kenyan and Ugandan cafes have multiplied around the city. Even better, the main road to Kazo where I lived last time is now paved, so that you now drive there without noticing it, instead of creeping along or doing a slalom around the potholes. Some of the young guys I worked with then now have well-paid work, they told me: one does sales for an energy drinks company, another is editing videos. And the school has finished building the outhouse that was just a roof when I left, adding several new classrooms and now teaching 200+ children. They’re still struggling to pay the rent for the site, though. Some development progress is slower than others.

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