Business in the usually busy Kampala is expected to slow down as elections draw close. Courtesy photo

City traders are torn between closing their during the election period or staying on to make a little more money amid uncertainties as to how the next few weeks will be. Many are convinced that there will be violence in the city as some people might take advantage of the election events, having gone through chaotic scenes in November last year.

Dozens of people were killed and several others injured mostly in Kampala, as security forces tried to quell riots that followed the arrest of two opposition politicians on allegations of violating COVID-19 containment measures. The Kampala Arcades Advocacy Forum, an association of traders operating from arcades and other buildings in the city center, said then that they lost at least six members despite not being part of the protests.

The leaders have been urging their members and other city dwellers to avoid acts that put trade and their lives at risk and urged politicians against activities that may incite especially unemployed youths. 

Many traders are also hopeful that, from the recent experience, security will prepare early and well enough to ensure a peaceful election period.     
This time around, the Spokesman, Muzamiru Kwebiiha says that they are assured that there will not be violence during the period. There is a mixed situation regarding the stocking of merchandises in the shops, with some shops fully stocked while others are almost empty.

Some traders say they have decided to withdraw their goods from the shelves for safety until they are sure of the stability in the city while some other shops remain fully stocked. Others say even customers are holding onto their money, meaning that the daily sales have also gone down.

  Those with stocks say they are waiting to see what happens in the next few days before deciding whether to close their shops or reduce their stocks, adding that these stocks have lasted for long as the impact of COVID-19 on customers continues to persist.

There is also fear that there could be a scarcity of imports over the next few weeks with logistics companies, saying they expect businesses to go down.  Most of the fast-running household and personal items and garment are imported from China, with many importers also shopping from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. 

Kenneth Ayebare, the Chairman of Uganda Cargo Consolidators Association, a group of logistics companies that transport for smaller or group importers, says business has recently gone down. They suspect some importers are holding onto their money until they are sure of the business environment. 

Many others had made orders earlier on fears that China might close for its lunar holiday this week, instead of the usual February, due to the upsurge in new cases of COVID-19.  Ayebare says that even those that had already made orders and were waiting for deliveries are telling the logistics companies to first hold onto the goods.      
 

Importers, however, say the importance of Dubai as Uganda’s source of imports has been ebbing in recent years, with more and more traders now shopping directly from China. Asked about why they are worried about China, Ayebare, who is also the Chief Executive of Marine Time Cargo, says Dubai and other countries can no longer sustain supplies for Uganda, considering what happened when china went into a lockdown.   

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