A market vendor sleeps at her stall during the previous lockdown in Uganda. COURTESY PHOTO

President Yoweri Museveni last evening instituted a lockdown as one way of curbing the rising cases of Covid-19 in Uganda; every Ugandan had anticipated it.

The lockdown brings mixed fortunes to different people. The previous in Uganda was followed by massive layoffs of employees in most corporate organisations, while some businesses especially bars closed shop completely.

While the lockdown may negatively impact most of the businesses, for some, it is business as usual or even better.

Sharon Tusabe, a chef by profession, makes cookies, pizza from home in Bweyogerere on the outskirts of Kampala and delivers to clients in different parts of the city and beyond. She supplements this with income from selling cooking pots.

Unlike many, she says her business instead flourished during the previous lockdown and she anticipates the same to happen during this one.

“Well… before the lockdown, I used to work only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays since orders were not really many and I was still going to school. But once we got into the lockdown, more orders started coming in daily since people were home and needed to eat. I had to work every day,” Tusabe says.

Tusabe ready to make a pizza delivery to a client

Joshua Ishamba, on the other hand, packed his motorcycle during the previous lockdown and started vending vegetables. He says he mainly dealt in fast moving vegetables that include; tomatoes, onions, green pepper, garlic and fruits like oranges, passions and mangoes.

“I would walk from home and buy my products from Kireka Market; I would then sell in areas of Kireka, Kamuli, Kyambogo Ntinda, Kiwatule and some parts of Naalya,” he says.

He adds: “I was shocked at how much I made from selling vegatables which was way much higher than I was earning from a day’s work on the boda boda, which is usually not more than Shsh20,000 take home,” he says.

When bodabodas were allowed back on the road, Ishamba opted continue with his new found ventures and rent out the motorcycle.

“I now have two sources of income; I can never abandon vegetable vending,” he says.

Acceleration of e-commerce

The acceleration of e-commerce in Uganda during the first lockdown of 2020 was hard to ignore since consumers were seen to shop online often out of necessity. Overall, companies that had an online presence fared much better in their operations.

Ron Kawamara, CEO Jumia Uganda, in The Africa Lists’ Business Barometer 2020, noted that they saw a “spike in business” for companies like theirs, attributing this to customers who “opted to use automated ways of obtaining goods and services” due to concerns of COVID-19, as well as “traders who had no access to their physical shops or market stalls” but “needed an outlet to be able to sell or continue to make a revenue from home”.

He also disclosed that while there was a “big increase in usage” during the first lockdown with users buying more frequently, they were “buying low value items”.

Kikuubo Online, on the other hand, merely launched their retail operations department during this time last year to beat the first covid 19 lockdown thus became a 2 in 1 online platform (wholesaler and retailer) due to customer demand.

According to Paul Muyobo, Marketing Manager at Kikuubo online, this was in a bid to make it “convenient” for the general public who found it difficult to go to a supermarket every other day in the lockdown since movements were limited and social distancing encouraged.

This retail practice is still in operation according to their management which, in the statement slashing delivery prices in half, also disclosed that they “double as an online supermarket which delivers grocery items to households from over 3500 products” used on a regular basis in households.

As movements are limited during the lockdown, businesses that can afford to go online seemingly have an edge over those that cannot.