26 February 2013

Uganda: There Is a New Look for Kampala's Suburbs

The smooth tarmac road disappears down the hill into the misty valley.

The sun gleams off windscreens as one thrilled driver after another zooms downhill to join the northern bypass ahead. The traffic flows out of Namugongo for the big city for the day's work. Mercedes Benzs, Rav 4s, double cabin pickup trucks, police cars and sometimes ministers' cars on the Naalya-Namugongo road.

In the valley, noise from the bulldozers and builders fills the valley from construction of what is planned to be the National Housing and Construction Corporation (NHCC) project for their Namugongo housing estate. It is the older NHCC estate in Naalya that first transformed this quite village into an upmarket suburb in the first place.

Even before the new estate is opened up, Naalya, Kyaliwajjala, Namugongo and Kira town council have become the epitome of suburban living. Not just this neighbourhood, but Kampala city is expanding. While big malls and supermarkets were synonymous with the city centre, they are now moving nearer to the suburbs.

There is Nakumatt supermarket and Tusky's on Bugolobi/Luzira road, Capital Shoppers and Shoprite/Walmart on Nakawa-Bweyogerere-Mukono road, Freedom City mall and Quality Shopping village off Entebbe road, Metroplex Shopping mall and Quality Shopping village in Naalya and Namugongo respectively.

Take for example Namugongo; on a given day, a housewife can wake up and walk to the big mall in her pyjamas to buy milk, bread and other groceries. There is also a complete spa and salon, boutiques, cafe, drycleaner and banking service right across the road from her home. Not to mention what is available at Metroplex mall.

Even to party, clubs like Labamba in Namungoona and Nyondo pub at Najjanankumbi are just examples of strategically located clubs. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to go to the city. To take the kids to school, you will say.

But that has also been solved. There are good schools in the neighbourhood from kindergarten through to secondary school; Little Einstein Creche, Little Tots Kindergarten, Uganda Martyrs School Namugongo, Hillside Naalya, Vienna College. And the setup is similar in other suburbs.

The suburbs come with big spacious homes and compounds for the kids to play, and certainly fresh air. The streets are quiet and the new suburbs are increasingly better planned and organised. And for what it's worth, the suburbs are less prone to tear gas, riots and road accidents.

Areas closer to town such as Bukoto, Makerere and Kamwokya are now attracting more offices for NGOs, and kindergartens. The downside to living in Kampala's suburbs, though, is the difficulty for a person who works in the central business district. While it may take a city dweller no more than ten minutes to get to work, it will take a suburbanite over an hour. Unless one has access to the northern bypass.

Otherwise, everyone has to settle for the narrow roads that are usually jammed for hours on end. Entebbe road is probably the worst. You have to leave home by 6am to be at work by 8am, and leave town after 9pm or before 4pm, to avoid the jam.

So, while you wait in the jam, someone living closer to the city can get home, change and go to the gym, go back home and even have dinner while you watch your nails grow and develop a small headache from all the honking.

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