Uganda: Buwembo - Stampedes Aside, Black Friday Rush Kicked Off End Year Festivities in Style

Kampala's festive season has officially kicked off. It started on the stroke of midnight that ushered in the last Friday of November as multitudes stormed the biggest supermarket in town to get their Christmas bargains.

Beer and TV screens were the most raided items, selling at half their usual prices. Finally, the Black Friday concept is here.

Black Friday sneaked into town a few years ago and has been getting more popular as more businesses join into the price slashing. This year it has matured after being popularised by the now common online digital shops that deliver to your doorstep "at no extra cost".

Last Friday, was the climax that raised the curtain for the Christmas season in this party-loving nation.

Cynics tried to spoil the party with their pseudo-intellectual social media posts trying to link Black Friday to some racist idea. But they lost the battle and were properly ignored.

Who doesn't love a good bargain in these hard times? Good beer at Ush2,000 ($0.5) sounds like a dream to a Ugandan reveller.

The supermarket doors were flung open at midnight. Flung open? More like broken down by the impatient shoppers. The staff who unlocked from inside had to jump out of the way as the powerful stream of human bodies pushed their way in and the scramble at the shelves started.

An elderly woman who reached the counter to pay for her trolley-full of goodies fainted when she realised her money had been stolen. She was rushed to hospital and we hope she recovered.

Not everybody in the crowd had gone to shop; some had gone to pick shoppers' pockets.

By daybreak, the traffic was impassable. Interesting scenes included classy cars packed with beer crates, their tyres almost bursting under the weight.

You would have thought someone who wants to buy so much beer would hire a pickup. But maybe that would wipe away the gains of Black Friday.

So you use your cherished wheels and think about replacing the shock absorbers later. People had apparently been preparing for Black Friday.

One petrol dealership that is certainly not the most known in town decided also to make it their day. While a litre of petrol sells for about USh4,000 ($1.1), this little dealership decided to sell theirs at USh2,000 ($0.5) on Black Friday. This caused a stampede (or whatever they call it when it is on wheels) on a major by-pass in town, forcing traffic police to move in and manage the situation as the best and worst of Kampala's cars inched their way to the pump in a mile-long queue.

The proudest motorists who say they only fuel at stations operated by multinationals were also seen in the queue at the little known retailer.

So Black Friday has taken root in Uganda. As more and more traders join in to try and clear their stock before the year ends, let us hope the craze will get bigger next year.

Or better still, let us have more Black Fridays in a year. Or better still, let there be 52 Black Fridays in a year. Who doesn't want a weekly bargain?

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]

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