Ugandans cross Kenya border for Christmas shopping

Thursday December 21 2023

Ugandans return from shopping in Kenya. PHOTO | DAILY MONITOR


Hundreds of Ugandans are crossing the Busia border into Kenya to buy relatively cheap goods, especially textiles, ahead of the Christmas holidays.

David Basalirwa, a trader and resident of Bugiri district in eastern Uganda, says he prefers to buy textiles from Kenya because they are relatively cheaper compared to his nearest trading hub in Iganga district and other Ugandan towns.

"I buy a lot of clothes in Kenya with Ksh1,000 (about Ush24,000), but with the same money in Uganda, I will buy only one cloth," Basalirwa said, adding that because the clothes are cheap in Kenya, he is able to make 'good profit' after selling them in Uganda.

The latest development is in sharp contrast to the past, when Kenyans instead flocked to Uganda to buy textiles.

Read: Kenya, Uganda commit to ease border delays

Such a shift in business is partly attributed to the falling value of the Kenyan currency against the Ugandan shilling - which has made goods cheaper in Kenya compared to Uganda.


Last year, the Kenyan shilling was trading at Ush35 against the Ugandan currency; but currently it has fallen to as low as Ksh24.5, a fall in value of about Ush11 over a period of one year.

Deborah Babirye, who travelled all the way from Namayingo District to the border town of Busia on Monday to buy curtains from Kenya, says the relatively low prices of the goods are pushing traders to buy clothes during the festive season to make a good profit.

Babirye says she bought two pairs of curtains for Ksh400 (Ush9,700) and hopes to resell them in Namayingo for Ush10,000 each.

Ivan Wandera, a resident of Busime Sub- County in Busia District, says he crossed the border into Kenya to buy trousers cheaply. "I bought each pair of trousers for Ksh250 (about Ush6,000), which would have cost me no less than Ush15,000 at home (in Uganda)," he says.

James Wanjala, a Kenyan resident of Burumba Ward in Busia-Kenya, says he is "surprised" by the large number of Ugandans crossing into Kenya to buy goods, adding that he has never seen such an influx of Ugandans crossing into Kenya to shop.

Read: Cross-border traders in Busia to get market

Mr Wanjala says Uganda's economy is doing better than Kenya's and that Ugandans "have the money to shop at any cost".

"We have less than a week to Christmas, but I am yet to shop for food and clothes for myself, my children and my wife," he added.

Baker Ssebanakitta, a border resident, says he has seen Kenyans crossing into Uganda to buy food and textiles, while Ugandans are mainly buying textiles from Kenya.

Eddy Juma, a resident of Airstrip in Busia-Kenya, says he was in Uganda to shop for "better quality textiles" despite the unfavourable exchange rate.

Christine Juma, a resident of Kakamega in Kenya, says she prefers to buy kitenge, an East African cotton fabric printed in different colours and designs with distinctive borders used mainly by women, from Uganda because of its "very good quality".

Ibrahim Wairagala, who sells assorted goods along Custom Road in Busia town, says his sales are still too low compared to previous years.

"In the past, Kenyans would flock to our shops during this (Christmas) period, but for this particular Christmas, the numbers are too low," said Mr Wairagala.

Francis Magambo, a textile trader, says the falling exchange rate of the Kenyan shilling against the Ugandan currency is to blame for the poor business.