Nakawa market is one of Kampala’s largest food markets. For decades, it has been the arrival point of fresh foods from Eastern Uganda and traders have grown its reputation into one of the main sources of Kampala’s food.
Nakawa is located along the Jinja highway approximately four km from Kampala town and it is never short of customers. The Naguru Estates are on your left you head toward Jinja or the Nakawa Estates on the left separated from the market by Jinja Road and the Lugogo bypass.
Although it is one of the main markets supplying fresh food to Kampala, it has a number of competitors for the position of favourite. There are also Nakasero Market in the centre of the city, Kalerwe Market on Gayaza Road, Busega and Kibuye markets.
In the past, it was mostly made up of built-up shades with an open market at the back. The people from Naguru’s National Housing Estates would descend each day to buy from the open space. Today, with an influx of traders who opt to do their business here, the population has grown. This is probably linked to the increase in buyers, who used to go to Nakasero Market in the past or Kalerwe. It seems it is easier to go to Nakawa as one regular buyer at Nakawa testifies.
“It is not so much about huge differences in price,” she explains. “I live in Ntinda and there is a market there too. Nakawa, however, offers fresh options. The traders in Ntinda will sell to me stuff they have bought in Nakawa. Why not get them myself?”
From matooke (plantain), cassava roots, beans and potatoes to cereals and processed foods, Nakawa is always bursting at the seams. Everything needed to stock the fridge can be found there and the meat is fresh being transported daily from the main abattoir. If you need something for cooking you can find it fresh at Nakawa – chicken, pork, exotic eggs, goat meat, coffee, spices, millet, rice, and groundnuts to name a few.
With the unpredictable agricultural seasons, the traders often complain that when they do not make enough money they have to sell at the lowest prices to keep their customers. Grains are sold for as low as 1,000 UGX depending on what type and season. An entire sack of Irish potatoes goes for 60,000 UGX – if you want to store up for a month. A bunch of matooke is 30,000 UGX, but you can get a couple pieces for as little as 300 UGX.
Josephine Acheng, who sells fresh fish, and Mariam Namale, who sells tomatoes and spices, contend that Nakawa is a favourite spot for shoppers on any given weekend because of the ease with which customers find their way to the area.
The market is also popular lunching spot with people driving the ten minutes from the centre of town to have their hot and spicy meals in the bufunda (small makeshift hotels). Many a friendship has been struck here over a plate of matooke and beef.
If you should go to Nakawa, it would be wise to take your bags. There are boys selling polythene bags but this can get expensive if you have to do it every weekend. The morning is the best time to shop as that is when the produce freshest and hasn’t been out in the sun all day. Having a number of small bills is always a help and be prepared to walk, barter and enjoy this enormous market.