Kampala welcomed me with open arms
Stacey Mwesezi is a Ugandan repatriate who relocated to Kampala in 2015. She speaks about the ups and downs of her move and how it feels to be a repat in Uganda.
Born and raised in London, I’d never imagined living anywhere else —until I graduated from University and joined the working world! The rising cost of living, poor work-life balance and miserable weather (which I will never get used to) slowly made me lose love for my home city.
Meanwhile, the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative was opening my eyes to the opportunities on the continent, including Uganda, the land of my parents. My holidays to Uganda became more frequent —and boarding my flights back to the UK became more of a battle! With my parents indicating that they would move back to Uganda within a few years, the idea of joining them became an attractive option.
By early 2015, I was certain that I would try living in Uganda at some point, but I had no idea it would be this soon —even before my parents! The opportunity arose earlier than I expected and I couldn’t pass it up.
I’d been applying for new jobs in London, until one day, a tweet advertising an attractive marketing role with Jumia (Africa’s biggest e-commerce platform), appeared on my timeline —and it was based in Kampala.
I reached out to the Country Manager through LinkedIn expressing my interest in the role. A couple of Skype interviews later, I was offered the job and was on a flight to Kampala the next week!
It all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to over think the move or discourage myself. If things didn’t work out, I could easily be on the next flight back to London —so it was worth the shot!
At times, I was made to feel like an expatriate and at others, a local.
Generally, Kampala welcomed me with open arms. My job has been exciting; the sunny weather makes days more pleasant; the social scene is popping and although my immediate family are in London, the majority of my relatives are here, dotted in every corner of the city.
I felt new to the city, but I also felt at home. At times, I was made to feel like an expatriate and at others, a local. I wasn’t quite sure what to refer to myself as, until I learned the term ‘repatriate’: one who has returned to their country of birth, citizenship or origin.
I’ve met a few other repatriates which is encouraging, however I wouldn’t say there’s much of a ‘repat’ scene here just yet, unlike in places like Lagos and Accra. As of now, returnees and repatriates tend to blend in with Uganda’s local middle class and expatriates.
It’s also important to mention that absolutely everyone has a side hustle! There are many opportunities to make (legal) side money and it’s the way people overcome the challenge of earning a weak currency. Now that I’m in Uganda, I’ve been inspired to utilise my time better and actively seek paid opportunities beyond my job!
Us Londoners tend to speed walk, it took some time to get used to the laid-back way of life.
Note: Having a generator and a mifi means I do not have to complain about power cuts or lack of consistent WiFi.
Money: The Ugandan Shilling is not the strongest of currencies, especially in comparison to the British Pound. Travelling abroad now requires more careful consideration than I was previously used to, due to how weak the Ugandan Shilling is when exchanged. Furthermore, a lot of business in Kampala involves dealing in US dollars, which isn’t always easy! However, although I’m earning less than I was in the UK, the cost of living in Kampala is a lot less —so my money does go a longer way in Uganda.
Friends: As expected, most people in Kampala have friends whom they’ve grown up with —and having never lived here before, I did initially feel disconnected in that aspect. I had to actively try to make new friends, but I never wanted to come across as desperate! Nonetheless, with the help of cousins, colleagues and people I’d met on previous visits, I’ve networked, met and continue to meet some great people.
The laid-back culture: Us Londoners tend to speed walk regardless of whether we’re running late and get frustrated if our train is delayed by any more than 2 minutes. It took some time to get used to the laid back, less time-conscious way of life in Kampala. At first, I criticised it, but later realised it probably contributes to how happy and stress-free most people seem here. The slower pace isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just different and requires a lot of patience if you’re not used to it!
Source: She Leads Africa