Uganda: The Need for Night Economy in Uganda

In cities across the world, the night economy (businesses operating and selling at night) is one of the uncelebrated avenues generating incomes and opportunities, particularly for small capital entrepreneurs.

As the world emerges from the Covid-19 crisis, cities need to seek more alternatives on how to implement a night economy as part of the broader strategy to create more space for opportunities during night hours.

In Uganda, particularly Kampala city, the night economy has not been embraced yet it would provide a remedy to a large population of unemployed youths, the evicted street and market vendors.

Like bars, nightclubs, outdoor musical performances, entertainment activities in general, and supermarkets, night businesses along streets can also thrive well and provide a remedy to several challenges associated with unemployment. With the current economic situation in Uganda where food prices and the overall cost of living are high, the crime rate such as robbery, pickpocketing, drug abuse, etc, especially among youths is worsening.

Among the night businesses that can be engaged in include; selling clothing, processed and unprocessed foodstuffs including bakery products, fruits and other related merchandise which require less capital but can support small capital owners to earn a living.

The evening or night economy describes economic activities taking place in the evening after many people accomplish daytime employment/activities. The night economy is a source of employment and additional revenue for local governments particularly Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and in the process, it will boost local tourism due to the attractiveness it brings.

Kampala has a population of over 3.5 million people operating in the city centre including the neighbouring villages. This population is growing at a high rate due to an influx of people from different corners of the country flocking to the city in search of greener pastures.

However, most of them come with little or no startup capital that can enable them to afford to rent a shop on the Kampala arcades and thus pushing them onto streets and public market centres. Unfortunately, these markets can hardly accommodate such a growing population rendering them unemployed.

In 2021, street vendors were evicted from operating along the streets of Kampala and advised to join public markets such as Wandegeya, St. Balikuddembe, Nakasero among others. However, these were already occupied and the available few stalls were quite expensive to rent and thus could not fully accommodate the evicted number of vendors exposing them to joblessness and exerting pressure on government.

In the subsequent years, 2022 and 2023, cases of brutal eviction of street vendors undertaken by KCCA enforcement teams continue to exist. Having a night economy could therefore provide a solution to a big number of vendors who could hardly trace space neither in the selected daily markets nor along the streets to operate from during the day.

KCCA under the planning department together with the executive director should therefore consider choosing some city streets such as along Namirembe road, Ben Kiwanuka street, Market street, William street, Nakivubo road etc to enable vendors to operate from 6 pm to midnight or beyond.

This can be implemented with proper management and provision of security to ensure a peaceful business environment free from theft, congestion, and with proper hygiene that aims at maintaining a clean city. All this should be done to promote economic freedom in Uganda.

The authors are directors at Gateway Research Centre Uganda.