On the plane from Cairo to Kampala I met a young Ugandan guy of 19 years old who just flew back from a tennis match in Egypt. He was a real cosmopolitan; he had traveled already all over the world for tennis matches, he studied as well in Uganda as in South Africa and he got a scholarship for next year to study in the USA. He told me laughing he might do some economic studies too, to help us in Europe with our crisis. He uses the laptop of his brother to surf on the Web for news and downloading music.
I asked him if could do an interview with him later on in Kampala and he gave me the phone number of his sister: ‘Ask for Duncan..’ He himself changed too often of simcard to be reachable.
Once in the country it is not only the humid air taking the attention of your senses. The country is filled with massive advertisement and billboards of telecom companies: ‘connect yourself’…
Everywhere houses are painted in he colours of the telecom companies. The companies see it as free advertisement; the residents see it as free paint. This makes for colourful spectacles, the colour of Zain for example really is as pink as it can get.
It is very clear that the telecom business forms an important part of life in Uganda, its simply everywhere. People carry up to five or six simcards with them. They know of each other what network they use, because it’s cheaper to call someone with the same provider. There are a ton of different deals to attract more subscribers. One provider offers a very cheap price when your call is shorter than 55 seconds.
People then, are constantly phoning each other. The phone calls that are made are not persé necessary phone calls, people call each other also just for checking up with each other. Our cab driver seemed like he had owned a phone forever. He gets all his rides through the phone. However, a professor on the local university explained that most phone calls are not economically based; according to her it is all chit chat. She thinks it is a shame, since the youth spends a lot of money on ‘wasted’ phone calls.
It might be interesting to see how these massive spectacles really correspond to the need of the subscribers. Do they really have an advantage in carrying five simcards or do they simply carry them because they are constantly thrown at them by money making telecom businesses? At least we can say that the companies have to lower their prices to remain as one of the five in the pocket of the user..