I'm in Kampala, Uganda again.
It's been a year since I was here. Not much seems to have changed. Well, Uganda has added nearly a million people since then -- it's one of the fastest growing populations in the world. But Kampala looks much the same.
I'm looking at agricultural supply chains -- similar to the work I did in Tanzania a few months ago. Uganda looks fairly similar, though already I can see some differences.
One difference: Uganda has ridiculously fertile soil, multiple climate zones, and sits right on the equator. So the diet is, on average, a bit more diverse than in Tanzania. This has consequences for agricultural economics. For instance, in Tanzania the price of corn (maize) fluctuates by about 200% over the course of an average year -- it can easily go from, say, $200 a ton to $600 a ton and then back again between harvests. In Uganda, the presence of multiple alternative food crops flattens those fluctuations; over a year, you might see a 100% increase, from $200 to $400 and back, but more would be unusual.
One's first reaction is "stable food prices! That's good, right?" And yes it is, but of course there are complications. Like: the bigger price swings down in Tanzania are encouraging the construction of warehouses (grain silos) to capture the time arbitrage. These can have the pleasant by-product of enhancing food security. (Can. It depends.) In Uganda, less extreme price swings = less profit in building warehouses = fewer warehouses.
Another difference: in Tanzania, certain agricultural supply chains are just totally dominated by Asians. In Uganda, less so. For instance, all the big grain buyers in Tanzania -- every one, without exception -- are Asian. In Uganda, only about a third are. That's because of Idi Amin, of course; he expelled all the Asians in the 1970s, crippling Uganda's economy for a decade. Some of them came back in the 1980s and 1990s, and they're once again very important players in Uganda's economy, but they're not dominant in this sector the way they are in Tanzania.
On a personal note, I went off to Frankfurt on Friday feeling fine, got my hair cut -- yeah! -- and then came down with a relapse of the ugly viral coughing thing that Claudia and I have been sharing for the last week or so. Sleepless and hacking in a hotel room in Frankfurt, blah. But that's travel sometimes.
Oh, and also: Uganda is only one time zone ahead of Germany. But I have, no kidding, jet lag. Why? I think it's because it's June. In Germany, sunset is around 9:15 at night, and it's still light well past 10:00. In Uganda, sunset is at 6:30, it's dark by 7:00. So my body is all "whoa, it's been dark outside for a while now! It must be time for bed!" Programmable brains: we're all waiting.