Much has happened since the last edition of the Nyege Nyege International Festival was staged in Njeru, Buikwe District in 2019. A pandemic, elections and a war in Ukraine that saw fuel prices inflate almost everything money can buy.
Yet, even with all that it is happening and happened, hordes of people still descended on the festival’s new venue at Itanda Falls from Thursday.
“In Uganda, we are all just trying to get by,” one of the revellers told this publication while placing an order at the festival’s food court. “Unless you’re a politician, the chances are that you’re poorly paid that it is almost impossible to save.”
The food area at the festival hosts a group of hospitality franchises that specialise in all sorts of eateries such as katogo, chips, steaks, snacks, candy, pastries and coffee, among others. It is a place that has all the big names in Kampala’s food business such as Meat Guy, Yo Kuku and Rogers’ Bites. All compete for buyers and yet at the end of the day an ordinary Alex with a rolex stand is still making good business for himself.
Much of the food at these places is pricey compared to what it may actually go for in Kampala. Still, the princely sum notwithstanding, the ease with which revellers pay for food suggests they are in a mental space that makes them oblivious to the soaring living costs. At least for four days.
“They say only less than 20 percent of Ugandans earn at least a million and probably many of those are not at this festival,” one patron remarked after he had been told the whiskey he wanted to buy was out of stock.
Nyege Nyege draws sold-out crowds
The bottle in question was going for Shs60,000, a Shs15,000 increment on its market price.
“Where do these young people at the festival get their money?” the patron half wondered and half cursed.
The common conversational currency at the festival, whose curtain comes down on Sunday, was about how an economic crisis has been defied. Even the ticket prices—as steep as they appeared—were not prohibitive.
“I may easily understand for the foreigners, but where are these Ugandans getting the money to pay for a ticket, a camping pass and still money to eat and drink?” one female reveller wondered.
Show me the money
When they were sold online, before the festival started on Thursday, early bird Nyege Nyege tickets were sold at Shs160,000. At the gate, the price went up by Shs90,000—making it Shs 250,000. After paying for a ticket, one has to pay for the actual accommodation if they didn’t carry their own tent and mattress.
As for food prices, a rolex goes for Shs4,000. If you want something ‘heavier’, you will need to part with a sum ranging from Shs10,000 for breakfast to Shs15,000 for lunch.
“Uganda is a gig country or probably a deal one,” Mr Joel Musoke, who has been to the festival two times, reasoned, adding that it’s hard for Ugandan youth to lead comfortable lives given what they’re paid.
Nyege Nyege is a festival that forces one to spend whether it is in their DNA or not. For instance, every person camping at the festival grounds—willing or not—will somehow part with money to charge a phone.
With Charge Ko, a start-up, people are able to charge their phones at Shs5,000, but the business also has an option of selling one a power bank that is exchangeable with a fully charged one the moment it has fully been used up. By the time of writing this article, Charge Ko had charged more than 200 phones. And it was Friday afternoon.
“This is a festival and like many of such events, people want to take pictures all the time. It is thus important for them not to run out of battery,” Mr Jeofrey Mutabazi of Charge Ko told this publication.
The same applies for people who want to freely move between Itanda and Jinja City. Instead of running around, looking for a boda boda, Treppz—a tech-based transportation company—is moving them for all the time the festival is on.
For those residing in Jinja, and yet have to be at the festival, a trip is Shs10,000. Elsewhere, those going to Kampala pay Shs35,000. They even have trips to the airport and other locations.
Another group of people see no harm in spending on creating memories with the 360 camera. It is a service by 360 UG, prominent at concerts and picnic-themed events. They have made trends out of taking people’s videos with a 360 revolving camera.
The service is made possible for Shs20,000 per video, though one can take more by paying a round figure of Shs40,000. The service was set up on Friday morning and by 4pm had shot in excess of 30 videos.
“Funny thing is that, contrary to what most people think, it is the Ugandans who are not bargaining. They may complain that it’s expensive, but still pay,” Ms Trayce Kansiime, one of the people managing the 360 booth, told this publication.
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