Tuesday, 14 October 2008


All hail the arrival of Nakumatt in Kigali.

For the uninitiated, Nakumatt is a successful Kenyan supermarket, that has recently opened itsfirst branch outside Kenya in the Union Trade Centre, smack in the middle of what passes for Kigali 'city centre'. They plan more openings around town soon. Rejoice.

Readers of Experimental Jifflings, or anyone who has shared a beer with me, may detect a whiff of hypocrisy here. I've been in the checkout queue to give the big supermarkets a kicking in the past, and I'll continue beat my little drum in future. But Nakumatt is a different case.

For one thing, it's Kenyan owned, starting out in Nakuru as a little store selling mattresses (hence the name Nakumatt). I'm pleased to see that the store in Kigali still sells mattresses. The real Nakumatt boom has only come in the last ten years, and they train and pay their employees well, and are an example of how East African business can do well in East Africa. Over in Dakar we have to make do with a grim monopoly of the French owned Casino supermarket chain.

Why is this good for Kigali? Well it's a firm kick up the backside to all the other supermarket owners who overcharge, underservice, and can't guarantee supplies. Nakumatt's economies of scale will bring a new diversity of products to the shelves, and will ensure keen prices. With any luck, Nakumatt's influence will overturn the poor service and silly prices that seem to be the accepted norm at most shops and restaurants in Kigali. Thats no excuse for the City Council to let them open a store on every corner (not that the City Council would ever, ever be open to any sort of persuasion), but a bit of exposure to an economy outside of the bubble is long overdue, and should sharpen everybody up.

And thank Nakumatt for one last thing: Those 8000 franc bottles of Domaine Bergon will be a thing of the past. Now we're entering a new era of Spanish and South african plonks in all the colours that go for less than 5 notes a bottle.


In 1998 I rolled a trolley around a Nakumatt in Nairobi for the first time. We were there to fill up on supplies for 3 months of fieldwork under canvas, and it was an ideal one stop shop. I'd just come from Norfolk, UK, were I'd spent much of my time tramping around the Broads practicing my field skills. Roys of Wroxham (a supermarket hero) had provided me lunchtime sustenance on many a grey winter morning, so I was delighted to discover that my Nakumatt trolley proudly advertised 'Roys of Wroxham' on the handle. How the hell does one get a shopping trolley from East Anglia to Nairobi? That is one hell of a steal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome place. The Simba across the street is nice too. Nakumatt is now in Kampala too.
-escapee from Peace Corps Uganda