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By Titus Kakembo                    

Anyone preparing to propose marriage, shop or dine in an eatery in Uganda needs a negotiator or haggling tips to get a fair price or value. Abogezi (spokesmen) make fat fortunes offering a service to reduce bride price or relax conditions for a couple’s union.

“It is like a rehearsed drama. On stage are usually seasoned speakers advocating for the relaxation of the terms required for the forthcoming marital engagement,” explains an elder David Nyanzi in Buziga, a city suburb.

Nazo ssente naye yongerako (that is a good offer, but add some more money). We educated her. Look at her skin, tender like the kabina (backside) of a newborn baby.”

In Kampala and elsewhere in the country, residents haggle using phrases like nsalirako or punguza beyi (reduce the price). It is a way of life.

Seasoned hagglers continue winning exceptional deals in shops, markets and katale (weekly auction markets.) Consequently, while shopping, one needs to change how they pay if they are to get value for their cash. This implies adapting a haggling culture or risk being fleeced by the ever smiling shopkeepers, cooing Karibu (you are welcome).

“Awo siyita wo (at that price, the transaction does not make business sense)” is a common response from attendants when a buyer offers sh50,000 instead of, say, the sh100,000 required.

Tips on bargaining

Feign a walkaway

One easy way to get a discount from a kamunye or a bodaboda is to feign a walkaway.

Yongeramu olukumi (add sh1,000)” is a common response to a buyer or consumer of a service threatening to walk away.

Try to attempt a walkaway at some point and you will hear price and fare cuts. It is always some coins cheaper. Tell them what your offer is and they often take it, saying “awo siwabi naye yongera mu (the offer is not bad, but top it up).”

 Speak the language

Wan ke ken (we are family) in Gulu, ki musajja wa Kabaka (hi king’s subject) in Buganda and in tye nedi (hi) in Luo work miracles by earning you as much as 50% discount. It is common for traders to overprice people speaking English because they are considered “well heeled” and worth being overpriced.

One easy way to get a discount from a kamunye or a bodaboda is to feign a walkaway.

Yongeramu olukumi (add sh1,000)” is a common response to a buyer or consumer of a service threatening to walk away

They are derogatorily referred to as “wiseacres,” abaasoma (the educated) or ojogo tyeko kyamo (the wealthy class) in Kumam who are worth over pricing to indirectly redistribute wealth. Addressing the traders with a word or two in the local language earns one a discount.

Be polite and rational

Addressing men as ssebo (sir) or women as nyabo (madam) in central Uganda will earn one huge discounts and compliments. In Teso, amuchalat is used to honour women and ladit for men in Gulu. This kind of respect and courtesy are treasured in most tribes spread across the country.

When noted, one is instantly recognised and assimilated into the tribe. Some visitors of Indian and European origin have earned themselves names that are clan identities.

Do not show your political allegiance when shopping because you never know whom you are dealing with. It might cost you a fortune showing them your true colours.

Do not wear designer clothes

The way the buyer is dressed also determines the reception they get from attendants in most shops that have no price tags. Folks wearing clothes with trademarks of international repute are overpriced.

Market survey

A street smart Gideon Serunkuuma advises visitors to do a market survey if they are to avoid being fleeced by shopkeepers in Kampala, Mbarara, Jinja or Mbale cities. The survey gives one an idea of how low the first price can drop.

“This could be done on social media or physically in town,” tips Serunkuuma. “This gives you a hint of what discount you can ask for from the ever smiling attendants addressing you as Sir even if you are not knighted.”

Refer to the competitor’s offer

If you are shopping on William Street, refer to cheaper commodities offered in Kikuubo or Nakivubo Mews and vice versa. Supermarkets are always engaged in price wars. They advertise discounts and sales in the media on a regular basis. Keeping an eye on the offers comes in handy to keep you informed.

Buy multiple goods

The other smart move while shopping in Kampala city is to buy several items in one location. If they are not giving you a discount, then ask them to deliver your purchase home or other after-sales service like assembling or service in case of damage with a certain time lag.


When one chooses to buy also determines whether they will get a discount. Before COVID-19 disrupted  businesses, it was wise to buy a car when schools were reopening because many people were willing to dispose of them to foot  bills. The other right time was to buy after Christmas when those who bought them to impress their village mates are selling them to begin another life after the holidays. In Uganda, the number plate also shoots up/reduces the prices.

Christmas season is also a good time to buy BMWs and Mercedes from South Africa brought by the Basamavu (spendthrifts), popularly known as “Ba summer”, who return from abroad to impress the people they left behind by spending lavishly. They often sell the cars at giveaway prices to raise money and return to either SA or Europe.

Keep what you are willing to pay and stash it in some pocket

Fish the cash out of your pocket and offer it to the dealer for a particular item. Tell him/her to leave or take it. Better still, ask if they offer a discount if you bought more products in the shop.

In a nutshell, while bargaining, whisper your offer so that the deal is between the buyer and seller. Those in the queue might fill up the operation costs that you have been discounted for.


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