Kampala Bike Market

News released on: 
Feb 10th, 2015

Energy Center in Kampala, UgandaKampala Bike MarketBicycle Sellers in KampalaBukeyna (left) and David (right) at the Kampala Bike MarketBikes Not Bombs International Programs Director, David, is in East Africa to visit existing and potential partners, in addition to expanding Bikes Not Bombs' connections in the region.

After arriving late the night before, and sleeping late this morning, my first day in Uganda was spent visiting the Kampala bike market. I went to Energy Center, one of the huge commercial complexes in the heart of Kampala that houses the largest used bicycle market in the city, about 100 bicycle sellers and at least 1,000 refurbished bicycles for sale. In the complex you will find electronics, clothing, movies, appliances, and many other goods including new bicycle parts from India and China being sold in the hundreds of stores that comprise the complex, but the basement is all used bicycles.

I took a motorcycle taxi to Energy Center, and when I arrived, I met a bicycle seller on the side of the road that was filling the back of his pick-up with new parts to bring back to his rural community. We talked for a few minutes, and then I descended the stairs to the basement of Energy Center. Bukeyna was one of the first bicycle sellers I approached, because he had an array of Raleighs and Giants in the rows of bicycles he was selling. We started talking, and after about an hour of discussing the ins and outs of the Ugandan bike market, we both acknowledged that we became friends in a very short period of time!

Bukenya was extremely knowledgeable of the local bike market, informing me that most of the used bicycles in the market are coming from Japan, England and Korea. Ugandan merchants will travel to these countries for about 3 months at a time until they are able to fill a container with used bicycles, and then they use their contacts of bicycle sellers to wholesale the containers as they come in, to make a profit and build capital for their next trip.

I asked Bukenya if there is any association of bicycle sellers, and he said that all of the bicycle sellers and mechanics are independent entrepreneurs. Many start small, selling a few bikes and gradually build their businesses over time. While there is no formal association, all of the bicycle businesses depend on the networks they build with other sellers, mechanics and importers. If a customer needs something, even if you don’t have it, you can get it for them from another seller. And if you are to get any used bicycles at all to sell, you need to know the importers to be invited to the container wholesales.

After a good while, Bukenya and I parted ways, but we will be in contact regarding the potential importation of affordable Taiwan-made bicycle tools into East Africa. Bukeyna said the mechanics would buy them - of the hundred or so bicycle sellers in Energy Center, only one has a crank extractor.