Who said print is dead?

Kampala’s newspaper trade is thriving, thanks partly to its function as an invaluable public forum.

 

The Ugandan capital, Kampala, is the site of a counterhistoric story in the life of print media. Everywhere in the world where digital media has taken hold, print newspapers are undergoing a definitive decline. In Kampala, however, print seems to have remained a mainstay of that society.

The city boasts a bustling news- paper scene comprising about 200 different newspaper vendors trad- ing in both current and back issues – each bought and sold with as much care as the other.

This is because in Kampala citizens seek out back issues to catch up on gazetted information they may have missed when the papers were originally published. This is vital for people needing to publicly declare a certain action such as a name change or a business closure, while news- paper listings of stolen passports become documentary proof for the relevant authorities when a Ugandan wants to apply for a new document.

The civil-savvy citizens of Kampala will spend about 200 shillings (75c) to buy a current newspaper, with back issues go- ing for anything from 20 000 to 60 000 shillings (about $8 to $20) a copy. The price is driven by how strongly that particular title might have captured the nation’s interest on that day, thus the story ‘Uganda’s Ghetto President music star becomes real-life MP’ (The Independent, June 2017) may end up becoming a highly prized Kampala collectible.