Uganda: A New Frontier Market to Reach The Finish Line

By Esther Muwombi

What would I need to retire comfortably?

We all have calculations on the amount of savings we need for retirement. Although, many people forget to factor in things like inflation. The U.S. economy has been challenging for most people. More than half (55%) of Americans do not have enough money for retirement.

Fortune Magazine found that nearly a quarter of Americans believe that they will be working as they enter their seventh decade. 75% of Americans also believed that they will be much worse off in retirement than their parent's generation. 

Forbes Magazine found it to be worse, especially among millennials. They found that new college graduates will not be able to retire until 75, due to rising rents and student loan debt.

The average American has about $57,000 for retirement, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement StudiesIn addition to retirement savings, an extra $220,000 will be needed to cover a couple's health care costs

This is where the advice of Kallen Diggs (Author of Reaching The Finish Line) comes in handy.

“Embrace uncertainty”

Kallen asserts that the reason why people remain unfulfilled is due to their inability of embracing uncertainty.

Living abroad will definitely prompt you to embrace uncertainty. However, it is one of the best ways to maximize your retirement savings. 

Embracing uncertainty does not necessarily mean that you should wake up tomorrow, pack your bags, book the next flight, and land somewhere without having any prior knowledge about that country.

A Google search can show you lots of information about life in almost any country.

It is more about having a general plan and not being so fixated with all of the details.

As I write this article from Kampala (the capital of Uganda), I can assure you that this little haven could just be the right place for your next destination.

I have always wondered about why there were so much ethnic diversity in a predominantly African city. It was not until I discovered the secret they had discovered about Uganda.

Uganda is a small country in the east of Africa, situated between Kenya (Obama’s ancestral home) and Tanzania (the largest country in east Africa). It is known as the pearl of Africa as it has near perfect weather.

This beautiful country has one of the world’s most favorable weather seasons coupled with very fertile land. There are two rainy seasons in the year; one between April and May and the other between September and November.

Each rainy season will yield about three to six feet of rainfall. Note, when I say rainfall, I do not mean the El Niño type of rain. Nature pours out the rain as if someone is remote controlling it. Although, it is usually the right amount to grow crops or provide a chill to a dusty day.

The good news is that living well in Uganda will only require half of your entire savings. For example, we will revisit the statistic regarding the average American having $57,000 of retirement savings. With that amount, you can start off with $25,000 and use the rest to live there for at least 10 years.

In Uganda, the best investment that I can recommend is agriculture. The government recently dropped taxes from all agricultural produce to promote farming and fulfill the high demand in the west.

As stated before, this little country has very fertile land. It is so fertile that it can bring forth almost anything you plant in its soil.

You can start by getting a Class B (agriculture) working permit for $500 a year, along with a multiple entry visa for $100 a year.

Then, you will need to find the land to set up your farm. Like most places in the world, farms usually flourish in the suburbs and rural areas. The beauty about Uganda is that your farm will grow crop, regardless of the location.

A small piece of land on the outskirts of the city costs $200. Although, that may not be the kind of land for farming; it still gives you an estimate of the cheap land in Uganda.

An acre will cost you around $7,000. With that acre, you can set up a home and farm on the same piece of land. Building your own home will cost you another $5,000 for a 2 bedroom house or $7,000 for a 3 bedroom house. 

With owning your own house, you would not have to worry about paying rent. So, it is one less expense from your total cost of living. 

The next item on the agenda is to begin your farming. Your next question is probably regarding which crops you should start planting on your farm. 

Corn, beans, bananas, sugar cane, green peppers, ginger, and tomatoes are several examples of crops grown in Uganda. Moreover, you will not have any difficulty as everything agricultural sells almost effortlessly.

My friend grows ginger. One bag of ginger is 100 kilograms. She sold 100 bags of ginger at $140 a bag to earn $14,000. 

I would definitely recommend hiring some farm workers. You can get good daily labor for your farm for $5 per worker per day and sometimes even less. You can even hire a housekeeper that does laundry, cook meals, cleans the house, and maintains everything in your home for $50 per month.

One may wonder how someone can earn $50 as a monthly salary without feeling exploited by their employer. As a Ugandan resident, I can confidently assure you that you are not exploiting anyone, nor will the Ugandan government condemn you. Believe it or not, that amount is enough for a local to live here.

Once you are settled, you will enjoy sunrise at around 6:30 am and sunsets at 7pm. Upon sunrise, you will be awakened by the crows of your rooster or the aroma of freshly brewed coffee made by your housekeeper. Your farm workers will work for you during the day, which leaves you to engage in any hobbies. 

So, at this point, you are probably curious about a depiction of the annual expenses. So, without further delay, I welcome you to take a look.

Annual Expenses

  • Multiple Entry Visa - $100
  • Class B Agriculture Work permit - $500
  • Housekeeper - $600
  • Farm Worker - $1,800
  • Food - $1,200
  • Water - $40
  • Electricity - $80
  • WiFi - $120

Total: $4,440 ($370 per month)

In comparison to paying about $3,000 a month in expenses, you are getting a bargain. 

Although, what if you chose to rent a house instead of buying or building one? You can rent a three bedroom house in a high-end neighborhood for $300 a month, compared to paying $1,500 or $2,000 for the same type house back in the US.

What if you have kids? Where will they study and for how much?

A few folks discovered the migration trend and capitalized on it immediately by forming international schools to cater to the education demands.

These schools teach an American English National Curriculum (ENC) as well as a British curriculum (Cambridge). They charge  between $1,000 and $5,000 a year, depending on the school. Some of these schools were formed by expats.

If you are not interested in farming, you can succeed in online entrepreneurship by getting overwhelming publicity to monetize a blog, podcast, or YouTube channel.

Alternatively, you can get a job at one of Uganda's non-governmental organizations. They believe in western style labor and pay pretty well.

Unlike the hungry, crying black babies that you see on the U.S. mainstream media, there are some things that the media never tells you about Africa.

Thankfully, you have some of them outlined in this article. Now, it is up to you to embrace uncertainty and start reaching your finish line.

Esther Muwombi is a long time contributor for The Niles, a bilingual publication offering independent and balanced coverage of current cultural affairs in Sudan and South Sudan. Her work has also appeared in The Guardian.

She is a seasoned writer that specializes in copywriting, press releases, and field news articles. She can be contacted at esthermuwombi@gmail.com