There were no cities to talk about in Africa before colonialism. Eurocentric writers argue that only a few cities in Africa started to emerge after the external influence of Europeans and Arabs. They say modern cities are a result of colonization. Africa was almost entirely rural and some writers even go a step further to assert that “Africans are rural by nature” a trait they still poses even in modern times. There were pockets of what you may call cities especially along the coasts mainly in North and West Africa while the interior of Africa was completely rural. According to archaeology, the only place that could pass to be a city in central Africa ( clusters of people living close to each other) was Bigo Bya Mugyenyi in present day Sembabule district and the city of Zimbabwe in Southern Africa where the country Zimbabwe derives it’s name. One of the European writers described cities in Africa before and soon after colonialism as “A heap of huts and clustered settlements” mostly hosting political power with enclosures for defensive purposes and monuments of prestige. So how was Kampala city before and after colonialism?
One hundred years ago, the original land where the city of Kampala sits were mainly bushes and small huts made of mud and wattle. Wild animals roamed the areas around with small pockets of human settlement mainly based on clans and tribes.
Kampala became a township in 1912 and had a population of less than 3000 people. By 1930, it’s population had jumped to 20,000. There are several factors that led to the faster growth of Kampala city namely the Uganda railway line (1931), establishment of Makerere Technical College now University ( 1922) Mengo Hospital (1897), Mengo Secondary and, Mulago hospital (1913) finally the introduction of electricity in 1938.
Kampala city proper was located at Nakasero moving upwards on Kampala Road up to the junction where Entebbe road starts. The nucleus of the city was quite small moreover with many empty spaces therein The upper part of Kololo was scarcely populated while the lower areas of downtown Kampala including the new and old taxi parks were largely empty. Mengo and Old Kampala had high populations though. Infact old Kampala had been thriving because of it’s proximity to the King’s palace. With the advent of colonialism, the city started to shift westwards via current Namirembe road. Colonialists including the governor were residing in areas of Kololo and Nakasero. With the coming of the Uganda railway, and setting up a station near present day Jinja Road, commerce started picking up on that part of p town. This area henceforth received more foreigners and traders. Old Kampala which had previously been the centre of commerce started declining as business shifted towards Nakasero and Kampala road areas.
One hundred years is a very long time that a city can transform from a bushy area of a few hundred people, bushes and footpaths to a big metropolis of over 2 Million people and still expanding. The next one hundred years will be even more revolutionary. In the year 2100, people who will be alive then shall look back with awe at how the present generation survived in a city with dusty roads, shanty slums, poor drainage system, electricity rationing, flooding, and expensive and unaffordable internet. It’s been a long journey for Kampala but even a longer one awaits the city if it remains unplanned.