Expectations

Spending one year living and working in Kampala, Uganda. When I first started thinking about this in February, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. To be honest, I had to check the map to find out the exact location of the country and its neighbours. Having seen only North Africa (Morocco, Egypt), I relied on what I heard about sub-Saharan Africa in my International Relations studies. But surely, there has to be more to Uganda than dictators and poverty?

Once I knew that this would be my home for the next 12 months, all of a sudden everybody either had been or knew someone who has been to Uganda. Friends, family, colleagues, all could add to my expectations of spending one year living and working in Kampala. Now, a few days before I am really leaving (I will miss you too!), my head is filled with expectations of what the coming year will be like. And at the same time I know that these expectations will neither be fulfilled nor disappointed, just replaced by the actual experience of being there.

Of all the advice, questions, warnings, tips and tricks that I received in the past few months (from ‘show no knees or shoulders, but boobs are ok’ via ‘is not going to church frowned upon?’ to ‘if you want to socialize, try to find out where the KLM crew is staying’), what struck me most is the fact that there are hardly any automatic washing machines in Uganda. There are washing machines, but they are called Betty or Janet. Without being disrespectful, it is common practice for people in Uganda to hire someone to do the washing for you. This got me thinking about washing machines and the market for domestic appliances in developing countries.

Let us recap our washing machine history first. The first English patent under the category of Washing and Wringing Machines was issued in 1691. The rotary washing machine was patented by Hamilton Smith in 1858. As electricity was not commonly available until at least 1930, some early washing machines were operated by a low-speed single-cylinder hit and miss gasoline engine.

In the Netherlands, 97% of all households owns a washing machine using on average 55,6 liters of water per programme. In the United States the washing machine penetration rate is 82%. The picture above provides an estimation of the number of washing machines that will be sold around the globe in 2017. The number of units estimated for Uganda is 0-99.000. I will not even start to calculate the penetration rate.

Obviously, the obstacles to making effective use of a washing machine are quite clear (regular power outs, the enormous amount of water required). I just had never thought about it. It makes me wonder what else I take for granted that other persons have to do without on a daily basis.

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