Okere City Supermarket: A Retail Alternative for Rural Dwellers

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If you have ever traveled to a deeply remote and rural setting, you definitely know that sometimes getting a needle or safety pin to buy can be problematic. The problem is even further compounded if you needed — let’s say a bottle of mineral water or a cold bottle of beer. And yet for rural dwellers, this is a harsh reality. And for them, products like needles, safety pins, bottled mineral water and cold beer are secondary. They mostly need basic household and consumption products like salt, sugar, cooking oil, wheat flour, etc. — usually purchased in small quantities because of their often low disposable incomes.

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Our grocery store isn’t just any random shopping spot and hangout joint, it is inspired by actual needs of the community and its mission driven. We established the supermarket to provide these basic but fundamental grocery needs for the folks in Okere village. Initially, our community members had to wait for an entire week to buy basic goods like salt, soap and sugar from the weekly market — 8KMs away. This problem was further compounded with COVID-19 lockdown which led to the closure of the weekly market. Similarly, most rural households wouldn’t have enough disposable income to purchase an entire week’s stock.

Thus, the unholy trinity of long distance, COVID-19 lockdown and low levels of disposable income among the rural community in Okere village enabled us to quickly innovate and ensure a continuous supply of basic household needs and supplies.

Through the shop, we haven’t only brought these goods closer, we also offer good on credit with trust as the most important currency.

Most importantly, the shop has already created employment opportunities to dozens in the village. Apart from the shop keep and security guards, the shop has also created backward and forward linkages by accepting supplies of local bread and beer from the women in the village.

Juma, our shop manager who is jolly, amiable and excited about being given the opportunity to serve his village. A P.7 dropout, Juma horned grocery business management skills as an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in Lira town where he worked as a shop keeper. At the height of the LRA conflict (between 1998–2004), Okere village was run down by LRA conflict and all its residents had to flee to IDP camps.

Asked about the progress of the shop and what it means, Juma said;

“This is Allah’s gift to me. I will give it my best to make sure that it succeeds because the salary from the business has enabled me to build a small iron-roofed house”

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We are a community based social enterprise on a journey to tranform Okere village in Northern Uganda into thriving and sustainable city. www.okerecity.org

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