East Africa’s middle classes are turning into mall rats. A way of life so familiar and pivotal to many in South Africa is now cementing itself within the continent’s ever-changing urban spaces.
In Kampala, the new 18,600m² Acacia Plaza will be Uganda’s biggest, while in Tanzania Dar es Salaam’s shoppers will soon be heading to the new complexes at Viva Towers and Dar Village.
Developers in Nairobi, Nakuru and Mombasa are also building several new malls.
“[Malls] offer a one-stop shop … that’s important because of the traffic,” said Rita Akinyi, an elegantly dressed 36-year-old consultant sipping coffee in Westgate Mall, Nairobi.
Akinyi comes to shop but there is a lot more to offer.
In a city with a serious crime problem, malls are a relatively safe place to hang out, despite periodic warnings about possible attacks by Somali militants.
They offer everything from nail bars and kids’ clubs to cinemas.
But for Wanjiku Ithongo, browsing the stalls of Ethiopian fabrics, many of the mall shops are too pricey.
“If the stuff was affordable, it would be great,” said the 33-year-old administrator.
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