Celebrating Christmas in Africa

December 21, 2015

Supermarket’s across Africa tills are busier this December than last, figures suggest, and retailer’s data tracking I have seen shows that Christmas shopping started earlier in November.Electronic transactions released figures suggest customers have spent more than $200 million so far in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria between mid November and mid December.Shoppers have spent an average $62 across Supermarkets in Kenya in the first seven days of December and a further $29 in the next seven days.The figures represent a 9 per cent and 5.8 per cent increase on spending in 2014.If this years’ trends continues, about $2.6 billion worth of transactions will pass through the tills across supermarkets in the month of December alone in five countries namely South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Ghana.Shoppers have been spending more sooner at supermarkets this year and some began buying “top of the line” goods in September.A peek at different shopping experiences online around this Christmas time across Africa, shopping around, seems to takes a different turn.Most family’s Christmas tradition includes visiting relatives, especially older siblings and grandparents mostly who reside in rural areas.When I asked a Zambian friend what he usually does for Christmas preparations, his answer was shopping. “I usually look for new clothes to wear for Christmas, especially for my 3 year-old daughter,” he answered, adding that he usually looked into the big discounts offered at department stores instead of going in and out of different shops in malls around Lusaka. Department stores have wider options and better deals too, especially if I have to buy for different family members.Christmas shopping has long been part of the schedule of Africans come December.

Sub Saharan Africa is currently home to over 500 malls albeit of different sizes. With those malls offering big discounts and extended shopping hours, better known as midnight shopping or late night sales, there is no reason not to look for new clothes or Christmas gifts for the special day especially for urban population.According to a report I have obtained, the retail sector in Sub Saharan Africa experienced significant growth in 2015 due to the increased spending power of the country’s middle-class consumers. In Nairobi, Kampala, Dar Es Salaam, the three biggest cities in East Africa known for their large Christmas tree placed outdoors in shopping malls, are holding a Christmas Shopping Marathon until midnight. Visitors are getting extra discounts as well as free parking.Areas packed with shopping centers are offering late-night shopping and tempting discounts. But for a friend, who lives a stone’s throw away from a Mall in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and its late-night sales the week before Christmas, shopping is not what his Christmas is all about. “Shopping during holidays does not seem to be the norm in my family. I think it’s okay to enjoy shopping for Christmas, there are lots of interesting offers anyway, but as an adult with better judgment, I always keep it balanced.” Instead, he told me as spoke yesterday that his family focuses on church activities and plenty of food to share. “A typical Christmas in my home in Mbeya involves mom cooking chapatis and beef stew and right on December 25, she’ll heartily try to fatten up every guest around our local church in Mbeya town.”But that doesn’t mean she’s against spending a little extra on Christmas. “Contador Harrison I have to admit, even though I don’t usually buy clothes or any fancy Christmas ornaments, I have a weakness for cute Christmas chocolates, confectioneries, snacks and fancy Christmas cards,” said a male friend who resides in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, whose dream is one day being able to spend the special holiday in the land of aboriginals in Pilbara, Western Australia

.How about shopping for a Christmas tree Randy? “Am still using the same tree I bought in Livingstone more than three years ago,”he revealed with a laugh as we spoke recently.In this special holiday, brightly lit stalls and miscellaneous goods for sale are a common view on African cities streets. “If you come to Africa during Christmas time, you should not miss visiting a local market. Enjoy good food, nice drinks, small pretty things and people around you,” said Randy who is currently working as a researcher with an American international research firm.Dating back to the late 1200s, Christmas markets were often held in a town square with food, drinks and seasonal items for sale. Randy visited one in Nairobi Kenya last year, accepting an invitation from a Kenyan friend of his. “People said that Kenya’s cities are famous for their Christmas market and celebrations tradition.Nairobi’s Westlands Christmas market is one of the best in Kenya.“Christmas is always the best time in the year for me. A good balance between religious activity and having fun is necessary to refresh myself after a full year of work.” added Randy, a Brisbanite who grew up in New York and now working in Africa, a continent he has fallen in love with.So, this year, Randy will again with friends from different countries tour Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya. “The Maasai’s, warm, sweet and spiced roasted meat around Christmas time, is the main reason why I want to visit Maasai Mara and the combination of a big magnificent wildlife adventure and delicious food is too hard to resist.Spending Christmas with friends has become a new tradition for experts working in Africa who are currently away from their family. “Christmas services in church and family dinner afterwards and share Christmas traditions from their countries of origin and enjoy dinner together with locals who on average are hospitable and very welcoming.For Wagga Wagga bloke, he gonna be coding the un-coded for the coded codings.

Contador Harrison