"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


Things you cannot buy in Butembo:
  • An A544/6V battery
Things you can buy in Butembo:
  • Electric guitars
  • Wireless microphones
  • Wireless routers
  • Wireless headsets
  • Wireless modems
  • Soundboards
  • Laptops
  • HP printers
  • Digital cameras
  • Smart phones
I know, because we went to every electronics store in the city trying to find the battery. So much for the sucking vortex theory of the DRC.

I've mentioned before that one of the more interesting effects of the state's weakness is the lack of regulation on the market. Although there are informal taxes paid to authorities by shop owners, traders, and transporters, but otherwise, trade is pretty much completely unregulated. It's the ultimate free market. Which means that an astonishing variety of products are available in the city's markets and stores.


Anonymous coldtusker said...

It's demand and supply... If you are willing to pay the price for it, someone will order it for you!

Batteries have a shelf life. A rarely used battery means there is no INCENTIVE to stock it unless there is demand...

Free markets work unlike most connived top-bottom command & control markets...

coldtusker on Twitter

Friday, July 09, 2010 10:34:00 AM

Blogger desiree zwanck said...

everytime i travel back from any more convenient place than goma (kampala, berlin), i carry a minimum of 3 cameras, 5 phones and 1 laptop with me. hell i am going to germany in november and i already have a shopping list from my congolese colleagues! things you do to save a buck - or to help others save it...

Friday, July 09, 2010 11:08:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Desiree, that is so true! The stuff that shows up at my doorstep to be carried the week before a trip is sometimes unbelievable!

Friday, July 09, 2010 1:05:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

coldtusker, I know, but the weird thing is that there are a TON of obscure batteries here. And ink cartridges and all kinds of other things that it seems like there wouldn't be much of an incentive to stock.

Friday, July 09, 2010 1:12:00 PM

Blogger Elisabeth said...

Hah, it's so true that you can find the most random things here! But I'm not sure I agree with it being a free market--wouldn't that entail no government hindrance? I have quite a few friends who have opened boutiques (to sell all kinds of products) and then had to close them because taxes render the business almost completely unprofitable. I'm pretty sure that even the legal, on the books taxes require people to pay back a huge percentage of profits. I suspect that many of the businesses that "make it" are the ones whose owners pay "reduced" tax amounts (i.e. the government agent that comes to collect will take a fraction of what is supposed to be paid if you just give it to him instead of paying at the bank or otherwise officially). I could be wrong, but I can't stop wondering how a serious government could do so much to hinder the development of its people!

Btw, Desiree, i recognize your name from some emails...I think you're in Joburg with my friends from the Congolese Man UP delegation! Hope it's going well...

Saturday, July 10, 2010 2:56:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came across this blog today and read this post about Butembo. We've launched a microfinance project in Butembo and i would like to get in touch with you for some in sights as you've conducted a research there. My email is johnkavyavu@gmail.com

Any other person who might be interested in this project please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012 9:18:00 PM


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