The men of Western Kenya, that swath of undulating land spread beneath Cherengani Hills, encompassing the counties of Bungoma, Kakamega, Busia, Vihiga all the way to homes of their Luo cousins nestled around the shores of Lake Victoria, like to party.
With food in the belly, a drink in hand and rhumba or benga in the air, they love to sway gently in their favourite watering holes, faces gleaming.
But what keeps the juices flowing, and what drives them to these pubs like bees to nectar, is the Ugandan barmaid.
Soft spoken, courteous and sexy in flaming red skirts, short black dresses, and bewitching curves, they have taken the men hostage.
It is official: If you own a pub in these parts, and your waitstaff are not female, or Ugandan, your business is toast.
From Mbale town, Luanda and Majengo in Vihiga County, Busia, Bungoma County’s headquarters, Kanduyi and Bukembe townships, and Mumias, Ekero, Sabatia, Khayega and Kakamega town itself, Ugandan curves rule. Patrons love them, and so do publicans.
“Uganda women stay long at your business as compared to those from Kenya who will steal from you or clients and vanish without giving notice. Customer attraction and satisfaction is what makes a business to grow and they are good at that,” says Ogolla, who runs a nightclub in Kakamega town.
He adds that the women are so popular that if you don’t employ them, you risk losing your customers to other joints that have embraced them and that bar owners who employ them register a steep rise in sales in record time.
Koech, who runs a bar and a restaurant in Busia town says his business almost collapsed when his rival opened a pub adjacent to his and employed ten curvaceous women from Uganda.
“I used to make at least Sh300,000 as profits every month but when the new pub was opened, all my customers fled to the new joint, saying the Uganda barmaids served them with courtesy,” says Koech.
Initially, he thought it was all hot air but when his sales hit a low of Sh100,000 consistently for five months, he too sneaked across the border for help in the spirit of East African Cooperation.
With the curvaceous beauties from across the border in place, he says sales shot up within two months.
“Anyone running a joint in Western Kenya would be crazy not to employ Uganda women if they want their businesses to thrive. They are honest and don’t steal customers change. Most customers also prefer being attended to by them as opposed to Kenyan women,” Koech says.
Wanjala, a frequent reveller at one of the big night clubs in Kakamega town, says men are drawn to the Ugandan lasses because respect for men is ingrained in their culture.
“They are very honest and when you give then a tip, their appreciation is genuine. They say ‘thank you’ unlike our Kenyan sisters who can abuse, manhandle and even fight you in front of other people.
“Ugandan waitresses will always give you your balance even when it’s only Sh20, but our sisters will keep mum unless you demand it and they are very rude,” says Wanjala, who dated and married a Ugandan who used to work in a pub.
He adds that Ugandan waitresses also serve you immediately you walk into the pub, after a warm handshake of course, as opposed to some Kenyan barmaids who stare moodily into space until you bang an empty beer bottle on the table, unless you are the kind of man who looks like money.
But for Wamalwa, who once dated a Ugandan barmaid and ended up marrying her, says that when you are in a relationship, she doesn’t see other men behind your back.
Natukunda Namazzi, now 25, said she entered Kenya five years ago after covering close to 20km by boat to Port Victoria and then came to Kakamega.
Namazzi says she likes working in Kenya as a barmaid since the Kenyan currency is stronger compared to Ugandan one.
“I have managed to take my four siblings to school back in Uganda, bought a five-acre parcel of land for my parents and built a five-bedroom house for them. If I was in Uganda, this could not have been possible,” Namazzi says.
Last month, the Minister for Tourism in Uganda Godfrey Kiwanda sparked a controversy online and became the butt of jokes (pun intended) when he hinted out that curvy women from that neck of woods should be promoted for tourist attraction.
Judging by warmth his country women spread around Kenya’s Lake Basin, Kiwanda was probably onto something!