When Najib Kabaala graduated from Uganda Christian University (UCU), he hoped to immediately delve into ‘stuff’ he had studied. Having enrolled in 2016, he had finally acquired a Bachelor’s of international Business Management and hoped to instantly morph into an international businessman.
The last thing he had imagined as a graduate of International business was to end up clad in thick-soled footwear, a private security agency uniform and having to deal with bullets instead of balance sheets. First, security officers are known to earn terribly low wages, especially in developing economies. Secondly, the nature of security-related jobs simply lack the pomp that a university graduate (cum laude) would naturally want for the ‘good’ of their ego.
Therefore, typically, Najib had dreamed of dealing in exports and imports nationally, regionally and later continentally. He could see his near-future-self- sitting at tables with Ugandan expatriates, talking big business, “helping them understand the local environment in which they want to invest,” he says
Matter of fact, while at UCU Najib had garnered a good reputation as an entrepreneur, while at UCU. He was known to turn virtually all his coursework projects into sustained businesses, which outlived the fixed timeframes that marked the end for his classmates who were only interested in project marks. Instead, Najib would continue to earn a profit.
Together with a friend named Barasha (a former UCU Guild President), he sold salads at a profit to students at the University refectory, during meal hours. They would reach fruit farmers and those growing greens like cabbage, around and far from Mukono, place orders and have the merchandise delivered to UCU. These they would process-themselves-into salads. Then sell to students.
At the same time, Najib traded in confectionery, including: chocolate, chewing gum, digestives, et cetera. And as Corporate Social Responsibility, he and Barasha would donate a portion of their revenue, at the end of the semester, to the UCU Guild Fund, to support financially underprivileged students.
Upon graduating in 2019, the duo started a company called KK International Business and Trade Advisory that offered tax-filing, business consultancy, among other services. In short, Najib did just enough to make his entrepreneurial prospects palatable, not only to him, but also to many of his clients.
However, in a drastic turn of events early this year, Najib enrolled in a private security firm called Saracen Uganda Limited. One would say, the unthinkable had happened. However, this is how Najib interpreted the move: “I did not choose security. I believe Security chose me.” He further confessed that “I never thought that I would take that direction. I expected to be doing international business.” So, “what happened? One may ask.
Throughout 2020 he had volunteered at the UCU-Africa Policy Center, aiding with program coordination among other tasks, albeit the service was not financially rewarding enough for a graduate who has daily-living bills actively weighing on his shoulders. His side gigs- including the ‘infant’ company- were neither bringing an income stable enough merit treatment as a full-time.
As though in conspiracy, circumstances made Najib only too happy to accept the recommendation of a UCU lecturer, who also fixed for him the job at a security agency. All he had to do was submit his credentials and turn up for an interview. However, Najib narrates his first appointment for the job with horror.
On his first day at the perceived work station, at the shore of Lake Victoria, at Garuga, a camping site in Entebbe district, Central Uganda, Najib turned up turned up in typical young corporate fashion; sharply dressed, academic credentials in one hand and heavy expectation in the other- eager to sign a contract, shake hands, and then be showed to his office space. “The supervisor took my documents, put them aside and told me to join my colleagues,” he says.
Meanwhile, the said “colleagues” were a few meters away, at the lake shore. Shirtless and submerged. Confused, alarmed, yet helpless, Najib complied. This was to be, for him, what “Hell week” is to US Marines. He took off his shirt, stayed in shorts and got into the water. Later, they sang chants, rolled on their backs, frog-jumped, ran and did even deadly drills. They camped, doing that, for well-over three months.
“The training was so intense that at some point I wanted to drop everything and go back home,” says Najib.
When he successfully completed the paramilitary training and a management course, too, Najib assumed office of Assistant Area Manager, courtesy of his graduate status. This places him above an ordinary cadet; implying, he does not have to guard all night at a client’s premises, as it is for the former.
He is posted to Hoima district, Western Uganda, where he executes a supervisory role over hundreds of private security guards. In his day-to-day operations, Najib meets corporate company executives such as bank managers, among others who wish to hire their security services. Ironically, the International Business management graduate, who hoped to deal in cross border trade of civilian commodities, handles transfer of weaponry across borders, on behalf of his company, which has international branches.
Now Najib looks at his current job not as an end in itself, but a means. He is still actively involved in business and hopes to eventually enroll for a Master’s degree at UCU when he has the resources.
He strongly believes UCU’s “holistic approach to academics and individual’s development,” prepared him for such a time when he would get to exercise his expertise in an unconventional environment for a graduate.