Reagan Moses Muyinda sells ice cream to a client.
Reagan Moses Muyinda sells ice cream to a client.

By Simon Omit and Dalton Mujuni
When Uganda Christian University (UCU) convened on December 18, 2020, for a virtual graduation ceremony, not many graduands knew what was next in their lives in a world that had taken a beating from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The uncertainty did not reside within Reagan Moses Muyinda. The 26-year-old graduate, who had always dreamed of joining politics and now had a Bachelor of Public Administration and Governance Degree, was ready to sell ice cream.  

And this was not by accident. As soon as Muyinda joined UCU in 2017, he started saving part of his pocket money for capital for some sort of business. To supplement his savings, Muyinda also operated an online furniture shop.

Reagan Moses Muyinda, graduation gown, treats himself at his ice cream stall on the day he graduated on December 18, 2020.
Reagan Moses Muyinda, graduation gown, treats himself at his ice cream stall on the day he graduated on December 18, 2020.

As the graduate walked out of the gates of UCU on December 18 last year, he had savings worth sh4m (about $1,090) in his purse. To purchase an ice cream-making machine, Muyinda needed sh5m (about $1,370). A friend loaned him the balance of the money.  

Despite rebuke from his peers that selling ice cream was too low a job for a university graduate, Muyinda persevered. As a result, they isolated him. But he cared less. After all, his parents loved the business idea and have financed it as well. One of Muyinda’s classmates had introduced him to the business. He, therefore, knew full well what to expect. Ice cream is considered “comfort food” and a treat especially comforting during a pandemic.

To those who look down on him and others in jobs without prestigious titles, Muyinda advises them to work.

His business, located a several metres (about 20 feet) away from UCU’s Tech Park gate, is booming. In March, Muyinda was recording almost 100 customers daily. 

“I have been in the ice cream business just for a few months, but it has already picked up,” he said. “The business idea was good and the UCU students haven’t let me down, most of them are my customers.”

The high number of customers was not by accident. Muyinda recently introduced board games at his business premises, to attract more patrons. 

Muyinda’s day starts at 7:00 a.m. and ends at 9:00 p.m, the start of the curfew time in Uganda. The country remains under curfew, which was instituted last year, to control movement of people due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time this story  was written in March 2021, no movements were allowed in Uganda from 9:00 p.m. to 5:30 a.m, daily. 

Muyinda dreams of becoming the most popular ice cream supplier in Mukono town, by expanding his business to different trading centres in the town. 

To achieve that, he first has to overcome some setbacks that are already afflicting the business. In addition to the curfew that shuts off customers after 9 p.m., landlords often raise his rent. 

“The landlords always think that I am making more from the business,” he said. “In two months, I have shifted to three different locations and this is affecting my profit margin.”

Muyinda, however, remains steadfast. “Challenges keep me going since there can’t be business growth without obstacles,” he said.

Mubezi sorts files on his computer at Kingdom Comix. Photos by Enock Wanderema

Mubezi sorts files on his computer at Kingdom Comix. Photos by Enock Wanderema

By Enock Wanderema and Jimmy Siyasa
When Isaac Mubezi qualified to join Uganda Christian University (UCU), his mother thought it imperative that he get accommodations in one of the University’s halls of residence. She gave him the money to meet the hostel fees. 

However, Mubezi had other plans. He felt that by renting an affordable room outside the university, it would provide him an opportunity to start an independent life and better learn to deal with challenges life threw at him.

He knew fully well that with his mother’s monthly salary of slightly above sh500,000 (about $150), he would not be able to have as much disposable income as he wished. It is from that salary that his mother, a resident of Iganga, a district in eastern Uganda, paid his tuition fees, as well as for his other three brothers. His father is something he doesn’t discuss.

Indeed, as Mubezi left UCU, after three years of studying a bachelor’s in business administration course, he had decided that he would be an employee for just five years, as he learned the skills of running his own business.  

The 30-year-old now has a video library in Mukono.

 “All I know is I have always had passion for service,” is his response when asked about what drives him. 

Mubezi attends to a gentleman who is inquiring about a movie.
Mubezi attends to a gentleman who is inquiring about a movie.

Before setting up the video library, Mubezi got a job with Stanbic Bank as a teller in 2014, the year he graduated. He felt that one year was enough for him to learn money matters in the bank. The following year, he got a job to manage a new café shop in Mbale, a district in eastern Uganda. Again, he did not spend more than a year at this job. Next, he sought a job which could enable him get the experience to manage people. Picfare Industries, which deals in stationery, employed him as an assistant human resources manager. Here, he spent three years. 

Upon clocking his five years as an employee, Mubezi quit in January 2020.

By this time, Mubezi had saved sh4m (about $1,090), which he used as capital to set up his small business of a video library. Mubezi’s choice of business was an irony. As a child, he would escape to go and watch films in video hall shacks in their locality. For that, Mubezi earned a fair share of beating from his mother.

He says the video library that he set up was to offer an alternative for students who could be tempted to relieve stress by sneaking out of hostels to go to night clubs. Despite many businesses closing during the Covid-19 lockdown in Uganda from March to June 2020, Mubezi’s continued operating. He says during that time, he would get up to 35 clients in a day.

Kingdom Comix, the name of Mubezi’s video library, is situated about 100metres (328 feet) from the UCU “small gate.” He has never regretted his choice of business. The proceeds from it enable him to pay his own bills, such as rent, meals and other expenses. He also is now also in position to pay some of his mother’s bills. With a monthly saving of sh800,000 (about $220) from Kingdom Comix, Mubezi believes he made the right choice. 

At the counter of the video library are packets of sweets. These, Mubezi always offers as tokens of appreciation to his clients. Sometimes, he adds a message. One common one is that 

when one does not work hard, even God will have nothing to bless. 

UCU Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushegyezi (second from left) helps cut cake at the birding course graduation. Also pictured are Mrs. Mary Kajumba of the Private Sector Foundation, Assoc. Dean of the School of Business Mrs. Elsie Nsiyona and Dr. Martin Lwanga, the outgoing Dean of the School of Business.
UCU Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushegyezi (second from left) helps cut cake at the birding course graduation. Also pictured are Mrs. Mary Kajumba of the Private Sector Foundation, Assoc. Dean of the School of Business Mrs. Elsie Nsiyona and Dr. Martin Lwanga, the outgoing Dean of the School of Business.

By Eriah Lule

Forty students who enrolled for the inaugural birding course class at the Uganda Christian University have flown the nest. The fledglings have fledged.  

Birding course graduates and faculty
Birding course graduates and faculty

The students, who have been studying since February 2021, graduated at a low-key ceremony held at Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) Nkoyoyo Hall on May 26. They were awarded certificates recognising them as birdwatchers. The three-month course, taught as an evening program, was conducted at the UCU’s Kampala campus.

The course was made possible through a partnership between UCU and the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, where the university won a sh238 million (about $65,000) grant to train students, especially those pursuing the degree of Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

The students were taught the economic potential of the birding industry, important bird areas in Uganda, professional bird guiding as a career, marketing bird watching locally and globally, establishing and running a birding tour company, as well as conservation and protection of bird habitats.

Uganda has more than 1,000 bird species, according to the African Wildlife Foundation, making the country one of the richest destinations for birding in Africa. More than half of the continent’s bird species are in Uganda. 

“We have a big gap in the tourism industry, but with such a training, the industry will grow faster,” Agnes Joy Kamugisha, one of the graduates, said.

“I had the opportunity to learn how to associate with my customers, how to develop good business ethics, bookkeeping and many other things that I believe when I put into practice, my business will live to see its 30th birthday,” she added.

Mary Kajumba, an official from the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, who spoke at the graduation ceremony, said one of the major aims of the agency is to equip citizens with employment skills and empower them to be able to set up projects that can solve the high level of unemployment in the country.

“Birding is one of the areas that doesn’t need much capital,” she said. “I am convinced we are training job creators and not seekers…We hope that this project is rolled out to other universities all over the country after being approved by the National Council for Higher Education.”

Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, the UCU Vice Chancellor, said the course fulfils his objective of imparting skills-based learning. 

“I didn’t understand the aim of the project at first, until I was given a lecture on how practical it was, fulfilling my long-term desire of creating skills-based courses, that can bridge the gap between the industry and the classroom,” Mushengyezi said. “I now consider this course a success, so we can now enroll more birders. 

He encouraged The Private Sector Foundation to keep “supporting us” so that UCU “can enroll more students.” UCU is the only institution of higher learning offering a course in birding.

Johnny Kamugisha, a professional birder and the CEO of Johnny Safaris, is optimistic about the impact of the birding project. 

“This project will produce professionals for our industry. I assure you that with such a course, we shall uplift the tourism industry in this country,” Kamugisha, one of the instructors in the course, said.

Assoc. Prof. Martin Lwanga, the outgoing Dean of the UCU School of Business, which supervises the implementation of the birding project, expressed gratitude that in spite of the challenges they faced, the first cohort has graduated. 

“Although we met different challenges, experts in the field of birding helped us design the curriculum, teach and mentor our students,” Lwanga said. 

The project was a pilot, to evaluate how effective the short course would be in terms of learning, access to reading materials, lecturers, mentors and field work. Although much of the course content was delivered online, occasionally, students went to the field.

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