Kampala. One needs to be at their utmost creativity best to come up with a profitable and sustainable business that can thrive in this Covid-19 lockdown era.
The travel restrictions, low purchase power and uncertainty aside, the new dawn has seen many business entities close short and many people becoming jobless.
Farouk Mujumba, through his Njumba Group of Companies, resorted to his past street life to solve the problem at hand many, government inclusive, tend to ignore - the plight of vulnerable street children.
For a while now, Mujumba’s name has been synonymous with starting up uplifting projects for slum dwellers through starting livelihood projects in Kampala and its suburbs.
It is through such projects that he turned - Kisekka market area - notable for chaotic rioters - into a focused working group of more than 400 mechanics at the moment working closely with city authorities.
Working in tandem with then KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi, then Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and retired Makerere Chancellor Prof Mondo Kagonyera, the enterprising Mujumba founded fabrication, concrete and welding centres for unemployed urban dwellers in Katwe, Kafumbe Mukasa, Kisenyi and Makindye slums areas.
Rethinking the Covid-19 new normal
Mujumba’s story of a Kyanjale-Masaka born resolute orphan that arrived on Kampala dusty streets aged 16 is awe-inspiring. The Primary Six dropout had broken his business teeth early on the streets of Masaka town vending grasshoppers and pan cakes when he stormed the capital city. An amalgamation of luck, craftiness, robustness and go-getting spirit saw him rise from the streets through vending clothes and several merchandise, acting as a property middle-man to establishing a thread of self-made businesses. These include the newly established trendy kiosks visible all over the central business district, a logistics factory in Kikajjo-Namasuba and rentals.
Like it has occurred to most landlords, property owners and traders country-wide, the second lockdown hastened the speed at which various businesses have nosedived and some folding eventually.
Equally affected was Mujumba’s daily revenue from the 14 modern kiosks he has strategically erected at city hotspots since the 42-day lockdown, with potential of being entrenched, barred potential buyers from accessing the city centre.
Simply put, the start of the art kiosks, Mujumba has heftily invested in from China with security cameras, security lights and spaces to accommodate two vendors are now more of white elephants.
“I used to reap big but there is no business now and all the cakes, juice, biscuits, yogurt, cheese and other confectionery I stocked just goes to the bin, I needed a quick remedy to start in business even when the lockdown is lifted,” Mujumba revealed.
Just when his proposed multi-million kiosk business was getting out of its nappies to start yielding dividends, it fell on hard rocks of the Covid-19 pandemic yet he had started a confectionary factory mainly thrived on serving the 14 outlets. Uncomfortably true, Mujumba has to moot another avenue that could consume the products and make ends meet.
“Through my friends in downtown, I recruited more than 180 downtrodden youths, mainly boys, who were stranded with the city no longer having briskly business that provided them food. I oriented them and briefed them about the idea of becoming foot soldiers for our products across Kampala. I sieved those that could manage to work at the factory and those that could peddle the distance,” Mujumba says.
Once selected, Mujumba hired an Italian, a Turkish and trained chef from one of the top hotels in town to teach the boys and girls confectionary basics of baking bread, biscuits, cookies, yogurt, juice, chapattis, cheese and cakes.
They all excelled and are now equipped with life-long skills they never dreamed about on the streets.