9 December 2012

Uganda: Munaba, From Car Washer to Elite IT Guru

As a broke student at Makerere University, Jafari Munaba resorted to odd jobs like washing lecturers' cars to make ends meet.

He cared less about the stigma that came along; at least he was earning some money to top up his tuition and take care of his poor family back in Iganga.

If anything, he had got used to this style of survival.

Back in high school, he only managed to pay his school fees through doing a string of odd jobs, including being a taxi conductor, a job that nearly cost his life after he was involved in a horrific accident.

"I grew up in some of the worst conditions. My family found it hard to put me and my 11 siblings through school," Munaba painfully reveals. "Survival was a struggle."

Indeed, Munaba's story is a byword of how hard work and determination can stir someone from oblivion to success. Today, Munaba is a fast-rising software developer working with Computer Warehouse, one of the leading IT solutions companies in Africa.

He traces his success a year back while still a student at Makerere. As the best student at the college of ICT, with a 4.81 CGPA, Munaba received an award from Computer Warehouse.

Munaba, who spoke to me with a lot of energy from his sickbed where he had been ridden with malaria for two days, recalls that the award was supposed to go to one of his course mates who had the same points.

"This guy even asked me to escort him to the ceremony. I didn't know the faculty had decided to honour both of us," he said with a smile, acknowledging that the laptop prize made him a better student.

As part of the prize package, Munaba was also given an internship opportunity with the elite IT company. He has since, despite his little experience, swiftly risen through the company's internal hierarchy to the position of general secretary. He credits his job for giving him a "comfortable life".

Today, Munaba can afford to live in a fully-furnished three-bedroom house in a city suburb, a far cry from the humble household he grew up in.

During our interview, a teenage boy walks in and offers us a drink. Munaba tells me he looks after several of his deceased siblings' children.


Despite his skyrocketing career, Munaba is grateful to the people who helped him to success. He especially pays allegiance to his mother, a retired medical assistance, who made sure the large family survived despite her paltry salary. In appreciation, Munaba has since relieved her of all the expenses.

The young software developer is also thankful to the late former Namutumba district MP, Basoga Nsadu, for volunteering to pay part of his fees, despite not having any blood relations. Munaba, who says he is content with what God has so far given him, describes himself as "a fighter who never gives up". And clearly, he never threw in the towel despite the deep pits poverty took him into.

Most of his siblings never completed school, he says. Now he wants to help others so they don't follow the same path.

"I want the children I am paying tuition for to have a better life so they can be responsible for their future. My siblings and I never had this chance," he says.

As he narrates his future plans, including establishing a multimillion IT company, it is evident that the future is bright for this young man who a few years back nearly gave up on life.

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