The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Tumwine, the Natural-Born Constructor

Dalrius Tumwine had always loved to construct things right from childhood. But his real turning point came while in P.4; he constructed a makeshift house in his granddad's backyard.

Infuriated, the old man, whom Tumwine credits among his inspirations, brought the shanty structure down. "He [grandfather] said the house would distract me from school. I was so heartbroken and promised myself to build a house that would be hard for anyone to demolish so easily," says the 27-year-old.

Fifteen years down the road, this promise has come to pass. Those who understand the construction industry in Uganda say Tumwine is one of the fastest-rising stars. He is an elite construction supervisor and investor.

Cutting his teeth

Born in an elite family - his father was a civil engineer and construction investor - Tumwine got exposed to the intricacies of the construction business at a tender age. It was, however, not until his first year in the Bachelor of Construction Management course at Makerere University that he got hooked.

Besides being offered a job in his father's construction firm, Build-Up Uganda Ltd, Tumwine also started his own company, Datam Technician.

Datam days

"I only had Shs 200,000 as my start-up capital. My first deal earned me Shs 50,000," dark and stout Tumwine recalls with a smile.

Since his main focus was in light construction works, mainly fixing water gutters, PVC skirtings and razor wire installation, he used his first deals' earnings to buy tools including a driller, hacksaw, silicon and rivet guns, among others.

"I was basically always on sites during weekends," he recalls, boasting he once earned Shs 5.5m while still a student.

"I was able to pay my accommodation fees for all my years at campus."

Tough times

Following his father's death in 2010, Tumwine was compelled to take charge of Build-Up since he is the first born. He currently runs the company with his mother. But it was never easy.

"That is by far the lowest moment in my life," he says of his dad's demise, struggling to hold back tears. "I am now like a father to my three young siblings."

Elite constructor

The Construction Management graduate has since renamed his company to Datam Engineering Ltd. And barely a year in business, he has registered considerable progress - boasting 13 completed, projects ranging from residential modifications to commercial buildings.

"I employ about 10 professionals on permanent basis and tens of porters," Tumwine says, adding that he already has loyal clients.

Challenges

Tumwine says it is hard balancing time between Build-Up and Datam. He hopes to employ more staff and relinquish some duties to them. He also decries fake constructors who flood the market. "This is a very delicate field which puts people's lives in danger. Quality and honesty should be paramount," he cautions.

Living large

Tumwine cashes biggest from long-term projects, some of which take months to complete. On average, he says, he earns about Shs 3m in profit per month. And his lifestyle depicts the relatively fair pay. He offered this interview from his cozy three-bedroom rented house in Mulago suburb. He also drives a Toyota Corolla which he has pimped to fit his taste.

Future plans

For now, he is bent on growing his company, which he says will be able to give the famed Roko Construction a run for their money in the next 15 years. And as a religious man, he wants to construct the tallest church in Uganda. The young constructor also has eyes on charity. "I hate to see children cry because they don't have what to eat or where to sleep. It would be nice if I could make a difference."

Free Time

He winds off his busy day by watching Point Blank. He also listens to music and plays badminton during his free time.

Love

Tumwine lights up when asked about his girlfriend of one year. He hopes to have four kids with her upon marriage in 2015.

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