Entrepreneurship For Survival

Posted on May 6, 2015

In Africa, Kampala is known as the capital of chaos. But out of chaos, something surprising always emerges: solutions. With a youthful population (over half under 15 years of age) and an even younger technology and energy scene – the raw energy of excitement in the Ugandan capital is tangible. Young and hungry technologists are pushing the boundaries of innovation daily, creating sustainable solutions to everyday challenges from their bedrooms. This naiveté to the tech awakening has brought a social solution to the pressure of corruption.

In Kampala, we are all young. We grew up with aspirations for the future, not only believing that the world can be a better place, but that we (individually) can make it a better place. But the constant challenges in the fight against corruption often force us to become disillusioned: believing that since we cannot beat them, we should rather join them. Growing up as the head of a household of five, I have often been tempted by the corrupt route. The payoff has always seemed quicker, although certainly not long lasting. With the financial pressure to take care of younger siblings, having good character and courage hasn’t always been exciting. However, I kept at it for the sake of my family.

By age eleven, I had lost both my parents to HIV-AIDS and lived in dire poverty. The obvious choice to survive in that situation would have been for me to leave school and find work to feed the family. But I didn’t. I chose to stay at school during the day, and find in-between jobs at night. This choice taught me two things: resilience, and going against the grain to fight for what would be, in the long term, the best outcome. Throughout the years, we constantly had to just survive. The impact of that initial choice was however softened in the later years, with a few of my siblings helping me by finding work in a similar manner as they grew older. The challenges that we faced as a family, and the solutions that we created for ourselves emotionally prepared us for entrepreneurship. Now, over seven years later, walking into my parents’ modest house in the country’s capital, instead of finding five hungry and destitute children, you will find a two bedroom house-turned-office for a family of tech geeks. With nothing to lose, you can only imagine the excitement that has gripped us. To us, there is nothing to fear!

The origins of the national buzz can be attributed to the laying of undersea fibre-optic cables in neighbouring Kenya from 2009, which brought the whole region online. The Internet is so vast and available that it can be accessed through dongles even in remote villages. Before, what was most frightening about my story is that it is not unique. Now, however, what is most exciting is that there is hope. Anyone can develop apps and other technologies, and get paid for it. We get paid for all of the apps and web services that we create. To survive, entrepreneurship has become our only option. This is far better than not having an option at all.  The rise of use of technology has brought opportunities where opportunities never existed before for people like me.

My family and I had to stay in school to keep learning. We had to remain in the education system to be aware of the opportunities available to us, then be equipped with the information that would allow us to take advantage of those opportunities. The moral of this story is to never stop learning. Life teaches you much more than the average man is willing to know. The key is to never become wise enough to know everything. What could have been a sad story, became the founding block of an entrepreneurial journey which boasts the creation of several apps in Uganda.

Abud Rugems: Creating opportunities, every day.

Edited by Sharon Green, Editor-in-Chief