By Esther Kwaku.
SMART PHONES, SMART TECH, SMART LAD.
"Whoa! I thought you told me this was a phone shop!"
We had ventured out into the sticks to meet Kalali, a young man with albinism.
“He owns a phone shop” I was told. But when I got there I saw that this wasn’t just any ordinary shop. Turns out that Kalali, 21 years old, had come up with the brilliant idea of getting a co-founder, his mate Wezo, and starting a business together in the village. They put together what little funds they had between them and embarked on a whole journey into local tech.
CONNECTIVITY. POWER. MUSIC.
Side-by-side they are two very smart and hardworking young men. Wezo sells solar-powered products, selling everything from bulbs to lamps and he also fixes solar panels. Kalali, handles the mobile phone side - buying, selling and repair. He can fix many different types of models - whatever the problem he can do it....and all of this he learnt just by watching others.
Thus his business idea was born.
It doesn’t stop there either: Kalali and Wezo who are avid music lovers stumbled onto another idea – to add on a music download service. Using their single laptop they transfer files onto people’s phones – requested tracks, albums, compilations – they’ve got the lot. Very rad, especially as music is everywhere in Uganda. In a place where mobile data is limited, electricity is sparse, the location is remote and where funds are too low to enjoy even the simple things in life (like listening to music on your phone), these two smart lads tapped into something very cool and innovative.
COLLABORATION = EVERYTHING.
What also impressed me most about these two young men was that they banded together realising that with their combined skills and talents they’d be stronger. They chose novel ways to ways to bring services to their community when they could have easily opted to be farmers or sell produce as many do. In fact, prior to coming up with this genius idea, Kalali has been selling grass for people to roof their homes.
“It was hard work” he says, “I didn’t finish school though I was very good at woodwork. I wanted to do something different in business so I saved up some money and when I had enough I gave up grass selling to set this up. We’ve had it for 1 ½ years. By the way, you want to see my house? Let me show you!”
SO WHAT DID KALALI DO NEXT? HE BUILT A HOUSE.
We took a short drive to Kalali’s home and we arrived at a solid, brick house. He was beaming, so proud to display the fruits of his labour.
“I built it myself” he says, which I find astounding and I'm standing there gobsmacked at just how much he's managed to achieve at 21 with all the odds seemingly stacked against him. Not only had Kalali saved the start-up funds for his small business but since it’s been going he kept going to scrape together what he could. With those savings he bought a plot of land, materials and tools, and he built his house from scratch with his own hands.
Anyone in Kamali District would tell you this isn’t an easy feat but he did it. So fierce. As I leave I ask Kalili where he wants to go from here:
"I want to develop another business, a stronger one...and I'd like to sell alternative things...things people really need in my village. An idea I have is to supply stationery and materials for the schools around here.”