Story and Photos By Jimmy Siyasa
Just like every shrewd business person, Najib Kabaala saw an opportunity and quickly took advantage of it.
Some students needed salads during their meals in the Uganda Christian University (UCU) refectory. Together with a student colleague, Duncan Barasha, the duo started selling salads to students. They had made contacts with farmers, to sell them fresh vegetables.
And this was not all. As a student of the Bachelor of International Business course at UCU, Kabaala turned many of his class assignments into business ventures.
Another of the assignments which came to life was the business of selling confectionery like chocolate as well as chewing gum to the students. In a goodwill move, Kabaala and Barasha often donated a portion of their profits to the UCU Guild Fund to support financially underprivileged students.
Upon graduating in 2019, the duo started a company, KK International Business and Trade Advisory, which offered services of filing tax returns and business consultancy, among others.
However, in a drastic turn of events early in 2021, Kabaala got employed with a private security firm, Saracen Uganda Limited.
“I never thought that I would take that direction,” he said “I expected to be doing international business.”
Kabaala narrates his sometimes-bumpy but successful journey from business to security.
Throughout 2020, Kabaala was a volunteer with UCU’s Africa Policy Center, aiding with program coordination, among other tasks. However, the job was not financially stable and sufficient. And his infant company had not yet broken even.
Circumstances forced Kabaala to accept a recommendation from a UCU lecturer to work at a security agency. He submitted his credentials, did the interview and got the job.
However, Kabaala’s first experience preparing for the position left him a bit rattled. The venue was Garuga on the shores of Lake Victoria in central Uganda. Kabaala was sharply dressed. It was his first day, so he needed to make an impression.
“When I arrived, the supervisor took my documents, put them aside and told me to join my colleagues,” he says.
The “colleagues” were a few meters away, doing morning drills in the lake.
He took off his shirt, stayed in shorts and joined them into the water. Later, they sang chants, rolled on their backs and frog-jumped. They camped at Garuga, doing that, and several other physical exercises, for more than three months.
“The training was so intense that at some point, I wanted to drop out and go back home,” Kabaala says.
He strongly believes that part of the reason he soldiered on was because UCU, through its holistic approach to academics and individual’s development, had prepared him for that time when he would get to exercise his endurance in an unconventional environment as a graduate.
When he completed the paramilitary training and a management course, Kabaala assumed office as the Assistant Area Manager, courtesy of his degree qualification. He was posted to western Uganda, where he supervises hundreds of private security guards.
In his day-to-day operations, Kabaala gets to meet corporate company executives, such as bank managers, who wish to hire their security services. As he pursued his international business management course, Kabaala hoped to deal in cross-border trade of commodities. However, in his new role, he instead handles the transfer of weapons across borders, on behalf of his company, which has branches in other countries.
Despite switching to security work, Kabaala’s business acumen has not withered. He still actively runs small businesses and hopes to enroll for a master’s degree at UCU when he gets the resources for tuition fees.