I am swishing through the dense Kampala traffic on a boda-boda motorcycle – the easiest and quickest mode of transportation here in Uganda. The boda-boda drives up on the side-walk and stops. In the exhaust-filled air I can make out the sound of sawing and hammering. I have come to one of the many carpenter-districts in Kampala.
One of the carpenters with a workshop here is Lwanyaga Haruna. One and a half years ago we conducted an interview with him, and this day I have come back to see how he is doing. It turns out he is doing good, much has happened since we were here last.
He has built a new show room where his furniture is on display. He started another business on the side selling chickens, indicating that diversifying your income is a very wise choice in this unstable economy. When we visited him last he also spoke about his dream of taking his family out of the slum, a dream that is now within reach as he is almost done with the construction of his new house. Nevertheless, profits are still low.
“The business is growing very slowly. Our currency is changing every month and that is why it is difficult to develop the business quickly, and also the taxes are going up. This is destroying our profits”
Inflation last year was 27% and taxes are rising every year. Access to finance is therefore paramount if he wants to keep his business running and expanding, something he expresses during our visit.
“I want to make big investments, but lack of money, that is my problem.”
Recently Haruna got his fourth loan funded on the MYC4 platform. With it he will buy material such as wood, foam, springs, and glue to be ready for the coming Christmas, which is a high season in his industry. Gatsby has two different loan products, they have a loan which they finance themselves, and the MYC4 loan that is funded by MYC4 investors. When speaking to Haruna about this he explicitly says that he wants the MYC4 loan because of the lower interest it carries.
He has four children, all of whom go to school. His oldest is studying Business and Communication at a college, the second oldest wants to be an engineer, and his youngest daughter wants to be a doctor. When I ask him if none of them wants to take over the business, he smiles and says
“This business is very difficult. That is why I wanted my children to study so that they could do something else.”
Finally, I asked him where he saw his business in five years:
“The first problem I had was customers. Now I have found customers, but most of them are in the city. So, in five years I hope to have set up a showroom downtown so I can get closer to my customers. And in order to do this I will need more capital.”
As I say goodbye to Haruna I think about how hard he must have worked in this environment to get where he is today. It is really a sunshine story, and I can only hope that when we visit him next time he has moved even closer to realizing the dreams and aspirations he has for himself and his family.