May 27

‘The challenges you face are opportunities to add value

Jaffar Tonda walked away from a successful accounting career in the US and returned to Uganda. 

From inception, the plan was never to settle in the USA. A similar feeling resonates with most diaspora immigrants – the typical plan is to achieve a target and return “home.” I staged a plan to graduate from University, work for one or two years to get international experience and return to my motherland. Being coined an immigrant/foreigner was never appealing. After graduating with a degree in Accounting at Brigham Young University (BYU) Utah USA in 2006, I received numerous job offers from all the leading accountancy firms I applied to, thanks to BYU’s highly ranked accounting program.

My stint in formal employment entailed working as a treasury analyst with Morgan Stanley, New York and thereafter with Ernst & Young in Boston. However, despite the glamour that came with working at renown top firms, I chose to stick to the plan to return to Uganda. I chose to be proactive and remained committed to my return strategy. In this regard I encourage those toying with this idea — to avoid procrastinating their intended return home. Set a target, and execute it despite the general fear that may abound.

In 2008, Synergy Partners – a real estate development company was born. Why real estate? The numbers in the real estate sector were/are glaring: according to the National Planning Authority, Uganda faces a housing shortage of 8 million units. Therein I saw an opportunity to work towards bridging the housing gap. I did not have adequate resources when I embarked on becoming a real estate developer – it is a capital intensive business.

In all honesty I had no money. I chose to overcome the self-limiting belief that you cannot start a business if you do not have capital. Instead, I worked towards being knowledgeable, hardworking, and honest/trustworthy in my business dealings. I formulated concepts and like most entrepreneurs undertook the difficult patient task of prospecting capital until I found investors who believed in me.

Network, network, network. To aid my transition to home, I actively sought to expand my contacts/circle of friends. I encourage returnees to join various groups for example: health clubs, rotary, health clubs, business and professional associations, religious groups, and harness varied volunteer opportunities. I made an effort to not only join as many groups as I could, but also sought advice from established business leaders/mentors. If people trust you, they are typically willing to share their experiences. Learning from past experiences of others can help encourage, and/or help you avoid potential pitfalls/mistakes that you would otherwise make.

Uganda being a developing nation presents numerous opportunities for self-driven individuals to create additional value – both through formal employment and self-employment. I have discussed various tenets like planning ahead (and saving as a result versus “buying” that nice car on credit), being proactive, persistent/dedicated, overcome self-limiting beliefs, and networking.

Above all the aforementioned, I will close with persistence! From the inception, you will find challenges returning home – right from the airport! A decade after my return, I am still saddened by the underdevelopment I see right from the airport to Kampala. You will face challenges finding a job that adequately rewards your skill set. You will face challenges registering and operating your business. However, remain positive by the reminder that the challenges you face are OPPORTUNITIES to add value!

Source: Uganda Diaspora News