From the blog

Fred Ijjo: bamboo for housing in Uganda

Fred Ijjo is an entrepreneur from Uganda and he is the Team Leader and Director of FOB Consult Limited, a Bamboo based affordable housing that entails purchase of raw materials (green bamboo) from local communities, who harvest from natural plantations. After dedicating 10 years to the research, the creation of prototypes and the promotion of bamboo as alternative building material, he decided to start his own business. FOB Consult is a company which aims to have a positive impact on the community.

“We employ both skilled and unskilled labour in harvest, processing, production and assembly of bamboo housing units, sales and marketing. We train youth in fabrication and installation of bamboo building components. On average we employ 15 full time employees and over 50 youths on part time basis involved in harvest, processing, production, seed collection and nursery management.” he explained.

Fred’s entire educational background was mostly academic with no much experience in entrepreneurship. When he got inspired to translate his academic feat into entrepreneurship, the demand to acquire entrepreneurial skills was inevitable, which is why he took up the MBA course at Uganda Martyrs University of Kampala.

After taking part in the MBA he achieved several goals with his company. But let’s learn more on his activities.

1. How was your Business Idea born?
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It is plenty in areas where it grows naturally, a case of my home place Moyo. It is as strong as steel yet light. It is flexible for modular housing with over 10,000 applications. It is a carbon sink and provides over 40% more oxygen than other plants. These amazing facts and characteristics of bamboo caught my attention which generated a research interest. In 2010 – 2011, I was immensely involved in research work on the strength properties of bamboo species Oxytenanthera Abyssinica. And over time, the research efforts evolved into conviction and passion which led to building series of bamboo based prototypes and projects. With over 1.6 million families having no access to decent housing in Uganda, the need for cost effective and eco-friendly housing was apparent. Whereas there are attempts to provide solutions for the housing gap, over 60% built houses are in burnt bricks. This approach is environmentally harmful. It involves cutting down trees to fire bricks which contributes to deforestation. The process of soil extraction for brick moulding degrades arable land and air is polluted during baking. Bamboo which is renewable, was visibly perfect alternative material in supply of affordable housing to address the prevailing housing gap. This ultimately gave birth to the Bamboo based affordable housing business trading as FOB Consult Limited.

“The sale of green bamboo improves the local economy and livelihood of the low income communities while increasing returns to the company. So far over USD 10,000 has been injected into the community through our bamboo business in the past one year.”

2. How can your business improve the life of the beneficiaries of your activities? 
The sale of green bamboo improves the local economy and livelihood of the low income communities while increasing returns to the company. So far over USD 10,000 has been injected into the community through our bamboo business in the past one year. The labour intensive processing of bamboo housing creates new employment and income, generating opportunities. The business provides training and technical skills opportunity for the youth in production of bamboo products at high quality. Apart from members of the communty, the company has an understanding with two technical institutes in Moyo that provide labour for our workshop and the students gain both financial and technical skills in processing bamboo products. Moreover we promote technology and knowledge transfer among the local population. The bamboo business has so far attracted INBAR-Uganda to Moyo to engage the local communities in skills trainings. Notable among the trainers were The Regional Programme Manager, INBAR East Africa and the National Project Coordinator, INBAR Uganda who conducted trainings at community and institutional level. The most recent trainings were in bamboo plantation management at community level, Bamboo value addition at Moyo Technical Institute, The Sacred Hearts of Moyo, and FOB Consult Limited Workshop.

3. What has been the main challenge you had to overcome in your entrepreneurial experience? 
Certainly the lack of skilled human resource in bamboo technology. FOB consult depended heavily on few employees with expertise and skills in bamboo technology. If they leave or become incapacitated, FOB consult limited is grossly affected. For this reason, the company has developed a bamboo technology workshop both for production and skills development. There is an understanding with local technical institutes to have part of their students receive skills training from the center. This has reduced dependance on few employees. The company has submitted proposals for further support to upgrade and strengthen the workshop into a full-fledged bamboo technology training center.

4. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?
An entrepreneur should be a leader, hardworking, a time manager, knowledgeable, networker, simple, trustworthy and quality oriented.

5. Is there a person you are inspired by, i.e. an entrepreneur or a particular mentor?
On global scale, I’m inspired by Steve Jobs. His autobiography inspires and gives me the confidence that you can make it big in spite of your humble background. The fact he had this incredible ability to spot opportunities in people and turn them into businesses is humbling. On local scale, Charles Lubega. He started a business as a Disc Joker (DJ) from campus and went on to open a discotheque in Kampala. This is an example of a business born by passion. Today he owns state of the art discotheque which is the most successful in the Ugandan Capital, Kampala. Several properties in Kampala are tagged to his name and he is believed to be one of the wealthiest Ugandans, yet he lives simple and quiet life. This is an amazing feat in success management.

6. What would you suggest to a new-born entrepreneur?
Stay focused, work hard, network and search for more knowledge.

7. Could you tell us a particular satisfactory moment you had in your entrepreneurial activity?
When you become an entrepreneur, you become hungry for more, you don’t have enough money because every coin you earn moves into the business cycle. This keeps you yearn for more and more to achieve your vision.

8. Could you tell us how E4Impact program has helped you and your business?
The E4Impact MBA is a hands on programme. It helped me visualize my business, build a professional business plan and it developed my skills in resource mobilisation. On the overall, it gave me confidence in business decision making and day to day management of the enterprise.  Thanks to the skills acquired during the MBA, I have set up a bamboo technology training center in Moyo, Uganda, and I have been able to develop a range of buildings and product prototypes in bamboo and to implement a range of bamboo based projects.


Learn more on FOB Consult Limited

Facebook page: @FOBConsultLtd

Twitter Account: @FobConsult

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