FROM DOWN SOUTH: Shafique Katumba aka Katsha De Bank is one of the summers on holiday this festive season. He is one of the flamboyant South African based Ugandans. EDGAR R. BATTE talked to him about how they get all their money and why they love to flaunt it.
What is your real name?
My name is Shafique Katumba but I’m commonly known as Katsha De Bank.
Why do you call yourself Katsha De Bank?
I basically call myself Katsha which is an abbreviation of my real name and De Bank, which I was nicknamed.
Who nicknamed you De Bank?
It is a nickname that was given to me by people in the community where I stay in South Africa, because I have money and I share it with them.
What is your profession?
I am software engineer. I am one of the pioneers of some of the software programmes used around, and one of my plans is to bring such software to Uganda, to be used in banks and media among other areas.
Tell me about some of the software you have developed …
I developed software that is used in computerising supermarket sales.
Where did you learn all this?
I was enthusiastic about computers from an early age. While at St Ponsiano Ngondwe, where I was doing my O’Level, a white man noticed my enthusiasm and took me to the US.
Who connected you to this man?
It was my mother. She used to work in circles where whites were quite many. She made friends. She was a secretary at Heritage Oil & Gas in Kawuku, off Ggaba Road. When I went to the US, I studied computer science.
In which school or institute in America did you study?
I studied at Harvard University, the renowned one.
Wait a minute. By the time you had only finished Senior Four (S.4). How then did you manage to find placement at the prestigious Harvard?
That is not where I enrolled first when I got to America. I first studied in a college in Florida, called Tulip College, a private school, which was equivalent to A Level. I was liked as a student because I was keen on my studies and was disciplined. The white man, Mr Hendrick who sponsored me liked me for this.
Why was this sponsor doing all this?
He wanted to impress my mother.
How did you end up at Harvard?
Hendrick took me there. He had his children studying there. He realised I was better than his children and was fit to study there. However, I didn’t complete my studies at Harvard.
Why didn’t you complete your studies?
I faced lots of challenges. I failed to connect with the student community there. I was still a villager and the course was quite hard. I told my sponsor I could not continue.
After Harvard, where did you proceed to?
I returned to Uganda.
What year was this and what plan did you have in mind?
That was in January 2009. During that time, an uncle of mine interested me in going to South Africa (SA) where he had a computer shop. He asked me to go and help him out at his shop. I accepted and went to SA in April 2009. I worked for him for a while.
What kind of help were you offering in the shop?
I was doing much of the work, selling computers and repairing them.
How much was he paying you?
He was not paying a penny. He would only give me money when I asked for medication or if I had a need to take care of. Because I wanted money, I left my uncle and started working with a friend who turned out to be not any different from my uncle. I returned to my uncle’s shop and told him that I was looking for money to start my own business. I asked him to start paying me at least every week. He later returned to Uganda and left me in charge. I had to pay rent both at the shop and at home. I realised that I could pay these bills, so I got inspired to start my own business.
Did you simply abandon your uncle’s shop and home in his absentia?
No. I waited for him to return and one day I told him that my mother had sent me some money to move on. He was okay with me moving on. I opened up my shop, also called NR Cyber Computers like his, because I wanted people to think it was a branch of his shop, since he was fairly known. I had nowhere to stay so I bought a mattress and would sleep in the shop where I was working.
Did you have enough money to start a computer shop?
I started with four computers and one printer. There were guys who started supplying me with cheap used laptops at 400 Rands (about Shs100,000) each. I think they used to steal them, but at that time I didn’t care about where they got them from because I wanted to make money. In my second month, I had made some money off reselling the laptops and I could afford to pay for an apartment.
How much money had you made?
I had made about 50,000 Rands, which is about Shs11m.
What was your turning point?
In 2010, a South African national approached me with a plan. He told me about I-Burst, an internet service provider company, and that we could replicate the same idea. With the computer knowledge I had, I decided to replicate what I-Burst was doing but I didn’t have enough money for infrastructure, so I hacked into an Internet service provider company and decoded the setting of their software. I managed to get free Internet from their server so I would approach locals and ask to provide them with unlimited monthly Internet services. It worked more or less like a wireless network. I managed to convince about 100 people and I used to charge 1,000 Rands (Shs238,000) each for a month. I started earning over 100,000 Rands (about Shs23.8m) every month.
For how long did you do this illegal business?
For three months, and I was aware that it was a crime. After a while, the same guy who had sold me the idea told me we could write a proposal to I-Burst to bring their IT and Internet services to Uganda. I went and contacted the director, together with a friend of mine called Patrick. We told him of the bad Internet services in Uganda. He told us he already had the idea and asked us to bring him to Uganda for a familiarisation trip. At the time, I had lost my passport and could not travel. Patrick travelled with the I-Burst director and took him around. When he returned, Patrick told me we had been paid 2m Rands, which is about Shs450m. Patrick gave me 700,000 Rands as my cut, which is about Shs165m. That was my turning point.
What did you use the money for?
I started legitimate business. I quit the computer business and went into selling clothes.
What kind of clothes were you selling?
I loved my name Katsha a lot, so I made a label. I started making caps and T-shirts on which I affixed my label and made a Katsha collection. But I was also selling used clothes and then went into high end designer stuff.
When was this?
That was 2012. I remember that is the year I bought my first car, a Mercedes Benz, A160. I also opened a luxury salon in a suburb called Wendwood in Sandton. I aggressively advertised online and managed to get customers. After a while, I sold the salon at 400,000 Rands (Sh95m), which was double the price I had used to set it up.
I then picked interest in the education business because rich Ugandans I looked up to were doing the same business. Ivan Ssemwanga had two colleges at that time (2012). I went to him and asked how the college business worked. I started my college called Katsha International College in a remote place called Road Port. But then South African and Zimbabwean teachers were expensive, so I returned to Uganda and went to Ngondwe in Kangulumira. I wanted to get cheap labour of teachers. Teachers there were earning between Shs80,000 and Shs100,000. This was little money and if I could give them more and take them abroad, they couldn’t resist the opportunity. We processed visas for them and I took them to South Africa.
One cousin of Ivan, Kenneth Muyanja, ran a college, called United City College in Johannesburg. We partnered and we would exchange teachers. The business is growing and I recently opened up another branch in Polokwane.
Which students are in these school?
South African students. There are no Ugandan students.
How does this college business work?
We make money in January during registration process, and apart from that, there are fees for each course. That is how I partly make money. Plus, I still have my two clothes shops still operating. I have accountants in each of these businesses.
How easy or hard is it to obtain a license to run a college?
It is all about money. There are about six licenses, which cost about 150,000 Rands, which comes to about Shs35m.
How much worth do you think you are?
Approximately 10m Rands, which is about Shs2.4bn.
At recent press conference the so-called Rich Gang Crew members including your mentor Ivan Semwanga, who also do business in South Africa like you said you had been fired from the group because you had run broke and were not worth the minimum requirement of Shs1b…what do you have to say?
Yes it is true, I wasn’t part of them at the Rich Gang Party, but it is not because I am not worth Shs1bn. It’s because some of them underlook me because I only started business long after them. I have no problem with Ivan, but those guys around him are hurt because I am more popular and richer than them yet they got into business earlier.
The Rich Gang was not about paying a membership fee when we formed it. It was a group of fun loving rich Ugandans living in South Africa. No one paid a membership fee. When Bobi Wine started Fire Base Crew, did members pay membership? Those guys are just not comfortable with me.
Are you married?
I am not married. I have girlfriends.
No children yet.
Was your father ever in your life?
Not really. He died when I was young. I have two sisters and a brother.
Why do you splash money around when you are in town?
I want that person without money to get some money too. But I have never gone to the nightclub and thrown money in the air like some guys. Which drunkard will pray for you for giving him money? But I buy my expensive booze and enjoy life because I work hard. However, I donate some of my money to good causes. I have been to Sanyu Babies Home, I gave $20,000 (Shs54m) for Chameleone’s One Man One Million Concert, I bankrolled Bebe Cool’s upcoming video and I also gave him Shs20m to help him organise his Tondeka E’Kiwatule show. I am also going to contribute handsomely to the Etafaali project because I am a Muganda. I came with around Shs200m to spend during the festive season.
I heard you once tried your voice at singing … how true is this?
I was a karaoke person. I performed Bebe Cool’s songs like Funtula. That was way back in school and I later realised music was never meant to be my thing.
How old are you?
I am 26 years old. I will be making 27 in May next year.
What message do you have for fellow youth?
I urge them to work hard and not to undermine any job. They should work hard and towards professionalising their passions.