How Seruka counts on real estate fortune, mixed farm

Tuesday November 19 2019

Mr David Seruka chats with a tenant at his

Mr David Seruka chats with a tenant at his Nalumunye rental units in Wakiso District. Photo by Eronie Kamukama 

By Eronie Kamukama

He comes from a background that is unlike of most businesspeople. He graduated as a medical doctor at Makerere University and five years later, he was molded into a public health specialist at the University of Leeds in United Kingdom. He spent a large part of his work life at several international Non-Governmental Organisations before joining public service.
Three decades after his first graduation, he was formally retired. By mid-2018, Mr David Seruka was no longer the glue that held the team at Kampala Capital City Authority’s Public Health and Environment office together.
His contract ended but also, at 57, he was almost of retirement age. Gladly at home, there was an atmosphere that allowed him to talk about business with his wife. His real estate ventures first took off with a single house in Nakasero.
“The house had been sold to us as sitting tenants. Five years in, we built a house in Muyenga. Seven years later, we moved to Kyanja. We rented out the Nakasero and Muyenga houses,” Mr Seruka narrates.
He continued to set up rental houses with his wife in Kireka. The year 2016 was special. He clocked 55 years and put the money saved at National Social Security Fund (NSSF) by his workplaces to use – about Shs420m. Together with his wife, they had an agreement and priority was given to clearing a Shs50m loan. He bought two condominium units in Najjera worth Shs200m and built four rental units in Nalumunye, Wakiso district at Shs100m.

Spreading investment
To engage in further business, Mr Seruka spread his investments with a banana plantation, over 100 goats, cows, pine, and eucalyptus trees on a 100 acre farm in Kasanda district.
“We booked apartments which had not yet been built and bought two of them. We had started on the units in Nalumunye. So we used the benefits to complete them. We also bought a piece of land and house in Mukono,” Mr Seruka says. On the other hand, the farm had existed for years but was hardly money-spinning.
“It was not doing too well in terms of what was there. So we used some balances to expand the farm. We invested in some animals and infrastructure that could accommodate 300 goats,” he says.
For the 58-year-old public health specialist, the guiding principle in all these businesses is experience and long-term returns.
“The four units fetch us Shs2m per month. The condominiums get us Shs1.2m. At the farm, we do one-off sales when the herd multiplies and it is not predictable in terms of incomes,” he explains.
He now associates with the NSSF Friends with Benefits contest, something he joined with the thought that he could use Shs30m to modify his business.
There is necessity for a clean water source on the farm. Money is also required to add hybrid cows and exotic goats as the farm prepares for commercial beef and milk production. Even as the real estate business grows to where he wants it to be, he points out very important issues.
“It is not easy getting someone into the house and then someone who will pay what you have agreed upon,” Mr Seruka says.
“But you give people grace periods and if they cannot pay, you let them go. But that also depends on whether there are people looking for houses.”

Investing as a couple
As he tells his leap into business, he highlight’s his wife’s role, an experience many NSSF beneficiaries could learn from.
“She has been quick in making business decisions, she is very enterprising so I ride a lot on that. It is me who does the follow-ups,” Mr Seruka says.
He is now retired but clearly not tired. The thought that his farm has created a livelihood for the local community and his rentals are part of decreasing the housing deficit in Uganda is rewarding for him. But he cannot keep to the farm or rental properties all day. He believes in keeping himself busy. He has since taken up on and off contracts with World Health Organisation in the area of Ebola vaccination.
Reflecting on the age benefits received at the tail end of his work life, Mr Seruka feels his is a success story.
“I am happy because I got a big chunk that I could invest. I would desire to get quick returns which is not so,” he says.

Mid-term access
Should he have had early access to his benefits like the proposal is today? “If I was the kind of person that moves out of regular employment, maybe. But doing the high level and busy jobs I did, I would have got that money and probably not used it. I think I got it at an opportune time to supervise and take care of business. At 45, you can get your money but probably it would be much less than what you would get at 55, depending on where you are in your career.”

To vote for David Seruka in the NSSF Friends with Benefits competition, dial *254# or go to www.nssfug.org”

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