Sembuya: My father worked hard and inspired others

Sembuya after receiving a medal from Government. 

What you need to know:

  • Last man standing. He was known by many as industrious and illustrious. Christopher Columbus Sembuya, worked hard in his youthful days and never giving up was his motto. My father was daring and pioneering, writes his son, Francis Sembuya.

Christopher Columbus Sembuya was aptly named after the Italian explorer because he too explored new territories, though in business and was a risk-taker. He was referred to as “CC” by everyone who ever worked at Sembule.

My siblings and I are lucky to have had “CC” for a father.  Unlike him, we had a comfortable childhood. He provided us and everyone around him with good shelter, good food, a good education and personal training on how to work hard and to succeed.

He had a simple and humble beginning. His father sent him to Kako Primary School, Masaka where he stayed with the head teacher from January and only came back home for the end of year holidays.  For secondary school, he went to was  200 miles away; St Leo’s College Kyegobe in Fort Portal where he had to travel by train.

He started work in civil service where he worked as a district commissioner in the then very remote Karamoja and later in the Ministry of Finance in Entebbe.  He was challenged by his father who had now become a successful cocoa farmer that he would never do better than him. He therefore risked it all by resigning from civil service.

Workaholic

He left his secure job and nice house in Entebbe and we ended up in small rented house in Rubaga Division. With the help of his Indian friend K.C Patel, he got four used Indian-made nail making machines and started a factory with his brother Henry Buwule in a house garage in  swampy Nalukolongo. He worked hard and tirelessly. We only saw him at home on Christmas day. On that day, he would still work in the morning and come home in time for  Christmas lunch.


Daring

From there, he was a pioneer as a Black Ugandan entrepreneur in big time steel manufacturing, electronics (manufacturing of television sets, FM radios, telephone exchanges and electric bulbs), banking, insurance and commercial agriculture. He was a true entrepreneur. He was a risk taker and daring to start many businesses and ventures.  Giving up was never part of him or his vocabulary.

Better life

With the increasing success he told us we must also live in the places that were earlier “reserved” for Whites and Indians. He then bought and we moved to a nice triple storeyed house in upscale Kololo. Though the place has now become commercial, he said he would not leave but stay there to his last day. This is where he spent his last days. I would visit him with my children so as to get inspired and get a “piece” of his talk on hard work, ambition and that we must not get contented with just having a house and a car, but think big, build large businesses and uplift the lives of fellow Ugandans.

Christopher Columbus Sembuya with sons and grandchildren at his cocoa farm. Photos / Courtesy

He encouraged and inspired many who worked at Sembule Steel Mills including Mr Steven Musoke “ Zooks” in starting Multichoice Ltd, Mr Emmanuel Katongole in starting Quality Chemicals, Mr Deo Kayemba in starting East African Roofings Systems, among others.

We celebrate his life. We thank the Good Lord that he did not bury any of his children. We thank the Good Lord for his long life. We thank the Lord that he was never bed ridden or suffer a grave illness. He just collapsed in his house and passed on in the hospital an hour later. He was the eldest in his family but lived longest, he has been the last man standing.

Fare-thee-well father…we shall keep your name alive.

At a glance

He was a pioneer as a Black Ugandan entrepreneur in big time steel manufacturing, electronics (manufacturing of  television sets, FM radios, telephone exchanges and electric bulbs), banking, insurance and commercial agriculture. He was a risk taker and daring to start many businesses and ventures.  Giving up was never part of him or his vocabulary

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