Your “Boy” in Kidepo Valley, at Murchison Falls, near the Nile and everywhere else around Uganda
The story of David Mugyenyi is a story of how far one can come by being decent and hardworking. In our world hungry to exploit any shortcuts, David has had access to none. The second born of nine children, he has worked himself up from the village of Kigata in southwestern Uganda to becoming an owner of a tour company in Entebbe.
“You don’t need to study! Look at me, I am an engineer, I have achieved everything without schooling,” David’s father would say when asked for school fees. In fact, he wasn’t exactly an engineer. He was illiterate but bright, so he learned how to speak English and read building plans, becoming a sought-after expert for construction. He wanted David to continue his trade.
But David’s passion was cars, and cars belonged to another world. Even in 2013 there is still no motorable road leading to his family house in the heavily cultivated terraced hills of Kabale. The villagers have refused the government’s offer to make one for free, says David, fearing it would take too much of their land.
Sloping down towards the trading centre, one finds a primary and a secondary school facing each other on two sides of a murram road. This is where David got his education from, at the time when none among the students could even afford shoes. Born in 1972, one of nine children, he needed quite some years to finance and complete Ordinary Level; he was 24 when he was done with his secondary schooling.
After some years working for his father, David started his transportation career as a minibus conductor on the Kabale-Mbarara route. That gave him occasional opportunities to drive the vehicle, the valuable first experience for a budding driver. David’s start as a taxi (“special hire”) operator was in 2000 on the road between Kabale and the Rwanda border. The car he used was borrowed from another man and he had to pay a daily rent for it. The colleagues called him “Boy”.
He explains: “It was very competitive job. I was quick collecting clients’ bags because if you delay or become lazy other taxi drivers can take over the clients. Customers even used to send me to buy things from the market for them. Other drivers I worked with were older than me so it was easy to send me as a boy.”
David is very experienced as far as road problems are concerned; photo by Skyway
His breakthrough was a job for a non-governmental organisation that gave him a chance to upgrade his skills. He loved the defensive driving course he attended in the capital, Kampala, as it gave him an essential survival tool on Uganda’s roads plied by too many dangerous wannabes. “Steerers,” David calls them.
But he got more than just skills from his work for different organisations and projects. Drivers are not supposed to sit around, they have to help registering people. So they are spared asking for phone contacts when they fancy a lady… His now-wife Loyce was 20 and a nurse in training when David opened her heart to her.
In 2010 he resigned from the safety of his job to do a general course for tour guides at Queen Elizabeth National Park. After that he also did an orientation training with Kazinga Tours and some safaris for them. He moved to Kampala looking for more transport business but found his biggest opportunity in nearby Entebbe. He had to pass through 8 different offices to obtain permission to work at the airport and supply Entebbe hotels with clients.
However, it was expensive to be based at the airport – one has to pay a daily fee whether he does any business or not, whether he is in Entebbe or not. David’s stroke of luck was that Skyway Hotel had no shuttle but did have some office space. He got an “uncle”, as jealous fellow drivers called his new arrangement. Skyway Expeditions was a natural next step…. David feels incredibly fortunate to be able to travel to all parts of Uganda and show his wonderful country to visitors from around the world.