This post is part of a 14-part series on entrepreneurship in Africa and the companies who participated in the inaugural Unreasonable East Africa program.


The idea that schools overemphasize theoretical learning at the expense of practical skills is an old one. Maalik Fahd Kayondo thinks Telesat International could be a new solution.

Five percent of the working population have job security. Tweet This Quote

Telesat is a nonprofit trade school in Kampala, Uganda, that prepares students for self-employment in Kampala, Uganda, where for up to 95 percent of the population, self-employment is sometimes the only option. “Five percent of the working population have job security,” says Kayondo, “For others, you work today, and tomorrow you don’t know what is going to happen.” So Telesat focuses on teaching skills relevant to Ugandan market demands, so that students can earn at least a modest income as soon as they finish—skills like farming, bookkeeping, engine repair, candle-making, and book binding.

Kayondo knows about developing practical skills. After leaving Uganda to practice screenwriting in Oxford, he traveled to India to pursue a masters in manufacturing engineering technology at Anna University. Upon arriving back in Uganda in 2004, he was faced with the harsh realities of the nation’s labor scene. “We have over 50,000 youth graduating every year,” he says. “But it is estimated that only 8,000 make it into a productive job.”

I said I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life.

Kayondo felt that part of the problem was that few of those 50,000 graduates each year were learning skills that they could immediately put to use in the workforce. So when a friend asked in 2005 if he could help his son find a university scholarship, Kayondo said that for $100, he could offer a different path. “I said I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life,” he says.

In three weeks, the young man had learned how to repair printers and refill ink cartridges. About two years later, he started his own business doing just that, a business that is still supporting his family seven years later. He ended up being the first of more than 45,000 people Kayondo has helped become financially independent workers through Telesat.

Kayondo formalized his educational service in 2006 as Telesat International. In keeping with Kayondo’s emphasis on immediate, on-the-ground skills, Telesat constantly changes and adapts its course offerings to reflect market demand “We look at the local market demand because we want the people we train to be able to sell within their local communities,” he explains. For example, for $12, students can take a two-day course in making notebooks, which they can sell to secondary schools to the tune of about $15 per day, says Kayondo. That’s roughly five times the average income in Uganda.

Telesat currently has six full-time and two part-time employees and has generated about $500,000 in total revenue. Kayondo is now looking to build a small campus where Telesat can offer machine training and host exhibitions of student products.

Kayondo’s pursuit to empower his Ugandan sisters and brothers is seen through his international efforts as well as his local involvement. He is currently garnering the interest of the United Nations global accelerator committee as a delegate and American nonprofits, such as Bead for Life. Kayondo remains optimistic as he looks to reach 74,450 Ugandans by expanding Telesat International’s curriculum within the next five years.

About the author

Nate Beard

Nate Beard

Nate is a thinker and instigator who occasionally tries to write, sometimes on UNREASONABLE.is.

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82 Comments

  • For me his plan is great because it is giving people of Uganda opportunity to succeed and help themselves by making money for their family and also spurring the local economy with the needed materials/products. What he is teaching them is productive and allows personal growth and education that is not a normal experience for people in most of the world. It is accessible to most and a smart way to help people personally and help the country of Uganda.

  • I completely agree. This is an ideal way that an entrepreneur can work. While still maintaining his entrepreneurship, he is also benefiting others and setting them on a path of bettering their lives as well. I hope to see more news of this and Uganda’s well being in the future.

  • What a fantastic idea Mr. Kayondo saw a major need and is able to fill it for his country. I love seeing someone train and learn abroad and bring it back to his people. That’s why I am such a big advocate of going abroad and learning and bring that training back and opening up minds. Finding a need based on the country and its customs and dynamics is wonderful. This is what I love seeing, truly inspirational people.

  • I admire Mr. Kayondo a lot. What an absolutely incredible person. Not only has he gone completely out of his way to help community, but he has helped his entire country by offering people skills that will actually be useful to them. This humble man could charge these people tons of money to teach them skills that would be almost useless, but instead he offers them skills that they can use to better the lives of not only themselves, but the lives of their entire country. This article increases my interest of studying abroad. Its incredible what you can learn when you get a different perspective of how life is in other countries. By seeing the way people live in other countries gives you a great outlook of how you can better your own community and help solve problems nobody seems to have an answer for. Uganda has great potential to become a country full of bright entrepreneurs, all they need is a little bit of help with resources and education to get them on their feet and running and the great minds in that country could potentially change the entire world.

  • This is amazing! I love the fact that he didn’t let anything hold him back from making the best of what he had GREAT! Now he’s making a difference in his country by helping them & this is a great way for him to show others that they can make a difference in the world too.

  • This is very astonishing to see this happening. To be able to help with the unemployment to this level is a notable accomplishment. Not only has it help but it barley starting, which means that in the next few years a change in the employment in all of Uganda.

  • Maalik Fahd Kayondo is INCREDIBLE! This is amazing, to see a dedicated person do so much to help improve a country’s employment. I really admire this man; it is a great thing that there are people willing to devote so much to help the less fortunate.

  • The work what Kayondo does is educational for me. First, I am so surprised about he helps many people from Uganda to learned a skill and make life by themselves. However, here is also one thing I want to reflect is to be an Entrepreneur, we should not be bound by the role of student. If we have some ideas, we should do it right now rather than do it after graduated. Like he said ” I had no opportunities anywhere for scholarships but that I could teach his son the skills necessary to live a very good life”. Study is one part of steps in our Entrepreneur route.

  • Maalik Fahd Kayondo perfectly exemplifies how must fix our society from the inside-out. Although major issues such as unemployment and job security can be observed at the larger governmental perspective, fiscal policy and new laws can only change so much. It is going to take each small community to determine what change can be made to fix their unique problems. Kayando observed unemployment, thought of potential jobs, then trained people for those jobs. He is a real innovator and problem solver that we should all aspire to model.

  • One of the biggest challenges we are facing in Uganda is lack of market information. We have many opportunities which the guys can exploit but no one is coming up to enhance public awareness about such opportunities.

  • I trained this Lady (Rehemah Katabazi of Liliana Enterprises) in 2008. She had tried several businesses and failed completely. By the time she came to us, she only had USD 200.00 as working capital. I charged her USD 20.00 for training in making Candles, 2 months after, she came back for Liquid Soap making training. Then came back at different times for other trainings.
    I met her on Friday 29th August 2014 in a exhibition organised by a local Bank (dfcu) and I was amazed.
    She is very successful even after the death of her husband 2 years ago.
    She produces a number of products: Candles, Liquid Soap, Hair Shampoo and some Disinfectants.
    She told me that she is also providing trainings to others.

  • Alexander, I started this initiative with personal finances, we have never been helped, be it by the Government of Uganda or private sources. We have just been improvising to do what we have been able to achieve.
    We are now trying to raise USD 285,000.00 to get a bigger space, put up a standard training infrastructure and as well replicate this model in five other countries in the next 5 years.
    Below is a group of Youth in Arua Town (300km from Kampala), trained in making School Chalk with sponsorship from UN – Habitat

  • Below is a group of Youth in Arua Town (300km from Kampala), trained in making School Chalk with sponsorship from UN – Habitat

  • Our impact has reached North America:

    Bead For Life (BFL) is a USA Nonprofit headquartered in Boulder – CO. We trained BFL to make Organic Toilet Soap from Shea Butter, they are now producing the soap in Uganda and selling it in North America. As a result, BFL is now working with a group of 950 women in Northern Uganda (Otuke, Lira District) who serve as Shea Nut gatherers. In return, BFL buys the Shea Nuts from them, provides them with Farm in puts such as quality seeds & seedlings, Ox Plows, Gum Boots and other stuff like Mosquito Nets, De-worming Tabs etc. Most important of all is; the women are also getting training in improved farming practices. Most of them have registered a 3 to 5 fold improvement in their income.
    Whoever reads this should buy this wonderful soap online from BFL to enable you taste the impact Kayondo and his company Telesat International has really made in this world.

    You can get this soap here http://www.beadforlife.org/shop/shea-products.html

    We need you support: Spread our word, Volunteer with us or Donate

  • When approaching finding work many people do not have the luxury of pursuing a field they are passionate in, instead they have to feed themselves and in many cases their families. The work that Kayondo is doing is providing people with the skills and opportunities to find jobs and careers, and with those, passion for what they are doing follows. Selling ink-cartridges might not sound too appealing at first, but once you can establish that often illusive job security and become financially independent, passion arises and it is indeed a beautiful thing. I think the work Kayondo is doing is absolutely necessary, and should be a model for towns, cities, and countries struggling with unemployment. While education is extremely important, if 42,000 people are unable to find a job after graduating then there is clearly a systemic issue that needs to be addressed.

  • This is a great example of why non-state actors are so vital in the world today. Kayondo has created an adaptable education system, instead of trying to make changes within existing institutions. I think the US could learn a lot from this venture, by possibly adapting trade school programs that focus on local markets. Going to university/college is not necessarily possible, or the best route for everyone, and does not guarantee a living.

  • I think this is a very smart idea. Coming from a sophomore in college I think it would be valuable to learn practical things that will eventually help us in every day life and in the professional world. In addition, helping individuals to get jobs and gain skills helps to bring individuals out of poverty and into help society. Although there are many government programs to help individuals get a job/ have money who live below the poverty level, its more effective when one individuals creates a way to do this because there are specific problems for certain areas of the world.

  • Matt, in many African countries especially Subsaharan African, the politicians are dreaming about markets in USA and Europe.
    whereas in their respective countries, over 70% of the youth population are on the streets unemployed, these rulers can’t think out of the box to first make use of the available opportunities I.e. Local markets. In the end, for every dollar we get from exports to Western markets, we spend 10 dollars importing simple consumables such as Candles, Soaps & detergents, toothpicks, rubber shoes etc from China whereas manufacturing such products locally would provide the citizens with sustainable employment opportunities.
    Because many. African countries are import economies, even the aid we get from Western countries end up in China as we import even what would be manufactured by cottage industries in our countries

  • Caroline,
    Thanks for the empowering message. The struggle continues.
    2006 to June 2013 we had trained 40,000 East Africans and created 75,000 jobs.
    We are now looking at Training 74,450 more people in the next 5 years I.e. 2015 to 2019. We shall also help replicate this model in 5 other countries.
    We are raising finances to be able to put up the required infrastructure for the achieving the set goals.

  • Ryan,
    I met this lady (Mrs. Semanda) at a gathering where I was invited as a guest Speaker to talk about Value Addition.
    After my talk, she spoke to me in camera, inquiring whether I would offer any advice on how she could add value on fish since she was coming from one of the fishing areas in Entebbe – Uganda.
    I did not ask her for money because just looking was enough to tell a story about her economic status. I gave her an appointment for a free training on how to add value on fish.
    A week later, she came for the training, I took her through how to do the smoking and dry the fish using a locally made Solar Dryer, all stuff to do with hygiene standards etc.
    I helped her get a Solar Dryer at U$ 200.00, put in place other requirements.
    The project started. She is now packaging Nile Perch, Tilapia, Cut Fish etc all in dry powder form. She is now able to make over U$ 500.00 in profits per month! She has just started (May 2014). Below is a photo of Mrs. Tamale in an exhibition in June 2014 I.e. Just one month after starting the project.

  • The article mentions that Telestats changes its curriculum based on market demand…do you have people within Telestat that research this? In an effort to gain more market information and public awareness, do you train any of your students in this field? I imagine that perhaps these types of skills would take longer to teach, so perhaps are better to outsource, but was curious how you deal with this since you mention it a big challenge.

    Awesome work, very inspiring!

  • I really like the interesting perspective that the author has on education and its focus. Unfortunately, often times Americans believe that we have the best education system and can prepare everyone for their futures. However, it is really important to recognize that there are other very important skills that should be developed and that many of these skills are specific to certain nations or cultures.

  • Its really inspiring to read about what Maalik Fahd Kayondo is doing in Uganda at a local and an international level to not only provide the tools necessary for employment but at the same time empowering individuals through the process. Many times we look how we can get employed only by big companies and we tend to forget that we have a local business market that are a viable option for expanding employment opportunities. I live and work in a community in which many of the times the people I serve are not legally qualified to work, or have many barriers that prevent them from attaining employment. This great disadvantage creates a multi layered burden in the lives of many. This article is a great way to show that alternatives are available and we must build relationships and share ideas to make change happen. I look forward in learning more about the progress of your organization.

  • It is truly amazing to me how Maalik Fahd Kayondo has been able to help so many people and at the same time is furthering the program even more. The fact that this type of education is specific to the local market is something that I do not think most people realize to be necessary. I think that implementing systems Telesat International can really help make a difference in areas where traditional education isn’t necessarily the best form of education. This was really an inspiring article to read.

  • The struggles that came with the beginning of starting this must have been very hard. I admire thee determination that you had. I hope that your organization expands and prospers continuing the philosophy’s that it has.

  • It is amazing to learn that only 5 percent of the working population has job security. It is also surprising and something I do not think about, but being self-employed is more secured and really supports people financially. In this situation of Uganda, most people were not making very much as it was.

  • KL Christianson, thanks for the commentary.
    At Telesat International, we create opportunities for self-employment by; 1) Mobilizing the target beneficiaries, 2) Enhancing awareness about existing productive opportunities, 3) Providing hands-on skills training, 4) Facilitating access to project inputs and markets.
    Our ears are always on the ground looking out for what can work for the low income earners. At one time, the Government of Uganda announced that they were banning the use of polyethylene bags. I knew it was a great opportunity for the low income earners to chip in with paper bags.
    In just 2 months, I had trained 1,500 Ugandans in the art of making Envelopes & Paper Bags. In a spun of 4 – 5 months, many of them had made money good enough to take them to another level. Later, the PE manufacturers over powered the government but my Trainees had already had their day.
    With may of the Micro enterprises, the due diligence required to be undertaken before investment is not as rigorous as you have in big businesses.
    Imagine, with as little as USD 70.00 many people managed to start the Paper Bags making business. They were making a profit of between USD 10.00 – 15.00 per day. So, by the time one feels insecure with what they are doing, they have the option to pull out without any loss.
    We have over 500 Trainees making Candles but each sustaining the business with a working capital of USD 250.00 i.e. 80.00 invested in the Moulder, 30.00 in other equipment and the balance in stock. Such a person is able to part with a profit of USD 17.00 per day but in case they have identified greener fields, we have a buy back guarantee for the machinery/ equipment bought from us. So, at the end of the day they can switch to another business without loss.
    In many cases it only takes 2 days for one to learn skills such as; Making Candles, Soaps, etc
    In the photo below, I was training people how to make Paper Bags

  • Kyree, we are talking about Uganda where are Teacher on the government pay role earns USD 112.00 per months and a Policeman USD 127.00.
    So, you find that most of my Trainees are earning far higher than what the government can afford to pay.

  • Brooks, the English saying goes; Better the ghost you know than an Angel you don’t know. In this case, local markets are easy to access, even the micro scale enterprise can be able to get feedback on time and act up on it.
    So, I saw no wisdom in the country continuing to import small stuff such as Tooth Picks, liquid soaps, petroleum jelly etc whereas with or without education one can pick up the skills in a day or two and start the project at home. This is an all inclussive approach to poverty eradication.
    Annette Nakate, a graduate of Computer Science came to me in 2010 after wasting 2 years searching for employment, she could not find any. At Telesat International, she learnt how to make Crisps from Plantain and Irish Potatoes.
    I saw her again a year later and she confirmed that all was well. She was making the crisps and supplying 7 different school canteens. In my last meeting with her, that was about 6 months ago, she told me that; she was making an average of USD 600 per month from the business until she was offered a job in one of the multi-national orgs in the country. She is still running the business through a proxy i.e. her sister.
    So, whether one is educated or not, non formal alternative vocational skills are very helpful.

  • Kayondo addresses an interesting reality – the knowledge gained in schools might not necessarily be useful in the working world. It is concerning, as well as slightly amusing, how much seemingly unimportant information we have gathered over the years we spent in school. Wouldn’t the facts about the unemployment rate of graduates cause the schooling system in that country, as well as other countries that can relate to Uganda’s situation, to review and reconsider what they are teaching their students?

    While Kayondo’s mission might not be beneficial in countries such as the U.S., since many businesses are looking for applicants who have some kind of degree (i.e., bachelors, masters, Ph.D.), the changes he is making in Uganda are inspiring!

  • This is amazing!! Undeniably Inspiring!! What’s even cooler is the fact you are taking interest into replying to the comments posted here. The impact you have on families like Rehemah Katabazi is unmeasurable. Impact like this does not just stop at the individual obtaining the knowledge, it also reaches the family who now have sustainable income. I also found the amount of graduates versus the amount of those employees alarming. Have you guys thought about incorporating the program into the school systems to obtain a greater impact?

  • You ask a really good question, @disqus_JVZEaQf1F6:disqus! How can we design with government to fix this unemployment problem through the government and education system? I would argue though the length of time it takes for bureaucratic and government change makes business solutions like @maalikfahdkayondo:disqus ‘s incredibly more effective and better for all. Thanks so much for you comment and question =)

  • hey, @ebony_wiggins:disqus thanks for your comment, enthusiasm and question! @maalikfahdkayondo:disqus, is this something you guys have thought about experimenting with?

  • Maalik Fahd Kayondo, thank you for opening my eyes and heart. Also thank for letting me know how many East Africans you have trained and also how many jobs you have made. I am still pursing some avenues for you, of these numbers, how many were women? Also, I apologize for delay, been very busy at school and research.. Forgive me..

  • Hi Caroline, nice to hear that you still have us in mind.
    According to our 2012 report, Women participation in our enterprise skills training has been ranging between 44 and 47%. However; in terms of business success:
    67% of the women trained women were progressing successfully two years after training.
    33% of the women we trained were in successful due to reasons including; lack of starting capital, undercapitalisation, husbands interference or at times we found that the business had been consumed by domestic responsilities
    Of the 67% successful women, 65% of them are over 40 years. This was attributed to the fact that this category has domestic responsibilities which forces them to work harder
    In summary, of the 40,000 East Africans trained by June 2013, 17,600 to 18,800 were women.
    We are working on a comprehensive Impact Assessment.
    I will keep you posted.

  • Kayondo is an incredible man. It really goes to show some people are really working to help people who want the help. I think it is awesome that he is expanding the number of people employed and its insane what one person can do! Now if only the United States was like this. We all spend out money on college and sometimes we get out and cannot find anything but a job at McDonald’s, is that taking us anywhere? Probably not. Can we do anything about it? Yes. Is it going to be hard? Yes, but with help from others, like Kayondo, people can make it!

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  • This is a great program that are helping many people but sad to know that only five percent of the population have a stable job.

  • KLChristianson, wonderful question. The landscape in Uganda is somewhat different from USA. The way we operate here is unique. We do not have to go into massive research though we are building every aspect of our skills training on market demand.
    We are kind of conducting a rescue operation. Someone has savings of say USD 50.00 to 200.00, they want to find means of survival. All we do is, identify a product or service they can produce from their homes and sell within their communities. Telesat International as the training institution identifies the opportunities, then due diligence is undertaken based on the following parameters;
    a) Is there a demand for the said product or service?
    b) Can the product/ service be produced at micro/ small scale?
    c) Are project inputs all easily available (not for importation)
    d) Can an illiterate/ or semi literate person afford to meet required product standard & safety requirements for a particular product/ service
    e) Which age group/ gender is fit to undertake such a project?
    f) How much capital in puts are required?
    g) What machinery/ equip and processes are involved?
    h) What margin can one make per day with this project?
    i) What is the size of the market?
    j) About how many people should we target to train to serve available demand?
    Such and more are the questions we have in our simple research tool.
    It is the results from that survey that we have recently used to start encouraging youth to take up opportunities such as;
    1. Servicing fridges & Air conditioners
    2. Installation & Servicing solar panels
    3. Adjusting Automobile Radio FM Frequency from 90.0 to 107.9
    4. Refilling Printer Catridges
    5. Rewinding Industrial Motors
    6. Servicing Embroiderly Machines
    7. Configuring & servicing printing machines
    8. Acquiring skills in 3D Animation, Video/ Audi Editing etc
    Hope you have gotten my point.

  • I agree with you this is a non- state actors. I feel that the US could learn a lot form this. thank you for posting this.

  • I think this is great. There will always be business and people who needs jobs and money. These three things are very consistent. Just have to figure out a inventive way to sell the product or service. To find a steady economy and have all three of these things in sync than that society will thrive.

  • This is one of the most interesting articles that I have read. I have not seen something like this in a long time and it shows what hard work can really do. It also shows the power of protest and how if you work hard enough anyone’s voice can be heard.

  • I am a graduate of computer Science, planing to retire being employed in 5 years from now. I want to start a producing a product and also raise capital for self employment in my field of study. I really like what what you are doing and I have been looking for this opportunity for years. I came to your offices and I was impressed. I want to pick one project and start a family business. I will be coming for training soon.