It is a Wednesday in July and the midday sun is burning like never before.
A young woman, says a heavily built man as he passes by me with a load of timber on his right shoulder. He nearly throws me off balance. This is life in Bwaise Industrial Area.
Locals refer to this area as Mumbaawo which loosely translates a centre for timber. Men and women on a daily basis get to make lots of products from wood including tables, chairs, benches beds and cupboards. There are also restaurants, factories such as Tuff Foam, schools, churches, petrol stations and rental houses.
Economic activity in this area dates back to the 1970s when Idd Amin was President of Uganda, according to Hajji Suleiman Bukenya, the Chairman of the zone.
“During the reign of Idd Amin, Prince Kakungulu and Musa Kasule were the landlords of this area and they leased it to Indians who built a factory which was producing T-shirts and stockings. Some of them were in carpentry. They occupied the land until 1972 when Amin expelled all Indians from Uganda,” says Bukenya.
Kakungulu and Kasule later reclaimed their land from illegal squatters who had occupied it after the Indians had left.
“Kakungulu regained ownership of his land through a court order and between 1974 and 1984 he sold it to different people. Most of the buyers were carpenters,” says Bukenya. “Kasule donated his land to Muslims for the construction of Bwaise Islamic Schools – primary and secondary.”
Business expanded that by 1986 the whole place had turned into an industrial park.
“Activities have been growing slowly and now most of the people here have attained wealth, constructed houses, bought cars, constructed rentals and schools,” says Bukenya.
Najjuma Joyce, who makes sofa sets, says they have small saving and credit schemes that have helped them to save and invest in other business, pay children’s school fees and build houses.
“Making sofa sets is not a simple task but I enjoy doing it,” Najjuma says. “We make some money.”
Although Bwaise Industrial Area has become a wealth accumulation center, congestion, sawdust, and noise pollution are challenges people are grappling with everyday. And as the population continues to grow, so does the risk of insecurity.