UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | Yasin Bakaluba is a Ugandan real estate mogul who has risen up from humble beginnings to made a significant impact on the housing sector in this country, building over 200 multi-million homes in Uganda.
Bakaluba’s success is a result of hard work and perseverance, which has seen him rise to the top as a prominent real estate tycoon and CEO of Bakulaba Properties.
Modest Beginnings and Early Real Estate Ventures
Yasin Bakaluba’s story began when he left Uganda at only 19 years of age to work abroad in the UK as a security guard. During his time in the UK, he was inspired by stories of Ugandans who had started with very little and made it big in life.
“When I was up there I was a security guard and I had a lot of time to read a lot of inspirational stories. I saw people who came from rags to riches and the whole time I was enriching my mind with good ideas,” said Bakaluba.
This motivated him, even though buying real estate back home was difficult with the limited money he earned from his security job.
Bakaluba explains that for many people abroad, sometimes the money they earn is not enough to do anything because taxes overseas are very high, and the cost of living is astronomical. He has seen many people get good jobs, get loans which capture them, and they end up taking their lives.
Despite this, Bakaluba believes that everyone with a source of income and the right mindset has the ability to own land and build a home.
To achieve his dreams, Bakaluba tried to minimise his expenses and saved whatever he could.
“I intentionally lived below my means while in London, and managed to save USh6m in two years. I came back home and bought land,” he recollects.
He bought his first plot in Kulambiro, an outskirt of Kampala in 2003 at USh6m. After getting his land title, Bakaluba started developing his 50X100 plot.
He built his first building with materials bought from China, despite opposition from friends who were sceptical about how he would manage to bring the materials back.
He succeeded and put up six two-room rental units each fetching USh100,000 a month. Bakaluba also opened an account where tenants deposited rent.
“I built in stages and completed them in about 18 months. Materials and labour were not as expensive as they are today,” he says.
The following year, he withdrew USh7.2m and topped up his savings and bought another plot in Kisaasi, a neighbouring suburb at USh12m. He put up eight rental units each fetching USh100,000, from which he collected USh800,000 per month.
Consistency and Goal-Setting in Real Estate Investment
“My father inspired me greatly. I grew up seeing him buy land and develop it slowly. He was never in a rush,” Yasin Bakaluba says.
By the time Bakaluba returned to settle in Uganda after 19 years abroad, he had accumulated many properties back home. Before leaving London, he had built a total of 35 apartments.
“Many people live without a purpose, but you need a goal. The difference between the person who is going to make it and who is not going to make it is consistency” says the real estate mogul.
Bakaluba says in the in the same way diasporans dream of owning property, low-income earners in the formal and informal sectors in Uganda dream of owning homes, but achieving this dream becomes difficult owing to their tight budgets.
Therefore, Bakaluba is of the view that in looking for where to build, people should look beyond Kampala and Wakiso district suburbs that are already congested.
“Find cheap land in what seem like far off places now. Before you know it, they will also be urbanised,” he advises
Bakaluba gives an example of a lady who has been in London for over 40 years. She bought a plot of land at USh5m along Entebbe Road in the 1990s. Recently, she sold it at USh1b for a petrol station development. “This lady had failed to save and build a decent house in Uganda. With the money she got, she bought apartments,” he said, adding, “You will never go wrong with cheap land.”
Bakaluba also recommends that people should analyse trends. “If plot A is developing, just know plots B and C will develop very soon and one should rush to grab them,” he explains.
Bakaluba says along his journey he encountered opposition from family and friends who did not believe in him, but he persisted,
“Someone who can’t see it for themselves can’t see it for you, the people who don’t believe in you are mainly your family and friends who saw you begging as a child,” he says.
Helping the Diaspora Invest in Uganda
Shortly after returning to Uganda, Yasin Bakaluba become a developer of commercial properties and built a mall and ten additional apartments for himself. Word got around about his skills, and people from the diaspora started requesting that he build their houses, which is how his business took off.
Bakaluba says Ugandans in the diaspora have been suffering at the hands of their crafty and greedy relatives when it comes to investing back at home, but he is changing things for them, and has built hundreds of houses for people over the last two years.
He advises people to keep buying and keeping, with time they can sell one piece and develop the other.
Yasin Bakaluba is a highly regarded authority in Uganda’s real estate industry and his advice is valuable. In 2021, he participated as a panelist at the 11th UK-Ugandan Trade and Investment Convention, where he shared the stage with notable figures in the real estate sector, such as Rajiv Ruparelia from Ruparelia Group, Judy Rugasira Kyanda from Knight Frank, Clive Keffold from Jakana Heights, and Michael K. Mugabi from Housing Finance Bank. Since then, Bakaluba has been a prominent figure in various conferences and events on real estate investment in Uganda.
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