The Global Chief Managing Partner of Development Associates Link International (DALI), a global organization aimed at changing lives through economic empowerment and development has revealed that he started his first business of vending and selling milk in his locality at 7 years old.
The certified business professional made the revelation while on the groove cafe with Crystal Newman while narrating the humble beginning that influenced his dream of creating social change by impacting systems and extending financial inclusion to less privileged societies.
Even though he had been born into a stable family, Kisembo’s life was turned upside down when his dad, a professor at a highly esteemed University in Kampala, passed on.
Their family was evicted from the lecturers' quarters, leaving them homeless and sleeping below the staircase for 2 weeks before their mum could get another residence.
Fortunately, Kisembo, a genius in school, was topping his classes. He skipped two classes in primary including primary one and primary six. After primary five, he was promoted to primary seven, where he juggled studies for both classes. Eventually, he scored 4 aggregates in his Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) that he sat for at age 10.
“Going to high school, I was so little. My mum said I should attend day school, something that excited me because at 7 years old I had already started a business. I was vending milk in Wandegeya, Makerere Kivulu, and surrounding places. My aunt got me some money, I started small, and the business was growing,” he said.
Throughout his secondary education, Dr. Kisembo sold milk in the mornings and evenings when he returned from school. He developed an interest of improving people's livelihoods in the community (Wandegeya), a Kampala slum where they lived, and observed people survive on one or no meal a day.
“I tried to venture into charcoal because I was thinking of gaining money and changing the livelihoods of many people who went without meals. I remember we too went without meals. Sometimes we had one meal of cassava flour and warm water mixed with salt as soup. So I prayed to God that if he gave me the chance, I’d serve humanity and turn around people’s lives. And I think that prayer worked,” Dr. Clarke recalled.
At 16, Dr. Kisembo completed senior six at Kitante Hill School, where he registered excellent grades. However, because of his age, he had a tough time joining the University, but he was finally admitted for the law course.
Although he was the best student in his class, he didn't feel the passion to pursue law and switched to social sciences, where he could impact communities directly.
“I joined arts on the condition that I have to score 85 percent to switch to political science. My interest was in political science because it had public administration, and financial management of NGOs, developing systems, the framework of local government, and personal and human resource management. In the end, I scored 91 percent and was enrolled in the class,” he narrated.
Transitioning To Work
While at the University, Dr. Kisembo employed 11 people in his milk business at the age of 18. These were able to pay for fees from the profits of their sales. Dr. Kisembo got employed as a fuel pump attendant until he finished University.
After completing as the youngest and top performing student, he began working as a credit assistant for a relative’s Microfinance company training people, women, and youths about businesses and qualifying them for micro-loans to start-up businesses.
He applied for a Masters in Public Administration and Management and later got a job at a leading telecommunications company as a customer service executive for a year and found it tedious.
He then proposed a concept of rural market development to help people in rural areas sell mobile phones at retail outlets while helping people access loans.
However, after spending 4 years successfully hitting the targets, he got bored with the job and at 26, he wanted to pursue senior management which he couldn’t because he was under 30.
“The company policy was that I can't become senior manager before 30, so I requested a recommendation for a project in Kenya. It was a partnership between the European Union (EU) government of Kenya, the telecoms, and also rural development, and that's where DALI was conceptualized,” he said.
Dr. Kisembo still maintains his passion for rural development and underserved communities. He describes himself as a businessman, investor, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, who supports charities in both rural and urban areas.
Dr. Henry Kisembo through DALI has been able to impact business development at personal and national levels in over 69 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He has 20 years of expertise in the Private Sector, Trade and Development, Regional Integration, Industrialization, Fiscal and Monetary Policy Agrifinance, Development Finance, Project Design and management, Remittances, Market systems, Financial Inclusion, and Rural and community development, among others.
He holds a doctorate in Financial Economics and a Doctorate in Development Finance. A Masters in Public Administration and Management, Bachelors in Social Sciences.
The Groove Cafe with Crystal Newman airs every Weekday from 4-5 pm on RX Radio.
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