A Word with Josephine Kaleebi

It is an action packed mid-morning with one meeting after another. Our meeting is scheduled for 11 AM and I am wondering whether I’ll beat the time. Meanwhile, we have not yet decided on the meeting place, so I hang around the nearest kafunda as I wait for my guest to finish hers.

Later we agree to meet at one of Kampala’s intersection meeting points, one of those places where warm air turns cold. The Kampala sun has been, of recent, on a scotching spree and this mid morning is swallowed up in the same. Nonetheless, we continue pursuing our errands. Finally we sit down for a quick chat.

I find Josephine already sat waiting for me before she stretches out her hand with a smile on her face to welcome me. She is kind to remind me of the other up and coming meeting. “We need to do this real fast, David,” she alerts me.

The last time we met, Josephine Kaleebi was presenting a keynote address at a seminar on a subject she is so passionate about. Social impact. Josephine’s heart beats for using business as a means of creating social impact. It is this passion that has driven her to working with the youth to build businesses that are all out to create a social impact. This has been her way of life at least for the last ten years she has been at the helm of the Junior Achievement Program (JA) in Uganda.

As a player in the corporate sector for over two decades, Josephine has had to challenge herself to help the young people at the workplace strive for better results.  This journey started over twenty years ago as a human resource at one of the banks.

There was an unanswered question on the attitude of the new entrants to the job market. There were missing links. The new breed were demotivated to work. Instead, they came with lists of things they needed achieved.  There was a general need for capacity building.

About that time, the ACCA program was opening up in Uganda. This came as an opportunity where she would be able to professionalize the area she was conversant with, accounting. Good for her, she was taken on to lead the country program.

“I was all out…,” she says with both hands spread out in the air boldly looking at me, “… to do something I was so passionate about.”

She served in that capacity for 7 years and during that time and today, many of the practicing accountants are ACCA certified.

“I was so happy. I had created a difference. Now, I needed a new challenge. That’s when I heard of JA.”

The clock is ticking and she rolls up the watch on her wrist to confirm the time. “I’m running out of time,” she reminds me. In our subsequent conversation she has this to say;

JA is an international program. When I saw it, I was excited. I’d observed, while working at ACCA, where the problem was. Changing one’s attitude towards work is something that needs to be addressed before one crosses over to the workplace.

This was more exciting because it was a better opportunity to work directly among the young people.

The young generation needs to be guided. They have an entitlement mind-set which needs to be deconstructed. Parents are absent in these young people’s lives leaving them without much help.  There is a missing link between the child, the parent and the school. The parent delegates their responsibilities to the already over stretched school curriculum which leaves the child less equipped.

Junior Achievement helped the young people to find their abilities. We were very surprised at the potential the teenagers have once guided. When rolling out the program, we had mainly considered those in schools. We widened the program to include the children in slums and we were very much surprised.

Children are shaped by their background. Most young people have a poor attitude to work, and this is a problem straight from home. They are not taught to work.

Work ethics are so poor because of the bad attitude. One wants the job but they have nothing to offer in return.

You need entrepreneurial minds. When you get those to cross to workplaces, they are better people to work, they have an idea of how a company operates. This mind-set preparation follows one from home to school to the workplace.

JA alumni are employable, they are always willing to give it a try. Getting good grades is good but you need the exposure of how the work environment operates. Parents should be part of their children’s lives. No age is too young to start.

Some of the players in the EA community are so astute. They are wired to work. We need to put in our all. We need to compete favourably at all levels as Ugandans by molding our human capital as a good fit in the EA economic integration.

Our time is fast spent but she won’t go without sharing a parting shot;

The world owes you nothing. You owe the world a lot. What do you have to offer?


In June this year, Josephine Kaleebi completed her ten year tenure with the Junior Achievement Program, a time she describes as “Well spent”.


2 thoughts on “A Word with Josephine Kaleebi

  1. Josephine is one in a million… U can not remain the same after working with her..she strives to make every one around her better. No one like you Josephine!!!

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