Saturday,August 08,2020 08:55 AM

Top 40 under 40: Introducing six young highfliers 

By Ritah Monica Mukasa

Added 12th November 2019 12:23 PM

From the profiled individuals, a panel of judges will select the final winners, who will be announced in January.

Top 40 under 40: Introducing six young highfliers 

From the profiled individuals, a panel of judges will select the final winners, who will be announced in January.

What makes the six exceptional
Sunday Vision's Top 40 under 40 ranking is back. We are looking for outstanding managers/leaders who are star performers and advancing in their careers. They should be a beacon to their peers and doing something extra that impacts their communities, all this while they are aged 40 and below.

If you are this person or know someone who is, email your nomination to All nominations will be considered by a committee, which decides who will be profiled. From the profiled individuals, a panel of judges will select the final winners, who will be announced in January. This week, Ritah Mukasa profiled the nominees who are in the running to become Uganda's Top 40 under 40 2019


Alexander Kyokwijuka, 30,
Consultant, Trainer, Author 
and Managing Director of Brookings Institute
At the Brookings Institute in Kampala, which  Kyokwijuka started in 2017, he is charged with giving overall strategic leadership to his team, who assess training needs for clients and design befitting training solutions for them. He coaches people on business development processes. 

He is also a farmer and writer with a book, How to start a business in 10 days. Besides, Kyokwijuka earns from public speaking. 

In 2017, he was recognised among 100 most influential young leaders in Africa, thanks to the Africa Youth Awards.
What makes him tick?
"I multi-task a lot. Many times people ask me how I am able to do many things, given my age and skill level," he says.
However, Kyokwijuka's secret is empowering teams, so he is able to work through them. 

On the other side of Kyokwijuka's work is philanthropy. Since university, he has been doing  charity work. He co-founded and is the executive director of Youth Aid Africa, which revolves around youth empowerment on governance, livelihood, and advocacy. One of their flagship programme was the Youth Moot Parliament. 
Career journey
During his Senior Six vacation, Kyokwijuka secured teaching jobs at two schools in Kabale district. 

"I taught at Kabanyonyi Vocational School and Bishop Robert Gay SS, Nyanja. I left in August, 2010 to join university," he reminisces.

While at university, Kyokwijuka did odd jobs to make ends meet, including helping out his friend, Patrick Mulindwa on video shooting at events and short-term contracts with the Uganda Health Marketing Group. 

He later joined Olivia Mugabirwe, who introduced him to community work.
"I owe my interest in charitable work to Mugabirwe. She taught me to love serving humanity," he acknowledges.

In 2013, while doing his final school practice at Makerere College School, he got a teaching job on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road. Kyokwijuka taught there until 2015. 
He worked as a business development officer at Ivys Hotel in Wakaliga for four months up to February 2014, when he joined MTAC as a part-time lecturer to date.

Early in 2016, he got a short-term contract with an election observation mission (EISA). At the same time in January 2016, Kyokwijuka got a job to teach at International University of East Africa and subsequently joined the administration at MTAC. 

"I launched my career as an author in 2016 as a guest writer with New Vision and Daily Monitor and published my first book in 2018. I have two other books in the pipeline," he says.
1997: Started school at Kigarama Primary School. 
2001: Went to St. Joseph's Primary School, Kyabirukwa in Isingiro district for his P5 to P7. After he joined St. Joseph's Vocational School in Mbarara for his O'level before enrolling at St. Charles Lwanga SS Kasasa for his A'level.

2010: Joined Makerere University for a bachelors of arts with education. 
2013: Enrolled for a diploma in human resources management at MTAC. Kyokwijuka continued up the education ladder. He recently enrolled for a master's of business administration and management at Makerere University. 
If allowed 20 minutes with anyone in the world, Kyokwijuka would meet Barrack Obama, a person he looks up to in life. 
"Obama is the true definition of hope, courage confidence, resilience and above all, a journey of life that goes against all odds," he says.


Stella Maris Basemera, 26,
CEO Creative Learning AfricA+
Basemera is passionate about mathematics, so much that she will do all it takes to help learners make peace with the subject. 

She spends most of her time developing fun content for her learners, tutoring and counselling them, aside making math learning materials and researching about the subject.

The 26-year-old is the proprietor of Creative Learning AfricA+, a company that has helped a number of learners improve in math by changing their attitude towards the subject. 

She is also a mentor, creative learning methods researcher and an inaugural ambassador of Connections-Based Learning by Sean Robinson, Canada.
Basemera enjoys teacher trainings when it comes to relevant creative teaching methods.

On what makes her an exceptional tutor, she says all her learners first go through an assessment to understand their personality, learning style, and challenges.  Then she designs tutorials to help them with their challenges. 

"I use the gamification concept along with other methods," Basemera states. 
She is quick to add that the tutorials also include mentorship, critical thinking and reasoning tasks so that it is not about cramming but understanding the concepts. Memorising is temporary, understanding is permanent.

"I find some learners in their homes and others opt to find me at the centre. 
Education background
"I went to Shimoni Demonstration School, Taibah High School and Makerere University, Kampala for primary, secondary and university education, respectively.  
I did a bachelor of science degree in education and also a certificate in guidance and counselling. 

I have done a series of professional development courses, including Teacher Education in sub-Saharan Africa TESSA-MOOC Course of 21st-century teaching and learning.
Dr Maggie Kigozi. She has made it in the fields well-known for men and she is so down-to-earth.
I used to tutor out of the need to help others to learn. That is why I applied for education as my first choice at Makerere University. However, the only time I taught was during school practice.

I started freelance tutoring with only sh7,800. That was transport to my first client and data to advertise on Mama Tendo Facebook group. 
Many people advised me to secure a job in a school as security, but I felt there was a gap in learning support, which I could fill. 

I felt the need to support learners understand math better because it is actually beautiful. It is not a monster. 

I realised learners had trouble thinking critically about their solutions. I did research and published a logical reasoning book, Fun Math Activities and another for parents and teachers, My Top Secrets To Making Learners Love Math. 
This was to help all parents, even those with no math background, to learn how to help their children in the subject. Recently, I organised a successful Fun Math Boot Camp and there are more activities coming up next year.

I see Creative Learning AfricA+ as the best learning support company for learners struggling with math all over the country. I hope to create more employment opportunities.

The statistics of math being the worst or among the worst performed will soon change for the better. 


Jean Mukanzanira Katende, 39,
Proprietor of Project One Uganda Ltd 
She is a civil engineer, self-made interior designer and entrepreneur, with a fully-fledged construction company to her name. 

Since its inception five years ago, Project One Ltd, a design consultancy and construction company, has grown to handle multibillion projects in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, among others.

Mukanzanira also has an arm in real estate, where she builds condominium apartments for sale and rent. 

The 39-year-old has an eye for beauty, a reason she has been part of the Miss Uganda beauty pageants since 2013, thrice as a judge panelist. The mother of three also reaches out to the girl-child through career programmes. 

At Project One, Mukanzanira is charged with looking for business, maintaining and growing the client base. 

"I am always on the move across East Africa, where our client base is spread or in China to customise project furnishings," she says.
What makes her tick?
"I am not afraid of adventuring into the unknown. Kicking off a startup is not enough. You must consistently plan for the long-term," she says.
Mukanzanira notes that interior design calls for that personal touch and an eye for detail.  She, therefore, ensures that actual 3Ds visual impressions of the space given to the client turn out exactly the same or better.
Education background
She went to Tororo Girls' School for O'level and Trinity College Nabbingo for A'level. In 1998, she joined Makerere University for a bachelor of science in civil engineering and in 2004, she enrolled for a bachelor's of science in project and technology management at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. 
In 2011, Mukanzanira undertook a Project Management Professional certification course in Amsterdam, Netherlands with the Project Management Institute and the following year, she did a project management certification course, PRINCE2 (projects in controlled environment) with the Association of Project Management in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
In 2013, she pursued an executive leadership and strategic management course with Strathmore University and in 2019, she completed a course in developing social housing projects at Erasmus university Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Upon completion of her bachelor's in civil engineering for two years, Mukanzanira worked with Design Group and Associates, which had most of its projects in Rwanda. 

"Architect Sekaziga mentored and challenged me into taking on architectural works alongside structural detailing," she says. Consequently, Mukanzanira had a part-time evening job at Uganda Consulting Engineers where she did structural design and detailing.

In 2004, she joined Roofing's Ltd as a business development manager, responsible for marketing, execution, and delivery of customised prefabricated building units.
"While at Roofings, my now husband encouraged me to pursue a master's degree," she recalls. The engineer pursued project and technology management. 
However, a non-Southern African Development Community (SADC) member would not enroll for master's class straight away. So, she enrolled for the bachelors for a year and master's for another year. 

In 2006, Mukanzanira was recruited by dfcu Bank as a project manager. Within two years, 13 branches were opened. 
Mukanzanira worked with Housing Finance Bank to set up its head office complex in Kololo.

"I was later tasked with managing a mortgage loan product called construction finance worth over $1m," she says.

The bank was 100% financing commercial projects and needed someone with experience to ensure money disbursed was in line with construction progress.
"I garnered a lot of experience in managing big commercial projects such as malls, apartments and office buildings," Mukanzanira states.

Before her contract with Housing Finance Bank expired in October 2014, the engineer embarked on a journey of planning for self-employment, hence the birth of Project One.

Her breakthrough project was working on the Sebalu and Lule Advocates four-storey office block. 

At the launch of the office complex, little -known Mukanzanira rubbed shoulders with international architects who had worked on the project. This changed her company for good.

Dr Stephen Akandwanaho, 35,
Chief Academic Officer  Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology,
South Africa

He is a gem in the fields of artificial Intelligence, robotics, machine learning, C-Sharp programming, python, cyber security, and other Information technology programmes.
Akandwanaho recently participated in a panel discussion with Melissa Hathaway, the former senior cyber security advisor to two American presidents; George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

This followed a roundtable discussion he had at the conference in Johannesburg with the minister of communications and digital technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams early this year. 

"The discussion was about an app I created based on memetic algorithm and neural networks models, as a smart street parking system for Durban metropolitan city in South Africa," he says. 

As the chief academic officer at Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology, Akandwanaho manages the entire academic division of the institute. 

The school has more than 30 campuses in South Africa and in 16 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries. The 35-year-old is the equivalent of the deputy vice-chancellor.

Akandwanaho also reviews and approves articles for publication and for authors around the world in areas of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning. 
He has extensively published research articles in the field of Artificial Intelligence and the fourth industrial revolution. 

"My papers have been published in high-impact journals and international conference proceedings," he says, noting that he recently designed an artificial intelligence system for Ethekwini municipality in South Africa, which is based on machine learning and evolutionary computation. 
Education background
Akandwanaho started off his education journey at Mbarara Municipal School and Kazo Primary School, before joining Ibanda Secondary School and Ntinda View College, Kampala for his O and A'level, respectively.

A year later, he joined Uganda Christian University (UCU), where he studied bachelors of science in information technology.  

"I then enrolled at Hampstead School in the UK, where I trained as a CISCO and Linux instructor," he recalls.

Upon returning home, he went back to UCU and enrolled for master's in IT, which he completed in 2010. The IT guru attributes part of his success to Dr Ham-Mukasa Mulira, the former minister of ICT. 

"I remember spending many hours in his private office discussing my future interests and my embryonic research," he recalls. 

In 2014, Akandwanaho moved to South Africa to pursue a doctorate in computer science in artificial Intelligence and graduated in 2018.
Career journey
In 2016, he started lecturing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. 
After six months, he was promoted to co-ordinate a number of programmes in the faculty across different campuses. In 2017, he became a senior lecturer
"I was then appointed editor for the journal of advances in mathematics and computer science, Asian journal of research in computer science and Journal of technology and business management," he says. 

After his PhD graduation, he applied for the position of the dean of research and postgraduate studies at Richfield and after a series of interviews, he got the job. 
A year later, Akandwanaho was promoted to head of the academic division.

"Due to my passion for scholarly research, I started a Journal of technology and business management, an in-house journal for everyone in the institution," he says.
The expert also leads the Curriculum Innovation Design and Development (CIDD) team to design a number of programmes for accreditation by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) in South Africa. 

To add on his already overflowing career plate, Akandwanaho was recently selected by the institute to lead collaboration engagements and joint projects with their international partners. These include; Carnegie Mellon University in the US, New York University, Coventry University in UK and Georgia State University in Atlanta. 
What makes him tick
Akandwanaho says he pays great attention to detail. He also tries not to procrastinate on his work duties, but ensures to attend to his tasks right away without allowing any opportunity for backlog. He plans ahead and follows through his plans.
When granted 20 minutes with anyone in the world, Akandwanaho would love to spend it with Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the world's first web-server, first web browser, and the World Wide Web.  
Among the deceased, he would meet Allan Turing, the father of artificial intelligence, whose ideas form the foundational basis for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

Michael Richard Katagaya, 34,
CEO Makanika Dot Com

Katagaya saw how car owners were suffering at the hands of quack and unreliable mechanics. He was determined to do something sustainable about it.
The 34-year-old then invented Makanika Dot Com, a car repair and maintenance services startup reaching over 3,000 mechanics.

The app provides solutions to drivers, especially those that know little or nothing about their vehicles.

Katagaya adds that he is also a founder and leader at Evidence and Methods Lab, a civic-tech initiative; Legit Options Limited, an ICT and logistics company and Msingi Initiative Limited, an outfit that is providing a foundation for young Africans to kick-start their careers through internship and apprenticeship.

"I lead and grow teams to ensure that we deliver on our promise to clients and partners. Most of my work is management, technical support, and fundraising," he says.

Through Msingi, Katagaya offers internship opportunities and skills to youth, which he openly advertises on his facebook page. 

He is also determined to contribute to ending families without father figures. From school visits, seminars and conferences, Katagaya mentors young boys to be responsible fathers and husband.

On the other hand, the married entrepreneur has also answered many life questions and influenced many people through his book, Forearmed: Insights on sex, love, and relationships and another he co-authored, Rated PG for Personal Growth.

In  2017, Katagaya was nominated by UNESCO among the 1,000 entrepreneurs to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), under UNLEASH, a global goals initiative by several world organisations. He attended the August 2017 inaugural Innovation Lab in Denmark.

Makanika Dot Com was nominated the best digital innovation in 2018 from Uganda by the World Summit Awards (WSA). WSA is a United Nations initiative under UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and is an activity that runs in 180 United Nations  states to promote digital innovation with an impact on society. 

What makes him tick
"I love to see beyond myself, which is why I am working on solutions that bring societal gains. I also incorporate the global development agenda (SDGs) in all the work I do," he explains. 

Katagaya also strongly believes that only teams that work together to achieve a clear goal win. He is not a boss, but a facilitator and, in many cases, a co-leader with those he works with. 
Going up the career ladder
Between 2007 to 2008, while at university, young Katagaya started working as an intern at the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction. 

In the last quarter of 2010, he worked briefly as a research assistant at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry in the mismanagement of funds under the Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education.  

He joined the Office of the Prime Minister in 2011 as an assistant research fellow on rural development in the directorate of policy coordination, monitoring, and evaluation on the DFID-funded Strengthening Evidence-Based Decision-Making programme.

In 2012, Katagaya moved to the Centre for Performance Management and Evaluative Research till mid-2013, when he got an opportunity to work with Twaweza East Africa as learning, monitoring and evaluation officer for Uganda. 

"I was with Twaweza up to August 2016, when I left to join Spark MicroGrants, a US charity as a monitoring and evaluation manager," he recollects.

However, he quickly realised that entrepreneurship was his calling and retired from formal employment to build startups. 

Evidence and Methods Lab has so far reached over half a million people and is on a trajectory to achieve Katagaya's goal of contributing to social justice, transparency and accountability. 
Education background
Katagaya began his education at Narambhai Road Primary School, before joining Kiyunga SS in Iganga for O'level, Kitante Hill School and Lugazi Progressive College for A'level.

He pursued a bachelors of adult and community education at Makerere University and later a master's of arts in social sector planning and  management.

 Education and Science
Cosmas Mwikirize (PhD), 33, Lecturer, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Makerere University

From little-known Nyabwina Model Primary School deep in rural Sheema district, Mwikirize defied all the odds to excel in life. At 33 years, he has a PhD and two master's degrees in biomedical engineering and electrical engineering.

He made headlines in 2002 and 2004, when he emerged top student in the O and A'level national examinations, having scored 10 distinctions (D1s) in UCE and AAAA in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics in UACE. 

In 2009, he emerged best student for his bachelors of science in electrical engineering at Makerere University with CGPA 4.67/5. 

A few years later, while he was pursuing his master's of science in electrical engineering at Makerere University he topped his class with CGPA 4.73/5.
Overtime, Mwikirize has mentored hundreds of students, who have gone on to start companies that have developed salient innovations to alleviate socio-economic hardships in Uganda and beyond. 

He has also served as a mentor and judge for BigIdeas@Berkeley, a global innovations competition, for the past five years.  
He also represents Uganda on the board of the Africa Fulbright Network, a body that unites current and previous beneficiaries.

Mwikirize is an active member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Medical Image Computing and Computer-Assisted Interventions Society, and the Computer Assisted Radiology and Surgery society.

The engineer is in the process of establishing a research laboratory, focusing on computer-aided diagnosis and interventions, a project he embarked on two months agos.

The laboratory is developing affordable diagnostic, therapeutic and monitoring technologies that help in early detection and treatment of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, whose prevalence has recently skyrocketed. 
What makes him tick
The enthusiastic engineer believes in doing the right thing right. Mwikirize also works hard, diligently and always puts his best foot forward. 

He is quick to add that he values his time and that of others. 
"One might look at my numerous awards and think there is an element of luck, yet the back-page story, which often goes unnoticed, is that for every award or success I obtained, there were five accompanying failures," he explains. "It is a game of numbers. Try, if you fail, keep trying." 
Scaling up the career ladder
Upon finishing his undergraduate studies in 2009, Mwikirize enrolled for a master's programme and was subsequently retained as a teaching assistant at Makerere University. 

He conducted his master's research within the context of the iLabs-Africa project and his work resulted in the development of iLabs; Internet-based laboratories, where students can control physical hardware remotely through a computer interface. These were used to enhance pedagogy at Makerere.

In 2011, Mwikirize was promoted to associate principal investigator of the iLabs@MAK project, and an assistant to Prof. Sandy Stevens. 

With support from the Presidential Initiative for research at Makerere University, he started a programme to promote science and technology innovation in secondary schools through a problem-based model. 

In 2013, Mwikirize continued to rise through the ranks to become an assistant lecturer at a time when the university had just started the biomedical engineering programme. 

He volunteered to coordinate the programme, but there was not enough capacity to link the medical and engineering fields for meaningful mentorship, research and innovation since there was no PhD specialist at the time. 

In a bid to address this gap, he decided to enrol for a PhD in biomedical engineering at Rutgers University after he was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship.
"My PhD research has resulted in six peer-reviewed articles, three patent applications, and numerous awards. Overall, I have authored over 20 publications and two book chapters," Mwikirize says. 
Some Accolades to his name
MICCAI Society Graduate Student travel award toward attending MICCAI 2019, Shenzhen, China.

Best oral presenter, Rutgers Biomedical Engineering Symposium. In 2018, he won the Aaron Shatkin scholarship.

IPCAI/NDI Young Investigator travel award towards travel support for IPCAI 2018, Berlin, Germany.

Louis Bevier university fellowship to outstanding PhD student for support in final year of PhD program and the Rutgers University Teaching Assistant Professional Development award toward IPCAI 2018.
Given 20 minutes with anyone in the world, Mwikirize would spend it with Barack Obama. He says the former US president giving reasons that he has followed the career trajectory of Obama with enthusiasm. 

"When he gave his famous keynote speech at the 2004 convention, I was a S6 candidate, but I saw something special in him," he elaborates.

In the next 10 years, if all goes well, Mwikirize will be a professor, a world-renowned researcher, innovator and consultant in computer-aided interventions.

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author