By Tuhirirwe Karane 

Joel Aita, the Executive Head of Joadah Consult, a consulting and construction engineering firm, joined Makerere University as an undergraduate in 2000 and went on to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

Joel Aita Graduation

Joel Aita together with his cousin and wife (then girlfriend), Adah Jane on his graduation day

Whilst at the hill, Mr. Aita was a resident of University Hall-home to the famous Goats- which is very close to the ever-busy Wandegeya that was already bustling with economic activity even at the turn of the century when he decided to open a printing station with a single machine, a cartridge refiller and a computer that he had obtained from his sweater making business back home. Despite the demanding nature of his course in terms of academic output, Joel always did business alongside his studies.

During his study, he undertook industrial training at a construction firm that later employed him, upon graduation, as a lab manager in charge of 30 workers on a project to construct Jinja Road. This experience was important if one was to understand the employment prospects of a young engineer in the early 2000s. 

Aita attributes his confidence and sense of pride to his experience at Makerere University. Before attending Makerere, Aita admits that he lacked self-assurance, particularly during his secondary school years. He recalled feeling hesitant to even raise his hand in class due to the fear of failure. However, attending Makerere University proved to be a turning point in his life because of its synonymous excellence and success. 

As a young man, he recalls an incident when he visited Hon. Kahinda Otafiire's office. The receptionist inquired about an appointment, to which Aita confidently replied that the minister was his servant, rendering an appointment unnecessary. Surprisingly, Hon. Otafiire overheard their conversation and invited Aita into his office, impressed by the young man's confidence and self-assured demeanor. This encounter further solidified Aita's belief in himself and the power of his Makerere education in helping him overcome his insecurities and embracing his full potential.

From the onset, Joel knew that starting his own construction company would be very capital intensive as opposed to a consultancy firm that mostly did designs and the supervision of a site on behalf of a client. This led him to his second job with a German consulting firm that was handling a water project in Entebbe. While in Jinja at his first job, he put in 15-hour work days because he needed to supplement his supervisory work with research. The nature of the tasks given to him by his superiors required him to apply himself in many ways. 

His new job with the German firm was even more challenging. Constantly being quizzed by the clerk of works in his new capacity as a junior engineer grounded him better in his profession. Here, he also undertook structural engineering tasks, which had not been his strong suit at Makerere, thereby allowing him to learn on the job with direct experience. Between re-designing a tank radius and a road over a stream in less than a year, he gained sufficient experience and confidence to venture out on his own. This is when Joadah Consults was born in 2007.

In 2012, the consultancy firm won a water and sanitation infrastructure project contract in Rwanda, where it partnered with another German company on work across 3 towns. After Rwanda, Joadah Consults expanded into Malawi in 2014, then to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone where it operated for 2 years, and then into Mozambique and Ghana. Currently, the consultancy and construction firm has a footprint in 6 African countries.

Joel Aita at Tadpole Arena

Joel Aita pointing to the Artistic Design of the Arua Hill Stadium under constuction by Joadah Consults

Since then, Mr. Aita under Joadah Consults has worked on the Mulago National Specialized Hospital, which is a component of the Mulago National Referral Hospital, the largest hospital in Uganda. They also fully constructed the Arua City Stadium under a new model that used neither bank loans nor government financing. The stadium is now home to a local football team, Arua City FC, and has a supermarket and a night club. The sports facility also has a design institute, a chain of hotels, a gold refinery, and a bank all of which are targeting an untapped market from travelers who come to Uganda from the Congo.

Having been an employer for almost 2 decades, Mr. Aita believes that it is time for Makerere University to embrace ‘design thinking’ in its teaching system for future engineers. It is something he wants to take to Muni University and he gave examples such as Oxford and Harvard as institutions that have inculcated in their students this holistic approach to learning the different disciplines. He believes that design thinking is an essential skill in the 21st century, and engineering programs should train engineers who can design effectively to meet social and environmental needs. Central to design thinking is the fact that there is rarely a single answer to a collective problem. It also has curative and collaborative thinking methods for crafting solutions and enables students to exercise and practice different thinking styles, including divergent thinking, convergent thinking, critical thinking, analytical thinking, and integrative thinking. 

Mulago Maternal and Neonatal Hospital

The Mulago Maternal and Neonatal Hospital, where Joadah Consults did the design, review and construction supervision

Currently, Joadah Consults is finalising plans to construct a 5-acre Sports Center in Entebbe that contains several shops and different sections for tennis and basketball courts, and a children’s play area opposite Watoto church. The Consultancy & Construction firm also plans to include a youth center for the church in this development to further increase its social impact.

Related News
Return to the News

Please join hands with the Makerere University Endowment Fund as it works towards attracting & retaining the best faculty, providing scholarships, and investing in cutting-edge research and technology.