“Food Sitoowa” has fast become a household name in Mbale city and its neighboring districts. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in the country in 2020, president Yoweri Museveni announced a total lockdown of the country as part of the containment measures.
Schools, transport, and all kinds of social gatherings were among the sectors affected by the lockdown.
The lockdown rendered many Ugandans including teachers and lecturers redundant, and the majority without a source of income.
David Wabukye, a communication lecturer at Uganda Christian University, Livingstone International University, and UMCAT School of Journalism in Mbale city was one of those affected by the lockdown.
However, Wabukye reorganized himself and resorted to online food vending for survival. He established “Food Sitoowa” through which he sells foodstuffs to different people in Mbale city, the neighboring districts, and as far as Kampala.
Initially, Wabukye would market the foodstuff and get orders through social media pages like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. He has however set up a website “Food Sitoowa.com” and developed an app Food Sitoowa, which is accessible through the Google play store on a smartphone to increase access by his customers.
According to Wabukye, he ventured into this business after schools and tertiary institutions closed in March 2020. Wabukye, who is still contemplating whether to return to the lecture rooms or continue with his online food vending business, says that the business is lucrative, adding that anyone looking for money may not wish to go back to the lecture room. He has been lecturing for ten years.
The Birth of Food Sitoowa
According to Wabukye, when the president announced the shutdown, he suspended both public and private transport. He also asked people to stay in their homes with the exception of essential workers accredited by the relevant government bodies and agencies.
According to Wabukye, he realized that his retail shop wasn’t giving him enough money due to limited customers resulting from the movement restrictions. He recalls selling only Shillings 70,000 a day in one of his sales during the lockdown unlike the Shillings 150,000 he could make before the pandemic.
He decided to abandon the retail shop and explore the online business where he would market foodstuff through social media platforms to potential clients largely starting with friends and acquaintances.
To Wabukye, using the online platforms to expand his business was very simple given his background in Information and Communication Technology-ICT.
According to Wabukye, when he ventured into the online food business, he realized how middlemen were oppressing farmers by offering them cheap prices for their produce. He, however, says that his platform has since helped eliminate the middlemen by offering direct contact between the farmers and consumers.
He is proud that the online platform is helping to improve the welfare of farmers to get better prices for their produce while affordable and quality foodstuffs to his clients.
According to Wabukye, the business that started in Mbale City has expanded to the Entire Eastern Uganda, Gulu, and Kampala Metropolitan areas where they charge a fee for delivery.
The online food shop has also contracted 12 Boda boda riders who do deliveries and also teamed up with 16 farmers. Wabukye says that with all the businesses he has ventured into, online food vending has been the most profitable and yielded positive results for him.
Wabukye has not stepped on the class since the government reopened higher institutions of learning on November 1st, 2021, saying that he is still at crossroads whether to return to class or not.
He says that even if he was to choose to return to class, he still needs time to expand his business to the level where everyone who wants foodstuffs will just go online.
Wabukye now wants every person to venture into a side hustle to survive in times of emergencies like pandemics.
Esther Namutosi, a resident of Mbale City who has been shopping from Food Sitoowa from the time they started, says that one thing she likes about them is the quality of foodstuff and the trust they have.
Francis Wasagami, resides in Kampala and has been shopping with Food Sitoowa. According to Wasagami, the timely delivery of his orders surprised him for a Ugandan online business. He said that despite making an advance payment, food sitoowa delivers quality and the right amounts of food as ordered by the clients.