Orphaned at young age, Kaliisa strikes gold in repairing motorcycles

Fred Kaliisa was orphaned at a young age. He has faint memories of his father, who died when he was five years. His mother, followed two years later. Therefore, one can easily predict that the 28-year-old had to endure hardships to make something out of life.

“I was raised by my paternal grandmother because my parents died when I was still young. Life was not easy. I had to do odd jobs to survive,” he says.

Under the circumstances, he did not go far in formal schooling.

He says he dropped out in primary six because he could not afford school fees and other basics.

Yet every dark cloud has a silver lining. Out of school, Kaliisa started looking for some odd jobs to do and it was during his search that that is when he landed on someone, who wanted someone to clean his motorcycle repair garage.

“He told me that he will give me Shs 3,000 to clean the garage and I accepted the work. Later I went back this time with a different mission: to convince him to teach me how to repair motorcycles,” Kaliisa says.

To cut the long story short, he accepted. He taught him the basics of repairing a motorcycle and later when Kaliisa moved to Kira in Wakiso, he undertook a course in motorcycle repair at a vocational institute to shore up his skills. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today Kaliisa is the owner of two repair garages each with a fully stocked spare parts shop. He drives a Toyota Alex and recently completed his three-bedroom house in Ssonde, Wakiso.

“The journey has not been easy. When young people see that you have made progress they think everything has been smooth. But that is never the case,” he says.

At the garage, he also teaches young people how to repair motorcycles for a small fee.

“Many have started garages on their own and that makes me happy. Others still work with me,” he says.

He says his dream is to open up at least five branches in the next five years. Thereafter, he wants to set up a vocational school to equip youths with various skills.

“That is the legacy I want to leave behind,” he says.


Kaliisa admits that he has faced tough times the most recent being the Covid-19 lockdown which limited the movement of motorcycles.

“There were a few cyclists meaning that I could not make enough money like I used to before the lockdown,” he says.

Another big challenge is prevalence of fake spare parts on the market. These, he says, can affect the reputation of the dealer or a mechanic like him.

“Sometimes we buy spare parts thinking they are genuine only to realize that they are fake. The cyclists end up blaming us yet for some of us it is not intentional,” he says.

The other challenge he says are taxes levied on business people like him who have chosen to formalize their businesses.

“Taxes like VAT and trading license are killing us. Government needs to come to our rescue and they reduce some of these taxes,” he says.


As someone who grew up without both parents, Kaliisa says someone can still make it provided they do not feel sorry for themselves.

“They should not lament over their past situations. If one if hardworking they can get out of any tough situations,” he says

Secondly, he says there is no substitute for hard work.

“People like saying you should work smart and not hard but I disagree with them. In my view, hard work pays off better because it is from the sweat,” he says.

Kaliisa advises young people to get mentors in business so that they do not make many mistakes. He says mentors keep you focused in life and in work.

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