Youths reap big from selling facemasks

The largest amount of money Agnes Nassolo, 17, had ever handled before the outbreak of Covid-19 was Shs 40,000 ($15).

It was money given to her by an aunt as pocket money for school. She still remembers the two crisp 20,000 notes and how she buried them deep into her metallic case.

The outbreak of Covid-19 and the measures that were instituted to curb it, spelt disaster for many people.

For Nassolo, Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise. The requirement to wear face masks in public has made her a small fortune.

Tall and lanky, Nassolo sells face masks along Ntinda-Kiwatue road, in front of Fraime Supermarket.

She purchases the non-woven masks in bulk from Kikuubo, the main trading hub in Kampala city and then sells them piece by piece to pedestrians and motorists who ply the route.

“One some good days I make a profit of Shs 50,000,” she says.

“Other days business is so low.”

To make Shs 50,000 profit, Nassolo says she has to sell at least 100 face masks.

She buys a box of 50 facemasks at Shs 10,000 or Shs 500 a piece. She then sells each mask at between Shs 1,000 and Shs 3,000 depending on her estimation of the economic status of the customer.

To make Shs 50,000 profit requires her to sell at least two boxes of masks.

She said during the early days of the lockdown when enforcement of Covid-19 measures was very strong, she used to make good money.

But today, she says, things are not so good.

Nonetheless, the business has significantly improved her financial position and that of her family.

“I am happy that sometimes I help out with the domestic costs like buying food,” she said revealing that she lives with her mother and two younger siblings.

“I have also brought new clothes for myself and a smartphone.”

Like Nassolo, Peter Odeke sells face masks at the traffic lights near Kabira Country Club in Bukoto, a suburb of Kampala.

Odeke, 21, was a second year student at Makerere University Business School when Covid-19 hit and halted his studies.

He said a neighbour lured him into the business.

“I was idle and at home and doing nothing so I said why don’t I earn some little money,” he said.

In the first week, Odeke said, made a profit of about Shs 100,000.

“I was very excited and I knew this is something that I will do for some time,” he said.

Odeke said the biggest challenges are harsh weather and rude customers. When it rains heavily, he says, there are fewer customers.

Sometimes, he also has to hide from friends because he does not want them to see him vending masks.

“They will tease me and laugh at me but hey, I just want to make some money,” he said.

Some parents, like Maureen Nabawanga, said that while it is okay for students to make money, they are worried that some students could lose interest in learning once schools resume.

“They may not see the reason why they should go back to school because they are making some good money,” said Nabawanga, a mother of two.

Nassolo, a senior three student at Crane High School said she will have not trouble resuming her studies after schools are re-opened.

Through selling masks and making money, she said, she has learnt some vital skills like dealing with people.

Education, she said, remains vital to her ambition of becoming a lawyer.

“I will go back to school more motivated because I will have some good money. I will read harder,” she said.

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