From rags to riches: The story of a Chapatti baker in Juba

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[Juba, South Sudan, TCT] Frank Rugoba is a South Sudanese man who grew up in Kampala-Uganda during more than two decades of civil war with Sudan.

After the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), in 2005, Rugoba made a soul-searching decision to return to South Sudan with nothing but a plan to become an entrepreneur in Juba.

He rented a small kiosk in a previous known area of Custom Market. He started with cooked chapattis (baked flour) for sale. Rugoba made South Sudanese Pounds ($14) per day at Custom Market. In a short time, his business thrived. He is now an owner of Franus Delicious Chapatti eating joint in Juba City.

Rugoba says in an interview with The TCT that it was while in Kampala that he learnt how to bake chapatti. When he came to Juba, chapatti business was the best option to start with, as an occupation.

But it was not long after Custom market was demolished. Rugoba shifted to Juba town, selling the food by the road side. Life was not that smooth because most of his clients were Arabic speakers.

After hustling in Juba town for some time, in 2011 he used his savings of SSP 3,200 ($1000) to start Franus Delicious Chapatti eating joint, which now employs fifteen people.

At Franus, he started baking one carton of flour but the number of cartons increased due to demand from customers who crowd his place daily.

“We started with one packet of baking flour, that is two kilograms and at that time business was slow. But now we use cartons,” Frank recalls his humble beginnings.

Customers at Franus are serve chapatti with beans, or meat stew, depending on one’s pocket as it used to cost between SSP 6 -15 SSP a plate.

“We do not care about making much profit but we care about having more customers. We give the customers what they want by keeping the standards. For instance in this hard economic time we have still kept our quality,” Frank explains.

Frank is also quick to credit his team for the effort and success achieved since their profits have risen though he didn’t disclose how much he has made.

“Together with my colleagues, we managed to put up this structure, at least things are not like before,” he says with a smile.

He says from his earnings, he has managed to educate his children in Kampala and also meet his family’s basic needs.

Frank advises those who want to succeed in business to be patient as it won’t be an instant success without managing their expectations.

“Don’t wake up in the morning and say I need to do what Frank is doing. Be patient and learn how to do it. There are some people we got here in Juba doing this same business but up to now they are still by the road side,” Frank cautions.

He explains that his plan is to open up branches in the outskirts of Juba to serve some of his customers who have to travel from far places to Juba town to have a taste of the chapatti.

“We have a dream, if we can get plots to construct a hotel, its better because our current place is not enough to accommodate our customers,” Frank says.

He adds that currently they do not have any other business and it’s the reason pushing the idea to open up branches in the suburbs of Gudele, Munuki and Jebel.

“If we can put branches in those parts, we can reach our customers in distant places. Most of the people who come here are boda boda men and taxi drivers who are staying and working in Juba town,” he says.

Frank also observes that the war in South Sudan has slowed down most businesses and negatively impacted on his business, although he is optimistic since the demand for food is constant.

“The war has affected us but our business is dealing with people’s lives and to eat is very important. At times, we find things hard because you go to the market today and find that they have increased the prices of baking flour and you cannot come and just increase the price of chapatti in one day. What we do is to reduce the size of chapatti than to increase the price,” Frank explained.

Economic hardships in South Sudan have forced street-front restaurants to increase their prices due to hyperinflation caused by more than four years of conflict, leaving locals to quit their favorite traditional dishes for chapatti.

Chapatti has become a desired meal by the majority of low income earners in the war-torn and poverty debilitating country.

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