By Denis Jjuuko

If you go to some of these fancy hotels on any of these weekends, you may find young adults in fancy double breast suits and flowing dinner dresses some with slits that show endless legs—the types that rival Tina Turner. No cost is spared by these people. Red carpets are rolled out. Fancy decorations with glittering lights. These parties rival the fanciest weddings in town. Of course without old men and women being regaled with the finest things in life because of a child who has just walked down the proverbial aisle.

These are dinners final year students are throwing to celebrate their impending achievements— as degree holders.

Looking at some of these dinners at two fancy hotels I visited last night, I couldn’t stop thinking about my own final year celebration in 2002. With a couple of friends we descended on a beach in Entebbe and partied the night away. These dinners are actually very good because they make you bond with colleagues and most of the people we partied with that night are still close friends 16 years later. But if we had the knowledge we have today, maybe the party would have been a bit different.

I think we too spent a lot of money by those years’ standards yet we could have celebrated in a different way. Though of course we didn’t do any shopping for designer clothes. We simply went to a beach and got drunk on cheap beers that we could afford. It wasn’t actually any different from the beach outings we used to enjoy even when graduation day was years ahead.

At the hotels where I was, I was told they spent Shs200,000 per a person minus the fancy suits, shoes made out of calf skins, and dresses. So 100 students managed to raise a whopping Shs20m for a dinner to celebrate success that is about to be registered! Never mind that some may end up not even graduating. When you are a student, it is easy to raise money even when your parents or guardians aren’t the type who pay for such. A visit to the uncles, aunties, cousins and siblings would leave you with more money for a weekend than most working class people. Actually, in Uganda, it is easier to raise money for a party than anything else.

I was once sent a flyer for a getaway party in the beautiful Ssese Islands for final year students. The sender wanted me to chip in. These students were each paying Shs300,000 for a weekend out in the islands. I was happy for the sender. And indeed for most of the students because the majority work hard for their degrees and need to cool off and enjoy the exuberance of youth. I told the sender that why don’t they raise the money but spend Shs50,000 each at a beach at Entebbe and use the balance for something else? I imagined these guys were to blow Shs30m on a weekend if they were 100 instead of 5m. The answers I got will be for another day but I would probably have given the same answers if anybody reasoned like I was back then.

My idea was and still is that with Shs25m as balance, they could start a fund from which to borrow at very affordable interest rates and start small businesses or simply lend it out to those who need it at money lender rates. I knew most of them were to start a journey that may see them walk streets for jobs for life or end up as maids in some desert. And within 10 years, that fund would be one of the biggest in the country if they managed it well.

Anyway, I think as young people celebrate 19 years or more of academic life, there are also lots of opportunities they can raise money for that would make them decent returns within a decade. If students can raise Shs200k each for a dinner, they can raise Shs500k or more for a group investment. They could start a fund like I said earlier or go buy land 70kms away and keep it, which they could sell at abnormal profits in 2028. This can even be done in smaller groups of about five friends. Their life wouldn’t be the same again. In the meantime, if you are a final year student, enjoy the dinner.

The writer is a media consultant and businessman.