Is there anything Chris Ategeka cannot do? He was a field scare-crow (yes, an actual scare-crow and he excelled at it), once battled a chimpanzee on a rainy day and now he is an engineer, an entrepreneur, pilot and he also runs marathons. Just how super can one man be? He sure sounds like the African Chuck Norris. As if it is not enough, Ategeka has received many awards and honours with the most recent being the World Economic Forum, 2016 Young Global Leader accolade. In 2014, he was included in the prestigious 30 under 30 Forbes list but not before he had been named 2013 Echoing Green Global Fellow. What has he not done? At 32, it is a fact that more is coming and Africa cannot wait.
Who is Chris Ategeka?
Ategeka is the founder and CEO of Rides for Lives, an engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. The man came from very humble beginnings in a village in Uganda. Orphaned at seven, he had to assume responsibility at a young age. In a Reddit AMA, he said, “I was the oldest of five children and became an orphan after losing both parents to HIV/AIDS. After escaping from my uncle’s farm where I was used as a human scarecrow, I was picked up by a non-profit called YES Uganda. Now I have earned 2 degrees at UC Berkley and run three companies.”
Chris and his siblings were separated when he went to live with his uncle who was not too eager to have him. This is where he had to work in the fields scaring away birds, monkeys and even chimpanzees: the human scare-crow. He however, ran away and the story changes from then on. Ending up being a Berkeley graduate, one wonders what could have driven Chris to start Rides for Lives. The answer is in a tragic phase of his life. At a young age, Ategeka was not only confronted by the double tragedy of losing his parents but he also lost a brother who died in the arms of his extended family in a bid to take him to a health facility. Chances are that the boy would have lived if there had been reliable transportation.
Rides for Lives
The vision that buoys Rides for Lives is to create a world where every community is empowered to access local healthcare. In Uganda, Rides for Lives says rural communities are poor, isolated and up to 10 kilometres from any healthcare. This means even those ailments that would normally be minor can end up being lethal. The basis of the Rides for Lives is to deal with the problems it identifies on its website. It says, 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries and death is higher in rural areas and poor communities. In addition, 70% of children under five years old who die can be successfully treated and Sub-Saharan Africa carries 24% of the global disease burden, but only has 3% of the world’s health workers. Having a personal connection to the problem at hand only pushed Ategeka to do something about the problems he had identified. Rides for Lives manufactures high quality transport products designed, assembled, and distributed locally in a deliberate bid to create vehicles well adapted to Ugandan rural conditions. For his efforts, Chris has received the U.S. President’s Emegerncy Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Award, a Chevron Award, the Judith Lee Stronach Award, the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award and was named a United Nations Global Accelerator.
Resilience makes him special
If there is anything 32 year old Ategeka should be known for, it is his resilience in the face of adversity. This is a boy who survived a chimpanzee attack back in the day. He became the de-facto head of his family at seven and he told Yahoo Small Business, “I worked in gardens, weeding, harvesting, lawn mowing, grazing animals and collecting trash in exchange for food and later started to get paid cash.”
Eager to accept responsibility, at that tender age he constructed a mud hut that he says still stands now. At twelve, he then joined his uncle’s family where he was un-gainfully employed as a scare-crow. Aabaco Small Business acknowledged Ategeka’s strength in words that cannot be derogated from, “To survive such a childhood is amazing. To survive such a childhood to become a renowned inventor, honoured at the White House, lauded worldwide for products that save lives and make the world a better place – well that is more than extraordinary.”
No one can doubt that! The man is also co-founder of a biotech firm, Privail and founder and partner of New Focus Africa a mentorship and funding program for African entrepreneurs. The world is yet to see what this young African fireball cannot do!