‘This Ph.D. is not mine…This was purely God’s grace.’

Dr. Isaac Wasswa Katono, left, and son, Jim Katono, at one of their projects.

By Jimmy Siyasa 

With a new doctorate degree under his belt, Dr. Isaac Wasswa Katono is eager to live his wish of being among the most cited scholars from Uganda Christian University (UCU). In December 2020, the former dean of the Faculty of Business and Administration at UCU graduated with a Ph.D. in Business Science and Entrepreneurship from the University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa. That journey further reinforced his passion and understanding of the value of research for publication. 

Metric data from the Web of Science reveals a promising, proactive researcher whose impact has risen steadily since 2010. ResearchGate, a European commercial social networking site for scientists and researchers, shows that Dr. Katono has 16 publications, 7,029 Reads and 382 citations. This places him at the pinnacle of UCU’s distinguished scholars. GoogleScholar has juried his research on action-based entrepreneurship training, automatic teller machine quality and government impact of multi-party politics, among others. 

Katono does not simply bask in the glory of his Tudor bonnet. He always has his scholarly sleeves rolled up.

Dr. Isaac Wasswa Katono in his office at UCU.

“Currently, I have a list of 10 papers, which I am supposed to have finished and published, because I already have the data,” he said. “I pray for God’s peace because all I now need is to sit down and do my data analysis. God willing, I will have executed all of them by year’s end.”  

Not only Google but friends and colleagues attest to Katono’s unwavering zeal for research. 

“One thing I know about him is his passion for research,” said Richard Sebaggala, a lecturer of Economics. “He encourages us to do research and always looked out for opportunities for staff to upgrade their studies when he was still Associate Dean in the faculty. Dr. Katono is also a very humble person.”

Everything about Dr. Katono, 65, seems mellow and simple. His office space is unlike a typical Ugandan office; it is clean and clear of old, dusty files or piles of papers. While a Ph.D. somewhat warrants its bearer in Uganda and some other developing countries some pomp, Katono brushes off that elevated status. 

He says, “This Ph.D. is not mine. It is for my benefactors. But most importantly, it’s not a fruit of my labor. This was purely God’s grace. And you should emphasize that…” 

Dr. Katono and wife, Christine, at a recent traditional marriage ceremony.

Katono’s graduation ceremony in South Africa happened (virtually, due to Covid-19) in December, just as UCU’s 2020 virtual graduation ceremony did. He was the only graduate from the UCU Faculty of Business and Administration, let alone being the only Ugandan from his Ph.D. class of 2020 from the South African-based university.

His PhD thesis is titled: “Cultural Predictions of Entrepreneurial Orientation and the Moderating Role of Entrepreneurial Competencies on Graduate Entrepreneurial Intentions: A Cross-Sectional Survey of East Africa. The research focuses on the impact of culture on entrepreneurial orientation. 

Dr. Katono was admitted to UCT in 2012 but wasn’t able to join until 2016 because of lack of funds. 

“When I received the news of my admission, I shouted and all the neighbors came,” he said.  “I knelt down and thanked God… My admission for the Ph.D. was absolutely by God’s grace. Not my performance or intellectual prowess.”

After his admission, Katono applied to the UCU Staff Development Committee for a scholarship. His fingers were crossed to receive the financial award. To his shock, Katono was granted a full scholarship by UCU. To him, this was a miracle as the $70,000 cost of private pay sponsorship was insurmountable.

From his Ph.D. research, Dr. Katono established that the rate of unemployment in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is appallingly high. “Many graduates cannot be employed in the formal sector because jobs are not there,” he argues.

He attributes this “tragedy” to the unfavorable cultural/ entrepreneurial orientation in the countries in question. A common string he found tying youth in the three societies is retro activeness and poor attitude toward risk-taking. 

He calls upon students and youth at large to embrace risk-taking, be proactive and undertake entrepreneurial ventures. Dr. Katono further argues in his thesis that the education curriculum in these countries must change to solve the problem.

 “We don’t let the students think for themselves under the current curriculum,” he said. “We simply cram them with notes, which we expect them to reproduce during exams.”

Katono’s natural business acumen evolved after acquiring a Bachelors of Science from Makerere University in 1979. He was charged with running the family business – a secondary school called Seeta College where he was Principal for six years. Thereafter, he joined Kasuru Enterprises, an agricultural company in Uganda, where he was head of agrarian projects. In 1995, he quit and enrolled for an MBA at the Makerere faculty of commerce. 

Earlier in 1986, at age 30 years, Dr. Katono invested in a company called Wasswa Katono’s Hatchery. He bought 50 acres of land in Njeru, Mukono district, for the project. It still stands to date. Dr. Katono hopes that his children can master the art of business management, learn the fundamental principles so that they can effectively manage the estates, assets and reputation that he has curved out of unstinting effort. 

Dr. Katono counts himself blessed because he saw UCU at its beginning stage as it hatched from Bishop Tucker School of Theology in 1997 to become the “Center of excellence in the heart of Africa” as a university with other faculty. He went to Bishop’s Primary school Mukono and Bishop Senior Secondary school, in Mukono – both schools adjacent to UCU. Thereafter. he joined Kololo Secondary School, in Kampala, from where he attained a high school certificate. He is married to Christine Katono for 40 years. Together, they have four children.

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