When Sulaiman Mugejjera had just ventured into 3D metallic metal graphics in 2013, he struggled to convince potential clients on the uniqueness of the new technology and why it cost more compared to conventional graphics.
“Their closest imagination was that of a metallic door, which was not so fancy,” he recalls, painting the narrow view Ugandans have of the welding industry. However, seven years later, after mastering sheet metal welding, Mugejjera is one of the few go-to persons in 3D metal graphics, all thanks to welding.
“Nowadays, clients look for us basing on our works elsewhere,” the young entrepreneur says.
Welding is basically fusing separate pieces of metal together, using intense heat and pressure. But if you contextualise the notion of metal joinery, you appreciate the importance of the profession in this world run by metals. From communication gadgets to transport vehicles and medical equipment to ammunition that guard us; construction equipment and all sorts of machinery, are all works of the welder’s gifted hands.
Without the welder’s input, you cannot have that luxurious jewellery you flaunt or crave; that fancy phone, Bluetooth headsets, laptop. That dream bike or car.
In advanced economies, welders are reaping big from the petroleum exploration industry. According to Grand View Research, a US based market research and consulting company, the global welding products market size was estimated at $ 14.49b in 2019. Factors such as design flexibility, reduction in the overall weight of the building structures, and the ease of modification are projected to promote the demand from construction and industrial application segments.
Yet in Uganda, welding is mostly a resort for the semi-educated, whose brains or funds could not earn them a university degree.
“The jobs are there but the youth have not yet appreciated the skilling agenda. We have got to find ways of marketing and rebranding (Technical Vocation Education and Training) TVET because this is the way to go if you are to get out of poverty. After Senior Six, everyone is thinking about joining the university, and not sure what exactly to do,” said state minister for Higher Education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, last year.
Sector players believe Uganda can also increase its share of the global market, if attitudes are changed to view welding as a vocation richer, more important and more diverse than mere joining of metals. The first step, they say, would be changing the education model.