Graduate Student Spotlight: Jacob Wambede | Department of Economics
November 3, 2022

Graduate Student Spotlight: Jacob Wambede

Biography of Jacob Wambede, for November's "Grad Student Spotlight"

Mr. Jacob Wambede was born in Kampala, Uganda's national and commercial capital, which borders the spectacular Lake Victoria. Jacob was born to a single mother with very little education, who struggled to make ends meet. Shortly before his birth, she had moved to Kampala from Kama, her small native village, to try to make a living selling food items on the street. By the time Jacob was 2, the pair had moved back to Kama.

Jacob faced many challenges growing up in Uganda, one of the poorest countries in the world, with nearly one-third of its residents living below the poverty line. From a very young age, he had to join his mother in her small business selling homemade items on the street. Throughout his life, he never received either financial or emotional support from his father, whom he only met for the first time when he was 14. Nonetheless, being raised by a strong mother who placed a high value on education, Jacob developed a deep appreciation for hard work and a love of learning.

Jacob had a natural affinity for math, and loved challenging subject like physics. As he advanced in his education, he discovered his fascination with economics because it used analytics to make decisions about scarcity and choices. At the age of 15, he journeyed back to Kampala, moving in with an aunt, so that he could further his education there. He eventually earned a highly coveted "Nathan Nandala" scholarship to attend Makerere University, the number-one-ranked university in Uganda. It was there where Jacob met Dr. Francis Wasswa, a graduate of UNT's Master's program in Economics, and the first person ever to come to UNT as a "Makerere Scholar," a program developed by former UNT Economics professor and now Provost, Dr. Michael McPherson. This is a program wherein the top student in the field of Economics at Makerere University is offered an assistantship and partial tuition waiver to come to UNT to earn a Master's degree in Economics. Being the top student in economics at Makerere University in the 2019-2020 academic year, Jacob was selected as our Makerere Scholar for the fall of 2020. Unfortunately, this plan was thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Jacob had to defer his admission to the fall of 2021.

Jacob faced extra hurdles and challenges brought on by the ensuing government and economic shut-downs. He was devastated by the revelation that he would need about $15,000 to pay for his initial expenses at UNT--this was money that he did not have, and he wondered if he ever would make it to UNT. Had it not been for the financial, emotional and spiritual support given to him by his mother, his sister Barbie, his fellow church members, and, in particular, Mr. Dan Deemy, who is like a father-figure to him, he would never have made it this far. Now, with his graduation date fast approaching, Jacob marvels at the incredible journey that he has had here. To inspire young people in his home country who face the same obstacles and challenges that he faced as a young man, he now makes inspirational videos of his life here at UNT and sends them home to encourage others to persevere.

Many past Makerere Scholars have gone on to earn their PhD in Economics and eventually hold high-ranking positions of power and influence in Uganda, and all over the world, and Jacob's ambitions are in line with those of his predecessors. He dreams of some day earning his PhD in economics so that he can return to his home country and use his skills to develop and direct policy aimed at improving economic and social conditions there.

Some interesting facts about Jacob Wambede:

He plays rugby, soccer and table tennis, and enjoys running. His favorite soccer team is Manchester United, and his favorite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. He loves to dance and favors West African and Nigerian music. One of his favorite musical performers is Burna Boy.

Some people he admires: American author, economist and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Thomas Sowell; Ugandan economist, accountant and politician, the Honorable Nathan Nandala Mafabi; Ugandan economist and former governor of the Bank of Uganda, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile; UNT Economics Master's program alumnus and current economist for the United Nations Development Program, Dr. Francis Wasswa.