To the outside world, Uganda’s reputation is somewhat hampered by the legacy of political unrest, corruptness, faltering economic development and hardline policies against homosexuality. The current president, Yoweri Museveni, is a self-proclaimed ‘democratic’ leader but has tinkered with the constitution and thrown out EU election monitors in his determination to cling on to power for more than 25 years.
From the inside, we have found Uganda to be a nation of warm-hearted and smart-minded people, with a beautiful and diverse landscape. Official GDP figures indicate staggering poverty (many Ugandians live on USD $500 a year) but there is an overwhelming sense of economic potential – a strong agricultural base and 2.5 billion barrels of untapped oil reserves, underpinned by a government that’s encouraging inward investment.
In the last decade the country has made notable progress in proactively reducing the prevalence of HIV (from about 15% in 1991 to about 6% in 2007 – UNAIDS), introducing telecommunications and mobile banking, liberalizing financial markets and promoting larger-scale tourism and farming.
Foreign investment is visible across the energy, telecomms and FMCG sectors. We were privileged to get an inside peek at two fast-growing enterprises, funded by British private equity firm TLG capital: the Vero Food Ltd water bottling factory and the Quality Chemicals Industries Ltd state-of-the-art pharmaceutical manufacturing plant.
We were also lucky to meet with several Kampala-based BusinessBecause members for drinks – all young professionals interested in management education and passionate about business opportunities in their country.
Fred Ssemyano has just returned from a one year intensive MBA at the Universita Cattolica in Milan. His class of 30 consisted of a diverse mix from Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Uganda and Europe, with an unusually high percentage of women! Fred used to work in telecomms customer services and now wants to apply his consumer focus to a Marketing career.
Fred invited one of his friends, Musa - an MBA applicant with an ACCA accountancy background - who is considering an MBA from an international institution. He’s interested in distance-learning programmes offered by UK business schools as he thinks an accredited British degree will help him get a job overseas.
Callistus Tukamuhebwa has completed an executive MBA in Uganda, studying part-time whist working for a PR agency and setting up a tourism company on the site. Callistus is an education advocate, but was slightly disappointed by the ‘lack of applicable skills’ from his MBA.
Geoffrey Kalibbala was a successful call centre manager who is now developing his own business plans. He believes there’s a perfect investor ‘out there’ for him but he hasn’t yet made the right connections – Geoffrey would like to see more initiatives to help young entrepreneurs find funding in Kampala.
JohnPaul Namoma has just quit his job in Credit at Stanbic (one of Uganda’s biggest banks) to pursue a two year MBA in China. He doesn’t feel an MBA in Uganda will offer him sufficient financial depth and is keen to get stuck-in to complex derivatives and investment banking theory. JohnPaul had an offer from a UK business school but felt the nine month programme was too short. He thinks Uganda will be a very ‘different place’ once he returns after a couple of years, when he hopes to work either in the agricultural sector (“everyone needs to eat”) or in academia where he’d like to change the way finance is taught in his country.
The general concensus amongst the group was that Ugandan professors are very 'theoretical’, with a traditional lecture style of teaching – these BusinessBecause members would like to see more entrepreneurs and business leaders, instead of academics, sharing their experiences first-hand in the classroom!
We look forward to seeing these young Ugandians realize their goals in a ‘frontier’ economy that promises exciting, and much-needed, growth in the next few years.
Drinks with MBAs - from Left To Right: Callistus, Kate, Fred, Geoffrey, JohnPaul and Musa
Visiting Vero bottled water plant in Kampala