Tuesday July 1 2014

Amagara skincare draws global attention

Ms Olive Kigongo displays some of the products produced by Amagara

Ms Olive Kigongo displays some of the products produced by Amagara Skincare Limited. Photo BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

By Abdulaziizi K. Tumusiime

Amagara Skincare Limited is the latest entrant to the brief and desirable list of Ugandan entrepreneurial companies to be featured on CNN’s African Start-Up programme.

CNN recently broadcast an interview conducted with two directors of the skin care line, Anisha Kigongo and Shakib Nsubuga, at the company’s home at the Uganda Industrial Research Institute in Nakawa.
“The idea to start Amagara was sparked by a gift, containing lotions, given to my mum,” Anisha said in the interview.

She noted that the ingredients of the lotions were items that could be sourced locally. “So we thought; why then can’t we produce the lotions from Uganda?”

Amagara means “Life” in Runyankole - a local dialect. The skin care line opened shop in 2012.
It manufactures body lotions, body butters, hand crèmes, shower gels and hand wash. The products are made with fruits, vegetables and oils sourced from local farmers.

Despite being in business for two years, the company has been able to, besides the local market; enter the neighbouring markets of Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic and Kenya.

“It is a feat we are so proud of. Amagara was introduced to the world,” says Olive Kigongo the managing director of Amagara, when asked about the meaning of the air time on CNN to the company.
“It is not only recognition for the works of Amagara as a company, but also the entrepreneurial potential of Uganda as a country.”

The company, since the broadcast of the interview, has been receiving enquiries (about the nature and price of their products) from Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia and Colombia among others.

However, the journey has not been one devoid of challenges. Changing the consumption mindset of Ugandans, says Kigongo, sits at the top of the pack.

“Many Ugandans believe anything imported is better than what is manufactured locally.” says Kigongo.
“Absence of government incentives is another. The taxes imposed on the packaging materials which we import are discouraging,” she adds.

This year’s national Budget, according to Kigongo, did not help matters. New taxes were imposed on farm implements and utilities. This, she says, will translate into an increase in the prices of the raw materials (like shea butter, carrots, vanilla, water melon and aloe vera) and consequently a rise in the cost of production.

“Nevertheless, we are hopeful that Amagara is destined to conquer the world. We are optimistic that, gradually, more Ugandans will love locally manufactured products,” she says.

About Shs1 billion Shillings - all personal funds - have been injected into the company since inception. Kigongo says she was hesitant to take out a loan before the company could find its feet.