Wekesa’s tolerance for risk pushes his businesses to greater heights

Friday March 9 2018

Amos Wekesa

Amos Wekesa 

By Christine Kasemiire

“I am a risk taker, I take risks. In a country where you do not have many risk takers, development becomes a very big challenge. When I want something, I pursue it and when I fail, I do not condemn myself, I wake up, dust off and move on,” says Mr Amos Wekesa, the manager Great Lakes Safaris.
The inspirational words unveil the force that drives his efforts and keeps him in business.
Besides Great Lakes Safaris, Amos Wekesa also manages Uganda lodges. The father of three has a high tolerance for risk which he says has braved him through different circumstances in business.

Humble beginnings
Despite coming from an impoverished family, Wekesa was chanced with a sponsor that paid fees for him to pursue a certificate in tourism albeit his poor performance at advanced certificate level. It was with this background that he got a job as a sweeper, later upgrading to office messenger and tour guide in a tourism company. There, he got mentoring, exploring all facets of tourism through learning from strengths and weaknesses of his employer.
In 2001, he started great lakes safaris with an initial amount of Shs360,000, hiring cars from individuals that he would later use in a car hire service.
“I would come and find you parking and ask what you use your car for in the evenings or weekend. I would go and attend wedding meetings I was not invited for and when they asked for cars for hire, I would offer since I had pictures in my briefcase,” he narrates.
He goes on to reveal that from every car, he made a Shs50, 000 profit nearly every weekend. Starting small, he persevered to take his business higher.

Trying times
At a time when the business was only starting to grow, Wekesa witnessed the perils in doing a business with inadequate knowledge in its regard. He says the company lost over $1.5m to fraudulent thieving workers who took advantage of his focus on growing his business and ignorance about specific areas.
He however did not mop around but recognised it was time to learn something and everything in his own business to cap those blind spots.
Owing to the lack of marketing in Uganda, Wekesa is tasked to take full action in promoting the country’s tourism attractions. For him, an institution to instill quality skills in graduates, to be able to compete favorably in the global industry is much needed in Uganda. The lack of fully trained human resource is also hampering the business.

Business continuity
Wekesa holds strong values and sentiment for family. He aims to avoid mortality of his business even after breathing his last. That is why the tourism enthusiast makes it a point to train his children in how the company operates, in order to uphold a family legacy.
“I personally put in time to make sure my children know what am doing. My first-born started working with me when he was 4 years old. In the garage and then office messenger. I have taken them to every place that we own. I have given them knowledge in tourism related activities,” he says.
However he says he will not force the now 12 year old into tourism if he chooses to digress to something else.
In his experience, business continuity is paramount whether or not it includes family. As in the case of Great lakes safaris, a fully capable team of board of directors is present to check his actions and make decisions even in his absence.

Opportunities in tourism
Since people are now appreciating travel, Wekesa says that Uganda tourism has not been fully exploited. He urges Ugandans to focus on countries such as Japan, and others such as the Nowergian market to tap into the tourism sector.