BMK: Uganda’s self-made entrepreneur dies at 67

Saturday September 11 2021
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City businessman Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige also known as BMK, addresses business owners in September 2018 during the Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies conference in Kampala. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE

By STEPHEN KAFEERO
By DAVID VOSH AJUNA

Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige better known as BMK, a self-made homegrown tycoon who rose from grass to grace after he dropped out of school, has died.

BMK, known for his tenacity and hard work is believed to have died of cancer related complications from a Nairobi hospital after years of battling ill health. He was 67. 

A close family member, Eng Mubarak Ngobya told Daily Monitor that he on Friday ''spoke on phone to Mr Kibirige at around 5:30am before he (Mr Kibirige) was pronounced dead shortly after.''  

In his book, My Story of Building A Fortune in Africa, BMK explains how he toiled for years and built Hotel Africana with branches in Kampala, Moroto and Lusaka in Zambia with business interests in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda. He also owned a chain of spare parts outlets in Uganda, Dubai, Japan and Zambia.

From a humble beginning, BMK, as he was fondly known, ran businesses built over decades transforming his conglomerate into one of the most respectable enterprises in the country. 

Born in 1953 to Ali Kibirige, a businessman and Mariam Kibirige, BMK was one of 36 children.
BMK’s acquaintances say, as an entrepreneur, he  believed in a version of success that largely depends on one’s ability to keep showing up, even in the face of adversity. He faced challenges but didn’t give up.

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Part of his rise was also marked by business deals in Hong Kong, Thailand, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE), China, and Japan sourcing commodities for his East African operations.

Earlier this year, Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II, the king of Buganda Kingdom, awarded him for his distinguished service to the community. 

Buganda Kingdom in a brief message posted on Twitter described him as a true servant of the Kabaka and key supporter of Buganda Kingdom projects.

In the evening of his life, BMK also achieved what many prominent Ugandans have failed. He had his story documented and published a book which was launched on March.

A generous figure who supported the education of hundreds among other causes was also an influential pillar in Uganda Muslim community.  A mosque, Masjid Musa, at Hotel Africana embodies that. 

The father of 18 leaves behind two wives only identified as Sophia and Hawa.

Eng Ngobya Friday said ''the family was making arrangements to have the entrepreneur's body transported from Nairobi to his ancestral village in Nkoowe, Wakiso District in central Uganda.''

What they say
Hotel Africana management

“With a heavy heart, we announce the death of our proprietor, Hajji Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige. He has been a great father, a very good leader, a mentor and a friend to everyone. May his soul rest in peace,” a statement by Hotel Africana reads. 

Prof Samuel Sejjaaka, late BMK’s friend: “BMK: the boy from Matanga. You have run your race, you have touched many lives. Your compassion, generosity and love for others is a shining example of what it means to live a life of mindfulness. May Allah grant you everlasting peace.” 

Ugandan entrepreneur and politician, Mike Mukula: ''We have lost one of the most enterprising people in Uganda. Very humble, jovial, generous,very religious,extremely very understanding, a patriot and a nationalist,'' Mr Mukula said on Twitter. 

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