What you need to know:
- The entrepreneur started a number of companies including Sembule Steel Mills, Sembule Commercial Bank, among others.
Between the 1970s and 2000, Christopher Columbus Ssembuya became a household name in Uganda due to his various business exploits.
Ssembuya, together with his brother Wilberforce Buwule, started various companies under the name Sembule , which was a combination of their names.
Sadly, Ssembuya passed away on Tuesday after collapsing in his house. He was 85.
In his home town of Nkokonjeru in Mukono District, Ssembuya played a crucial role in bringing piped water to the communities.
Born on March 6, 1936 in Nkokonjeru, Mukono District, Ssembuya attended Ngoggwe Baskerville Secondary School in Buikwe District and Kako Secondary School in Masaka.
After his studies, he briefly worked in Moyo and Karamoja districts before joining the Ministry of Finance.
His son, Mr Steven Ssembuya Magulu, a former Buikwe South MP aspirant, said his father and uncle started their first business, a hardware shop in Ndeeba, a Kampala City suburb, in 1964.
After gaining sizeable income the duo turned the business into Sembule Steel Mills and the company was incorporated in 1971.
“They started with one machine and were the first indigenous company to manufacture nails. They later started making other steel products such as Iron bars, nets, barbed wire, wire mesh, among others,” Magulu said.
He added that by the late 70s and early 80s nearly all steel products on the Ugandan market were made by Sembule Steel Mills.
“He accumulated wealth and while doing this they started Sembule Commercial Bank,” Magulu said.
It later became Allied Bank. Currently, it is known as Bank of Africa with branches in Nkokonjeru, Jinja, and Kampala.
In the 1980s, the duo started an electronic business known as Sembule Electronics which was managed by Emanuel Katongole, the owner of Quality Chemicals.
The company assembled television (TV) sets, radios, bulbs, desk telephones, street lights. It was the first supplier of color TVs and computers in the country. They also mounted traffic lights on Entebe Road and elsewhere around the country.
Sembule started an insurance company known as Pan World insurance company, the first black owned insurance company in Uganda. It later became Lions Insurance. Currently it is known as Sanlam.
The duo became the first licensed TV station owner. The company owned Cable Sat TV (CTv). It later became Wavah Broadcasting Service (WBS).
They also managed Nile Hotel which is now the Kampala Serena Hotel.
Between 1997 and 2005, Sembule was closed due to a loan acquired from PTA Bank. The company had signed $6.6 million under Bank of Uganda guarantee.
However, Sembule received only $4.2 million, according to Magulu. He adds that Sembule surrendered their rights to manage the company.
“Management functions were taken from the group and it collapsed,” he says.
Magulu adds that President Museveni intervened and bailed the company out with Shs11 billion and in 2005 all their properties were returned.
At the time the properties were returned, the company had been indebted to a tune if $1 million.
“I appreciate the President for remembering my dad. The company had been gone for eight years and all titles were returned,” Magulu said.
However, in 2013, Sembule collapsed after incurring a Shs750m debt with a South African company, Euro Metals.
“We had paid all banks to zero balance but Sembule collapsed with a small debt.”
At the time of his death, Sembuya only had two properties in Kololo and Ntinda.
Ssembuya will be buried on Friday in Nkokonjeru. The main vigil will be held today at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala.
He has left behind two wives and 12 biological children.
Mugulu says his father invested in his children and most of them are running big companies. One son Francis Ssembuya runs Ssembuya Steel Mills, while on of his daughters, Lydia Bbuule, runs Mesha steels.