On Friday, Uganda was engulfed by the heart wrenching news of the passing of Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige, commonly known as BMK, a Ugandan businessman, entrepreneur, and author.
He was one of the wealthiest Ugandans and battled cancer for years. BMK is one businessman who managed to keep his name out of scandals and politics.
In fact, his best known enterprise, Hotel Africana, is one of those that hosts a multitude of political meetings, both pro and anti-government.
We will never know how he managed to balance the two. However, we have seen venue and hotel owners across the country refuse to host Opposition meetings due to ‘orders from above’ even after bookings are confirmed.
As a businessman, BMK understood the importance of working with everyone regardless of the political shade after all the ultimate target is supernormal profits.
In addition, he gave a significant portion of his wealth to Muslim causes and Buganda Kingdom. Those around could tell these stories better.
From the outside, we all saw a Ugandan who built a business from local capital and largely local contacts at a time when the world today tends to think that foreign aid and investment are the primary tools for developing countries to move up the ladder.
Today’s businesses are shrouded in mystery or rumour mongering of an invisible hand behind Uganda’s wealthiest. For most of them, you cannot trace the path they took.
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. These defy the current mad rush of this country’s young population to seek greener pastures in the Middle East, South Africa, North America and Europe.
We are losing our most productive and most innovative age group to mediocre brown collarless jobs because of the general feeling that opportunities are in short supply here. How many BMKs have left in this labour migration? No one has an answer.
There is need to have all brains remain and create homegrown solution to our challenges regardless of their education after all BMK is not known to have been a graduate.
This transformation happened over decades to further emphasize that there aren’t many shortcuts unless you are born a royal or with a spoon in your mouth.