The story of Ugandan entrepreneurship would not be complete without mentioning one man, James Mulwana.
Sadly, that man is no more. He died on Tuesday, January 15, aged 76. Doctors blamed abdominal complications. From his Nice House of Plastics to Uganda Batteries Limited to Jesa Farm Dairy to Nsimbe Estates, Mulwana was a symbol of business success amongst Ugandans in the private sector.
Successful as he was, he wanted others to succeed too, thus his active involvement in the revival and leadership of Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) and Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), which are today some of the strongest voices on the economy, thanks in part to his contribution.
Mulwana distinguished himself as the pioneer of local industry. He fought to make Ugandans proud of the 'Made in Uganda' label so much so that he was known to hand token presents to journalists who came to his press conferences holding pens made from his Nice House of Plastics. He became an inspiration to the Ugandan business community, championing the cause of entrepreneurship and local production perhaps more than any other businessman of his time.
President Museveni recently lamented that not many Ugandans are engaged in manufacturing. The likes of Mulwana defied the odds facing indigenous Ugandans who venture into manufacturing and still managed to excel. Budding entrepreneurs must look up to this man - and others in his category - and ask themselves, if he could do it, why not us?
Agriculture and oil production have been glorified but the Ugandan economy will not be transformed without industrialisation, which will create many more jobs and boost consumption to attract even more investment. In a country notorious for corruption, Mulwana is believed to have accumulated his wealth through hard work and honesty, which cannot be said of many in the Ugandan business community. Right-thinking business leaders should emulate him in this regard.
Hopefully, unlike many scenarios in Africa where successful enterprises fail to outlive their founders, Mulwana's business empire was prepared to withstand such a calamity and will continue to thrive and expand. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased.
Rest in peace James Mulwana!