I was born into a reasonably well-off family. My parents worked for
the EAC, so we had lived in Kenya and Tanzania. We had drivers and
many privileges that I took for granted. We owned property, farms,
buses, and cars.
When I was 13 my dad was brutally murdered by the Idi Amin regime. My
Dad died at the age of 44, just as I began to really know him and
admire him as my true hero. I really loved him so much. I was so
devastated and shocked…..words cannot describe. It was the most heart
Not only were we robbed of a father and bread winner. Everything
material we had was taken overnight. All the material things we had
were all gone in a flash. Taken.
Riches to rags doesn’t begin to describe what we went through. It was
moments like these that I felt God had indeed forsaken us. Father
Grimes of Namasagali college took me in with my siblings school fees
or not for the next few years
The turning point in my life was about a year later, on the day when
the family sat down on a mat, not a dining table, to have tea without
Sugar for the first time. My mother insisted we just get used to it
and drink the tea. Then my youngest brother started crying for Daddy.
Then my mother who had 6 children by the age of 30 started crying too.
Hysterically. And asking God to come and take us all. Then I felt a
big lump in my throat.
That night I was on the Akamba Bus to Nairobi to look for some sugar.
I returned the next day with a suitcase full of sugar – 15 kgs. I got
the extra from concerned relatives that realised a 14-year old had
come all the way to Kenya just for sugar. Traveling that far in those
days was unheard of. It was like going to Syria today. Communication
was hardly there. Crossing the border was scary but no one suspected a
young kid to be smuggling sugar in a school suitcase. When I got back
home there was so much delight and happiness. My mum hugged me. I
automatically realized that I was no longer a boy. I had become a man.
That one act had re-defined me. The neighbors heard on the grapevine
that I had brought sugar and almost begged to buy some. So we sold
them half, and got 4 times what it had cost. And I was on the bus back
to Kenya for another suitcase of sugar…and so my career began.
Do you know what it is to live without a Door lock on the front of
your house, or not to have a bathroom door that actually closed? That
is the loss of Dignity. I had to restore our dignity, and family Self
Do you really know the Importance of jobs to society?
After 6 years in senior school, and 3 years at Uni, if you then spend
the next 3 years looking for a job, knocking at so many doors and
walking till the soles of your shoes are gone. With your now tattered
CV in your hand. Your self esteem will no doubt diminish.
I encourage many of you to go out there and start up a business that
We need young people who will find a creative idea or a solution to a
problem, grab the opportunity, take the risk, and set aside or
postpone the comforts of today by setting up a businesses that will
provide jobs and profit for tomorrow.
Jobs are what allow people to feel useful and build their self-esteem.
Jobs make people productive members of the community.
Jobs make people feel they are worthy citizens.
It is you the youth of today that go into business with knowledge and
skills that have the power to harness the creativity and talents of
others to achieve a common good. To put labor, capital and other
factors of production to work.
This should make Uganda more competitive and a useful member of the
greater East African region.
Let me make it clear to you all: Job creation is a priority for any
nation to move forward.
I say to you, get a job if that’s the best option open to you, for not
everyone can start a business. Take the job and work as hard as you
can. Learn everything these companies can teach you-and build a
network of contacts and friends, then leave whilst you still have the
If you dream of creating something great, do not let a 9-to-5 job –
even a high-paying one – dull you into a complacent, comfortable life.
Let that high-paying job propel you towards building a business for
Looking back, I have succeeded where many have failed mainly because
of hard work, persistence, focus on my set of goals, discipline,
honesty, taking responsibility for my life and believing that I could
change my future.
It was a time of dog eats dog. No, even man eats dog. And I had to
find a way to support myself and my family. You are beginning as
Uganda’s oil is about to flow.
I started by selling sugar, then shirts then ladies dresses, then
shoes, then a Night club, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, then mobile phones and
Ever since, I have tried to provide a service or product that is
needed by a customer for a fair return.
And I realised that I got a lot of satisfaction in providing the
service or that product period. Making a profit was simply the bonus
that followed most of the time.
I set up Simba Tours and Travel, Simba Forex Bureau, Simba Telecom Ug,
Simba Telecom in Tz with Vodacom, Simba Telecom in Kenya with
Safaricom, invested in property, Hotels, Energy generation, Farming,
Micro Finance banking, Media, Insurance and transport.
Today I stand here before you with humility, as the Chairman UIA,
Chairman of a listed company -Umeme, with thousands of Ugandan
shareholders, an advisor to H.E. the President, Honorary counsel for
Australia to Uganda.
But most importantly I employ over 1500 staff today.
It was only when I had gained more experience and built my reputation,
that I could borrow money from the banks and get into serious property
and bigger business.
That’s the Simba story. From selling 5 kilos of sugar to the neighbors
to becoming the biggest mobile money and airtime dealer in Africa
When I had shown success in the smaller businesses, I was able to
RAISE MONEY in the capital markets-through IPOs like we did for New
Vision, National Insurance Company and recently for Umeme. And I have
managed to develop some complex, capital-intensive businesses like
ElectroMaxx the power generating company.
It’s not been easy; it’s been slow, but sure. One day at a time, one
brick at a time. You, however, have time on your side. Use it well.
And don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes along the way.
From kindergarten through to university, you learn very few skills or
attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like
sales, networking, creativity and being comfortable with failure or
In fact you are taught not to make any mistakes. Mistakes are the best
teachers if you learn the lesson and don’t repeat them.
No business in the world happens without someone buying something. But
most students learn very little about sales in school or university
Moreover, very few businesses get off the ground without a wide,
vibrant network of advisers and mentors, potential customers and
clients, quality vendors and valuable talent to employ.
You don’t learn how to network crouched over a desk studying for
multiple-choice exams. You learn it outside the classroom, talking to
fellow human beings face-to-face. I commend MUBS for their different
approach to this crucial training, it’s begun to pay dividends..
I must now end by wishing all of you good luck and may you be the
future that transforms our beloved motherland Uganda.