How Ugandan Businessman Climbed From Bicycle Mechanic to Hotel owner
All his years, he watched as business people from Bushenyi invested in areas other than their home town. They opted for Kampala and Mbarara because they did not realise the potential in Bushenyi town.
And that is the reason Deogracious Obenowobusingye alias Musiba chose to invest there. He had accumulated all his wealth in this quiet town in western Uganda and saw no reason to abandon it when it had been so good to him.
"Many people are criticising me. They think I should have taken this investment to Kampala where there are quicker returns. I have always asked them why I should take it to Kampala when my area is doing badly in terms of services and development," he says.
"I have accumulated this money from my people. Why should I repatriate or take away the profits to go and develop other peoples? towns using the money I generated from the people of Bushenyi?" he asks.
"Have you seen people from Kampala, Masaka, and northern or eastern Uganda coming to invest their money in our district by putting up buildings?"
Musiba, 54, has watched the town grow from a trading centre to a town council and now to a municipality. Getting an aerial view of Bushenyi town will no longer be a problem with the completion of his five-storey Western Meridian hotel.
Musiba says one of the reasons that led him to put up a hotel was how his friends suffered whenever they went to Bushenyi to visit him.
"They used to get problems with accomodation," Musiba narrates. Musiba looked at the situation as a problem but at the same time as business potential.
According to the Bushenyi/Ishaka municipality mayor Jackson Kamugasha, the municipality has registered a big achievement in the hotel.
"We have been failing to host national functions like workshops because of lack of accommodation but now we can," he says.
Musiba?s business background
Musiba is a self-made investor. He has weathered bad economic times and tumultuous political eras but has emerged successful.
He started out as a vendor along the Uganda- DRC border. The instability caused by the war against Idi Amin?s regime caused him to stop the vending business and he resorted to learning how to repair bicycles.
He convinced Stephen Bakandonda and Sajja Kasozi who owned a garage to teach him the trade.
One year later, Musiba says he was a star bicycle mechanic. He continued working in the garage and raised some capital to start selling bicycle spare parts.
He later decided to expand his business by opening up a shop and started importing spare parts and hardware from Nairobi, Kenya.
In October 1990, his goods worth sh30m got burnt after a candle caused fire in Kikuubo in Kampala shortly after they had been imported from Nairobi.
"After that incident, things became difficult for me up to 1997," Musiba recalls.
Honesty was his bail-out at that point.
The trust and confidence he had created with his suppliers, enabled him to get goods on credit. He worked tirelessly and in 2005 he opened up a point in Kampala and started to import hardware goods from China, Dubai, India, South Africa and Kenya.
"The reason I got interested in hardware is because machines and hardware do not rot or expire," he says.
Venturing into the hotel industry
After gaining the strength in hardware business, Musiba decided to contribute towards Bushenyi?s development by setting up a hotel in 2006.
However, the venture did not go as smoothly as he would have liked. Musiba was among the businessmen who felt the pinch of Kenya crisis.
Shortly after he had embarked on the construction of the hotel, chaos erupted in Kenya after the 2007 general elections where his goods, a consignment of ten containers, were held up and delayed for over 250 days.
"At that time it was risky to transport goods via Kenya because I feared that any time they could get burnt," Musiba recalls. The problems worsened when he later failed to raise money to clear the revenue taxes.
In 2007 he decided to acquire a loan to clear the goods at the border but the loan did not help him much.
"The money instead led me into problems because by the time I delivered my hotel equipment, the taxes had accumulated and I had not yet registered as a hotelier," he says.
Musiba says had it not been the Kenya crisis and had the revenue authorities accepted him to import the goods as a hotel investor, he would have paid less taxes.
"The only thing I can do is to make sure that I work hard to recover the money I lost in taxes," adding that, "I would have finished this hotel long time ago but my money got wasted during the Kenya chaos."
By Chris Mugasha: The New Vision Newspaper