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Mohammed Hamid the Hilton Hotel Uganda Owner: From a street vendor to a billionaire

Hilton Hotel in Uganda

Hilton Hotel in Uganda

When and why did you decide to come to Uganda?
I came to Uganda in 1987 after my high school to visit my elder brother, Mohammed El Hamid, the owner of Pan Afric Impex. I was supposed to proceed to the US for my university education on the advice of my father. But I fell in love with the country and decided to stay.

Why did you decide to stay in Uganda?
I just loved the country. The people were warm. I saw lots of opportunities and had the backing of my elder brother.


What was the first business you attempted in Uganda?
After working with Pan Afric Impex for some time, I decided to start my first company, Pan Afric Commodities, in the early 1990s. We dealt in general merchandise; both import and export. I imported all sorts of items like vehicle tyres, juices and wheat flour. I influenced the popularity of chapatti as a meal of choice among Ugandans.

And how did you move into milling and other businesses?
After realising there was a big demand for wheat locally, I bought a milling machine from Premiere Mills, a firm owned by businessman Sudhir Ruparelia in industrial area, Kampala. We then moved the machinery to Kawempe, where I had acquired a 15-acre piece of land in 1997.

How did you accumulate enough capital to go into manufacturing?
I made a lot of profit trading in general merchandise and by the time I decided to move into manufacturing, I had accumulated enough capital. I spent about $1.5m (about sh3.5b now) to set up the industry. The machinery alone cost $1.3m.

How did you move from that one mill to the diversified manufacturing empire you are running today?
As the milling business grew, we realised we would make a lot of money if we added value to the wheat flour. There was a lot of market for baked products and confectioneries.

In 2000, with the help of a loan from the Export Import Bank and my savings, I bought more mills and expanded into the bakery and biscuits-making sections. We set up one mill at a time until they became three.

But you are also into transportation. What did fleets of trucks have to do with what you were doing?
As a manufacturer, I soon realised the cost, time and inconvenience of getting a decent transporter for our raw materials from Mombasa to the factory. So, we decided to start our own transport company called Fifi Transport in 2004. Workers at Aya Biscuits in Kawempe

Today, we have a fleet of over 200 trucks ranging from small three-tonne trucks to 60-tonne trucks serving mainly our internal transport needs. However, occasionally, we hire them out for commercial use.

Any other business you own locally and abroad?
I also own a company called AYA Investments, which invests in big local projects like the Hilton Kampala Hotel.
I am currently into construction and mining locally.

In Dubai, I own a trading company that deals in general merchandise across Middle East and Africa called Aya Mohammed Trade plus a real estate firm in Manhattan, New York, USA, that deals in both residential and commercial properties.

You have talked about being in the mining business. This is new. Tell us more about this venture I acquired an exploration and mining licence in Karamoja for gold through my AYA Mining company. However, I haven’t yet struck major gold in spite of the fact that exploration has been going on for some time.

Putting all your ventures together, what do you think is your total net worth?
Considering all my businesses, I will put it at about $400m.

I juggled business, books at eight years

The AYA estate
AYA Investments (U) Ltd Manages a diversified portfolio of industrial and commercial real estate. One of the division’s principal projects is the development of Hilton Hotel.

AYA Mills
AYA Mills operates one of the largest commercial milling facilities in East Africa and is home to some of the region’s finest flours. The facilities utilise modern equipment, including state-of-the-art Ocrim mills, which are capable of producing up to 8,500 tonnes of flour per month.

AYA Mining
Last year, the AYA Group established the first gold mining facility in Uganda. The project is expected to expand its operations into the processing of metal from other east African nations.

AYA Biscuits

Aya Biscuits operates the newest and most modern biscuit-making facility in Uganda, utilising the latest Polin Machinery imported from Italy.

Pan Afric Commodities Ltd
The leading millers of wheat flour in Uganda, the company’s mills are located in Kawempe, Kampala. Pan Afric Commodities was one of the 10 finalists in the 2005 Investor of the Year Awards.

FIFI Transport Uganda Ltd
A leading hauler in the east and central African region, the company has state-of-the-art trucks capable of handling containerised and bagged freight. Major routes of FIFI Transport include the port of Mombasa in Kenya and Kampala. They also operate in Southern Sudan.

Aya Bakery (U) Ltd
The largest commercial bakery in Uganda, the company supplies fresh bakery products daily to Kampala and central Uganda.

Hilton Hotel a landmark in Kampala
Last decade, you ventured into hotels and are setting up Hilton Hotel, one of the most visible landmarks in Kampala. Tell us about this project.

The hotel will be operated by Hilton International. We intend for it to be Kampala’s number one address for tourism, leisure and entertainment and one of the best hotels in Africa.

It is designed to the highest international standards with a dramatic palm-lined road that leads to a domed five-storey atrium and a sculpted 22-storey tower. We set up in grounds with a waterfall. We are hoping that this will become an internationally-known landmark for Kampala.

We have built about 272 luxury suites and guest-rooms offering an unparalleled range of facilities with three restaurants and two bars for entertainment, a large health and beauty spa, conference and meeting facilities for over 1,000 delegates and ballrooms for private functions.

Upon completion, how much do you estimate it will have cost?
The entire project will cost $150m (sh350b) by the time it’s done. We hope that will happen this year.

Why did you decide to venture into such a challenging and expensive project?
I started the project in 2006 and it was inspired by a number of factors. First, I have travelled around the globe and have hosted a number of my friends and business partners here, who always wondered why such a beautiful country doesn’t have a landmark like a five-star hotel. This is one of the reasons I decided to undertake this project.

Secondly, I make a lot of money from this country. I feel obliged to add something of a landmark; something that will have my name on 50-70 years from now for all the good I have got from Uganda.

I also believe undertaking such a project that will employ over 2,000 Ugandans directly and bring in a lot of foreign exchange is a way of giving back to Uganda and its people for the business, support and the warmth they have accorded me.
I also love taking on big challenges. That is exactly what this project was for me when I first conceptualised it.

This project has had a number of ups and downs, including some nasty legal battles and has also delayed completion, what do you think was the cause of all this?
Yes, there is a lot of envy from people, who are fighting the project for their own gain. They are trying to sabotage us; exaggerating things and painting the entire project negatively.

Then there are people second-guessing us, while others are claiming we hijacked the land on which the hotel stands. These people want to see the project fail.

This project is also a very detailed and complex piece of architecture, so it takes time to bring out the finer details. That is the other reason it’s taking time.

Aside from the challenges you have faced with the hotel, what other challenges have you faced doing business in Uganda?
Bureaucracy, especially in government departments, which slows vital business processes. Acquisition of licences is a major challenge to businesses, for example. Corruption among politicians, who are looking for kickbacks from businessmen is a pain. Sometimes they go as far as trying to fail you by fighting you because you refused to bribe them.

The New Vision Newspaper

Comments for Mohammed Hamid the Hilton Hotel Uganda Owner: From a street vendor to a billionaire

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Jan 04, 2015
re: salon and spa
by: Mariam

Hi there, I am interested in opening up a salon and spa in you hotel. Is the opportunity still available?

Dec 02, 2014
The thunderous appreciations to Mr.Hamid.
by: Nahamya God

I am also a Ugandan teenager looking for what to do upon my future. So Mr.Hamid and your company am kindly requesting you a job.
Hope my request will be put under your consideration.

Oct 12, 2014
by: Ernesto

Dear Mr. Mohammed,

Allow me to say good day!!

You have made your hotel nice and beautiful, congratulation sir Hamid.

I am a Filipino citizen who is working here in one of the biggest hotel/resort located at Mombasa, Kenya as the Executive Housekeeper. I have been in the hotel industry for almost 12 years now. And mostly I am part of pre-opening team who are opening a new hotel or renovated hotel.

I am applying for the position of Executive Housekeeper, you may contact me at my mobile # 0716287303. Hoping to hear from you soon Mr. Hamid.

Sincerely yours,

Oct 12, 2014
by: Ernesto

Dear Mr. Mohammed,

Allow me to say good day!!

You have made your hotel nice and beautiful, congratulation sir Hamid.

I am a Filipino citizen who is working here in one of the biggest hotel/resort located at Mombasa, Kenya as the Executive Housekeeper. I have been in the hotel industry for almost 12 years now. And mostly I am part of pre-opening team who are opening a new hotel or renovated hotel.

I am applying for the position of Executive Housekeeper, you may contact me at my mobile # 0716287303. Hoping to hear from you soon Mr. Hamid.

Sincerely yours,

May 08, 2014

I would like to thank Mohammed Hamid for the good heart and his love for Uganda. I happen to be one of his hundreds of employees at AYA wheat mills Kawempe, and unlike other so called investors who exploit and mistreat the local employees, Mr Hamid is a transparent, fair, approachable and time abiding person. However he has the issue of his bodyguards always surrounding him making it difficult for some people to reach him.

Feb 21, 2014
by: Gideon, Kampala

Many have come up with such buildings in Uganda calling them Hotels but got a chance to know what happens inside, terrible....Preserve standards.
Gideon, The Hospitality Solutions Team,a Hospitality training and consultancy firm with offices at Amber House, Kamapala.

Nov 17, 2013
Looking for a job
by: Anonymous

I am Kawesa sharon 22years old just graduated from uganda Christian university with a bachelors in social work administration. Am computer literate, good communication skills. Would be honored if granted the opportunity .... For more info 0784594511

Oct 16, 2013
terrible are the days spent under your leadership
by: Anonymous

Mr Hamid Mohammed,,

terrible are the days spent under your leadership in kampala in 2005,where all expats resigned becasue of your poor management and cheating skills,,wherein you cheated expat salary,not paying even half of 3 months cummulative salary,,,
donot even know why you did so,,ignoring actual talents and bringing in mixed kenyan Mr Clive as the so called GGM-who eventually had dismissed all your salesmen and as a result all ran away with credits in the had made enough efforts to spoil expats career all of them you had hired ,,shame ,,a real shame,,god bless you with the hotel and people will remember you even after 50-60 yrs,,,from a street vendor to a bill,,,,,,,,strange,,,

Sep 11, 2013
Wonderful work Mr. Hamid
by: Lisper

This is really wonderful. Starting from streets to where you are now is quite motivating,impressive. You are such a down to Earth man who deserves all the respect.

Giving back to Uganda what you have earned from them should actually give you all the respect. Constructing such a hotel which to me should be a 7* if at all one exists....more like the famous Burj Al Arab in UAE. Congrats to you Mohammed and may Alah bless the work of your hands as you battle to complete the construction full of challenges.

Wish you the best and you stand a Hero.

Jun 17, 2013
good investment
by: john bosco

lthink you should be ready to compete with the rest of the hotels, like serena which is offering the best service, its almost next to none, i know you have enough capital.

Jun 14, 2013
Vacancy 0705843582 ,

Thanxs for the opportunities which you have given to ugandans hence i had completed my course in IT in BUSINESS with seeking for vacancy with exprience.

Jun 13, 2013
by: Anonymous

Thanx for investing in our country.i completed my diploma in IT in there avacancy thanx alot.

May 21, 2013
Is the KAmpala Hilton Open for business?
by: Anonymous

I was in Kampala last week of April 2013 to first week of May, and I saw a big construction crane over the Hilton Hotel. I asked my driver whether this landmark hotel was open, I just wanted to stop by and check it out see if they have nice restaurants or cafe etc. The driver admitted he did not know, but was quick to show me the big crane and added "Sir, I believe it is still under construction". So, I never stopped by, mainly because I was very busy the whole time, and also because I was not sure the place was open for business.
Can you reassure people like me that you are actually open!

May 21, 2013

Am a male Ugandan aged 30 years qualified in east African Plumbing and metal fabrication

I have a 7 years experience in plumbing

Am requesting for a job to work as a plumber at Hilton Hotel

Carrying out maintenance work and sewerage clearance
at the Hotel

Am looking forward to hear from you or to give me the right procedure on how l should apply.

Contact me on +256 782 802 107/ 0 774 168 476/ 0 783 593 041


Apr 28, 2013
I need JOB vacancy
by: gideon thembo

1.i believe it would be opportunity for ugandan employment
what's on ground
for the lucky ones.

me i need job,am jobless & with my two hands
so assist me

Jan 29, 2013
Respect for Mr. Hamid
by: Mr. G.

Mr. Hamid, you have won my respect, because you are a simple, sincere, and yet excellent businessman.
I am a Ugandan in Diaspora, I last visited Kampala in 2010. I saw the Hilton under construction from Kololo hill, now I am glad it's complete. Yes, it is a landmark for Uganda. I hope you are also a citizen of Uganda, if not please consider it. Thank you for advertizing our country. I hope to come by soem day with my friends and enjoy the Kampala Hilton. god bless you!

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