Running a Successful Uganda Family Business

Wednesday, 6th April, 2011

ANATOLI Kamugisha, the managing director of Akright Projects, acquired business knowledge from his father at an early age.

Kemugisha used to see his father getting goods from Indian businessmen on credit and pay for them later. “My father was a small businessman. We were 12 children in the family and all of us stopped in S6. It is only my youngest brother who finished university and I paid his school fees,” Kamugisha says.

After A’ level, Kamugisha went to the then Kyambogo Polytechnic College, but dropped out because of financial constraints.

He then started a construction firm, Kanoblic Company, in 1990. He was given start up capital by family members.

“As a young ‘briefcase’ company, it faced many challenges, but it provided practical lessons for me,” he said.

In 1999, Kamugisha registered Akright Projects, with the goal of developing organised housing estates in Kampala.

He says he owns the company with his family.

His wife is the company secretary and the custodian of the firm’s land titles and valuable documents, which, he says, has provided stability for the business.

Akright has constructed 10 housing estates in and around Kampala, and is in the final stages of setting up Kakungulu satellite city on Entebbe Road.

Kamugisha said before he started Akright, he operated a bakery in Mukono, where he employed relatives.

He says working with relatives can be a challenge, but adds that when you are strict, they can be a blessing.

“Once you manage them (relatives) well, they can be of great help. They stick by you when you have challenges. But other people will run away when things are bad,” he says.

Prof. Wasswa Balunywa, the principal of Makerere University Business School in Nakawa, says statistics show that 90% of businesses are family owned.

He says coherent family units exist in Asia, and that is why the continent has strong family businesses compared to those in Africa.

“Asians get their children involved in family businesses at an early age. In Uganda, we don’t want our children to get into businesses. Parents teach their children that business is dirty,” he says.

“Businesses pay salaries, generate revenue and taxes for government. Businesses unite families,” Balunywa says.

He says the Madhvani Family has over 60 successful family businesses in Uganda, adding that the family has involved many other people in the businesses and has over come the fear of losing control.

Rogers Matama, an entrepreneur, defines a family business as any undertaking aimed at yielding returns for the survival of a group of people not necessarily blood related.

He points out that family businesses need to be hinged on the values of wealth and profit.

Charles Ocici, the executive director of Enterprise Uganda, says while there is no antidote for challenges facing family businesses, transparency, shared vision, due process and a participative management approach inclusive of key stakeholders is a good starting point.

“A family business is an offspring of a marriage of the family and business systems. Like any marriage, it is not a partnership of a bed of roses. Its success depends on the extent to which one can paint a balanced picture, reflecting the colours of family and the colours of business,” he says.

By John Odyek: The New Vision Newspaper

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