THERE is no better Christmas gift for the north this year than the decision by Mukwano Industries to set up an oil processing plant in Lira. The $20m (sh38bn) plant will not only boost sunflower growing, but will also stimulate the development of other industries dependent on sunflower by-products, thereby creating direct employment to hundreds of people in the region that is recovering from 20 years of rebel insurgency.
The return of peace in the north should be followed by meaningful development companies like Mukwano should be supported by both local and national leaders as true partners in this development effort. The north is primarily an agricultural region and that is why agriculture and agro-processing should be encouraged.
However, the companies taking their investments to the north should be sensitive to land issues and the feelings of a people traumatized by years of war. Tact and transparency is required, particularly in investments that would need huge tracts of land.
That is why Mukwano’s approach of directly buying or leasing land from individuals or working with the farmers should be commended.
Already 85,000 farmers in the districts of Lira, Dokolo, Apac and Oyam have signed contracts with Mukwano and are reaping the benefits. Under the arrangement, Mukwano offers incentives like hoes, fertilisers and pesticides to the farmers and guarantees to buy all their crop output at a price agreed in advance.
This price guarantee cushions the farmers against low prices dictated by market forces in case of a bumper harvest or oversupply.
At the moment, Mukwano buys a combined harvest of 34,000 tonnes of sunflower, directly bringing in sh12b to the farmers in the north.
The establishment of an oil processing plant will raise the demand to 300,000 tonnes a year. As long as people are constructively engaged, manipulating them into rebellion becomes an uphill task. That is why more Mukwanos should be attracted to invest in the north.
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In the few years that I have been in Uganda, I have lost count of the number of people who have shared with me stories of how their lives, and the lives of their communities and families, have been transformed by the generosity of Mzee Mukwano and his family.
by AMIN MAWJI OBE
The nation lost a loyal citizen this week. The passing of Amirali Karmali – Mzee Mukwano as he was affectionately known – marks a sad moment for the nation and for the multitudes of people whose lives were touched by this remarkable man.
Karmali began life with the most humble of beginnings. As a truck driver, his early life included periods spent largely on the roads across Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. It was a time when life may have been simple, but the terrain was rough.
Driving through the rough roads of the time required a level of resilience that signalled, early on, the determination and strength of the man. It was an attribute that would serve him well in what was to follow.
The political upheaval of 1972 saw the dispersal of the Karmali family. But Karmali stayed back – reluctant to leave the country he loved and anticipating that the family would be able to return soon.
Although the Ugandan supply chain for coffee was largely disrupted during this period, coffee prices were high and the enterprising Karmali trucked the coffee to Kenya, returning with goods with a ready market in Uganda.
His inventories of textile fabrics ensured a ready supply of the latest fashion in fabrics to local tailors and seamstresses. The tailoring hub along Luwum Street in Kampala owes much of its foundation to that enterprise. The Mukwano empire broadened its reach, but Karmali never lost his eye for quality fabric.
His wife, affectionately known as Mama Mukwano, told me recently that even now, he would often want to feel the fabric of the saree (Indian-made women’s garment) she was wearing and admire its quality.
As the Mukwano businesses grew, so did their investment in local manufacturing. Karmali committed himself to developing a fast-moving consumer goods industry in Uganda, leading to local manufacturing of products such as soap and other consumer goods.
Political upheavals in Uganda did not make for an easy path to growth and Karmali was personally a target through each period of civil unrest.
However, as peace and security returned under President Museveni, the business climate improved. I recall President Museveni once telling me how, in those early days, he had called Amirali Mukwano and enlisted him to the development cause of Uganda through building manufacturing facilities for products such as soap.
The Mukwano family’s generosity, under the patriarchy of Mzee Mukwano, is legendary. I know from my first-hand experience of their support to many of the development programmes of the Aga Khan Development Network and their broad support to many communities across Uganda. It is a tradition that his children, including Alykhan and Rukhsana, carry on with grace.
In the few years that I have been in Uganda, I have lost count of the number of people who have shared with me stories of how their lives, and the lives of their communities and families, have been transformed by the generosity of Mzee Mukwano and his family.
More remarkable was his ability to offer his hand of friendship without in any way diminishing the dignity of the beneficiary. Mzee Mukwano – named after the hand of friendship – set an example for us all.
Our world is a poorer place for his passing on. May his soul rest in peace.
Mawji is the Diplomatic Representative, Aga Khan Development Network
Ugandan businessman Amirali Karmali commonly known as Mzee Mukwano, has died., according to family.
Mukwano passed on at his home in Kololo, Kampala, where he was reported to be on oxygen support for days.
He was one of Uganda’s most powerful businessman and one of the richest.
There is probably no home in the country without at least one of his products.
Amirali was born in the mid-1930s to Ali Mohammed Karmali, a pioneer Indian investor, came to Uganda in 1904 and laid the foundation of the empire.
He is the father to Alykhan Karmali who currently running the family business empire that spans real estate, banking, transport, and manufacturing.
The history of the Mukwano Group dates back to 1904, when Alimohamed Karmari, the father of Amirali, landed on the East African coast.
He settled in Fort Portal in Western Uganda. Amirali later shifted his base to Kampala.
Mr Amirali Karmali (2nd left) meeting The Aga Khan [R]
He was one of the few Asians who stayed in Uganda during Idi Amin Dada’s military regime.
In 2011, he was decorated with the ‘distinguished order of the Nile (class one) award’ for his distinct performance in production and enterprise development.
The Mukwano Group of Companies, commonly known as the Mukwano Group, is a conglomerate based in Uganda, with operations in other East African countries.
The Group’s headquarters are located on Mukwano Road (Bypass Road), in the Central Division of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city.
The group was established in 1986, although it did not start operations until 1989.
As of October 2016, the group is involved in six main areas of business: (a) manufacturing (b) real estate investments (c) bulk storage & shipment (d) cargo clearing & forwarding (e) agriculture and (f) financial services.
Mukwano Group is one of the most active investment groups in Uganda.
The group won the coveted Annual Presidential Award of Best Exporter of the Year for 2004.
Subsidiary companies include: (1) AK Transporters Uganda Limited; Gulf Stream Investments Limited; Exim Bank (Uganda); Lira Maize Factory Limited; Lira Oil Mill Limited; Mukwano Agro Project Limited; Mukwano AK Plastics; Mukwano Dar es Salaam Factory; Mukwano Industries Limited; Mukwano Sugar Factory; Nationwide Properties Limited; Riley Packaging Limited.
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"He is not one of yours, he is one of us" said our Kampala taxy driver while describing "Mzee Mukwano"
I met Karmali "Mukwano" in 2007 in Kampala first in his office, then in his house where I was invited on a Sunday for Lunch. I was impressed by his humanity more than by his generosity. Though he was more know for his generosity but that generosity was only one of the ways in which he expressed his deep love and commitment to the betterment of the Ugandan people. I asked him about all those children in remote area, he became lively, he said he had sponsored about 700 children in remote areas and had arranged for them education, food, lodging up to the time they can secure they own future. That he follows the progress of each one with great interest. Showing me a cigar, he joked "this is the only vice I have".
In Kampala, his industries provided employments to thousands, they covered the length of a whole road and the well known Mukwano round-about, of course! That seemed so far from the time when he was driving trucks to Congo-Rwanda, Burundi in the early 1960s'. That was then that he became friend with Ramzanali Manji, my father in law and Mohan Mukhi. They had a lasting friendship reported Mr Manji who visited him back with me in 2007. Mukwano arranged for us to be hosted at the Mayfair during our stay.
His son Aly Khan is well know as entrepreneur and philanthropist, he takes care of so many businesses, one wonders where he finds the time. Karmali's daughter Rukhsana, has a melodious voice, I have heard her audios including a very nice Tasbih. ( http://ismaili.net/heritage/node/786 ) The family developed a modern hospital/Health center named Bai Hospital near the Kampala Jamatkhana.
When speaking in Kutcchi and Gujrati, he used words which would sound like an insults in other people's mouth but in his, it was like normal language. He told me, "I have been listening to you since 45 minutes and you have not yet uttered one insult, how can you have such a restricted vocabulary?" He was amazed, I understood that he never meant those words as insults but as part of the popular language.. He said in Gujrati "those who speak Gujrati are so "Harami".. I replied to him in Gujrati: "but I am Kutcchi" we started laughing!
He spoke of his wife with great admiration, he said she cooks 50 plates everyday (with help from 2 workers) for Jamatkhana because so many newly arrived youngsters are single and they take these plates home from Jamatkhana throught "Nandi" for their dinner.
He explained how local people protected him during the Idi Amin Dada saga because he was the last "Asian" left when everyone else had gone. He said he was hiding but Idi Amin's people caught him once and punished him, for not leaving the country, with dozen of lashing that left deep marks in his back and on his shoulders. When he escape to Canada, the custom officer asked him why he seemed so weak and uneasy, he sent him to a doctor in the airport, the doctor was horrified to see the traces of the lashes on his back. He was given a visa on the spot and could have become immigrant but decided to go back to Uganda after few weeks in Canada, he said, "Uganda is my country!" . Mukwano means "friend" but more than a friend, Uganda has lost a dearest son, it is indeed a day of sadness. May he live eternally in the Divine Light!
INSIDE THE LIFE OF MUKWANO TYCOON’S SUCCESSOR THE 57-YEAR-OLD RUKSHANA KARMALI INHERITING THE 4TRN ESTATE
By Mulengera - On Jul 12, 2019 888
By Mulengera Reporters
Amirali Karmali Mukwano is dead having breathed his last on Wednesday 7; 30pm. This was at his residence in Kololo not very far from the swanky Nyonyi Gardens complex which is one of the multiple prime properties he owned. He leaves behind a vast business enterprise which State-owned New Vision estimates to be worth over $1bn (roughly Shs3.5trn).
Having been a chain smoker for decades, 80-year-old Mukwano succumbed to heart failure triggered by lung complications having battled frail health for a long time.
Mzee Mukwano Amarali Karmali being supported in a wheel chair
Two days to his death, Mukwano (who apparently had premonition his day was fast nearing) sent for businessman Patrick Bitature and Attorney General William Byaruhanga and gave them a message for the country. He urged them to always mobilize citizens to be hard-working and honest.
The legendary businessman had in 2018 been ranked Uganda’s 3rd richest man after Sudhir Ruparelia and the Madhvanis. This was by the Forbes Magazine renowned for profiling and rating the world’s richest people. Spanning real estate, consumer goods manufacturing, transportation, commercial farming and exportation within Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and DRC, the Mukwano enterprise annually made over Shs300bn in sales. This translates into a daily income of Shs127m.
On growing older, frail and fatigued, Mzee Mukwano (named so because of his spontaneous friendliness right from Bukandula Kabulasoke Sub County Gomba where his story began) had in 1995 recalled his son Alykhan Karmali from Canada to come and take over management as he supervised from the comfort of his retirement in Fort Portal where the Group is into vast commercial tea estates operations.
Expansive as it seems, Acacia Mall in Kololo is just a tiny part of the vast estate Rukushana Karmali will be responsible for
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Alykhan was in charge of much of the management until 1999 when his elder sister Rukshana Karmali returned to Uganda after concluding divorce proceedings ending her marriage with a Canadian man with whom she fathered 22 year-old Verma Ghalib Rahul Karmali. They had only got married 5 years earlier.
Aged 57, Rukushana is the only daughter Mukwano has left and the only other child apart from her young brother Alykhan. She is the one to whom Mukwano had bequeathed the responsibility of being Group CEO. Since 2007, she has been officed at the Group Administration premises situated at Plot 9 Old Port Bell Road in Industrial Area where Rwenzori Commodities Ltd is headquartered. It’s the dead man’s wish that Rukshana continues running the empire as her 22 year old son Rahul (who was by his side as he died Wednesday evening) comes of age and take charge.
WHO IS SHE?
Born on 20th July 1962 in Nairobi Kenya, Rukshana mostly grew up in Fort Portal Kabarole district and had elementary education at Aga Khan Primary School. The family is of practicing Muslims subscribing to the Islamail sect whose spiritual head is Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini (aka Aga Khan IV). She was only 10 in 1972 when President Amin expelled Asians accusing them of economic exploitation. Unlike her father, who successfully evaded the expulsion and unofficially stayed in Uganda living in hiding most of the time, Rukshana didn’t survive the expulsion.
She moved with others to Canada and this was after temporarily staying in Belgium, DRC and UK. From Canada, she returned to East Africa settling in Kenya where she completed her secondary education at an Aga Khan Group institution. Thereafter she joined the Canadian University of Toronto in Ontario where she read a degree in economics. After college she operated a cake baking business in Canada and in the process got married to a Canadian of Asian extraction.
This too belongs to the Mukwano Group
A report in Daily Monitor shows that with Verma Ghalib, Rukushana produced her first born in 1997 and instructively named him Karmali just to reflected how fondly and deeply she was connected to her father Mukwano Amarali Karmali. In October 1999, having divorced Verma, Rukshana responded to her father Mzee Mukwano’s call and flew back to Uganda carrying along her son and younger brother Alykhan Karmali.
The old man consoled her to forget about the failed marriage by building for her a posh home in Kampala from where she moved on and met another man with whom they birthed 5 other children. All these have gone to school in Uganda with the full support of their grandfather who over the years paid for the education of many other children including Patrick Bitature whose very expensive education he paid for at the London School of Economics.
THE BITATURE EXPERIENCE
Bitature had first met Mukwano in 1977 when his single mother was working as a secretary in one of the most important offices in the defunct Uganda Airlines. He was then an S4 chap. Mukwano had come to buy an air ticket at the Airline offices and had to go through his mum. He came many more times for the same ticketing procedures and that is how young Bitature got attracted to him. They became friends, the age difference notwithstanding. He one time casually sought to encourage him to read hard by promising to pay for him if he ever passes S6 with flying colors. He was struggling to do all sorts of errands to supplement on his mother’s meager salary.
Bitature says he is who he is today because of Mzee Mukwano
He passed and stumbled on Mukwano telling him he had made it in UACE exams exceeding expectations. The old man kept his word by instantly handing over to Bitature $10,000 to realize his dream to study accountancy in London. On return in the early 80s, Bitature was welcomed by Mukwano who even gave him a job in the cash office of his business which he was struggling to rebuild after the Amin madness.
After some time, Mukwano told the young man he was too qualified for the small time job he was having in the cash office. He got the silver foil of the cigarettes packet he had just completed and scribbled something at the back. It was a message introducing Bitature to a close Mukwano friend in Dubai to whom it was delivered for the young ambitious Bitature to be given $20,000 as seed money with which he launched himself into the big name businessman he has since become.
BACK TO RUKASHANA
On returning to Uganda, Mzee Mukwano allowed Rukshana time to recover and recompose herself from the divorce-related trauma whereafter he gave her a job into the Mukwano Group which (former trade Minister Daudi Migereko says) was rapidly growing taking advantage of the political stability and total pacification President Museveni’s NRM had ushered into the country. She started out as a cashier, an office from which she was enabled to study the larger operations of the Group. She then grew into an accountant and manager sales before elevating to MD in 2008.
Rukshana Karmali, Mzee Mukwano’s 57 year-old introverted daughter who will be running the business empire in his absence
This put her at the level of strategic decision-making as Mukwano concentrated on tea estates in Fort Portal operating under a company called Rwenzori Commodities Ltd. She often drove to Fort Portal for guidance and to update the old man about the state of affairs in the Group.
Introverted Rukshana, who despises materialism and pompous life just like her father, will now have the responsibility to shepherd a work force of more than enthusiastic 10,000 employees scattered in the different Group entities.
Gratefully, this is something she has been doing for the last 12 years except that she will now be carrying on without the experienced advice and guidance of her father but Bitature, Aga Khan Kampala Envoy Amin Mawji Obe and others familiar with the Mukwano empire are optimistic all will be well because Rukshana and Alykhan are a perfect combination well versed with what has to be done to carry on with their dad’s legacy.
It’s believed that wherever he is, her father Mukwano (who in the early 1980s funded UPC irking his business partner George Wilson Egesa Njola who was for UPM) is confident Rukshana will leverage on the more than enough social capital he built in his life time to grow the business empire to even greater heights.
The vast empire she will be shepherding comprises of Nyonyi Gardens in Kololo, Acacia Mall in Kololo, Mukwano Shopping Center (former UTC parking yard), Mukwano Industries Ltd, 36% shareholding in Exim Bank Uganda, the gigantic Mukwano Mall (near Kisekka market), swanky apartments trading as Mukwano Coutts, Isuzu Building along Port Bell Road, Mombasa-based Gulf Stream Investments, Lira Maize Factory, Lira Oil Mill, Mukwano Agro Project producing maize & soya in Masindi on over 17,000 acres.
There is also AK Plastics which makes plastics like jerrycans, cups and plates; Mukwano Dar es Salaam factory making soap for the Tanzanian market; Mukwano Industries Ltd producing consumer goods; Nation Wide Properties (the real estate arm) and Riley Packaging Ltd producing packaging materials.
AK Transporters Ltd is also part of the Mukwano Empire and its indicative the fallen entrepreneur never forgot his roots as a youthful truck driver carrying coffee and merchandize between Uganda, Mombasa/Kenya, Rwanda, DRC and Burundi. Under AK Transporters, the Group owns over 200 heavy trucks.
It’s also expected Rukshana will carry on with the generous CSR programs that saw Mzee Mukwano regularly support Mosques, feed poor Muslims during Ramadhan; paying school fees for the destitute children and sporting activities both in Kampala and Fort Portal. She is also expected to remain contemptous of opulent materialism just like her father who (despite being wealthy) only had four shirts, three trousers and two pairs of shoes. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at email@example.com).
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By GEORGE OKELLO | PML Daily Correspondent
Posted on July 14, 2019
KAMPALA – Ms Rukshana Karmali, the daughter of deceased businessman Amarali Karmali, better known as Mukwano, has been chosen to continue her father’s legacy at Mukwano Group of Companies.
The 57-year-old has been at the helm of the business as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) since 2007 sitting in her father’s command chair at the Rwenzori Commodities Ltd head offices on Plot 11 Old Port Bell road in Kampala.
Ms Rukshana, according to her son Mr Rahul Karmali, was born on July 20, 1962, in Nairobi, Kenya. She would spend her early years in Fortportal, Kabarole district where she managed to enroll at Aga Khan Primary School.
Innocent like other children then, the young Rukshana left the country in 1972 when the then President Idi Amin issued a decree to expel all Asians from Uganda.
Though her father, was hidden by some “good Samaritans” and never left Uganda, the children including Ms Rukshana left the country.
As a teenager, she lived briefly in Belgium, Zaire (Now Democratic Republic of Congo), United Kingdom and finally settled in Kenya.
While in Nairobi, she joined the Aga Khan Academy where she completed her secondary education. In the 1980’s she moved to Canada where she lived and worked for a shot while before securing admission into the University of Toronto in Ontorio.
On a date that the family has not been able to reveal to us, Ms Rukshana graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. It is not clear whether she studied economic with one eye on seeking employment or to settle in her father’s business empire.
After graduation, she started up own business in Canada running a cake shop. While in Canada she married a man (name withheld) a Canadian of Indian descent with whom they produced Rahul in 1997 and named him after her father, Karmali.
“After my birth, my Mum lived with my father for two more years before they divorced. It was a painful situation, she tells me. So, she stopped running her business and planned to return home to Uganda,” Mr Rahul recollects.
At the same time, Rukshana’s young brother, Mr Alykhan Karmali was also living in Canada but they would both return to Uganda to take part in the running of their ever-growing father’s business empire.
Together with her 2-year-old son, Rahul, she touched down at Entebbe International Aiport in October 1999.
“Mzee (Mukwano) gave her a home to settle and take care of me. She brought me up alone and I have done all my education in Uganda while working in this company” Mr Rahul says.
After settling down and putting the pain of her divorce behind her back, Ms Rukshana walked into Mukwano Group of Companies touching bas as Cashier at the Port Bell road based head offices.
Upon her success, Ms Rukshana was elevated to the role of Accountant and later on to a sales manager before ascending to the apex as the CEO in 2007.
“Since when Mzee (Mukwano) designated her as a CEO my mum has been the decision maker for the company and it has achieved a lot going forward,” the young man said.
Throughout the years of his retirement, the deceased has been kept abreast of the key achievements and challenges of empire. The CEO regularly travelled to Fortportal to give a business briefing to the legendary investor at her retirement home.
To some of the employees, the death of Mukwano has taken away a man they knew as a parent who gave a listening ear to everyone, but in the successor, their hopes rest in a person they prefer calling by name and not boss.
One woman who preferred to speak off record described Ms Rukshana as a “true copy of her father in the ways of running business and approaching employees”
They say, like her father, the successor loves the company so much which made her not to make a name in the social life in and around Kampala.
This is collaborated with the narration of Mr Rahul who says; “what you need to know about mum is she is an inclination of Mzee because everything about them is similar”.
During her time in the father’s business empire, she got married again, giving birth to five other children. But the family would rather not discuss details of that marriage since she is divorced again.
Employing over 10,000 people, the empire runs a number of companies namely Mukwano Enterprises Ltd which deals in Real Estate; AK Oils and Fats; AK Plastics; AK Detergents; Rwenzori Commodities the producers of Rwenzori tea; a forex bureau; and, Gulf Stream Investments Limited.
Such is a dream that every successful man or woman will always have at the back of their minds so that their businesses and investments do not end with their generations.
So was the late Mukwano when he groomed his children to keep the family and empire candle burning even after he transited to the next life. This he did by drawing his children into the management of the empire.
At the time of his death, Mukwano had handed all responsibilities to run the empire to his first child and daughter, Ms Rukshana Karmali
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