The richest five men in Uganda
By EMMANUEL GYEZAHO, Monitor
The personal fortunes and wealth of five Ugandan businessmen has caught the eye of Forbes Magazine, the influential American publication known for its listing of the world’s most rich people.
Businessmen Sudhir Ruparelia, Patrick Bitature, Charles Mbire, Amiral Karmali and Amos Nzeyi have been singled out by Forbes for particular mention ahead of this month’s release of the ranking of the 40 richest people in Africa.
Mr Ruparelia has been confirmed to make the cut as Uganda’s first representative on that coveted list of filthy rich people. The magazine said in a report this week that it had “uncovered several hidden holders of wealth across the continent,” including the five Ugandan rich men, who were singled out as “multimillionaires you should know.” “There are no politicians and criminals here—just good, successful businessmen,” said the report. Some of the businessmen, however, have been involved in a series of high profile scandals.
The magazine described the five men as “low-key, ultra wealthy Ugandan tycoons, entrepreneurs and business leaders”, and reported that each of them is worth more than $50 million (Shs127 billion).
Many Ugandans will disagree with the magazine’s description of the five Ugandans as “low-key” given their publicly known clout and financial muscle. But what is first, is the magazine’s placement of a defined figure of their wealth.
Mr Ruparelia, who has built his expansive business empire over two decades with interests in real estate, banking, horticulture, hotels and the education sector told Saturday Monitor in an interview that he felt “honoured” to be listed by Forbes.
“Forbes is a reputable magazine and once you are mentioned it’s a big thing,” he said. “Of course people in Uganda know what we are all about but the rest of the world didn’t.” Mr Bitature admitted that he wasn’t particularly “moved” by the listing and said he believed there were “very many” other people in Africa wealthier than himself. “Does it come with any award? Well, it doesn’t change anything,” he said.
Both men said, however, that the magazine had projected an accurate account of what they are worth. Mr Bitature said it took “painstaking work” spanning more than 30 years to build his current fortune. Mr Ruparelia said focus and hard work were two critical ingredients to his success as a businessman.
If the five listed rich Ugandans are known to be worth more than $50 million each, their combined wealth at current Forbes estimates would be at Shs635 billion.
That is money that would provide Uganda with at least 300kms of world class tarmacked roads, money that would pay the salaries of some 165,000 primary school teachers for a year and three months.
Detailing the profile of Mr Karmali, who owns the Mukwano Group, an industrial conglomerate that manufactures cooking oil, fats, toilet soaps, cosmetics, industrial plastics and detergents, Forbes reported that his businesses rake in annual revenues of more than $230 million (Shs586 billion).