A Nigerian billionaire, also United Bank of Africa (UBA) boss Tony Elumelu has revealed that he spoke to Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on the need to be considerate when considering taxes that could cripple entrepreneurs in the name of generating revenues for government.
Elumelu was responding to a student’s question when he spoke at Makerere University last week. Students asked how it was possible to start and succeed in business when from the time you register it, tax body is on your door looking for taxes.
“What I can say is that if you’re an entrepreneur, you must comply [with tax obligation],” he said. “But I spoke to President Museveni and he said he would look into it.”
This comes at a time when government as proposed a couple of tax measures that are likely to come into force in July this year. They include taxes on mobile money, airtime, and social media platforms that some small entrepreneurs use to market their products.
The taxes add on other challenges like expensive electricity that have seen at least three quarters of Ugandan starts not see their fifth anniversary. Elumelu was on an East African tour. From Uganda, he went to Nairobi where he also met President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Through his foundation, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), at least 300 Ugandans have been given seed capital to grow their business ideas. The foundation pledged $100 million in support of over 10,000 entrepreneurs on the African content for a period of 10 years since 2014.
The programme has since support more than 3,000 entrepreneurs through funding, mentoring and advocacy. This year, at least 128 Ugandans will receive support from the programme.
At Makerere University, Elumelu told students not to look at access to money as the only way that can enable them to start a business. He said having a clear idea that serves a purpose was more important and money would come later.
“Don’t kill your entrepreneurship ambition because you don’t have money,” Elumelu said. “Capital is an issue but ideas are more important.”
He said for the entrepreneurs just starting, commercial banks should be the last source they run to because they are heavily regulated and demand huge collateral that young entrepreneurs usually don’t have. People should consider other sources of capital like families and friends.
“Entrepreneurs don’t have to start big – just little money and your idea,” he said.
Elumelu is also the founder and chairman of Heirs Holdings Ltd, an African proprietary investment company, with interests in power, oil and gas, and financial services among other things in twenty African countries.