In an effort to pick out those businessmen making a difference in a couple of districts, The Observer is running a special series profiling the men and women whose empires have created jobs and turned around the areas where they are located.
Today, Wilber Muhwezi looks at the moneybags in Bushenyi and Ishaka. Hassan Basajjabalaba is arguably one of the richest men in Uganda, and without a doubt Bushenyi’s. His influence however does not only cut across the business world; he is a mover and shaker in Uganda’s porous political climate, with the cash at his disposal able to swing votes.
As the Chairperson of the ruling party NRM Entrepreneur League, Basajjabalaba is responsible for mobilizing funds for the party.
Basajjabalaba’s rise to such prominence is not well-documented. He first shot to the limelight in the late nineties with his hides and skin business. Frequently referred to as the young city tycoon, Basajjabalaba’s business got government favour. In fact, when the business ran into trouble in the early 2000s, Bank of Uganda, on the orders of State House, was forced to bail out the business with close to $20 million. The bailout caused public acrimony, but State House stood firm with its decision.
Basajjabalaba’s latest scandal involved a Shs 169bn compensation for loss of city markets early this year. That order to compensate Basajjabalaba yet again came from State House. And the money came from Bank of Uganda. Basajjabalaba owns a university, Kampala International University, in Bushenyi which also encompasses a hospital. The university, which has hundreds of foreign students from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, was opened in 2004. Basajjabala has a couple of hostels situated near the university.
According to Dr Yusuf Sadiq, the deputy vice chancellor (KIU western campus), by the 2011 academic year, Basajjabalaba had offered 1,000 scholarships for Bachelors and Masters degrees. Basajjabalaba is constructing two tea factories, one at Butare in Kyamuhunga, Bushenyi district and another at Nyakashaka in Buhweju district. He previously bought big chunks of land around the premises of these factories.
Since the 2001 presidential elections, Basajjabalaba has been a sort of king maker in Bushenyi’s politics. In 2011, he defeated Charles Muhangi of Horizon coaches to become the Bushenyi district NRM chairman.
Joab Tumusiime was born in Kaburengye Ishaka town in 1972. He started his business by vending pineapples and other small food stuffs in Ishaka town at 22.
Tumusiime told The Observer in his office in Ishaka town that he opened a shop on Rukungiri road in Ishaka in 1994, his first business address. From this shop, he sold mainly general merchandize.
After a while, Tumusiime started a bakery. Today, J.B sweet bread is a favourite among many homes in Western Uganda. Tumusiime put up arguably the biggest hotel in Ishaka town, Crane Resort Hotel, using some of the profit from the bakery. President Yoweri Museveni commissioned the hotel. Today, a big number of workshops and seminars that used to take place in Mbarara and Kasese – which had better facilities – are being held at Crane resort hotel.
Tumusiime says he wants to build a supermarket.
Micheal Mawanda owns two radio stations, Hunter FM in Rwentuha town and Theo FM in Ishaka town. He also owns a television station, Hunter Television which is now testing signals. The radio stations are crucial during election campaigns. He also owns Hunter Foundation hospital and Development Microfinance. The microfinance also has branches in Mukono and Kamuli. There are two branches in Bushenyi in Mwengura in Kyeizooba and another in Rwentuha town.
Mawanda says he employs 300 people who work in his investments and farms. He is also the MP for Igara East Constituency.
Buruhan Niwabiine, 40, is a prominent coffee exporter to European countries. He hails from Kijumo village in Bushenyi-Ishaka municipality. He conducts his business under his company Niwabiine coffee Factory Ltd. He began trading in coffee in 1998 as a vendor, carrying his produce on a bicycle. He says he started buying 20 kilograms. He set up a store in his village of Kijumo to expand his volumes.
Niwabiine owns three coffee factories; two in Ishaka town and the third in Katerera in Rubiriizi district. He also owns 13 coffee stores. He has seven stores in Ishaka. The others are in Rubiriizi district, Kasese, Ibanda, Masaka and Mbarara. Niwabiine says he employs about 335 people. He recently started a private primary school for orphans and needy children. Kijumo model school has 204 pupils in Bushenyi.