By Andrew Irumba
Fortpotal: Mukwano Group of Companies founder Amirali Karmali alias Mzee Mukwano passed on last night, 10th-July-2019.
The entrepreneur died quietly on Wednesday evening in his Kampala home. Karmali, born in the 1930s is the father to Alykhan Karmali, who is currently running the family business empire that spans into real estate, banking, transport, and manufacturing.
After working as a shop assistant, Amirali shifted to Mbarara before settling in Bukandula – Mpigi District. He did roaring business in cotton and coffee and was so popular with the locals who nick named him ‘Mukwano gwa Bangi’ (a friend of many).
The business took off when the family moved to Fort Portal, where the young Amirali acquired a second hand truck and begun transporting produce to Kampala.
Soon after, he expanded to western Uganda and parts of DR Congo and later opened his first shop in Kampala called Egesa Commercial Agencies.
Amirali was a victim of Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians in 1972 but he lied low and never went into exile but remained ‘hidden by good Samaritans.
A statement on the legacy of the business said, Mukwano Industries Uganda Limited began operations in the 1980s in Kampala with a single enterprise store dealing in general merchandise and produce.
“The first major step in the growth of the company was taken in 1986, in the manufacturing of soap and edible cooking oil,” it reads.
“These were the mainstay of the company until the late 1990s when we made a major investment into the manufacturing of detergents and plastics. This etched Mukwano’s position to the helm of the manufacturing sector.”
He had so many friends that he was locally nicknamed “Mukwano gwa bangi” (Friend of many). The family shortened it to “Mukwano” and named the family business after him.
Together with his son Alykhan Karmali, they built a business partnership ‘Mukwano Group of Companies’ employing at least 10,000 people and paying over Shs40 billion in taxes.
His company incorporates Mukwano Enterprises Limited, AK Transporters limited, AK Oils and Fats (U) Limited, AK plastics (U) limited and AK Detergents (U) Limited.
In 2011, together with renowned industrialists the later Dr James Mulwana of Nice House of Plastics, Amirali Karmali was decorated with the ‘distinguished order of the Nile (class one) award’ for his distinct performance in production and enterprise development. Both men proved that in Uganda, one could start a business and it succeeds.
In the neighbouring markets, including Kenya, DRC, Sudan, and Rwanda, Amirali made sure Mukwano products traded as outstanding as possible, earning the country much needed foreign exchange.
While opening the Group’s Acacia Mall, one of the upmarket shopping centers in Kampala in 2014, President Yoweri Museveni challenged Ugandans to emulate Amirali and tap into the abundant wealth in the country. Today, according to Group reports, they employ 7,000 people directly and indirectly within the various companies they own.
It has also severally been recognized among the top taxpayers in the country. The group’s revenues have been estimated to top up to $300m annually.
Others are Rwenzori Commodities Limited and Mukwano Forex Bureau Limited.
Mzee Amirali handed over control of the group to his son Alykhan Karmali in 1995.
By the time of his passing, Amirali was based at his home in Fort Portal.
May He Rest In Eternal Peace.