By Andrew Irumba
Late Amirali Karmali, commonly known as Mukwano, the proprietor of Mukwano Group of Companies, received a Pan-African Pyramid (PAP) 2019 award last month because of his great efforts at starting up the Industrial Revolution in Uganda.
He was among the first few investors to set up manufacturing industries, which has over the years encouraged more investors from across the globe to set up factories in Uganda.
Mukwano’s legacy that can be tracked down to as far back as five generations, from 1904, when Ali Mohamed Karmari, the father of Amirali Karmali, landed on the East African coast.
He made his way to Uganda and settled in Fort Portal, western Uganda. It was his rapport with the local population that earned Ali Mohamed Karmari the nickname-Mukwano, which means ‘friendship’ in Luganda.
Amirali Karmari started a small business which, in the 1960s, gave birth to the transport business run by his son, Amirali Karmali (both dead now). Amirali later shifted base to Kampala.
He was one of the few Asians who stayed on in Uganda during Idi Amin Dada’s military regime. Nonetheless, the uncertainty at the time could not allow many businesses, including Mukwano’s achieve their potential.
But he clinged on and up to date, Mukwano produces most of the household items used across the East African region including personal care products such as petroleum jelly, soap, cooking oil and drinking water.
Karmali, who died on Wednesday 10th July 2019 at the age of 89, was born in the 1930s. He is the father to Alykhan Karmali, who is currently running the family business empire (Mukwano Group), that spurns into real estate, banking, transport, and manufacturing.
He remains one of the most budding and inspiring entrepreneurs of Uganda, East Africa and Africa atlarge, because his products go beyond boarders. His Mukwano Industries Uganda Ltd 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 cooking oil.
These were the mainstay of the company until the late 1990s when he made a major investment into the manufacturing of detergents and plastics. This hiked Mukwano’s position to the helm of the manufacturing sector.
All this was at the stewardship of Amirali Karmali. However, the budding business mogul handed over the day-to-today running of the empire to his son Alykhan Karmali in the mid-1990s to take the mantle and he has equally done very well till today, no doubt, he was drinking from his father’s pot rich in vast business knowledge.
In 2011, together with renowned industrialist, the late 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, a story most have left only for fantasies.
Mukwano defied the colonial geographical boundaries of Africa. It was to his fullest satisfaction that his products cut across to serve neighboring communities, such as Kenya, DRC, Sudan, Rwanda among others.
Amirali made sure Mukwano products traded as outstanding as possible; earning the region’s much needed foreign exchange.
As of 2019 today, Mukwano group offers job opportunities to over 7,000 people directly and indirectly at different levels. It has also severally been recognized among the top most tax payers in the country by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). The group’s revenues have been estimated to top up to $300m annually.
Ladies and gentlemen the 2019 African Revolutionary Life Time Achiever (Bussiness) goes to…..Amirali Karmali-Mukwano .