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OPINION: Some law firms are too close to the banking industry to be leading the arbitration process



Nelson Walusimbi one of the petitioners who has questioned the lack of transparency in the formation of ICAMEK and involvement of ULS

This week, some lawyers, who are members of the Uganda Law Society (ULS) hit the headlines, protesting the manner in which the executive of ULS, went ahead to form the International Centre for Arbitration & Mediation in Kampala (ICAMEK)

The founders of ICAMEK describe it as a private sector led institution that focuses on delivering the benefits of world-class Alternative Dispute Resolution to businesses, professionals, governments and communities alike.

ICAMEK is a brainchild of the Uganda Law Society and the Uganda Bankers’ Association. The initiative is also said to be supported by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU),  Uganda Communications Commission,  Uganda Breweries Limited and Uganda Revenue Authority, among others.

Mr Nelson Walusimbi, himself a lawyer and one of the complainants, says that both the involvement of ULS in ICAMEK and the appointment of its directors, was never authorised by the members as should be the norm.

Some of ICAMEK’s directors are John Fisher Kanyemibwa and former ULS President Francis Gimara, while law firm, MMKAS Advocates are said to be the company secretary.

While the need for an arbitration entity is so obvious, this need should not supersede a much greater need for transparency and good corporate governance.

Specifically, Mr Walusimbi’s complaint comes at a time when the legal industry is said to bedevilled by a cancer called conflict of interest- especially where the big law firms and the respective lawyers therein are proverbially embedded in every little thing that there is and have severally breached the advocates code on conflict of interest.

The small firms can only but, watch on as the scramble and partition of big ticket deals, pits one big law firm against others.

For example, it is common knowledge that there is a big law firm in town that is owned by one of the ministers, that is representing or has represented an international oil & gas firm in a matter where that minister represents government on one side. There is also another law firm, associated with a son of a former Permanent Secretary in one of the powerful ministries that has represented several international companies in matters where that Permanent Secretary represented government.

All this happened in broad day light!

Neutrality is the pillar of arbitration

Central to every successful and credible arbitration process is the principle of neutrality and therefore it becomes a matter of concern when a law firm (MMAKS Advocates) that is too close for comfort with the banking industry is said to be ICAMEK’s company secretary, especially when the process that led to that decision is not fully understood and blessed by the majority ULS members as Walusimbi claims.

Just to demonstrate my point- MMAKS Advocates are the external lawyers for Bank of Uganda. Three of their partners- Timothy K. Masembe, Apollo N. Makubuya and Moses J. Adriko either sit on or chair the boards of NC Bank, Equity Bank and Standard Chartered Bank respectively.

The law firm has also acted for several banks in various litigation matters. So, at what point does the law firm separate its private interests from those of its clients- the banks and then marry that with the public interests of the borrowing public as well as ULS?

I have also had a chance to examine the ICAMEK (Arbitration) Rules 2018 that went into effect on 1st November, 2018 and they do not seem to decisively address the issue of conflict of interest.

These are major issues that cannot just be hushed away- but must be discussed publicly in the open for all stakeholders to voice their inputs such that the real good intentions of ICAMEK, are not mired in the personal interests of the lawyers.

Now is the time or never.

Mr Walusimbi must be listened too!

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Big Story

Dangote; Africa’s richest man named among greatest leaders on Earth



Aliko Dangote GCON is a Nigerian business magnate, investor, and owner of the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities in Nigeria and other African countries. As of March 2019, he had an estimated net worth of US$10.6 billion.

Philanthropist and richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote has been rated 11th of the 50 World’ Greatest leaders for 2019.

The rating carried out by the Fortune Magazine, an American multinational business magazine headquartered in New York City, United States was released recently and focused mainly on the businesses run by the men and how they have used it to impact their society positively.

The time-tested magazine, whose first edition was published in February 1930, said the world’s greatest leaders both men and women are transforming the world and inspiring others to do so in business, government, philanthropy and the arts.

“These thinkers, speakers, and doers make bold choices and take big risks- and move others to do the same”, the magazine declared.

This is the first time Fortune magazine is recognizing and including Aliko Dangote in the annual ranking. Specifically, Dangote having popped up in the magazine’s radar earned nomination after being adjudged as having used business to acquire wealth and who is now converting his wealth into impactful philanthropy through his Aliko Dangote Foundation.

The top 10 greatest men and women, according to Fortune are: Bill and Melinda Gates, Jacinda Ardem (Prime Minister, New Zealand), Robert Mueller (Special Counsel, Department of Justice), Pony Ma (Founder and CEO, Tencent), Satya Nadella (CEO, Microsoft), Greta Thunberg (Student and climate activist, Sweden), Margrethe Vestager (Commissioner for Competition, European Union), Anna Nimiriano (Editor-in-Chief, Juba Monitor), Jose Andres (Chef/Founder, World Central Kitchen), and Dough Mcmillon and Lisa Woods (CEO; Senior Director, Strategy & Design for U.S. Benefits, Walmart).

The ranking of Dangote as one of the greatest business leaders has attracted comments by eminent persons around the world who described him as worthy of the nomination going by his business acumen and philanthropic gestures.

Global business giant and founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gate extolled the efforts of Dangote in making businesses play roles in provision of sound public health through his various interventions in health care issues especially in the fight against malnutrition and routine polio.

Gates, who himself was ranked along with Dangote, said “Aliko Dangote, through his leadership at the Aliko Dangote Foundation, is a key partner in the Polio eradication effort, strengthening routine immunisation and fighting malnutrition in Nigeria and across Africa. Aliko bridges the gap between private business and public health in a unique way and our shared belief that Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive drives our partnership.”

Renowned activist and co-founder of ONE, Paul David Hewson, popularly called Mr. Bono said he was not surprised at Mr. Dangote’s feat globally, saying his vision is as big as the African continent.

Bono, a global campaigner on taking action to end extreme poverty especially in Africa said: “Aliko has a vision just the size of his continent, but with humility of somebody who has just started his first job. It’s no surprise to me that Fortune would recognise his leadership because we have seen first-hand, through his service on ONE’s Board, the benefits of his wise counsel and grace.”

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Q + As

INTERVIEW: Kadaga frustrated by poor health services, gov’t slow action on corruption and unfair representation of women in higher political offices



Today, 19th May 2019, Rt Hon Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, completes three (3) years since she was elected as Speaker for the 10th Parliament. Kadaga, who is serving her second term, spoke to CEO East Africa’s Muhereza Kyamutetera, on a number of issues.

Three years is more less a midterm for you; as you start the fourth year, when you look back have you achieved the things you set out to achieve when you started this term?

Yes, we are almost closing the third session of the tenth parliament.  In order to understand the performance of the 10th Parliament in the three sessions, there is need to establish the extent to which the key achievements were aligned to Parliament’s Strategic Plan that runs from 2016/2017 to 2019/20.

The plan focuses on best management practices through nurturing the democratic system of governance in our country as provided under Article 79 of the Constitution and is based on the following principles: democracy, accountability, development, institutional relations/partnerships and constitutionalism.   

Kadaga says that as a result of adoption of technology and digitization of some of parliament’s activities, the 10th parliament has been efficient- passing over 40 bills in 3 years- 22 of them in this third session alone.

The plan has six strategic outcomes, namely:

  1. Strengthened institutional capacity of parliament to undertake its constitutional mandate effectively and efficiently;
  2. Increased public involvement and participation in parliamentary business;
  3. Strengthened parliamentary accountability and scrutiny;
  4. Enacted comprehensive legislations for equitable and sustainable development;
  5. Effected participation in international engagements;
  6. Improved work environment for Members and staff of Parliament and the public.   

The plan is aligned to our vision- “A transformed, independent and people-centered parliament” and our mission: “to achieve improved accountability representation, democracy and good governance for sustainable development in Uganda.”

I will start with the “People-Centered” element because I think that we have been able to further eliminate the barriers between the public and us. We are more available to the public, we have had a number of health weeks, parliament weeks etc. Just yesterday we hosted the AGOA exhibition here- this is the first time it is happening in this country.

We felt that in order to promote trade and investment in this country and create employment, parliament would show case what is possible under AGOA and I am glad that just yesterday a number of products were identified for potential export, so I am happy that that has been done.

Former Bank of Uganda Executive Director, Supervision, Mrs Justine Bagyenda and Deputy Governor, Dr. Louis Kasekende. The duo were severally named by MPs as having been responsible for the irregular closure of several banks. Kadaga has called on government to expedite execution of the COSASE recommendations on Bank of Uganda by introducing a bill to amend the current Bank of Uganda Act. 

Regarding transformation- yes originally we were in the manual age, at least we have moved into the digital age, but am not yet satisfied about the transformation because I would really want to see a situation where the public can speak to us on the internet, give comments and opinions on bills and we can answer back; that is when I will really be happy.

On independence, I think that I am one of those people who has tried very hard to ensure that the independence of parliament is safe guarded. You have heard about some of the issues that I have had with the executive and the judiciary; that has been part of the battles to ensure that parliament is independent.  

On accountability, a lot has been achieved in that we have been able to work more on the public accounts reports, on the central government, public accounts reports for local governments, public accounts reports for state enterprises, and also on government assurances.

For example during the first session, the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), recovered billions of shillings which was meant for the projects affected persons, which had been appropriated but Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) had handed it over to Chinese road construction companies who instead of paying project affected people, instead put the money on fixed deposit accounts. It is COSASE which forced them to surrender the money and handed it back to the government and people were paid and roads were constructed.

Kadaga says Parliament is also alarmed by the high poverty levels and has consistently focused on legislation that ensures equitable and sustainable development

Recently we had the issue of Bank of Uganda, again by COSASE and we are waiting for action from the executive.  

On representation, I think the 10th Parliament has fared far better than other parliaments. I believe that we have had over 10 private members bills; in the past, in five years we would have three, but where we are now, there are many motions that have come up. MPS have also brought up more matters of national concern on the floor of the house which government has responded to.

On creating an improved work environment for Members and staff of Parliament and the public, we are now constructing a new chamber, except that when we planned, we planned for 500 members, and we are almost 500 now, so it is a bit challenging but that is part of what we have to work on.

We have also ratified two international protocols- but this is an area which is not very satisfactory. Government makes many treaties, many conventions but they are never domesticated, so they are not part of our law.

For example recently I was speaking at a meeting on slavery; there are conventions on slavery that our government is party too, but are not part of our law, so that is an area which is not satisfactory because the supply side (of bills) of the government is not working as quickly as it should.

We have also ensured that policies announced by government and also announced by parliament are implemented although this is another area which is not very satisfactory, because after we conclude a report, the government is supposed to come back to us in six months to say this is what we have done, on this recommendation but this area is not very satisfactory for now.   

What would you say are some of the key highlights of these three years?

As indicated above, the 10th Parliament’s foremost indicator is the number of legislations enacted for equitable and sustainable development”.

In the last three years, we have passed over 40 bills and in this third session alone, we have been able to pass 22 bills- in the past we used to do 11.  We passed three budgets in time and are working on the third one. Over 100 committee reports were considered and adopted. We have also adopted 97 resolutions on crosscutting issues.

You have been Speaker of Parliament since 2011 and a deputy Speaker since 2001. When you look back, are there some things/decisions that you were part of that you think you would love changed and or reversed?

I don’t think so, in fact I think there are things that I think would not have happened if I was not here, for instance in the 9th parliament, a number of police women were here, two of them were dismissed from because they were pregnant. So I said to them you cannot chase away women because they are pregnant, so I had a meeting with the commissioner, demanded that they are brought back because you cannot punish women for natural functions. If I was not here they would have been sent back to the barracks.

Kadaga, also the Woman MP for Kamuli District, decried slow government response to corruption issues, poor health services provision and poor representation of women in top government jobs.

On the same lines when I had just come, the women in this institution were not allowed to travel; I would work with them in the plenary and in other meetings, but after one year I realized that when I go for international meetings am only with the men, but I solved that.

I was also able, together with the house to change the rules in relation to the management of committees, because the standard and the fashion was to have all the committees- the vice chairman and the chairman were all men, I had to change that. So there are things that would not have happened if I was not here.

There are however, areas of disappointments for instance The Marriage and Divorce Bill which has been on the table since I was in primary school; we have still not been able to pass it and yet it is to address the inconsistencies in our societies.

We still have got an issue of low numbers and unfair representation of women in higher political offices. I would have wanted to see a woman prime minister or at least a deputy prime minister because in this country unless you are a prime minister you cannot chair cabinet, you cannot also decide what is coming on the agenda of cabinet. There is a vacancy for a deputy prime minister; I would have been happy to see a woman who can determine what is going to be decided and chair the cabinet.

Also, I am still dissatisfied with the provision of health services in this country- it is not as good as it should be. Then there is corruption- that is a very painful area.

Regarding corruption, there is a sentiment that parliament is a barking dog that does not bite. For example, parliament did a good job on probing the irregular closure of seven commercial banks by bank of Uganda, but has since gone quiet.  The other day the IGG was appearing at the government media centre and she said she can’t investigate the BoU officials because parliament has not asked her to investigate. Do you feel there are some gaps somewhere in fighting corruption?

In the accountability cycle, we have different stakeholders performing different roles. The Parliament’s role is to consider the Auditor General’s reports and make recommendations to the Executive to implement. 

Most of the recommendations/resolutions passed are advisory, so Executive has the obligation to implement them. For instance the probe on BOU, most of the recommendations require amendments to the current Act. The Executive has to expedite this process for most of these recommendations to be put into action. 

I think there is a gap because if we investigate and make recommendations, we cannot direct them (IGG); it is the government to say we are going to do A,B,C and D, that is why I was saying that they (executive) are supposed to come back in six months to say that on recommendation this we have sacked so and so and on this recommendation, we are prosecuting so and so; on this one we have got a conviction and they have not done that.

President Museveni and Prime Minister Rugunda. Kadaga is routing for a female Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, because unless you are a prime minister you cannot chair cabinet, you cannot also decide what is coming on the agenda of cabinet.

Parliament cannot be prosecutors and also the judge, so that is where the limitation is; it is very frustrating for us.

For example, I told you that during the first session we recovered money from road construction companies, but I was expecting somebody in government to come out and say who actually did this- who authorized the transfer of this money to the fixed deposit account?  

But nothing has happened and that is an area of frustration.

The Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) Survey 2016/2017 reported that the number of poor people in Uganda increased by 51% from 6.7 million in 2012/13 to 10.1 million people in 2016/17. This was despite the fact that amount of budgetary resources appropriated by parliament to government, increased 136.3% from UGX11.6 trillion in 2012/13 to UGX26.4 trillion in 2016/17. As an institution that is among others charged with assuring transparency and accountability in the application of public funds as well as monitoring the implementation of Government programmes and projects aren’t you concerned about this development? Are there any specific actions that parliament has put in place to reverse this trend?

Of course we are concerned about the increasing level of poverty but as I told you our work is to appropriate, the actors are in a different sector, then of course we carry on the oversight role to see whether the money was properly used. We have made a number of efforts to save more money, to increase the funds for the poor people who are under the youth livelihood project and the senior citizens grant scheme.

We have also continuously advocated for tax reforms/laws that are pro poor for example removal taxes on agricultural inputs and products as sector that employs about 80 percent of Ugandans.

At a personal level I have made interventions in my constituency and also in the general Busoga area to improve the economic capacity of our people. For example we are revamping the Kasolwe stock farm, which has been dead since 1969 to act one as a center of excellence for the improved animal breeds for the people, training in Aquaculture, piggery, poultry and so on.  

From the foregoing it appears Uganda’s problem has little to do with few resources and more to do with how government resources are utilised coupled with lack of consequences for errant government officials. What’s your take on this?

The 2015 Public Financial Management Act & the Budget Act, 2001 provide a sound legal framework for budget preparation and execution. Whereas Parliament is a key player in promoting good Public Financial Management it has a limited role in the execution/implementation of the budget.

However, due to the enormous development needs of the country, sector spending plans have typically not been realized, given the numerous implementation challenges, while tight resource envelopes for recurrent and development spending have had to be revisited through supplementary budgets. 

In addition, the National Planning Authority has continuously noted that overall, spending continues to be poorly aligned with the National Development Plan priorities. For example, the NPA noted that the FY16/17 budget was only 59 percent aligned with the National Development Plan (68 percent in FY15/16) with adverse implications for growth. The misalignment also reflects that some spending entities have not spelled out sector plans consistent with the National Development Plan. 

Through the budget approval period, Parliament through its sectoral committee has interrogated the budgets of Ministries, Agencies and Department and has on many occasions found out weakness e.g. poor project implementation capacity, weak expenditure controls for recurrent spending and procurement delays, and has recommended to government the areas that need to be addressed in order to improve the utilization of public resources. 

Based on the Auditor General’s recommendations to Parliament, Parliament has done its role of scrutiny and made resolutions through its accountability committees, and has also continuously emphasized and recommended to government on the need to improve transparency and accountability of public resources by establishing efficient and effective strategies of curbing the misuse of public resources especially the need to tackle corruption related tendencies.

However, the executive has been slow in implementing some of these resolutions. 

Much as Uganda’s hopes are pegged on the Economy, it appears, parliament seems to pay more attention to popular political legislation at the expense of business related legislation. What is your take on this?
The most important function for Parliament is to pass laws which provide good governance in the country. The fiscal issues such as, taxation and loans need the sanction of the parliament, after appropriate debate and all of these are business related. In my view, it is not true that Parliaments pays more attention to political legislation at the expense of business related legislation. 

During the First Session, 17 bills were passed of which 12 bills are business related legislation including: 

  1. The Income Tax Amendment Bill 2016;
  2. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa Treaty (Implementation) Bill, 2016;
  3. The Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2016;
  4. The Insurance Bill, 2016;
  5. The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Bill, 2015, among others. 

During the second session, 11 bills were passed, eight (8) of which were business related, including:

  1. The Biofuels Bill, 2016;
  2. The Tax Procedures Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018;
  3. The Lotteries and Gaming (Amendment) Bill, 2018;
  4. Excise Duty (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2018, etc….

During the First meeting of the third session, 18 bills were passed, 5 of which are business related, and these were:

  1. The Sugar Bill, 2016. 
  2. The Investment Code Bill, 2017, 
  3. The Tax Procedures Code (Amendment) Bill, 2018, 
  4. The Security Interest in Movable Property Bill, 2018 and 
  5. The Minimum Wages Bill, 2018. 

During your tenure, Uganda seems to have out-borrowed herself with little regard to effective utilization of borrowed resources leading to low return on investment for most government projects, especially infrastructure projects. This in turn increases poverty and severely limits our ability to pay back. Is Parliament merely rubber stamping government plans to borrow? 

The issuance of public debt is an important tool of economic policy. Borrowing can help countries to deal with negative shocks, undertake countercyclical fiscal policy, and finance exceptionally large expenditures, such as public infrastructure investment projects. At the same time, the government must be mindful that the public debt will indeed reap the expected benefit over the medium and long term, and that it is not undertaking the expenditure simply because there is easy financing available. 

Uganda’s development strategy in the National Development Plan prioritizes scaling up public investment to address critical infrastructure bottlenecks. Long-term sustainability of the development strategy also depends on strong investment in people. Given limited budget resources, the government must find a balance between infrastructure needs and supporting social sectors, such as health and education. 

Parliament has also fully ensured that Article 159(2) of the Constitution and Sections 36(2) &36(5) of the Public Finance and Management Act, 2015, which provide for the Power of Government to borrow and Authority to raise loans respectively are complied with by Government. 

Uganda’s Public debt stock increased by 22%, from UGX. 34,423.52 billion, recorded in the FY 2016/17 to UGX. 42,070.47 billion, in the FY 2017/18. The existing debt stock constitutes of UGX 28,514.48 billion as external debt, while UGX.13,555.99 billion is domestic debt. In terms of shares external debt takes the largest share of total public debt at 68% while domestic debt is 32% of total public debt. 

Uganda has relied on external borrowing to finance its large-scale infrastructure projects, which contributed to rising debt, putting more strain on the budget as more resources need to be allocated for interest payments. 

Nevertheless, Parliament through its Committee on National Economy report on the country’s state of indebtedness provides critical information on the country’s state of indebtedness. The country remains at low risk of debt distress. Parliament has recommended to government on debt management areas that need urgent improvement. Among them is the need for government to keep debt at manageable levels, through increased domestic revenue mobilization in order to reduce the country’s reliance on external support in the long term. Am happy to note that the government has been able to take up this recommendation as government is now finalizing a 5-year Domestic Revenue Mobilization Strategy. 

Other debt management areas that Parliament has strongly recommended to government is the urgent need for government to expedite implementation of all projects financed by debt to increase the country’s productive capacity in order to repay debt, together with avoiding borrowing for consumptive purposes (especially consultancies, salaries, purchase of project vehicles & workshops among others) as this does not increase the productive capacity of the economy. This will not only contribute towards achieving the objectives of the projects, but also guarantee economic returns that are greater than the interest rates charged, that will benefit the nation positively. 

Challenges like poor project designs, compensation of project affected persons, and accountability and ensuring value for money are being addressed through the various public finance management reforms that government is implementing. The reforms include among others the strengthening of capacity of Ministries, Agencies and Departments in project identification, design and appraisal processes. 

Parliament has also played its role in mitigating the above challenges through the committee on National Economy that developed guidelines to be followed when scrutinizing all loans that require approval of Parliament. These guidelines were adopted by Parliament and require performance information and impact assessment for previous projects by a ministry or government agency; evidence of project appraisal; consistency with the national planning framework; institutional framework for project implementation; procurement plan; evidence of implementation of the Resettlement Action plan; provision of counterpart funding; evidence of project readiness for implementation; and Financing mechanism among others. 

The other major challenge Parliament is facing is the limited oversight over the implementation of debt financed projects. This is largely attributed to limited funding of the oversight function of Parliament.

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The CEO 100

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ruparelia Group remains solid and committed to Uganda- Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia



Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia is the founder and Chairman of the Ruparelia Group, one of Uganda’s largest business conglomerates with investments in financial services, real estate, education, hospitality, agriculture and broadcasting. He is also arguably Uganda’s richest businessman. CEO East Africa’s Muhereza Kyamutetera sat down with him for take on various business issues.

A number of analysts have made different takes on the economy and where it is headed. Being one of Uganda’s largest players in the economy should give you a better and more grounded take on the economy; what are your thoughts on our economy today?

Two – three years ago, things were quite tough; am sure you have seen that the economy grew by about 2.5% in 2016 but recovered in 2017 and 2018 to grow at about 5% and 6% for 2017 and 2018 respectively, according to figures from ministry of finance and IMF.

I also know that the Central Bank eased down on its monetary policy and as such, commercial banks have responded generally by cutting interest rates and increasing lending. I can say the situation has improved and the private sector is more optimistic than it was 2 years ago. I also believe there is room to even improve that by further easing down on interest rates, so the economy can recover fully.  

We hope in the next budget, this June, the ministry of finance can announce further measures to further stimulate the economy.

Specifically for the Ruparelia Group, would you say the last 1-2 years have been good?

As you know, we are a multi-sectoral entity- so some sectors have done better than the others- but across the board I can say things are looking up.

First of all I must say that as a group we are confident in this economy which is why we continue to invest and reinvest in Uganda. Whatever challenges there are, we have come to accept that, that is the nature of business. There is no economy without challenges; so we just have to learn how to navigate around them and wake up each day with the hope and optimism that things will get better.

Ruparelia Group Chairman & Founder, Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia: Uganda’s richest businessman is optimistic about the full recovery of Uganda’s economy.

From the hospitality front we recently added a number of investments- we completed Speke Apartments at Wampewo, in early 2018 as well as completed the remodeling of Speke Resort Hotel in Munyonyo, creating 45 world-class suites for both long and short stays.

We also recently completed Speke Apartments, Kitante- a set of 83 one and two-bedroom fully furnished apartments. We also in the year announced plans to construct a one of a kind Speke Resort and Convention Centre, Entebbe- a trail blazing hotel, with a marina and convention centre that will fully transform Entebbe town.  

We also recently completed renovations at Kabira Country Club.

Our efforts were also rewarded with major global and local recognition. Other than hosting major global and local events and conventions, group hotels won several awards.

Recently Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo and Speke Resort Munyonyo won the coveted 2018 World Luxury Hotel Awards regional and country categories respectively. Speke Resort was also awarded the 2018  “Certificate of Excellence” by Trip Advisor for the fourth consecutive time since 2015.

We also got recognition from Africa’s 8th richest man, Mr. Strive Masiyiwa who said  Speke Resort Munyonyo and the adjoining Commonwealth Resort should be named the  “the official African Conference Centre” for its “amazing” beauty and unique meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) solutions.  

Ruparelia Group’s all new Kingdom Kampala Mall illuminates Kampala at night. The building is an ultra-modern mixed-use Grade A property- a blend of 4,000m2 of retail and  18,000m2 of office space, 4,000m2 of retail as well as parking for up to 450 cars. Dr Sudhir says, Kampala still has vast real estate opportunities for investors who combine both good locations and good quality.

Speke Resort Munyonyo was also recognized as the best Service and Luxury Business Hotel – in the Ekkula Pearl of Africa Tourism Awards, where I was also recognised as a Lifetime Tourism Achiever.

We are humbled by all these recognitions; they are surely an inspiration to do better each day for the group but also do our country Uganda proud, because as a group, we can only be as successful as the nation where we are domiciled.

On the education front, Kampala Parents School had all its 234 pupils who sat the 2018 Primary Leaving Exams passing in first grade. We believe, this was driven by the group’s $7 million facelift, expansion and re-equipping of the school.

In real estate, we had many major milestones- but the biggest and most iconic is the completion of the Kingdom Kampala Mall; an ultra-modern mixed-use Grade A property- a blend of 4,000m2 of retail and  18,000m2 of office space, 4,000m2 of retail as well as parking for up to 450 cars.

These are some of the more monumental successes by the group and we thank all our staff and customers for their individual input- we are what we are because of them.

In 2016, BoU of Uganda closed Crane Bank, one of the group’s iconic businesses- a development that many people thought would mark the beginning of the end of the Ruparelia Group. How did the closure of Crane Bank impact the group?

As you are aware, we are in court contesting what we believe was an unjustified closure of our bank, but also the rushed, negligent and fraudulent manner in which it was closed. So there is only much we can say at this moment as the matter is sub judice.

However, our claims have so far been proven by the findings of the Auditor General and Parliament’s Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) who found out that the closure of Crane Bank and 6 other banks before that, breached several provisions of the Financial Institutions Act (2004) and was therefore illegal.

Dr Sudhir testifies before Parliament’s COSASE regarding what the Ruparelia Group says was an unjust, rushed, fraudulent and illegal takeover of Crane Bank. He is not keen on discussing much of the case in details but says that findings by the Auditor General and Parliament of Uganda are pointers to how flawed the Bank of Uganda systems were. He however says the group is determined to defend both its integrity and the return of their assets.

That said, as a Group, we are determined to defend both our integrity and that which belongs to us. We are also determined to expose the wrong doing by some of these entities that were involved in the fraudulent and illegal closures- because we know that it is not only us who were affected but many other Ugandans.   

Many analysts have told of a real estate bubble coming soon- yet we see continued investment in the sector. As largest developer of commercial and residential space in Uganda, what’s your take on investing in real estate? Is it still viable?

Every sector has its highs and lows but like most other entrepreneurs have said before, if you want to invest, you need to go mainly for the basics of life i.e. food, shelter, clothing etc. These seem to have infinite demand.

SHAKEN BUT NOT STIRRED: An artist’s impression of Dr Sudhir’s planned 5-star Speke Resort and Convention Centre, in Entebbe, said to be his best hotel project. Dr. Sudhir maintains that despite a few bumps caused by Crane Bank’s unjust closure, the Ruparelia Group is both solid financially and committed to Uganda- where several multimillion dollar real estate and hospitality projects are in the works.

Therefore, real estate, even with its highs and lows is a good sector to invest in with average 8%-12% returns on investment- as long as you get the fundamental right.

The construction & real estate sector, continues to attract a lot of attention from the banking sector- accounting for over 20% of all private sector credit- in fact it is the biggest recipient of private sector credit, followed by the trade sector.

Most of this money is being directed to the demand side- 70 percent of all lending goes to financing residential and commercial mortgages, an indicator that demand is there.

Industry and group insights show, occupancy rates of above 80% for Grade A and B office space in Kampala and above 70% for warehouses. Residential occupancy rates in both the upscale suburbs and metropolitan suburbs also remain above 80%. If the projections of 6% growth in the coming years, come to pass- the sector should remain vibrant.

That said, the key tenets in the business remain: location and quality. That is the hallmark of the business if you want to make it big.

What are your parting shots? What advice would you like to give to Ugandans especially entrepreneurs? 

I would like to tell especially the youths and the young entrepreneurs to get down and get their hands dirty.

Uganda, like every other country has its own challenges and opportunities; but the future belongs to those who go after the opportunities not the ones that are always whining about the challenges.

Government has invested significantly in roads, electricity generation and distribution- which are all factors of production. It is now up to us as Ugandans to put in our all and make the best use of these, all the challenges regardless.

The youth of today are blessed to be born in the era of the internet- there is boundless opportunities there.

Lastly, I would like to urge government to work towards closing the long awaited oil & gas opportunities. Many investors have made projections and investments based on that opportunity, the longer it takes to materialize the more these investors will be hard pressed.

I also expect government will pay more focus on settling its domestic creditors, as this could add more pulse to the economy.

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