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Personal brands: What does it take to build one?

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First things first, let us ask ourselves very simple questions. What is that one word that people use to describe you generally? What is your signature definition? This is because every one of us today is a brand. What do people most remember about you?

When you speak to people on phone or in real life, how do you make them feel interacting with you? Do you leave them feeling buoyed and happy to meet you, do you inspire them or do you drain energy out of them? Is dealing or working with you a smooth process or actually people find it cumbersome and tiresome dealing with you?

Are you responsive in your communication, do you respond to your messages, emails or phone calls and when you respond how do you respond? Is it with an impatient voice of “am busy and the earlier you get off the line the better or it is with a warm welcoming smile that can even be felt through the airwaves?”

How you portray yourself online; is it in sync with actually who you are in real life or there is a disparity. For example when I deal with Amos Wekesa the real man, is he still the same as the person I read and follow online or in real life he is different?

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you have competitors. As a personal brand, however, you don’t. When you build a personal brand, there is no real competition. Sure, there might be other people and companies selling similar products and services as you, but they are not you. In fact, there is no other person in the world that is exactly like you.

Building a personal brand requires strategy translated into the right tactics and content, as well as building the right relationships- all guided by certain values that you stand for and values that are important to your intended audiences.

As an individual, you are 100% unique. 

“When you build a brand that’s 100% based on you, you lay the foundation to capitalize on your own blue ocean – a space where you can operate in an uncontested marketplace, free from traditional competitive forces – because none of your competitors can replicate or clone all that’s unique and proprietary to YOU.” – Paul Ramondo

“A strong personal brand is cohesive, clear and consistent and aims to serve a specific audience. A personal brand is important for an entrepreneur because it’s the best way to share your authentic message and attract YOUR specific tribe!”– Jennifer Gottlieb  

Why creating personal brands is the way to go today?

For freelancers and entrepreneurs, building a personal brand has never been more important than it is today. Anyone with access to the internet and social media can build an audience, position themselves as an expert and start attracting clients for their business. And that’s exactly what a lot of people are doing. Here in Uganda the perfect examples of people that have made themselves personal brands that I know are like Amos Wekesa. 

A recent study by Upwork in the USA revealed that the freelance workforce is growing at a rate 3x faster than the overall workforce in the U.S. By 2027, freelancers are expected to make up the majority of the U.S. workforce.

While it’s great to see that so many people are embracing their entrepreneurial spirit, this also means that every self-employed freelancer, independent contractor and entrepreneur will soon face more competition than they already do. The key to differentiating yourself from your competition is building a personal brand.

Here below I will take you through tips of how to build a personal brand:

1. Build your foundation 

The first step to crafting your personal brand is to lay a foundation that you can confidently and authentically build upon. The key principle here is authenticity.

There is a misconception that building a personal brand means crafting a persona. But a persona, by definition, is a facade. It’s not a true reflection of who you are, and therefore, it’s inauthentic.

Your personal brand should not be an inauthentic persona. Branding is not about positioning yourself as something that you are not. It’s about purposefully and strategically showcasing your authentic self to your audience and your customers. Your personal brand should be a true reflection of your skills, passions, values, and beliefs.

“You want to find the special thing that is YOU and make your brand all about that. You can’t make it up, it has to be real (though it can and probably should be a little exaggerated).” – Pia Silva

Take inventory of your existing brand assets:

To build a strong brand foundation, start by taking inventory of the branding assets that you already possess. The intersection of these assets is where you should build your personal brand.

Your skills & credentials: What skills have you acquired throughout your life? What training, credentials, certifications, or awards have you received?

Your passions & interests: What industries and topics are you most interested in? What are you passionate about?

Core values & beliefs: What are some of your most important core values? What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What do you stand against?

Key elements of your personal branding foundation:

Once you’ve identified your existing brand assets, the next step is to start piecing together the key elements of your personal brand. These will help guide your decisions as you build your personal brand:

Your brand vision: What do you want to be known for? If you became known as the world’s go-to expert on XYZ topic, what would that be?

Your brand mission: Why do you want to build a personal brand? What is your purpose? Who do you want to influence? What do you want to accomplish?

Your brand message: What is the key message you want to communicate? What message do you want to consistently reinforce in your content and in your marketing? If you could only give one piece of advice to your audience, what would it be?

Your brand personality: What are some of your personal characteristics and traits that you can weave into your brand? Do you want to be perceived as very polished and professional, or perhaps more quirky and adventurous?

“A great brand starts with understanding who you are, what you stand for, understanding your marketplace, and understanding your positioning. What is the perception that you need to create in order to appeal to the target audience that you’re trying to appeal to?”

2. Choose your target audience 

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as you build a personal brand is trying to appeal to everyone. In reality, not everyone is your ideal client. 

In order to attract your perfect clients, you must be willing to repel those who you do not want to work with. This means identifying a specific target audience and building a brand that is attractive to them.

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you try to be liked by everyone, you will attract no one. You must be polarizing in order to stand out. Not everyone that is exposed to you or sees your message will like you or resonate with you, and that is perfectly fine. You don’t need to reach everyone to build a successful business. You just need to reach your perfect clients.


One of the biggest mistakes you can make as you build a personal brand is trying to appeal to everyone. In reality, not everyone is your ideal client. In order to attract your perfect clients, you must be willing to repel those who you do not want to work with. This means identifying a specific target audience and building a brand that is attractive to them.

“To have a strong personal brand, you have to stand for something, believe in a certain way of doing things, and proudly communicate those beliefs from your platform. Brands who don’t achieve this get lukewarm audience response and wonder why their audiences aren’t called to action by their efforts.” – Amanda Bond

A valuable exercise that we recommend doing is creating your perfect client profile (sometimes called a client avatar). The more you understand about your perfect client, including their desires and challenges, the more prepared you will be to create products and services that they truly want and need.

Here are some questions to help you develop your perfect client profile: 

Demographics: what is their age, gender, education, relationship status, income, profession, etc.?

Desires and aspirations: what is their desired future? What are their dreams, goals, and aspirations?

Pain points and challenges: what are they struggling with? What is preventing them from achieving their goals?

To learn more about how to create your perfect client profile, check out Hubspot’s guide to creating a detailed buyer persona.

“The foundation of a strong personal brand is how well you understand your audience and the problems they face. Then you can define why you care and how you solve those problems, which is what you’ll be remembered for.” – Kyle Gray

3. Create an irresistible offer 

In order to build a profitable personal brand, you need to have something to sell to your target audience. You need an irresistible offer that helps your audience solve a specific problem or achieve a specific result.

A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of creating a product or service that they want, only to discover that no one else wants it or is willing to pay for it.

This is why identifying your perfect client before you create a product or service is so important. When you know exactly who you want to help, you can create an offer that is the perfect solution for them.

How to create an offer your clients will love:

The first step to creating an irresistible offer is to position yourself as a “specialist and not a generalist”. Promise your clients a very specific outcome, and design a specialized offer to help them achieve that outcome. A generic offer with a vague promise is definitely not irresistible.



A simple Irresistible Offer Formula: What you love to do + what you do best + what your audience wants most = Irresistible Offer

Next, find the overlap between what you love, what you do best and what your ideal clients want most. Then create an offer that sits at the intersection of these criteria. We call this the “Irresistible Offer Formula”.

Irresistible Offer Formula:

What you love to do + what you do best + what your audience wants most = Irresistible offer

Once you have an irresistible offer, you need to be able to articulate it clearly to your audience. Here are two questions that you need to be able to answer clearly and succinctly:

What do you do? Your answer to this question is your value proposition. What is the value that you provide to your clients in exchange for charging them?

How do you do it? Give your process, product, or service a unique name. When you give it a unique name, it immediately stands out from any competing offers that promise the same result.

Nicholas Kusmich, a Facebook Advertising Strategist, for example, helps businesses rapidly scale revenue by getting more clients using Facebook Advertising. That’s what he does. To help him stand out from thousands of other Facebook Advertising experts that do the same thing, he developed a proprietary process and he gave it a unique name: “Contextual Congruence”.

Here’s a screenshot from his website homepage, describing what he does in a way that differentiates him from his competitors:

“People need to know who you are and what you do in the simplest way possible. Keep it simple. You should be able to brand yourself in 5 words or less.” – Grant Cardone

4. Optimize your personal website

Having a personal website is an important component of building a personal brand. Having a strong presence on social media is important too, but you do not own or control any of the social platforms that you establish a presence on. Your website is a platform that you own and control, and in many cases, visiting your website will be one of the steps your target audience takes towards becoming your client.

First impressions are critical. When your target audience visits your personal website, they should be able to immediately understand who you are and how you can help them. They should feel like they’ve come to the right place. If this doesn’t happen with a few seconds, most new visitors will leave your website.

Perhaps more importantly, your website should be optimized to convert casual visitors into paying clients. There are several key elements required to make this happen, and most of them belong right on your homepage.

Key elements of your website homepage: 

A professional logo: get a designer to turn your name into a professional logo. If you’re looking for a graphic design service, you can email us at waspuganda@gmail.com and we will do it for you.

Your value proposition: make sure your value proposition (who you help and how you help them) is displayed prominently on your homepage, ideally near the top.

Professional photography: get a photographer to take several photographs of you. Use these photographs throughout your website and also for your social media profiles.

Social proof (media, testimonials): add the logos of any publications or media outlets you’ve been featured in, as well as testimonials from clients/customers.

A clear call-to-action: give your website visitors a clear next step, whether it’s joining your email list, registering for a free webinar, or applying for a free consultation.

Other important pages for a personal brand website:

In addition to your homepage, here are the other important pages that your personal brand website should contain:

About page: share your personal story. How did you get into your industry? What experience and credential do you have? Who do you help? How do you help them? Why do you do what you do?

To see an example of a well-written About Page, we recommend checking out Chris Ducker’s website here. Here is a screenshot of just one part of his About Page, where he shares his personal story:

Products/services: make it easy for your website visitors to become clients/customers. List any products, programs, services you have for sales, along with links to learn more about them or purchase them (depending on what your sales process is for each one).

On Sunny Lenarduzzi’s “Work With Me” page, for example, she has several drop-down menus that provide additional information about her various offers, including free resources, coaching programs and online courses:

Content and/or free resources: blog posts, podcast episodes, helpful videos, or lists of resources you’ve created or recommend.

Contact page: give your website visitors a specific way to contact you. Give them different methods for contacting you (email, social media, etc.) based on why they are contacting you.

One of the best contact pages we’ve seen comes from Lewis Howes. To help organize incoming contact requests, he has different contact forms created for different types of inquiries:

“When you build a brand that’s 100% based on you, you lay the foundation to capitalize on your own blue ocean – a space where you can operate in an uncontested marketplace, free from traditional competitive forces – because none of your competitors can replicate or clone all that’s unique and proprietary to YOU.” – Paul Ramondo

5. Have a content strategy

Creating and distributing free content is one of the most effective ways to build your brand and earn the trust of your target audience. Instead of trying to convince your audience that you can help them, you create content that actually helps them. This builds trust and helps to position you as an expert and an authority in your industry.

It is not a coincidence that the most successful personal brands today (Grant Cardone, Marie Forleo, Gary Vaynerchuck, Amos Wekesa, former PRAU President Henry Rugamba just to name a few) publish significant amounts of content online to help build and nurture their audience.


Fresh Egg’s Brilliant Seven Point Content Strategy Template. Creating and distributing free content is one of the most effective ways to build your brand and earn the trust of your target audience.

Creating a content strategy for your personal brand:

To create a content strategy for your personal brand, start by creating a list of all of the potential topics that would be helpful for your target audience. Google’s Keyword Planner, BuzzSumo, and Answer The Public are all great tools for doing keyword research and discovering popular topics.

Once you have a list of topics to create content on, the next step is to decide which type of content to create and where you will publish that content.

Common content types and platforms:

  • Text / articles/opinions
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Online courses
  • PDF guides, checklists, worksheets
  • Infographics
  • Slideshows
  • Case studies
  • Common content mediums:
  • Your own blog/website
  • Podcast directories (iTunes, Stitcher, etc.)
  • YouTube videos
  • Other blogs and online publications
  • Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.)
  • Emails
  • Slideshare
  • Quora

“Identify some core themes in which you strongly believe and build a series of content around that and then keep hammering it home.” – Sam Mallikarjunan

Focus on quality & consistency 

For content marketing to work, it’s important to focus on quality and consistency. Don’t publish content that will reflect poorly on your brand, and be consistent with how often you publish new content for your audience. Content marketing is a long-term play, but it pays incredible dividends when done correctly.

Creating and promoting content is also more time consuming and expensive than most people realize. For that reason, we recommend starting with 1-2 primary content types (such as blog posts or videos) along with 1-2 primary content mediums (such as YouTube – for more info Youtube Marketing Guide or Facebook). Once you start getting good results with your primary content types and mediums, then go ahead and expand into other content types and mediums to reach more people. To learn more about how to high quality content, check out our complete guide to creating epic content your customers will love.

“A strong personal brand is cohesive, clear, consistent and aims to serve a specific audience. A personal brand is important for an entrepreneur because it’s the best way to share your authentic message and attract YOUR specific tribe!”– Jennifer Gottlieb

6. Have a visibility strategy 

Publishing content on your own platforms is a great way to build your audience, but it also takes a lot of time. A faster way to build your audience is via exposure to other people’s audiences.

Here are some common ways to increase your visibility:

Interviews & PR: get interviewed as a guest expert on podcasts, virtual summits, as well as for traditional media including TV, radio, and print magazines.

Guest blogging: write articles for other blogs and online publications that your target audience reads.

Public speaking: apply to speak at live events, local Meetup groups, and conferences that your target audience attends.

Partnerships & joint ventures: Building mutually beneficial relationships with other people and companies can lead to a number of opportunities including guest blogging, interviews, joint ventures, partnerships, and customer referrals.

“The single biggest growth hack is getting yourself featured on major publications. If you want to build authority and credibility in your niche, what better way to do that than getting one of the most prestigious brands to mention you? This gives you instant credibility.”– Ulyses Osuna

7. Build a community 

Instead of trying to build a large and broad audience, shift your focus to becoming a leader of a community in a specific niche. Define your target audience, and build a community for them to interact with each other, share ideas, support each other, and reach out to you directly.

Here are a few ways you can build a community around your brand and business:

Facebook/Whatsapp Groups: Create a private Facebook/Whatsapp Group for your audience and/or clients. This will give you the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations with your audience on a daily basis, and just as importantly, give them an environment in which they can interact with and support each other.

Live Events: Host live events so your audience and/or clients can spend time with you in-person. Casual meetups, private dinners, workshops, retreats, and mastermind groups are all great ways to solidify long-term relationships with your audience.

Membership Sites: Create a membership site where in exchange for a nominal monthly fee, your clients can have access to exclusive content, live calls and/or webinars with you on a regular basis, and the ability to interact with each other via a members-only forum or group.


Isaiah Jobs Rwanyekiro is the CEO of Fernando Tours Ltd and a passionate domestic tourism promotion enthusiast and can be reached for comments via fernandotoursug@gmail.com 

“A strong personal brand is one that has a high level of impact, which then leads to influence amongst the people who follow you. The key is to leverage social media and other social platforms and environments to create relevant and meaningful dialogues between you and the people you want to impact.”– Mark Lack

Start building your personal brand

There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. Thanks to the internet and technology, the barriers to entry to entrepreneurship are practically non-existent. Anyone can build a brand and an audience online, and create products and services to sell to their audience. 

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you have competitors. As a personal brand, however, you don’t. When you build a personal brand, there is no real competition. Sure, there might be other people and companies selling similar products and services as you, but they are not you. In fact, there is no other person in the world that is exactly like you. As an individual, you are 100% unique.

This is why building a personal brand is so powerful. When you build a personal brand, you immediately differentiate yourself from your competitors because YOU are different than your competitors.

“We all have a personal brand whether we think about it that way or not. So, let’s be intentional about it. A strong brand to me means that your message is identifiable. When you have something you are known for, it lessens the perceived competition. That’s huge!” – Kathy Klotz-Guest

Isaiah Jobs Rwanyekiro is the CEO of Fernando Tours Ltd and a passionate domestic tourism promotion enthusiast and can be reached for comments via fernandotoursug@gmail.com 

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Thought Leadership

OPINION: Social Media and the Role of Election Management Bodies

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Social media refers to the use of web-based mobile digital technologies to turn communication into highly interactive dialogue, and covers blogs and microblogs such as Twitter, content communities such as YouTube, social networking sites like Facebook and (cell-based) cross-platform instant messaging applications like WhatsApp Messenger.

During the past fifteen years, social media has changed every facet of communications; significant amount of information and communications work has migrated from conventional media platforms (print and electronic media) to digital social networks. Dynamic organisations and businesses have already tapped into the massive opportunities in digital media, and particularly, social media.

The Government of Uganda approved a Government Communication Strategy (2012) which guides ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on use social media to communicate government policies, programmes and activities. New (social) media is considered by Government as an effective platform in facilitating implementation of constitutional provisions relating to right of access to information.

To support the above, Uganda Communications Commission and sister regulatory authorities have formulated necessary (regulatory) framework to guide the use of new media, which helps service providers and users to curb potential excesses of digital technologies.

As a modern and progressive institution, the Electoral Commission has taken deliberate steps to integrate digital technologies in our organizational information and communication structure.

The Department of Public Relations and the Department of Information Technology have been particularly positioned to provide leadership in this integration, with satisfactory results.

The Commission has further provided for training of all field election officials with knowledge and skills to utilize social media in the course of their duties.

Electoral Commission Social Media Strategy

In 2015, the Electoral Commission adopted a social media strategy to guide the institution in utilizing new digital technologies and social media to reach increasing diverse audience, as outlined in the following indicators:

The official EC Twitter account @UgandaEC was activated and a hashtag #AskEC2016, became a channel for the voters to ask questions and raise concerns, a forum where queries about the electoral process could be addressed;

Justice Byabakama Mugenyi Simon, Chairperson, Electoral Commission speaking at the launch of a media campaign on polling stations reorganisation. He said the Commission would adopt new media technologies such as social media to carry out voter education especially amongst the youth.

The Facebook page Electoral Commission Uganda was activated and gained followers who used the platform to raise inquiries and received responses. The Commission used the platform to post updates on the electoral process;

The Commission created a Whatsapp group (EC Media Center) for media personnel accredited to cover the 2016 General Elections. The platform facilitated timely updates on the electoral process, as well as prompt responses to press inquiries, and provision of necessary clarification and guidance;

The Commission hosts a functional website where information related to the electoral process (statistics, press releases and guidelines), administrative (jobs) and logistics matters (tenders), can be easily accessed by various stakeholders;  

The National Voters’ Register was uploaded on the website to facilitate easy  access for voters who have access to the internet using either smartphone or a desk top. The benefits of this innovation include online checking of (individual) voter’s registration status; availability of the Register for verification by interested stakeholders (parties, etc); free access to the Register hence saving costs on the part of stakeholders; increased voter/stakeholder participation in the cleaning process; and, enhanced transparency in the electoral process.

During the 2016 General Elections, the Commission used SMS to inform voters about their voting status and their respective polling stations. This was achieved by broadcasting the voters’ voting details for voters who had indicated their telephone numbers during the National ID registration exercise. The SMS service also enabled registered voters confirm the details of their polling stations from a mobile phone by texting his/her voter Id number to code 8228 to get a confirmation message of their registration status;

The Electoral Commission regional and district offices have been connected to the internet to enable use of web-based platforms for information and communication and stakeholder engagement;

This social media strategy was designed to particularly achieve the following:

Increase brand awareness among stakeholders, especially the youth and working middle class who often show little enthusiasm for electoral issues. Hence the Commission has adopted social media in order to reach this critical audience and interest them in participating in electoral activites;

Improve engagement with a wide range of stakeholders (political actors, the electorate, media, civil society, e.t.c), and a global audience that follows democracy, elections and governance issues in Uganda;

Engage audiences in real time and receive instant feedback on issues in the field during the electoral period. This enables the Commission to respond and manage issues and crisis;

Achieve sustainable, extensive publicity, sensitisation and stakeholder engagement at a fairly low cost. Social media is relatively inexpensive and accessible and enables cheap publishing and affordable access to information. This is critical as the Commission has  limited budget for communication and information dissemination;

Facilitate the conduct of peaceful campaigns by following candidates and supporters conduct, and correctly guiding on processes. The Commission is able to swiftly respond to complaints by candidates, agents and supporters;

Achieve an informed mass of stakeholders and a supportive electorate through promoting mass awareness on the electoral process;

Help in maintaining constitutional order in Uganda, through continuous stakeholder engagement before, during and after elections;

The role of the Election Management Body (EMB) in the social media matrix

Today, social media networks are a proven medium for enhancing and protecting brand reputation, improving customer service and managing crisis. These are postive aspects which EMBs critically need. In order to harness the power of social media, the Electoral Commission has observed and taken the following critical actions:

Hosting and maintaining updated, active and extensive online platforms, because this is where critical information, communication and regular stakeholder engagement has gone;

Being proactive in generating content and disseminating the same through the official social media accounts. It is a common practice for social media enthusiasts to cross-check facts against official accounts to verify the information before onward sharing. The EMB must be able to tell its story, and set the agenda for further discussion on the issue;

Training and equipping a dedicated communications team to manage the official social media platforms. This will ensure timely content generation, timely detection and interception of wrong information (fake news) and enable prompt dissemination of clarification where there is misunderstanding;

Partnering with relevant regulatory agencies (Media Council and Uganda Communications Commission) to develop regulations for responsible use of social media during elections. It is important to enhance awareness among media practitioners on their rights, roles and duties during the electoral process through an activity-specific code of conduct;

Challenges and Risks in the Use of Social Media by the Electoral Commission

While social media offers immense opportunities to EMBs to engage with their audiences and achieve wide range of benefits, the following limitations and risks need to be considered and managed:

Social networks are a proven medium for enhancing and protecting brand reputation, improving customer service and managing crisis. But they also have great potential for causing extensive damage and propagating falsehood (fake news), stirring controversy and igniting violence. EMBs, therefore, need to build capacity to mitigate the negative forces of social media.

New digital technologies have empowered the public to play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information (also known as citizen journalism), with both positive and negative results. Social media has been used to disseminate wrong information about electoral processes, with the potential of sparking discontent and fuelling violence. In some cases, including Uganda (2016), governments have taken a decision to block access to social media. While such action helps to prevent escalation of tension and chaos, it has been criticised as violation of constitutional freedoms, mainly the right of access to information. Preventive actions by government and regulators have an effect on the final judgment of the overall conduct of the election.

Social media communication is characterised by anonymity, which compromises the authenticity of online communication and engagement. Social media is vulnerable to abuse and EMBs are often victims of pseudo accounts, which can mislead audiences, spark violence and damage institutional and national reputation;

Effective social media use requires extensive network coverage across Uganda; while phone and internet usage has been on the rise since 2000, the entire country is not covered. According to the Uganda Communication Sector Performance Report (June 2018) mobile phone access in Uganda stands at 56.1% while internet penetration is at 47.7%. Despite its immense influence, social media has limited access and use, and may not provide the ultimate solution to our information and communication needs.

It is observed that social media users always refer to national radio and television broadcasters to confirm the accuracy of information received. Hence, radio, television and the newspaper, remain trusted sources for accurate information, and should not be sidelined during planning and budgeting process.

Conclusion

This workshop provides a useful platform to share valuable knowledge and skills that will contribute to the improvement of our election management function through proven practices in strategic planning and effective communication through the use of social media.

It is evident that in order to maintain and increase positive brand visibility, EMBs need to embrace the changing media environment, and adopt policies and systems that facilitate integration of new media in the communications function and overall operations system.

We need to build the capacity of election management bodies to exploit the immense, fast and extensive power of social media. The irreversible growth of social networks has created a training need for organisations, and funds have to be provided to train and equip officials in web-based communication in order (for institutions) to make the best out of social media.

The author is the Spokesperson of Electoral Commission.

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The CEO 100

CEO OF THE MONTH: A tale of Fabian Kasi’s 9 years at Centenary Bank and the making of Uganda’s 2nd largest bank

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Fabian Kasi, under whose 9 years of leadership, Centenary Bank, has emerged as Uganda's second largest bank with 11.3 percent market share

Centenary Bank’s soft-spoken Managing Director, Fabian Kasi, this August, starts his 10th year at Centenary Bank- 10 years of impressive growth, whichever way you look at it.

Kasi, was among the first crop of indigenous CEOs to head the top 10 banks in the late 2000s- previously, a preserve of foreigners- mainly Kenyans. At the time, he became CEO in 2010, he was one of only three Ugandan CEOS of the top 10 banks- the other being Juma Kisaame (dfcu) and Nicholas Okwir (Housing Finance Bank).

Thanks to him and other good performing Ugandan CEOs, who broke the glass ceiling, today there are five Ugandan CEOs of the top 10 banks, but perhaps more importantly, the top three banks are all led by Ugandans.

Other than Centenary Bank, the No.2 bank, Stanbic Bank, Uganda’s largest bank is headed by Harvard alumni Patrick Mweheire and dfcu Bank, in the 3rd position is headed by Mathias Katamba.

Just like Kasi, Katamba is also a home-grown CEO, who rose through the ranks and different banks.

Unlike the two other banks, Centenary Bank is also majority Ugandan owned- 70.1%.  The Registered Trustees of 19 Catholic Dioceses in Uganda (38.5%), the Registered Trustees of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (31.3%) and 4 other Ugandan individuals own 0.4%.

ALSO READ: Money men: The 8 gentlemen who control 77% of Uganda’s banking industry https://www.ceo.co.ug/money-men-the-8-gentlemen-who-control-77-of-ugandas-banking-industry/

Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu, the economist board Chairman of the bank, for now over 10 years, has superintended the bank’s growth.

The remaining shares are owned by SIDI- Solidarite’ Internationale pour le Development et l’Investissement (International Solidarity for Development and Investment) based in France that owns 11.6% and STICHTING HIVOS-TRIODOS FONDS, an investment fund, specializing in investing in microfinance and trade finance, managed by Triodos Investment Management in the Netherlands, owns 18.3%.

From fourth to the second largest bank in Uganda  

During the 9 years of Fabian’s reign the number of customers, has grown by 63.4% from 1,003,295 that he inherited in 2010 to 1,639,602 customers at the end of 2018- a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.6%.

The number of branches has also grown from 48 in 2011 to 73 at the end of 2018, backed up by 179 ATMS at 132 locations across the country.

Fabian has also embraced digital banking and has over the last 5 years invested heavily in digital banking with a view to decongest the banking halls and ATMS- which is perhaps one of the bank’s greatest undoings.

Beatrice Lugalambi, the good-natured General Manager, Business Development and Marketing, who arrived at the bank in 2011, a year after Fabian Kasi, is one of the brains behind the bank’s aggressive marketing and brand presence. She has put her nearly two decades of banking, behind some of the industry’s biggest marketing campaigns.

In October 2015, the bank launched its flagship Centemobile banking platform that enables clients to transact and access banking services on their mobile phones, whenever and wherever they are, as long as there is network coverage. The platform by end of 2018, had 701,801 registered customers of which 144,192 were active with 1,268,833 transactions by end of December 2018- accounting for 30.1% of the bank’s transactions.  

The bank also closed 2018 with 2,404 registered banking agents all over the country.

ALSO READ: Earnings of CEOs and Executive Directors of 23 of 24 of Uganda’s banks: https://www.ceo.co.ug/exclusive-earnings-of-ceos-and-executive-directors-of-23-of-24-of-ugandas-banks/

These innovations and an aggressive expansion strategy, has seen customer deposits grow 4 times or 261.8% from UGX630.8 billion in 2010 to UGX2.3 trillion in 2018- an annual compounded growth rate of 16.4%.

Growth in deposits, has facilitated a 261.8% growth in lending from UGX395.8 billion to UGX1.53 trillion in the same period- allowing the bank whose 75% of income is derived from interest income, to grow by 200.4%, from UGX189.1 billion in 2010 to UGX568.2 billion at the end of last year.                                                                                                                Profitability over the 9 years has also grown by nearly four times or 266.1%, from UGX29.4 billion in 2010, to UGX110 billion in 2016, declining minimally to UGX100.1 billion in 2017 and closing 2018 at UGX107.6 billion. Overall, profits have grown by an average 15.5% annually- above the industry average.               

Centenary Bank’s profits have grown by an average 15.5% annually over the 9 years

The bank’s asset base has as a result also grown by nearly 4 times or 292.8%, from UGX807.2 billion in 2010 to UGX3.2 trillion in 2018- an annual CAGR of 16.4%.

This impressive growth, led by an all Ugandan trio- Fabian, together with Simon Kagugube, the Executive Director and Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu the board chairman for the 9 years, has seen Centenary Bank move from the fourth largest bank by assets- UGX807.2bn and 7.12% market share in 2010 to the second largest bank with UGX3.2 trillion and 11.3% market share at the end of 2018.

To put this into perspective, by end of 2018, Centenary bank was larger than the Ugandan asset base of 11 banks at the bottom of the chain combined i.e. Ecobank, United Bank for Africa, Tropical Bank, Exim Bank (Formerly Imperial), NC Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Finance Trust Bank, Bank of India, Commercial Bank of Africa, Cairo International Bank and ABC Capital Bank.

The 11 banks together had UGX2.6 trillion in assets.

The bank’s board of directors. Eight of the eleven board members are Ugandan, breaking the stereotype that Ugandans can’t lead big growth. Centenary Bank is one of the few majority Ugandan owned and led banks.

The bank has also jumped from the fourth biggest deposit taker- UGX630.8bn and 7.82% market share in 2010, to become the second biggest deposit taker, receiving UGX2.28 trillion and 11.7% of industry deposits at the end of 2018.    

At the end of 2018, Centenary, had also grown from being the fifth biggest lender with UGX395.8bn loan book and 7.32% market share in 2010 to become Uganda’s second biggest lender with UGX1.52 trillion lent out, translating into 12% market share.

As a result, the bank has also moved from being the fourth most profitable bank- UGX29.3bn and 10.3% market share in 2010 to the second most profitable bank with UGX107.6 billion or 14.3% of industry profitability.

But who is Fabian Kasi?

Fabian has been a banker almost all of his working life.

He started as a Banking Officer at Bank of Uganda in 1992. After eight years, he briefly worked as a Director of Finance & Administration at Finca Uganda, a global microfinance organisation, before heading out to Rwanda’s Banque Commerciale du Rwanda (BCR) as CFO.

LEFT-RIGHT: Mr Kamal Budhabhatti, Chief Executive Officer, Craft Silicon and Fabian Kasi, at the April 2018 launch of CenteMobile Loans, a self-service opt-in product, that allows customers to borrow up UGX 2 million instantly. The service was developed in partnership with Craft Silicon. Centenary Bank is the leading micro-lender. By the end of 2018, 94,035 customers had accessed CenteMobile Loans.

After just 9 months in Rwanda, he was appointed the Managing Director for Finca a job he held for 8 years and 3 months.

He was appointed Centenary Bank Managing Director in August 2010.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Accounting from Makerere University, as well as an MBA from the University of New Castle in the UK.

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Thought Leadership

OPINION: There’s much more benefits to offshoring than merely tax avoidance

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Businessman, Patrick Bitature whose name has featured in the over 200,000 Mauritius Leaks

Yesterday, July 23rd, one of the leading dailies in Uganda, run a screaming headline, “Leaked papers reveal Bitature offshore links.”

Now, Patrick Bitature, is one of Uganda’s leading businessmen, founder and CEO of Simba Group- a conglomerate of East African companies spanning telecommunications, real estate, power generation, agro-business, oil and gas, tourism and social enterprise, so such a headline is bound to attract every reader’s attention.

In the newspaper story, it was alleged that Electromaxx, an energy firm in which Mr. Bitature, is a major shareholder, had “benefited from an energy investment structured in Mauritius, which according to tax analysts, smacked of “a deliberate aggressive tax planning” to benefit from the Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) between the Indian Ocean island nation and Uganda.”

In an early anti-climax, the authors went on to mention in their story that: “There is nothing criminal in a business person or entity exploring tax payment in a jurisdiction where it is least, technically called tax avoidance.”

Having sucked out the legal juice out of their own, story, they went for the moralist angle, and regurgitated a March 16, 2015 report, by Oxfam International, a global NGO which argued that tax avoidance, while legal, had an indirect impact of widening income inequality as “wealthy individuals and multinational corporations pay the least tax by establishing offshore firms in tax havens while the poor choke on taxes in countries of citizenship.”

The story itself, is draw from what has now come to be known as the Mauritius Leaks- a hoard of about 200,000 confidential client documents leaked from the Mauritius office of the Bermuda-based offshore law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman that is said to paint a little bit more detail on businesses from all over the world that hired the law firm to help them offshore some or all of their operations and processes in Mauritius.

The leaks are part of an investigation by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 54 journalists from 18 countries, including Uganda.

Mauritius’ minister of financial services of good governance Dharmendar Sesungkur, who oversees the country’s offshore sector, in a statement to ICIJ denied any wrongdoing and said that independent organizations, including the World Bank, recognized that “Mauritius is a cooperative and clean jurisdiction that has made significant progress in adhering to international standards.”

The screaming headline aside, that at a first reading, suggests some mega corporate scandal, on closer reading, reveals an author who has fallen hook line and sinker for the syndicated NGO world view, albeit imbalanced, that offshoring, solely exists for purposes of tax avoidance.

Speaking of moralism, I would have expected so bit of “fixing the log in one’s eye, before going for the speck in the neighbor’s.”  

For those who may not know, the Monitor Publications, which publishes the newspaper in question, was at 31st December 2018, 83.3% owned by Nation Media Group (NMG), itself 44.66% owned by Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, S.A (AKFED) a company incorporated in Switzerland the 4th biggest tax haven, after Bermuda, Cayman Islands and Netherlands on Oxfam’s 2015 list of 15 biggest corporate tax havens.

Mauritius is No.14 on the same list.

AKFED which is wholly owned by The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), also registered in Switzerland, operates a network of more than 90 separate project companies all over the world, with revenues of USD4.3 billion in 2017!

In Uganda, other than Monitor Publications Ltd, AKFED either, wholly or partially owns companies such as Bujagali Energy Ltd, Kampala Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, Leather Industries of Uganda Ltd, Uganda Fishnet Manufacturers Ltd and West Nile Rural Electrification Company.

Others AKFED companies are: Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust Uganda Ltd, Diamond Trust Bank Uganda Ltd, Diamond Trust Properties Uganda Ltd, and The Jubilee Insurance Company of Uganda Ltd, Jubilee Investments Company Ltd and Tourism Promotion Services which owns the Serena Hotels chain.

I would have expected someone to first explain a little bit of detail on the USD$4.3 billion log, before we get to Bitature’s USD5 million speck!!

Beyond tax avoidance; the importance of offshore financial centres

Enough of this whataboutism.

Pardon me if I went on and on about AKFED, but I am simply trying to demonstrate that beyond the overzealousness with tax avoidance- as the biggest motivator of offshoring, there are many other reasons; call them benefits, why businesses could choose to offshore some or all of their operations.

A detailed and balanced look at offshoring would do justice to everybody.

In fact, AKDN and AKFED on their website, try to offer an insight on why they chose to be headquartered in Switzerland, regardless of the fact that they have very little actual business going on there.

Kampala Serena Hotel, part of AKFED’s Tourism Promotion Services (TPS)

“Switzerland is also the location for a number of activities, including the coordination of development programmes within AKDN and with international partners,” the group explains, adding: “The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development’s (AKFED) Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) in Switzerland acts as a focal point and technical clearing house for Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) companies.”

In the above explanation, lies one of the major reasons for offshoring, because, offshore financial centers allow companies or investment funds to operate internationally without having to put up with the several different sets of rules in the various jurisdictions where they operate and, in the process incurring more costs of operating.

Of course there are numerous other benefits such as access to cheaper financing, guarantees of more economic stability e.t.c.

But away from the well documented benefits of offshoring, there seems to be a general misrepresentation, fanned by especially the purveyors of these leaks, NGOs and activist journalism that these countries that have been collectively branded as tax havens are some sort of dubious and corrupt hellholes where businesses or individuals, wishing to conceal their businesses dealings are given a red carpeted welcome.  

To the contrary, most, if not all these countries have some of the best global corporate governance, transparency, competitiveness and ease of doing business rankings- which is why they are a popular destination of the world’s biggest corporates.

Let’s take Mauritius for example; in the 2019 Ease of Doing Business Report by World Bank, Mauritius is ranked in the 20th Position and is the only African country in the top 20- Uganda is the 127th.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2018, Mauritius is ranked No. 49 (again the only African Country in the top 50) – Uganda is in a distant 117th position.

Mauritius is ranked as No.6 globally, by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Bank Group in their Paying Taxes 2019 Survey, which investigates and compares the ease of paying taxes in 190 country tax regimes.

On the Corruption Perceptions Index 2018, Mauritius is in the 51st position and along with Seychelles, Botswana, Capeverde, Rwanda and Namibia, they are the only African countries in the top 60 least corrupt countries; Uganda is the 149th.

Do we now begin to understand why, if given choice and with the supporting legal framework, it would be every business’ dream to be domiciled in a country like Mauritius or Switzerland where things seem to be working?

I do believe, rather than whine about how more and more Ugandan businesses are choosing to register in the so-called tax havens, attention should be refocused on addressing key issues constantly raised by the private sector such as high tax rates, low tax morale, corruption, access to affordable financing, inadequate infrastructure, government bureaucracy etc. 

We should probably be planning on sending our policy makers to Mauritius for some hard lessons on how to make economies work.   

All said and done, if there is any wrong doing established, it should also be punished. However, I do believe that fairness demands that a little more investigations by competent authorities be done, before the screaming headlines.

The writer, is Executive Editor, CEO East Africa Magazine.

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