• October 20, 2020

BEARING FRUIT FROM A BARREN LAND

Amina Hersi Moghe was born on 27th September 1962 in Bungoma, Kenya where she grew up with her mother, Sarah Hersi Ali, a business woman who migrated from Somalia to Kenya. Amina went to Bungoma (Common Wealth) Primary School where she studied her primary one to primary five and then she moved to Lugulu Primary School where she studied primary six and primary seven. She changed school because she wanted an easier opportunity to be accepted into Lugulu Girls High School. During her stay at Gulu Primary School, Amina says she specifically enjoyed the half cooked Ugali that was often served for lunch although other students consistently complained about it. Amina’s usual routine at this age was school, work, home therefore she did not have much time to interact with her peers and age mates apart from those she studied with. Besides her family having financial constraints, Amina did not have much interest in education an influence that was pushed forward by her mother therefore ending her formal education at Lugulu Girls High School in senior four and continuing work with her mother. She was helping her with the shop and restaurant among other businesses. Currently, she is married with three children that is to say one boy and two girls

At the age of 20, Amina recognized an opportunity in the cross border trade and cement supplying when His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s regime had started and there was peace and stability in Uganda. Additionally, Uganda had already been affected by president Idi Amin Dada’s getting rid of the Indians in 1972 that is to say the previously producing and supplying country of sugar, wheat flour among others became a dependent country that mostly consumed from neighboring countries such as Tanzania and Kenya. Amina embraced the opportunity and set up a store at the Kenya-Uganda border that supplied almost 20,000 metrics of cement to each construction company in Uganda and Kenya and also supplied sugar and wheat flour to “Kikuubo” in Uganda. During this time, Amina had gained most of the clients’ trust that even when she was unavailable at her shop, the clients sought for in Bungoma town. By 1994, her businesses were profusely progressing and this was mostly because she had already acquired entrepreneural skills by working with her mother since she was nine years old and she was not scared of making huge business risks. In 1998, Amina could not compete with other cement producing factories therefore she slowly pulled out of the cement producing business but continued to save for another business venture. Amina decided to invest in real estate because at that time, it was the most scarce business venture in Uganda. By 2006, Nakumatt oasis mall was the second real estate business project to be set up after Garden City in Kampala therefore there was not much of the competition hence she was able to smoothly expand. There was also free idle land next to Garden City by then which she got from Kampala City Council (KCC) and paid for.

Amina proceeded and constructed grand scale luxurious Laburnam Apartments in Nakasero adjacent to the state house. She emphasizes that it took more than eight years to be complete because many banks had refused to lend her money. Fortunately, there was a lot of demand for properties and by 2008 to 2015 she was able to obtain many customers such as Total, Talco, Silco among others who needed to house their workers and investors since Uganda at that time was carrying out oil exploration.

Laburnam Apartments

In 2015, Amina started constructing Atiak Sugar factory and also started growing sugarcanes in Atiak, Amuru District, and Northern Uganda where the government owns 33% and she owns 67% of the projects. These projects were not only set up to provide sugar and sugarcanes for the people in northern Uganda but to also give a source of income to mostly the women through employment opportunities hence women empowerment. Amina Hersi, in 2006 also invested in Kingstone Enterprises Limited, a hardware and cement company which has turned out to be one of the largest distributors of cement and other hardware products in Uganda. She in 2018 organized all her investments into a company known as Horyal-Investments-Holding Company Limited.

 Amina in her ventures as a business woman has been able to get different special recognitions and awards for her great work. In 2008, she received the Woman Investor of the year Award presented to her by Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). She also received the Woman Entrepreneur of the year 2012 award presented to her by the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL).She was also appointed to be on the Common wealth Board that is to say the advisory board of business and economics. On top of all that, she was in 2015 awarded with an honorary philosophy doctorate in humanities by the United Graduate College and Seminary in America. She was also the first Ugandan woman to make it to the Forbes List of wealthiest Africans. She has received public recognition and appreciation from the presidents of different countries like President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and former president of Kenya Mwai Kibaki who awarded her with the Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS).

Despite her long successful career, Amina has faced a number of challenges that is to say the fact that she is an emigrant, a lot of natives find it difficult to trust her with new business ventures regardless of the fact that she has built an empire and made a name for herself. Another problem she faces (mostly as a woman) is the fact that people undermine her integrity and question her work ethic. People also judge her saying she isn’t knowledgeable about business because her formal education ended in senior four.

She was also intimidated by so many people that believed that her real estate empire would not be successful.

Amina Hersi attributes her success to involving herself in the grass roots of her business,

“People usually employ someone to take care of their businesses while they sit in their offices to wait for and enjoy the benefits. You want to build but you do not want to get dirty”

She also says that she has made it to where she is by being more practical and very involved in whatever business opportunity she takes on and to add on that, she emphasizes that the secret to a successful business is client satisfaction and great service delivery that is to say giving the clients a hundred percent,

“Client satisfaction builds trust. You should act excellently in relation to service delivery that is to say, prove yourself with action”

Amina added that she has had a lot of experience since she worked with her mother when she was at a tender age of nine.

Amina Hersi says that studying from local schools helped her understand people’s cultures.

She emphasizes the fact that she doesn’t move a lot to get connections with people that is to say she doesn’t get connections or business opportunities from parties or bars. Most of the people she has connections with have been with her since she was in her primary school.

Amina also adds that she attributes her success to the fact that she is very smart, extremely focused and minds her own business. Her patience also contributed excessively to the growth of her businesses.

She is also down to earth and this helped her get more business connections, clients and advice from informed people on how to expand her business empire. On top of all this, she is very passionate about her businesses.

However, Amina says she didn’t make it alone to where she is. She got help from different people like President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who approved her business proposal of building luxurious apartments and Sudhir Ruparelia who rescued her when she was in dire straits and provided her with an office, a free phone service, some of his workers and a car for her to easily get her businesses working easily in Uganda.

She also got financial help from PTA Bank also known as the Eastern and Southern African and Development Bank.

She enormously credits her mother because she offered her support emotionally and gave her different business tips that she used and still uses in her business ventures.

Amina Moghe Hersi is a perfect definition and example of “From burdens to benefits” because she has been able to build an enormous empire from scratch irrespective of the challenges faced. Despite the fact that she is not a native of the country, she has surprisingly been able to remarkably develop economically and socially as well as develop herself as an individual. Amina is a significant role model to most young girls as she strongly risen in a known to be male dominated industry. She urges people that wish to be as successful as her to save their money and invest it in something bigger.

                            Story produced during the Inter University Media challenge

                                                                                       By       Kiwanuka Anna Barbara

                                                                                               Makerere University

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