• Mon. Oct 2nd, 2023

UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | In his will, the late Dr Hajji Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige’s (BMK) named his son Ali Kibirige as the heir to his business empire, giving him chairmanship of Muwanga Holdings. The announcement came a month after his death.

The late BMK died on 10th September at the age of 67. He had been battling cancer for the past four years, and was receiving treatment at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. 

During a prayer event in memory of the late BMK in Naguru Kampala, Ali Kibirige assured friends, family members, and the Muslim community that he would carry on his father’s legacy and urged his family to collaborate to run the business empire.

“I assure the people that I will continue the legacy my father started in business. I ask everyone and my siblings to pray for me and also work as a team, Ali Kibirige stated. 

Kibirige will operate the empire under the guardianship of four people, including property mogul Mansour Matovu, Kaddu Kiberu, the owner of Peacock Paints, among others.

“You should be happy that you have a person who will manage everything as the late used to do. We should thank the Almighty Lord who has given us Ali Kibirige as one who has replaced our beloved one. Our task is to help Kibirige move from one step to another,” Kaddu Kiberu said.

According to Mansour Matovu, also known as Young, the late Bulaimu drafted his will in 2013, the same year he was diagnosed with cancer. BMK had summoned Matovu to witness the writing of the will. Later, in the hospital, BMK called Mansour to bid him farewell. Mansour Matovu also pledged his support and guidance to Ali Kibirige.

They laid BMK to rest at the Nkoowe Muslim Cemetery in the Wakiso district. Prominent leaders such as Buganda’s Katikkiro, Charles Peter Mayiga, former Supreme Mufti Sheikh Sulaiman Ndirangwa, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Anita were all in attendance.

Who Was Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige?

The late entrepreneur was born on 2nd October in 1953. His autobiography ‘My Story of Building a Fortune in Africa,’ published months before his death, elaborates on how a primary seven dropout built a business empire in Africa.

“It isn’t easy to make money today but if you get the basics right, you will make it,” he said.

BMK learnt the basics from his father, a coffee trader in Masaka who he said instilled in him the virtue of honesty.

“My father always got coffee from farmers on credit, sold it and made enormous profits. But he always paid the farmers the agreed sum, which enabled him to get more coffee way beyond his capital,” he said. “My father always told me never to ‘eat’ the capital, insisting that the money belonged to the business, not me the business owner,” he recalled.

Honesty and growing his capital are some of the key lessons that gave BMK the foundation to establish businesses in several countries in Africa.

BMK’s father not only sold coffee; he also owned a small restaurant in Masaka town, called ‘Nakitto hotel.’ After finishing his Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) in 1968, BMK began working at his father’s restaurant, where he learned about the food business and developed an interest in the hospitality industry.

This inspired him to later launch Hotel Africana in 1997. The chain has branches in Kampala, Moroto, Lusaka in Zambia and another two in Arua and Pakcwach near Murchison Falls National park.

When Idi Amin expelled people of Asian origin out of Uganda in 1972, BMK saw an opportunity. There was scarcity of goods in Kampala, yet they were plenty in other towns. On a trip to Mbale, BMK realized he could make a fortune buying goods from this eastern town and selling them for handsome profits in Kampala.

By his own account, BMK made lots of money this way. Soon Mbale stock would dwindle and Nairobi became his next destination, and later Hong Kong. BMK came of business age during those tumultuous 1970s and early 1980s.

The Obote II regime became unhappy with this young man and his opulent wealth, driving around in fancy cars, wearing gold chains, living in a nice house in Kasanga and buying land in the city. BMK had to run into exile in Nairobi to save his life in 1980, where he formed Kowloon Fashions with a Kenyan business person, dealing in clothes and importing used cars and spare parts from Hong Kong for sale in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia.

BMK’s Asian merchants supplied him goods on credit, which he and paid back later at zero interest rates. It is called supplier’s credit and it is the story of many self-made Kampala billionaires.

Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige returned to Uganda in 1986 and established BMK Uganda Limited, which operates in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 1997, he opened Hotel Africana in Kampala, which expanded to Moroto, eastern Uganda, and Lusaka, Zambia.

Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige was named one of Uganda’s wealthiest people in a 2012 report.

Who is Ali Kibirige, Heir to BMK’s Business Empire?
Ali Kibirige (top left) standing behind his father (bottom left), the late Dr Hajji Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige

Unlike BMK who was well known and loved by the public, his children have been kept out of the media spotlight and are largely unknown to the public. This is perhaps due to the lessons learned from BMK’s need to self-exile in Nairobi 1980 after his flashy lifestyle almost cost him his life.

Ali Kibirige, BMK’s son and heir to BMK’s sprawling business empire, has an impressive academic and business background. He attended the prestigious Kibuli Secondary School in Makindye Division, known for its reputation of being a leading academic center with a history of sporting achievements. Ali then went on to achieve his Bachelors of Law at Makerere University, graduating in 2005.

About three months after obtaining his law degree, Ali left for Zambia to look after his father’s business interests there, under BMK Zambia Ltd, which focuses on used spare parts and hire of heavy machinery.

Under Ali’s guidance, BMK’s enterprises in Zambia flourished, and Ali went on to successfully supervise the construction of his father’s Hotel Africana and Convention Centre in Lusaka.

Ali relocated back to Uganda about three years ago, when BMK’s health began to decline.

Ali Kibirige has proven himself worthy to be the heir to his late father Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige’s business empire, and no doubt will successfully carry on his father’s legacy with the support of his family and trusted advisors.

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