INSIDE THE LIFE OF MUKWANO TYCOON’S SUCCESSOR THE 57-YEAR-OLD RUKSHANA KARMALI INHERITING THE 4TRN ESTATE
By Mulengera Reporters
Amarali Karmali Mukwano is dead having breathed his last on Wednesday 7; 30pm. This was at his residence in Kololo not very far from the swanky Nyonyi Gardens complex which is one of the multiple prime properties he owned. He leaves behind a vast business enterprise which State-owned New Vision estimates to be worth over $1bn (roughly Shs3.5trn).
Having been a chain smoker for decades, 80-year-old Mukwano succumbed to heart failure triggered by lung complications having battled frail health for a long time.
Two days to his death, Mukwano (who apparently had premonition his day was fast nearing) sent for businessman Patrick Bitature and Attorney General William Byaruhanga and gave them a message for the country. He urged them to always mobilize citizens to be hard-working and honest.
The legendary businessman had in 2018 been ranked Uganda’s 3rd richest man after Sudhir Ruparelia and the Madhvanis. This was by the Forbes Magazine renowned for profiling and rating the world’s richest people. Spanning real estate, consumer goods manufacturing, transportation, commercial farming and exportation within Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and DRC, the Mukwano enterprise annually made over Shs300bn in sales. This translates into a daily income of Shs127m.
On growing older, frail and fatigued, Mzee Mukwano (named so because of his spontaneous friendliness right from Bukandula Kabulasoke Sub County Gomba where his story began) had in 1995 recalled his son Alykhan Karmali from Canada to come and take over management as he supervised from the comfort of his retirement in Fort Portal where the Group is into vast commercial tea estates operations.
Alykhan was in charge of much of the management until 1999 when his elder sister Rukshana Karmali returned to Uganda after concluding divorce proceedings ending her marriage with a Canadian man with whom she fathered 22 year-old Verma Ghalib Rahul Karmali. They had only got married 5 years earlier.
Aged 57, Rukushana is the only daughter Mukwano has left and the only other child apart from her young brother Alykhan. She is the one to whom Mukwano had bequeathed the responsibility of being Group CEO. Since 2007, she has been officed at the Group Administration premises situated at Plot 9 Old Port Bell Road in Industrial Area where Rwenzori Commodities Ltd is headquartered. It’s the dead man’s wish that Rukshana continues running the empire as her 22 year old son Rahul (who was by his side as he died Wednesday evening) comes of age and take charge.
WHO IS SHE?
Born on 20th July 1962 in Nairobi Kenya, Rukshana mostly grew up in Fort Portal Kabarole district and had elementary education at Aga Khan Primary School. The family is of practicing Muslims subscribing to the Islamail sect whose spiritual head is Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini (aka Aga Khan IV). She was only 10 in 1972 when President Amin expelled Asians accusing them of economic exploitation. Unlike her father, who successfully evaded the expulsion and unofficially stayed in Uganda living in hiding most of the time, Rukshana didn’t survive the expulsion.
She moved with others to Canada and this was after temporarily staying in Belgium, DRC and UK. From Canada, she returned to East Africa settling in Kenya where she completed her secondary education at an Aga Khan Group institution. Thereafter she joined the Canadian University of Toronto in Ontario where she read a degree in economics. After college she operated a cake baking business in Canada and in the process got married to a Canadian of Asian extraction.
A report in Daily Monitor shows that with Verma Ghalib, Rukushana produced her first born in 1997 and instructively named him Karmali just to reflected how fondly and deeply she was connected to her father Mukwano Amarali Karmali. In October 1999, having divorced Verma, Rukshana responded to her father Mzee Mukwano’s call and flew back to Uganda carrying along her son and younger brother Alykhan Karmali.
The old man consoled her to forget about the failed marriage by building for her a posh home in Kampala from where she moved on and met another man with whom they birthed 5 other children. All these have gone to school in Uganda with the full support of their grandfather who over the years paid for the education of many other children including Patrick Bitature whose very expensive education he paid for at the London School of Economics.
THE BITATURE EXPERIENCE
Bitature had first met Mukwano in 1977 when his single mother was working as a secretary in one of the most important offices in the defunct Uganda Airlines. He was then an S4 chap. Mukwano had come to buy an air ticket at the Airline offices and had to go through his mum. He came many more times for the same ticketing procedures and that is how young Bitature got attracted to him. They became friends, the age difference notwithstanding. He one time casually sought to encourage him to read hard by promising to pay for him if he ever passes S6 with flying colors. He was struggling to do all sorts of errands to supplement on his mother’s meager salary.
He passed and stumbled on Mukwano telling him he had made it in UACE exams exceeding expectations. The old man kept his word by instantly handing over to Bitature $10,000 to realize his dream to study accountancy in London. On return in the early 80s, Bitature was welcomed by Mukwano who even gave him a job in the cash office of his business which he was struggling to rebuild after the Amin madness.
After some time, Mukwano told the young man he was too qualified for the small time job he was having in the cash office. He got the silver foil of the cigarettes packet he had just completed and scribbled something at the back. It was a message introducing Bitature to a close Mukwano friend in Dubai to whom it was delivered for the young ambitious Bitature to be given $20,000 as seed money with which he launched himself into the big name businessman he has since become.
BACK TO RUKASHANA
On returning to Uganda, Mzee Mukwano allowed Rukshana time to recover and recompose herself from the divorce-related trauma whereafter he gave her a job into the Mukwano Group which (former trade Minister Daudi Migereko says) was rapidly growing taking advantage of the political stability and total pacification President Museveni’s NRM had ushered into the country. She started out as a cashier, an office from which she was enabled to study the larger operations of the Group. She then grew into an accountant and manager sales before elevating to MD in 2008.
This put her at the level of strategic decision-making as Mukwano concentrated on tea estates in Fort Portal operating under a company called Rwenzori Commodities Ltd. She often drove to Fort Portal for guidance and to update the old man about the state of affairs in the Group.
Introverted Rukshana, who despises materialism and pompous life just like her father, will now have the responsibility to shepherd a work force of more than enthusiastic 10,000 employees scattered in the different Group entities.
Gratefully, this is something she has been doing for the last 12 years except that she will now be carrying on without the experienced advice and guidance of her father but Bitature, Aga Khan Kampala Envoy Amin Mawji Obe and others familiar with the Mukwano empire are optimistic all will be well because Rukshana and Alykhan are a perfect combination well versed with what has to be done to carry on with their dad’s legacy.
It’s believed that wherever he is, her father Mukwano (who in the early 1980s funded UPC irking his business partner George Wilson Egesa Njola who was for UPM) is confident Rukshana will leverage on the more than enough social capital he built in his life time to grow the business empire to even greater heights.
The vast empire she will be shepherding comprises of Nyonyi Gardens in Kololo, Acacia Mall in Kololo, Mukwano Shopping Center (former UTC parking yard), Mukwano Industries Ltd, 36% shareholding in Exim Bank Uganda, the gigantic Mukwano Mall (near Kisekka market), swanky apartments trading as Mukwano Coutts, Isuzu Building along Port Bell Road, Mombasa-based Gulf Stream Investments, Lira Maize Factory, Lira Oil Mill, Mukwano Agro Project producing maize & soya in Masindi on over 17,000 acres.
There is also AK Plastics which makes plastics like jerrycans, cups and plates; Mukwano Dar es Salaam factory making soap for the Tanzanian market; Mukwano Industries Ltd producing consumer goods; Nation Wide Properties (the real estate arm) and Riley Packaging Ltd producing packaging materials.
AK Transporters Ltd is also part of the Mukwano Empire and its indicative the fallen entrepreneur never forgot his roots as a youthful truck driver carrying coffee and merchandize between Uganda, Mombasa/Kenya, Rwanda, DRC and Burundi. Under AK Transporters, the Group owns over 200 heavy trucks.
It’s also expected Rukshana will carry on with the generous CSR programs that saw Mzee Mukwano regularly support Mosques, feed poor Muslims during Ramadhan; paying school fees for the destitute children and sporting activities both in Kampala and Fort Portal. She is also expected to remain contemptous of opulent materialism just like her father who (despite being wealthy) only had four shirts, three trousers and two pairs of shoes. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at email@example.com).