Doing Business in Uganda, (Challenges, common practices, risks and potential rewards of being a multinational enterprise operating in Uganda)
Dr. Ian gave his journey to Uganda. He first went to Uganda in 1998 with a church missionary society. He founded a mission hospital in Kiwoko Luwero district in 1991.
He then moved to Kampala in 1991 and founded international medical centre. For over 20 years, this had grown to international medical group with a hospital, 22 clinics, health insurance company and employs over 800 people.
The International Medical Hospital was the first major international hospital in Uganda situated at Namuwongo with one hundred hospital beds. Mainly it delivers tertially care in the areas of keyhole surgery, neurosurgery, neonatology and mainly targeting the middle class and corporate clients.
The second company founded by Dr. Ian was IAA Insurance Company with 54,000 members with a yearly average premium of $200 per person per year which makes it the largest health insurance company in Uganda. It functions as a health maintenance organisation and mainly uses own facilities of the international hospital Kampala and the International Medical Centres.
The international medical centre has 22 clinics scattered all over Uganda. They offer primary care including laboratory investigations, dental and sonography.
Commenting on his experience in the private sector over the last 20 years. Dr. Ian said that he started the group as a sole ownership selling his professional services, then next phase as a small business where he was controlling everything including his 159 employees.
Phase three he got into corporate governance which required transparency, audit, separation of functions, a board with independent directors and then quality and ISO certification.
Phase four is when he took in private equity partners which increased the level of scrutiny, audit, corporate governance, more emphasis on budget, quarterly reporting. The private equity partners never interfered in quality of services either in technical delivery. As a Ugandan local investor, the experience of private equity partnership was positive and good as it helped to grow the business.
Phase five is when he moved from a majority shareholder to a minority shareholder, he stayed as a chairman, a transition that caused some drift and he endeavoured to retain the position to enforce continuity and stability of the business.
He stressed that he wanted a strategic partner who could preserve the legacy of the company.
The decision also freed him to be able to diversify into other investment.
Dr. Ian worked in the Aid/NGO sector in Kiwoko hospital, in the public sector as mayor of Makindye Division a suburb of Kampala city and in the private sector in the international Medical Group and Clarke Group.
Dr. Ian was driven by sustainable development with social impact. He further said that Uganda cannot develop on Aid alone.
Clarke group was now involved in agri-business, education and affordable housing.
Clarke Group bought 1500 acres in the western part of Uganda with long, medium and short term return crops which include clonal eucalyptus, coffee, maize and eggs. The maize was used as feeding for the chicken.
Agri-business investment was capital intensive, with lots of challenge but with good prospects due to its high demanded products.
Uganda had one of the fastest population growth rates in the world with a rich resource of young people, but unless they were educated for employment they were jobless youth on the street.
Clarke Group Education with to impact the education system to change it from information and theoretical, to student centred and practical.
The group moto was “Inquire, discover and learn”.
International health Sciences University would now expand into a business school and applied technology with an emphasis of developing practical business skills.
The University had trained health professionals in nursing, clinical officers, lab technicians and public health officers. The University was active in research.
The Junior Clarke School invested in primary education under the Uganda system, using international teaching methods. It was aimed at Uganda middle class and demonstration school for modern teaching methods.
The school was s developed to transform Uganda teaching methods which were centred on the old British method of chalk and talk methodology.
Finally, as an investment the group was promoting an investment opportunity to setup a factory to make affordable housing using structured insulated panels. This would reduce the cost of housing and increase the speed at which houses were built to just under 18 days for an ordinary house. The house provided cooler.
There was bureaucracy and corruption but there were also good people who wanted to see Uganda move forward.
Dr. Ian lastly said that to be able to succeed in Uganda, one needed to be realistic and the right partner. However, Uganda laws allowed foreigners to do business and were welcoming.
He welcomes everybody to Uganda.