Maria Kiwanuka, an inspiration

Keynote speaker and guest of honour at the Uganda Convention in UK.

For all the speculation surrounding who would make President Yoweri Museveni’s latest cabinet, Maria Kiwanuka, the proprietor of Radio One and Akaboozi Kubiri wasn’t in many people’s wildest dreams. But she was appointed Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, replacing Saida Bumba.

However, while her academic qualifications, a Bachelors Degree in Commerce put her in good stead for this position, more importantly than not, Kiwanuka has played a major role in inspiring many people’s lives. Kiwanuka is a successful business woman, who has built her media house from scratch into one of the most powerful and success stories of our time.

Kiwanuka has been the fulcrum of Radio One’s success since 1997 when it was established. It was during a very hostile period of the emergence of FM radios in Uganda. It was not clear how Radio One would have faired against major competitors like CBS FM, Capital FM and Sanyu FM. Well, she clearly had a plan.

Mark Ssali, a prominent Sports journalist was one of the first people to work for Kiwanuka at Radio One. He, therefore speaks of how she inspired him. “The first thing I learnt about her was her awareness of what was happening in the industry she had come into. She was not only focused but very knowledgeable. She did not settle for second best and that is why she went out there hiring people she believed were good,” says Ssali.

Ssali was part of the Sports talk show, The Locker-room, the first of its kind on Ugandan radio, which was a hit. This, Ssali says, was because Kiwanuka came up with so many ideas on how to make the radio’s programming the best around. Such is her brilliance, Ssali adds, and as such thinks he learnt a lot. Kiwanuka’s unrelenting nature to be the best, Ssali says, has made him give his all to improve as a sports journalist.

Ssali has had many suitors like the former Gateway Television from the UK that was telecasting the English Premier League, Italian Serie ‘A’ and the German Bundesliga between 2007 and 2009. Ssali has become a household sports pundit with wide knowledge of Ugandan and foreign sport.

One could say that the ambitious nature of Kiwanuka left an indelible mark on Ssali. Michael Kigozi, a staff at Radio One opines that one thing he has picked from his boss, is the non-discriminative nature. “She has no stereotypes. She never judges people on the basis of religion, age difference, tribe or skin colour. For her, it is about your performance and to me, that is a good trait in a leader,” Kigozi says.

Kigozi continues that while Kiwanuka is result-oriented, she speaks to her staff with a parent-like approach and is always advising them in case they go wrong. Ismail Dhakaba, who has been working at Radio One since 2009 says that the number one thing Kiwanuka emphasises is the listener or the customer.

She wouldn’t tolerate losing a single listener, which is why she always arms her employees with the best skills to keep the listeners glued to her radio station. But all this has been achieved through making sure that her employees are good time-keepers and can do self-policing to get their work done as required.

“Her approach always makes you feel a sense of ownership to your work and as such, this brings the best out of you and ultimately, the radios succeed,” said Dhakaba. In a nutshell, Kiwanuka has a lot to tell and for someone who has made a number of keynote speeches, expect her experiences, that she will most definitely share with the guests that will attend the Uganda convention UK on 27th August at Troxy -London, will not leave you the same.

 

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