The Ugandan UK Convention organising committee is pleased to have Mr. Patrick Bitature as our keynote speaker at the 3rd Ugandan UK Convention−a Diaspora Trade and Investment Expo 2013 on 14th September 2013 at Troxy, 490 Commercial Road, London E1 0HX. Patrick Bitature is one of the most successful Ugandan businessman, entrepreneur and industrialist. He is one of the wealthiest people in Uganda. His resilience and business success is an aspiration to many Ugandans and his presentation will not only inspire but will encourage Ugandans to look back at their motherland and start the attitude ‘I can do it as well’ not to mention investors who are looking for the same encouragement to invest in emerging markets.
The Uganda Diaspora Investment Expo 2013 (UK Convention) is now the largest Ugandan gathering in Europe attracting more than 1000 delegates designed to promote Uganda as a favoured investment destination in East Africa. The Expo offers participants – private individuals and companies large and small – the opportunity to access our lucrative and often overlooked Diaspora market, not to mention the vast investment and business opportunities presented on the day. This year’s “Theme: ‘Diasporans, Driving Growth in Uganda’ will focus on and contribute to the economic empowerment of the Ugandan community through a trade and investment Expo.
To stress the positive outcomes of the Expo, the Expo has achieved some groundbreaking results. After the 2nd Convention a group of investors committed to invest more than $3million in a maize processing plant. Another group donated more than $50,000 to the 1st Lady who was among the guests of honour at the 2nd Convention to build a school and buy two tractors for the women of Karamoja. One must further mention that Ugandans from the Diaspora have relocated back to Uganda and are enjoying their successful ventures.
The expo is a catalyst for rejuvenating an entrepreneurial spirit among Ugandans in the Diaspora and also a springboard and platform to promote partnerships between investors and Diaspora SMEs; not to mention established businesses from Uganda also looking for investors.
About Mr. Patrick Bitature
My entrepreneurial journey started in my early teens, like so many other entrepreneurs. My family had been devastated by the death of my father, and as the oldest son, it was left to me to help my mother provide for the rest of our family.
During my school years, I followed many entrepreneurial endeavours including importing goods, running taxi services, and micro finance.
This engrained in me my entrepreneurial philosophy from a young age: find a real customer need, take a calculated risk, and deliver the best possible quality of good and service possible.
In 1998, I had a small retail business that sold telecom products and services, among other things. I built a reputation for this business on customer service and consumers trusted that they could buy a genuine product that we would support in after care. From my close contact with consumers, I knew that there was a successful business in opening telecoms up to the Ugandan mass market: a significant reduction in the entry costs and ongoing costs of telecoms services would be rewarded with a massive explosion in the market size. This was the key customer need that I had identified. So when MTN approached me with the opportunity of launching such a service with them, I knew this was the right calculated risk to take. I sold all of the assets that I had at the time to invest in a distribution network for MTN products and Simba Telecom was born. I recruited the best people I could find to staff this distribution network and personally oversaw all aspects of the business: from setting the vision to overseeing final balancing each night. Prior to this launch, there had only been a few thousand telecoms customers in Uganda. Within six months, Simba Telecom had managed to sign up over 30 thousand, and now 13 years later have signed up many millions of consumers.
While we found success quickly with Simba Telecom, we did not rest on our laurels, nor has the road always been smooth. However, through continued innovation, we have managed to stay a strong company. The first form of diversification was geographic expansion into Kenya and Tanzania. We were a Ugandan company and so getting a Dealership with the networks in these companies was not easy, but our track record in Uganda and our financial strength made us an attractive partner. We have managed to grow both of these business successfully, and in each case are one of the largest Dealers in the country. Additionally, each of these telecom based businesses have spawned further businesses and investments in these countries, particularly in real estate and other trading businesses.
Another form of diversification within Simba Telecom itself was in the telecoms business in Uganda. I realised that we had a household brand in Uganda, and that brand was trusted by the Ugandan consumer. We used this consumer awareness to introduce a wider range of telecom products so that we were not just reliant on the airtime business. This started with building a solid business in handsets and accessories, all warranted products. However, I also saw the potential for a trusted money transfer service that would enable people to safely send money around the country. The telecoms companies were not ready for this step yet, so that was why we started Simba Cash, enabling people to send money from one Simba shop to their relatives who were close to a different Simba shop. Later this business morphed into a Mobile Money business, whereby we are now the largest agent of Mobile Money services in Uganda. And finally, we have spotted the potential to do to TV what we originally did to mobile phone services. We have recently partnered with Zuku TV to bring affordable high quality satellite TV services to the Ugandan consumer. Our launch was just over a month ago, and we have already signed up thousands of customers onto the service. The telecoms business has had much turmoil in the last 12 months, with consumer prices dropping dramatically. However, we anticipated this trend, and diversified into new lines of business over the last years specifically to weather these pre-anticipated storms. This diversification within the telecoms business alone (aside from the rest of the Simba Group of companies) has meant that we were in a much stronger position than many other businesses within the industry.
In addition to the constant evolution of the telecoms business, both geographically and business activity, I also chose to diversify into new industries. Not only did that match with my entrepreneurial philosophy of constantly looking for an area of consumer need, but also I knew that telecoms in Africa was going to grow dramatically over a 10 year period and would likely mature quickly. I looked to international markets, and saw the extreme competition in the telecoms sector, and wanted to ensure that our group of companies found a “new wave”. Therefore, we made key strategic investments in a number of areas, including real estate & property, power generation, micro finance and media. The two largest areas of new business that we have focused on in the last 5 years have been real estate & property and power generation. We used our strong group balance sheet to make investments in land, and then arranged attractive debt to develop select properties. These have included office blocks, and the successful Protea Hotel. We have used the same entrepreneurial philosophy with the Protea Hotel as with other businesses: we saw a niche for a 4-star business focused hotel with an international brand, and then we have ensured to maintain the very best standard of service so that our customers keep returning to us.
Power generation is something that I am personally very passionate about. It is the lack of access to electricity that is holding back industrial development in the country (and hence economic growth) and also holding back our standard of health care and other basic services to our population. This is not an easy industry to break into, but I also knew that private investment and the ability to deliver projects on time was what was needed to move our country forward. We eventually managed to gain the right to set up a Heavy Fuel Oil plant, and started operations in 2010. We very quickly raised significant equity and debt funding to grow this plant, and are currently expanding the operations to deliver over twice as much power as originally planned.
Underpinning these entrepreneurial stories is a strong track record of financial performance for the Simba Group of companies. We have a well balanced portfolio comprising of short run cash generating businesses (e.g. the diversified telecoms businesses), medium term investments (e.g. Heavy Fuel Oil power generation), and longer term assets (e.g. property & real estate). I have built a team that now has built experience in raising significant amounts of equity and debt funds, both locally and from international markets. This business all started with a few shops in Central Kampala, and now we have a strong track record and with our constant drive for “the next big thing” good prospects for continued financial strength.
However, for me it is not just about building a big empire. My continued passion for growing my business is rooted in my deep love for my country and continent. New businesses that I start must either drive significant job creation, or must be focused on infrastructure development. Businesses that don’t meet these criteria are not areas that I and my Simba leadership team are interested in pursuing. Therefore rooted in the very heart of our strategy is a need to contribute to the community in a significant way. This starts at home: I learned early that the third part of my entrepreneurial philosophy (excellence in execution) can only happen through people. Therefore, in each of our businesses we focus on providing really good job opportunities. This spans investment in training, focus on providing promotional opportunities, and also ensuring that every employee has health insurance.
In addition to this central business philosophy I have embedded in all Simba companies, I also dedicate significant amounts of my personal time to activities that I think are critical to the improvement of my country. This spans my activities as Chairman of the Uganda Investment Authority, where we are focused on bringing more and more high quality investment into the country, to my activities on the Boards of various for-profit and non-profit organisations. I also take the time to work with various youth and entrepreneurship organisations. And finally, I have two specific projects that are close to my heart: the rejuvenation of my old school Nyakasura School, and the recently started Business Against Crime. I don’t just want to leave behind a strong set of businesses for my children and my family. I want my entrepreneurial journey to have made a large impact on my country.