Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Ugandan Bourgeoisie class

Today I read The Sunday Vision lead story of Kampala's rich class. The writer talks about an exclusive club of Ugandan billionaires who are worth sh1 trillion. According to the news article, members of this Kwagalana (Brotherly) group, as it is known are engaged in real estate, owning buildings all over the city. By observation, this group draws membership from people who were (or are) part of the country's informal sector.

A close examination of individual tycoons' profiles makes interesting read. A number of their stories reveal them as formerly dealing in secondhand clothes, shopkeepers, general merchandise. Other stories could have gory backgrounds.

With this, it would be easy to tell how such people amassed such wealth. To work in a largely unregulated informal sector that is difficult to tax; yet it has a taxable potential. Their chairman Godfrey Kirumira is an importer and dealer in used clothes, general merchandise, owning several buildings in Kampala, fuel stations as well as schools.

They are men and women of little education and their only area of employment lay in the informal sector; yet the more educated colleagues find it easier to get employment in the formal sector.

But later, with their enterpreneural minds, the tables of fortune are turned in favour of the less educated as they work their way to the top and eventually, they are able to create job opportunities to their more educated colleagues such as accountants, auditors, engineers, and lawyers, to run the businesses for them.

This is a class of indigenous African businessmen and businesswomen whose combined incomes, according to the article, can support the country's education sector for nearly a year. Yet by standards of wealth with the region, they do

Ofcourse, while we acknowledge their riches, truth be told that it is partly because of their little education that few of them could venture into the more technical industrial sector such as cement, brewing, steel, mining, sugar production and manufacturing. Or even venturing into agricultural value addition or processing.

One of the Kwagalana club members has ventured into construction sector with a road construction company that is now notorious for delayed contract completion, than doing standard work. But it is everyone's prayer that in that contract limping, eventually, the construction company will find its stable footing.

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