By John Odyek
Kaddu Kiberu, the chairman of Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA), has described James Mulwana as a person with a rare and natural gifted hand to do business.
“He had a natural gift. He was one person who could interact with people from the lowest levels to the highest levels. He never refused to see anyone,” he says. Kiberu adds that one would wonder where Mulwana got all the time to see all people.
“It is a rare talent. Most people go late for meetings, they go unprepared and waste participants’ time. That never happened with Mulwana,” Kiberu explains.
“Mulwana was instrumental in the revival of UMA. His dream was to seean industrialised Uganda,” he says. Kiberu says Mulwana was a close friend and like a brother to him. He says they have been close since the 1970s.
“At that time, Mulwana was running Chloride Batteries, which he later renamed Uganda Batteries Ltd,” Kiberu recalls.
He adds that, “I owned Jumbo Petrol Station, which was located on Parliamentary Avenue in Kampala. He was trading in batteries and as friends, we did business together because he would sell the batteries in my petrol station.”
Kiberu is also the proprietor of Peacock Paints Uganda Ltd. He says UMA was established in the 1960s at a time when Uganda was having a young but robust industrial sector.
However, the political, social and economic turmoil of the 1970s interrupted the smooth growth of the association.
UMA, which was dormant throughout this period, was revived in April 1988 by Mulwana. Today, the association is one of the largest organisations representing the broad industrial and commercial sectors of Uganda’s economy and an important forum for the private sector in the country.
UMA has a membership comprising close to 750 small, medium and large enterprises drawn from both the private and public sector.
Mulwana was elected and served as UMA’s chairman until November 2000. By the time of his death, he served as the chairman, advisory committee. UMA has played a significant role as one of the leading representatives of Uganda’s business community, addressing issues of critical to the manufacturing and private sectors.
The Government and donors have worked closely with UMA and consulted the association on important matters of economic developments. UMA annually provided proposals to the national budget.
Kiberu says when UMA was revived in 1988, it had its head office at Spear House on Jinja Road, Kampala. Through Mulwana’s known smart negotiations and sticking to what he always believed in, he managed to convince the Government to drop the practice of doing trade shows through floats.
He says, in the floats, vehicles would be decorated and driven with company products on Kampala Road from the city centre to Kololo Airstrip.
Kiberu says this practice was done once a year on October 6. He says Mulwana saw floats as a waste of time and money for the business community. Mulwana came up with the idea of Uganda’s National Trade Fair.
Kiberu says through Mulwana’s efforts, the first trade fair was held in Lugogo Indoor Stadium in 1989 and the second was held in 1990 at the same venue.
He explained that Mulwana mooted the idea of UMA having its own home and having a permanent showground. He says Mulwana reasoned that holding a trade fair for seven days would give more value to industrialists and business people.
“Mulwana searched around Kampala for a suitable place and he found the Children’s Park on Coronation Avenue. He convinced the then local government minister, Jaberi Bidandi Ssali to sell the land to UMA, he made it into a permanent showground for the association,” Kiberu said.
Kiberu says the grand opening ceremony for UMA showground was done in July 1992 by President Yoweri Museveni. In December 1992, Uganda held its first national trade fair at its home ground.
“In October 1993, Uganda held its first international trade fair. From then, Mulwana struggled to ensure that UMA gained recognition by the Government.
Now UMA is well-recognised by the Government and even in East Africa,” Kiberu says.“We shall truly and dearly miss Mulwana. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” he says.