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High flier shares his winning formula

By Vision Reporter

Added 13th April 2010 03:00 AM

KITE flying cannot be Allen Mutono’s past time. “I don’t chase wind, there should be value for everything I do,” says Mutono. Mutono is a systems developer whose company is launching a power saver that will help stabilise the electricity flow of consumers.

KITE flying cannot be Allen Mutono’s past time. “I don’t chase wind, there should be value for everything I do,” says Mutono. Mutono is a systems developer whose company is launching a power saver that will help stabilise the electricity flow of consumers.

REPRESENTING UGANDA ABROAD

By Shamilla Kara

KITE flying cannot be Allen Mutono’s past time. “I don’t chase wind, there should be value for everything I do,” says Mutono. Mutono is a systems developer whose company is launching a power saver that will help stabilise the electricity flow of consumers.

“I design system solutions to problems that cause organisations losses or underproductivity.”

His firm, Ntlangani Business Solutions, an electricity management and citizen management system in Bloemfontein, South Africa, specialises in installing electricity management systems for municipalities.

The firm developed the first online prepaid revenue management system for the town. “In the first six months of 2009, we saw revenues climb from 11m rand a month to 23m.”

The firm is currently testing a government and citizen communication system that will allow the government to maintain a one-on-one relationship with up to six million citizens.

Results of this relationship will help the government assess its performance and link planning to citizen expectation.

Plans are underway to install prepayment electricity system for SNEL, the utility body in the DR Congo.

Wow, come back home
“I will but not now. The business environment in Uganda is so bewildering and the cost of doing business, high. Business opportunities are often marred by the existence of so many who claim to have access to decision-makers,” he says.

How did this Ugandan do it?
Armed with a BA in Sociology from Makerere University, Mutono left Uganda in 1997, spending three months in Swaziland, and arriving in Pretoria with R150 (about sh42,800).

“The first year was terrible. I had no money and job searches came to nothing as the formal sector was pursuing an indigenisation programme,” he says.

Out of necessity, he wrote for several Ugandan media houses until in early 2008 when he decided to focus on writing business plans and market surveys.

It was a call from the local municipality that changed his circumstances. They had picked a small flyer advertising his services and invited him to bid for a project to conduct a market research for their proposal for residents appreciation of their services.

The African-ness
He got the job and for four months walked and rode on trains and buses into the best and worst of Pretoria’s neighbourhoods.

Once, some potential interviewees set their dogs after him thinking he was spying at their homes. In another incident, angry revellers at a beer hall wondered why a foreigner would get a job at the municipality and not one of their kind (a black South African). “It was a frightful yet interesting experience.”

Luckily, he started telling them stories of all things Ugandan and shared drinks with them. His efforts got all his questionnaires filled out, says this Gulu-born.

The municipality paid him well. “And I immediately bought myself a BMW, rented an apartment, got some clothing and shoes, a new phone and computers and set about looking for more business.”

Now
That was then, Mutono is now putting finishing touches to his country lodge in Pretoria, which will be opened next month.

“Inkwazi lodge is a four star, 9m rand accommodation,” he says.

Still on farms, Mutono runs a manor house and barn yard in Bloemfontein called Mutono farm raising pigs and sheep.

Bought in 2009, he hopes to turn it into a 1.5m rand turn-over-a-year business.

“This is achievable because meat products are costly here. A kilo of mutton is 70 rand and pork 39. We expect this to hike by at least 40% in June because of the world cup,” he says.

Farms and lodges aside, this 38-year-old is also the founder member and director of Mutono Technologies, an IT enterprise systems firm.

The father of three, “I am a 13-days-a-month father,” has also not forgotten home in his enterprises.

Last year in July, he started a project with wife Portia, to provide meals for children at Kakutu Primary School in Kaderuna in Pallisa. “Drought had hit the area’s food stocks and children were dropping out of school due to hunger,” says Mutono who chose the school because his father studied there.

Have you always strived at this?
“Definitely. Initially, my mother was sceptical of my choice and preferred I get a tie-wearing job and do the occasional Sunday family thing. I understood her concerns because she had a torrid time in business and was defrauded.”

Mutono, who also has an Msc in technology and innovation from the Da Vinci Institute in Johannesburg, believes his work is charting a new course for Africa.

“With our home grown solutions, we are doing reverse innovation and debunking the theory that Africa lags in technology and knowledge.”

Mutono’s drive
“Failure cannot overtake me because my desire to succeed is strong,” says Mutono who considers himself “a guru of system dynamics.”

He is also a vociferous reader. “I keep re - skilling myself so as to make my environment simple and acceptable to me,” he says.

What kind of person are you in terms of work?
“I run the engine room,” he says. “And then ensure that all parts of the engine are in good condition to work together. Because an engine is only good if all its component parts are good.”

He advises fellow Ugandans not to follow people’s expectations and to look at things beyond their immediate environment.

“Defy logic,” sums up this son of Uganda.

DIASPORA FACTS:
A survey to compute money and items sent in 2009 by Ugandans living abroad started this month. The statistics will be used for policy formulation.

High flier shares his winning formula

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