Biography Of Amina Moghe Hersi (Age , Husband , Net Worth) – Amina Hersi Moghe was born in Bungoma, Western Kenya, to nomad parents who had come from Somalia. As a kid, she assisted her mother in the establishment of a hardware store before relocating in Uganda to sell soft goods and cement. She amassed a wealth and ventured into real estate. Hersi, 64, now controls some of Uganda’s most prestigious properties, including the iconic Oasis Shopping Mall in Kampala and the luxury Laburnam Courts. Atiak Sugar Facility, her sugar production firm, is also building a $120 million sugar factory in Uganda’s northern area.
“We were not permitted to be seen or heard as a young Muslim Somali immigrant girl growing up in the little town of Bungoma, Kenya.” “We weren’t supposed to go out and play,” Amina Hersi Moghe recalls.
Ironically, the world has seen and heard not just of her, but also of her face and voice; this was not because she dared to display her face publicly, but rather as a result of her efforts.
Moghe was named ‘African Businesswoman of the Year’ by The New Economy, a reputable London-based quarterly business magazine, earlier this month for “helping turn around several multi-million dollar projects that have dramatically changed the face of Kampala… during a particularly difficult time for the global economy following the financial crisis.”
Amina, the MD of Kadhar Investments, is the driving force behind the towering Laburnum Courts luxury flats in Nakasero, Oasis Mall, and Kingstone Hardware Store, one of Kampala’s leading hardware distributorships.
Moghe is also in the process of establishing a sugar plantation and factory in northern Uganda. She “employs over 6,000 individuals, mostly women, and ensures that they play a vital role in administration, as well as actively promoting girls’ schools in and around the city,” according to the report.
So, how did she go from being an unknown devout Muslim kid in rural Kenya to being one of East Africa’s most influential female entrepreneurs? She explained it to Sebidde Kiryowa.
My age is 62 years. I am married (but have been divorced twice) with three children: a boy, 19, who is attending university in Kenya, and two daughters, ages 10 and 12. I had previously lost two children.
My parents were nomads who moved from Somalia to Bungoma in western Kenya in 1956, around 33 kilometers from the Kenya-Uganda border in Busia. We didn’t have much as a migrant family. We stayed in a two-bedroom home. One was for my parents, and the other was for us.
It was a highly strict traditional Somali atmosphere in which we were not permitted to be seen or heard as young Muslim females. We were not allowed to go outside and play with other kids.
My father quickly opened a restaurant and eventually expanded into the butchery industry, selling meat, the two enterprises that most Somali men are familiar with.
Sadly, he died when I was nine years old, leaving my mother, Sarah Hersi Ali, to raise us. She worked hard and did a fantastic job of taking over and developing the family business.
After Kenya gained independence from the British in 1963, many Indian traders began to migrate from rural communities to larger cities in search of better commercial prospects.
During the process, they converted the majority of their commodities trading businesses to local commodities.
My mother was one of the recipients of these stores since she was well-known in Bungoma town as a businesswoman.
As a result, she branched into the commodities sector, dealing in items such as sugar, wheat flour, salt, and so on.
She eventually got into the produce distribution industry. She traveled to the villages to buy the produce she would sell to her clients.
For both my basic and secondary studies, I attended Lugulu Girls High School. My mother, on the other hand, never placed a high value on formal schooling. In reality, my mother’s goal for me and my older sister was for us to take over the family company as soon as we reached the age of 18.
She had never attended school but had strong business sense. As a result, she was unconcerned about our academic achievement in class and never bothered to look at our report cards at the conclusion of the school year. All she wanted was for us to learn English and assist her in business.
However, in Somali culture, this was the standard. Girls were not encouraged to attend school. I dropped out of school after S4 (Standard Four). I was 18 years old and had progressed considerably further in school than other Somali females my age had at the time.
Beginning a business
After my father died, I was exposed to business at the age of nine. My mother used to assign me chores at her stores and other enterprises.
She desired that I grasp the art and ability of conducting business. In high school, Mom assigned me to assist her in her fruit distribution company.
I’d want to purchase corn from the villagers and sell it to the Bungoma Cereal Board.
However, after leaving out of school in 1981, I began my business in earnest. My mother was branching into the hardware company at the time, so she charged me with putting it up.
I began the store in a tiny way. My mother urged that I start with a single item – nails, which were in high demand.
It was difficult at first. I once sold only two units. When I saw how much business my mother was doing in her other enterprises, I felt like a joke.
Mother, on the other hand, was always quite encouraging. “How many kilograms did you sell today?” she’d ask.
“Only two,” I’d say, crestfallen. She would then encourage me on and brighten my spirits. “That’s excellent for someone who is just starting off.” I didn’t do nearly as much at first. “Keep going,” she’d say.
At the time, most hardware stores in the country sold nails in quantities of 50kg or less.
This was prohibitively expensive for the rural population. As a result, I decided to sell various nail sizes in more accessible and economical increments – a quarter, half, and one kilogram. I was the only business in the western province that provided this service.
Following that, it was too exhausting to serve the amount of individuals my business strategy drew to my shop in a single day!
But it also earned me a lot of goodwill from the public. They began presenting company expansion ideas since they realized that I cared enough to address their demands. Each of them would advise me to bring in a certain thing. When I told them I didn’t have the money to acquire the products they were recommending, they agreed to deposit money with me in order to obtain the items.
I was trustworthy enough to deliver everything they hired me to do. The shop began to expand beyond nails.
I extended into various types of gear. My attendance at Lugulu Girls High School, one of the largest schools in the region and the country, began to work in my favor.
My previous classmates saw me as their sister and began to assist me. Those who had migrated to, married in, or found work in Nairobi and other major cities would entrust me with funds to help build their or their parents’ homes in the village.
My mother had outgrown the western province of Kenya by the late 1980s and had relocated to Nairobi, where she had invested in real estate. She has also long been involved in cross-border trading, transporting commodities and products to Uganda.
The economy was in chaos, and most industries were non-existent. Kenya supplied almost everything to the country. She made a fortune!
Uganda began to undergo a development boom in 1989. I had been trading in Bamburi cement as an agent in my area for some time and intended to expand into Uganda.
I would import Bamburi cement by rail and truck and sell it to hardware stores such as Najja Hardware.
Cement was incredibly profitable, and as an agent, I didn’t need any financing.
Uganda began making cement in 1994, when the Hima and Bamburi Cement facilities opened.
However, because I already had a well-established distribution network and a large client base in Uganda, the former picked me as their Uganda distributor.
Despite the two new facilities, the demand for cement in Uganda significantly outstripped supply, so I continued to buy cement from Kenya.
Establishing Kingstone Hardware in Uganda
In a traffic accident in Kenya in 1998, I lost two of my kids, ages seven and eight. Following the catastrophe, my mother proposed that I go to Uganda.
The family believed that the loss’s anguish would have been impossible to overcome due to continual reminders from sympathizers.
This was a watershed moment in my life. It was simpler for me to settle in Uganda, and my family now had a link to take care of their commercial interests on the ground.
The volume of business I was handling in Uganda at the time was very substantial.
Because of the high demand for cement in Uganda, Ugandan businessmen traveled as far as Bungoma to find us.
Because we were in the cross-border commerce, we had obtained external finance and now owned vehicles. As a result, we would deliver to one’s company location.
When I arrived to settle, I hauled 500 railway wagons full of cement from Kenya’s Bamburi Cement Factory.
Now I was in a quandary; I didn’t know if the business in Kampala would succeed, requiring me to remain longer, or if I would have to pack my belongings and leave after a short time.
So I wanted to cut back on expenses like office rent, stationery, personnel, and other overhead.
My mother had taught me to be thrifty.
Fortunately, when I first visited Uganda in 1989, I negotiated with industrialist Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia, whose Crane Forex Bureau was the only official operator.
We had kept this relationship throughout, and when he established Crane Bank in 1995, we collaborated with the bank to provide other financial services.
So, Iater, when I was in this predicament, I addressed him.
He gave me a desk in his office, which was then located at Radiant House on Plot 20, Kampala Road. This included free phone service, a fax machine, and his employees (whom I utilized at will).
He also handed me a BMW to drive. I arrived in a Mercedes Benz with Kenyan registration plates, which caused more problems than it solved because people assumed I was wealthy.
I stayed in Sudhir’s office for nearly three months, during which time I sold off the most of my cement. By this time, I had realized that business would work well, so I decided to obtain my own space in Kyambogo, which was ideally placed along the Kampala-Jinja highway, which was where our cement arrived from Kenya.
I founded Kingstone Hardware Store and proceeded to sell cement and other hardware supplies.
We bought land in the same location in 1999 and began construction on our house.
We moved in in 2000. We created a thriving distributorship with a monthly turnover of $2 million over the years (sh5.3b).
Oasis Mall and Laburnum Courts have joined the real estate market.
My interest in real estate was not coincidental. In Bungoma and Nairobi, my family was already involved in this industry.
I’d seen how it’s done before. However, there is a clear link between hardware and real estate.
I was familiar with construction materials ranging from cement to iron bars, as well as plumbing, electrical, and other supplies.
But, of course, I enjoy a good challenge. I’d mastered the cement distributorship and was looking for something new. As a result, the government was eager to upgrade infrastructure and accommodation in Kampala in the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda in 2007.
The Kampala City Council (KCC) at the time granted developers a large tract of land in the city.
I learned about the four acres of land on Yusuf Lule Road adjacent to Garden City) through my business and political relationships. I contacted KCC, campaigned for it, and received it.
Simultaneously, I observed an empty plot of land on Nakasero Road, immediately behind All-Saints Cathedral in Nakasero.
It was a valley where people who went to church would park their automobiles and rest.
I sent a proposal to the president through the Uganda Investment Authority, asking for land to develop 164 top-end fully serviced luxury flats (a project observers estimated to cost $50 million) (about ah131.7b).
He agreed to meet with me and was thrilled by the concept and my excitement (the president has publicly acknowledged his appreciation for Hersi’s commercial acumen).
He inquired whether I had the funds to carry out my request, to which I replied in the positive.
In reality, all I had was my determination, a family name in Kenya, and a track record of conducting business in Uganda.
I had also created a strong network of people who I knew could assist me in realizing my objective.
The struggle to obtain funding
I created a business plan after purchasing both parcels of property. Being exposed and well-traveled, I knew I wanted to develop a high-end retail mall (she refuses to specify the project’s cost) on Yusuf Lule Road for a certain demographic. I knew I needed a key tenant. So I decided to return to Kenya and speak with major firms.
I approached Nakumatt, a well-known Kenyan grocery chain, and asked if they would be interested in taking up custom-made space in a new mall I was planning to build in Uganda. They considered my proposals and decided to visit the region. They went three times and enjoyed the area. They recommended a few changes, which I implemented. I then requested that they sign their names. They did it.
I then went to Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Equity Bank, and Mr. Price, a total of seven clients, and performed the same thing before even getting one Ugandan firm on board. I then developed architectural drawings based on all of their demands.
I addressed major firms, embassies, and other clients about Laburnum Courts and informed them I would provide their employees with a different service – magnificent serviced apartment units with a swimming pool, health facilities, children’s play area, business center, restaurants, and gym. I promised to do their laundry.
I then approached several local banks with architectural blueprints for both projects (I planned to pursue both projects concurrently) and a list of written commitments from clients, telling them I also had a booming hardware business and had no risks.
After doing risk assessments, most local banks were concerned because I had never executed a project of this size. Some argued I couldn’t develop a shopping complex that big so close to another one; it couldn’t operate.
Others encouraged me to abandon one project in favor of another, but I insisted on pursuing both at the same time since they were about distinct things to me. My mother approached Barclays Bank in Kenya, and they agreed to fund the projects using our amazing real estate business in Kenya as collateral (she refuses to divulge how much was given).
The going becomes difficult.
Prior to these endeavors, my life had been rather routine. My mother was the one who had it the worst. But these two undertakings were not just demanding and difficult, but also practically impossible.
To begin with, being in the hardware industry, I planned to make some money by supplying myself with the material. However, the demand for building materials tripled in the time leading up to CHOGM since so many people were building to meet the CHOGM deadline.
The cost of the project we were working on was much exceeded, which indicated that the projects would take much longer to finish than anticipated. They would also need additional funds.
Meanwhile, the commercial banks began to mentally torture me. They didn’t want to hear any explanations for delays.
They were after their money!
I felt like I was at sea on a boat that was sinking. I knew I was drowning and had nightmares about it. But I knew I had to swim because everything we had fought so hard for as a family was on the line here. To keep afloat, a lot of work and willpower would be required.
I had to dash to the PTA Bank for help. PTA Bank is a trade and development financial organization that is also known as the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank. It is COMESA’s finance arm (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa).
As a development bank, they fund long-term initiatives and recognise that repayment cannot be made quickly. They listened to me and paid off the commercial banks’ loans. They also handed me extra money (she won’t say how much, although the bank reportedly spent approximately $16 million – sh42 billion in the project).
Taking the rewards of her labor
We opened Oasis Mall, a 40,000-square-foot shopping mall, in 2009 as the cash cow. It was also less complicated. This was Nakumatt’s first Ugandan location, and customers were blown away by the 24-hour service. The mall is completely rented out.
Because the works were extensive, it took more than eight years to build the flats. The first phase was finished in 2011, while the second phase was finished last year. The units are often 60-70% full.
Plans for the future
We began work on a sugar milling project in Gulu in January in collaboration with Turnkey Solutions, an Indian business that manufactures fully automated sugar plants and sugar refineries. The business that will construct the factory. We’ve already cleared 3,000 acres of forest and will shortly begin planting sugar cane.
With over 5,000 out growers, we want to directly employ over 1,500 individuals. We are collaborating with the Gulu Women’s Entrepreneurs Association to develop the Amuru, Atiak, Kamdin, and Noya areas (refuses to disclose the cost of the project).
What motivates her?
My family educated me to be very cost-conscious in everything I do. I was taught the importance of being economical and avoiding excess.
My work ethic: I believe in the moral necessity and value of labor, as well as its natural power to build character. I’ve trained my students to go to bed and wake up early.
I network a lot with politicians and businessmen I know will benefit me. You can’t do business if you don’t have any relevant relationships.
When I’m certain about anything, I don’t take “no” for an answer. If you refuse, I will knock on the next door.
I have a strong faith in God. I suppose you won’t be able to accomplish much without his permission.
The difficulties of running business as a woman
(Laughter) In fact, I don’t think I would have gotten as far in business if I were a male. Being a woman, rather than working against me, has opened possibilities for me, and I thank God for that. Because societal expectations of me are lower than those of men, whatever I accomplish appears to be amazing. The only exception was when banks were hesitant to trust me with such large sums of money because I was a woman.
Besides, I’ve always been in business, so I don’t notice the so-called male dominance since I believe we’re all equal. What counts is how effectively one can adapt to a changing environment and seize chances that may occur.
Finance is quite expensive in business. The high interest rates on bank loans are greater than the rate of return on company, making development and expansion in our industry difficult.
• In 2008, Moghe received the Uganda Investment Authority’s Woman Investor of the Year Award for concurrently constructing two landmark projects: Laburnum Apartments and Oasis Mall.
• In 2012, she was named Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited’s Best Woman Entrepreneur (UWEAL).
• In 2013, Kenya’s former president Mwai Kibaki gave her the Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS) for her energy and perseverance in supporting regional entrepreneurship.
• First, pick what type of business you want to start and take responsibility of it individually. Do not delegate since you are the one who is most familiar with and understands your vision.
• It is critical to be financially disciplined as an entrepreneur. Be thrifty and avoid frivolous spending. Instead, save your money and let it multiply.
• Be trustworthy so that others may have faith in you. If you lie once in business, it will cost you your reputation with clients and consumers. The most effective method to accomplish this is to avoid making promises you can’t keep.
• It is critical that you be enthusiastic about the business you want to start. It is quite risky to hop on a bandwagon because you believe the business will be profitable.
• Perseverance and perseverance. There is no business that does not face difficulties. However, this does not rule out the possibility of success. Many individuals give up on their aspirations when things get tough, just when they are about to succeed!
• Don’t let success get to your head and make you arrogant as an entrepreneur. That might be your undoing. It is important how you interact with those ‘below’ you. Make yourself friendly and learn to listen to everyone.
Elvis Basudde contributed reporting.