Interviews

Richard Mbogga.

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I am a married man with three lovely children. I was born during  Amin’s administration, in Namirembe, on the outskirts of Kampala. I am self-employed and I love inventing and manufacturing things as part of my everyday work.
What kind of business are you involved with in the UK?
I run two businesses: one is called Signware, which is a specialised design and fabrication business. Our clientele includes local governments, Her majesty’s Royal Guards, embassies, education institutions, contractors and local businesses.
The second business is Meden Systems International. It is an electronic and engineering business, focusing on computer software research and development. It makes bespoke electronics, from mobile power supplies to data relay devices.
As a successful businessman, what challenges have you encountered in the UK?
One must be thick skinned to do business in the UK , let alone make a living out of it. I started running my own business in 2006 because I thought I would never be able to compete for jobs given my ethnic minority background. This was purely my belief, so I went into self-employment.
Since I had no business background or training,  I had to improvise in many ways to survive from month to month. It became more difficult for me every single day knowing that I had thousands of pounds to pay out each month in bills at home and work, plus staff salaries. However, the pressure to produce results became my obsession.
Expanding services and skills back home in Uganda, trying to establish a business to a level similar to  the UK one was the most challenging venture!  We are blocked from every corner and stones thrown at us from every angle. But, instead of giving up, I decided to use the stones thrown at me and build the foundation for the investment, which, maybe in the future,  people will appreciate.
Why did you decide to invest back to Uganda?
I was convinced that investing in people is the only way to develop our country. Uganda needs us and we cannot abandon it at a time when we have the ability to change it into a better place than when we left it.  In spite of all the magnitude of investments from Ugandans in the Diaspora, the government in Uganda is yet to recognise our contribution as investors. Those holding public offices should remember that they hold positions to serve the people and not for the people to worship and serve them!
You make modern electronic traffic systems. How do you think your technology can benefit or reduce the alarming death toll on Ugandan roads?
Uganda ranks highest in road deaths in the world since 2000. The cost of road accidents to the Uganda government is over 800 billion USh a year. I think this is not sustainable economically and actually impedes the development of the country.
We successfully designed, developed and manufactured a high spec solar powered traffic light system that can be deployed and used anywhere in the world.

From a pedestrian crossing traffic signal, we went ahead to design and manufacture a robust traffic computer signal that made it possible for us to be able to control even the most complex of junctions as well as making road speed control devices.
What do you think the Ugandan government needs to do to harness the skilled labour force of Ugandans in the Diaspora? And are they doing enough at all?
The government seems to be unaware of the potential Ugandans in the Diaspora have to offer. The reference to Ugandans living abroad as the Nkuba Kyeeyo makes many people, including the government, underrate the people in the Diaspora, yet many of them  are high skilled and well trained.  Uganda needs to engage all Ugandans, ignoring any divisive political differences and acknowledging that unity in diversity is not a bad thing, but a credit to the nation’s development.
What are your investment plans in Uganda?
I would want to turn Uganda into the new China, ‘ a manufacturing power house of Africa.’  If the Chinese have done it, why not us, and why not Uganda?
Importing everything we need is not a sign of development but rather a severe consumer syndrome that needs to stop. We have to start building factories which are the back bone of the country’s growth. That is why we are investing to make sure our Intelligent Traffic Light systems are manufactured in Uganda.

What tips would you give to Ugandans in the Diaspora who want to venture into business in the UK and back  home?
My only tip is  “try and fail but do not fail to try”.

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