Revival of UMA and the Role played by Dr. James Mulwana (RIP)

Dr. James S. Mulwana (RIP) - 1936 - 2013
Founder  and Patron of Uganda Manufacturers Association

The death of Dr. James Mulwana was particularly a great loss to Uganda Manufacturers Association because he was not only the founder but also made impact on the business community. As such , this years trade fair has been dedicated to his memory. In this special chapter, we bring you a wide range of information about Dr. James Mulwana (RIP) to highlight is great contribution to the business community and the economy.


About Dr. James Mulwana


Dr. James Mulwana was born on July 24th 1936 to Yokana Mulwana and Manjeri Babirye of Ntwetwe Kiboga Ssingo, during the colonial times. By 1961 he had joined the import-export business and in 1967 he joined Uganda Batteries Limited, an automotive battery manufacturing entity. Initially the company, Associated Battery Manufacturers Limited, was in partnership with Chloride (UK) Limited, but Mulwana would take full ownership in 1990. In 1970, he established Ship toothbrush factory Limited (later changed to Nice House of Plastics Limited in 1995) which went on to manufacture toothbrushes, household plastic products, writing instruments like ball pens, packaging products soda and beer crates, Jerry cans as well as agricultural equipment (knapsack sprayers)


The Late Dr. James Mulwana contributed to Uganda’s economy in three fundamental ways. The first, was to contribute to the indigenization of the manufacturing and industrial sector, which was and continues to be dominated by our Uganda Asian counterparts.


His second major contribution was to add value to the country’s agricultural produce. Where politicians spewed money in one mega agricultural program me after another, Dr. James Mulwana quietly but diligently set up Jesa Mixed Farm in 1988;  long before “value addition” was mentioned in a political speech. With his own savings, he flew in 22 Friesian cows from the Netherlands and today he has a herd of more than 550 of them. The farm even further expanded into Jesa Farm Dairy Limited (1994), with a milk processing, pasteurising and packaging plant to produce packed milk, butter, yoghurt and cream. The milk products produced by his farm meet all international standards in all aspects. In 1992, Dr. James Mulwana had started Nsimbe Estate Limited, mainly involved in horticultural farming for export of cut flowers, in a joint venture with a German partner. He later sold off this enterprise.


Mulwana’s third contribution was in organizing his fellow local entrepreneurs and serving as an inspiration to many starting out in business. Apart from UMA which he helped kick-start in 1988, he was also instrumental in the set-up of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, a body that, like UMA, is a pro-business lobby. “It will take us decades to have a man like Mr Mulwana,” Gerald Sendaula, a friend, former finance minister and key player in both organizations said at one time. Prof. Gordon Wavamunno, one of the people with whom he established the Association, said that Mulwana always reached out to other budding business people. “I don’t remember him taking sides all through the time I knew him,” he said. “He wanted all of us to succeed.”


That turned the humble, self-made man into one of the titans in the country’s corporate boardrooms, putting him on the boards of A-list companies like Airtel, Standard Chartered Bank, Umeme and several others. Ultimately, Dr. James Mulwana’s biggest contribution was to the country. In a country where political turmoil had created such an un-conducive environment for business, Mulwana did a lot to lobby for good policies that enabled business to grow. When the industrialist, farmer and respected business leader felt discomfort on the night of 13th of January, he was brought to his home in Kampala the following morning and later to Nakasero Hospital in Kampala. His illness gradually increased and Doctors pronounced him dead in the early hours of the next day i.e. 15th January. 

How Dr. James Mulwana Started Uganda Manufacturers Association.

Originally, Uganda Manufacturers Association was established in the 60’s but due to political instability that followed, it could not continue. Its initial establishment was spear headed by Jayant Madhvani.  Mr. Jayant Madhvani was one of the prosperous and successful enterprenuers of the time to the extent that today Jinja is indisputably synonymous with Madhvani.  Unfortunately, he died in 1971 in India, aged only 49. For nearly two and a half decades, Uganda Manufacturers Association was inactive and non-existent and it was not until April 1988 that Dr. James Mulwana led a team of enthusiastic manufacturers and the Association was revived. He conceived the idea of bringing industrialists together because of the need to have a strong voice and the prevailing conditions at the time. In 1988, Dr. James Mulwana and a group of manufacturers went to Professor Kanyeihamba with a proposal to revive the Manufacturers Association. The Professor initially did not want the idea of an Association because of the existance of the  Chamber of Commerce which according to him, was sufficient to address the needs of industrialists. Dr. James Mulwana urgued that there was need for a private and independent body that brought industrialists together and after much convincing, Prof. Kanyeihamba agreed and the Association was inaugurated at Sheraton Hotel in April 1988. Members who were present were James Mulwana, Alam Manzoor, Aga Sekalala, DR. Gordon Wavamunno, Mr. Henry                        Makmot and several other executives from parastatals. At that launch, they elected Dr. James Mulwana as the Chairman of the Association. Initially, the Association was housed at Spear House by Prof. Gordon Wavamunno. The Secretariat initially had no home.

Dr. Mulwana James made a lot of efforts to secure a permanent home for the Association and Mr. Jaberi Bidandi Ssali the Minister of Local Government at the time, played a big role in allocation of the former Coronation Park on Coronation Avenue to the Association.  A Board was constituted and included Dr. James Mulwana – Chairman, Mr. Mansur Alam – Vice Chairman, Mr. Aga Sekalala,   Mr. George Abola , Mr. Max Rohrer, Mr.  Azarius Baryaruha, Mr. Henry. Makmot, Mr. G. Karemani, Mr. Victor. Kobel, Mr. Christopher  Sembuya, Prof. Gordon. Wavamunno, Mr. Onegi Obel, Mr. John Mary Kanakulya, Mr. Nelson Kiyegga Galiwango, Mr. N. Madhvani, Mr. Henry Kanyike and Mrs E. Kapere

The Mission of the Association was and still is to represent the interests of industrialists to Government, to advise Government on good policies that foster a conducive business environment. UMA started analyzing bills, doing research and would not only come up with strong papers but actively engage politicians, Government ministers and even the President himself. At one time, UMA analyzed a proposed investment code, and found that it had unfavorable clauses. The Association invited  the Deputy Prime Minister to revise the bill, Mr. AbuMayanja and at that time, he assured manufacturers of the Governments intentions to ensure that local investors are comfortable but decried the countries poverty levels. The Deputy Prime Minister also noted that there was no need for giving land to foreign investors as that was wrong and would cause a social disorder. Mr Joash Mayanja Nkangi the Minister of Planning and Economic Development who was directly in charge of drafting the investment code was also occasionaly present during the negotiations at that time and he stressed the importance of local investors and encouraged investors to maintain and expand their industries. Dr. James Mulwana, then Chairman UMA expressed his gratitude to the NRM Government for its establishment of a solid industrial base but wasn’t happy to note that too much discretionary power was left to the Minister in several key clauses in the code. Government took note and the issue was addressed.  Right from the inception of UMA, Dr. James Mulwana did all possible to maintain close dialogue with Government and it  was very supportive to the Association hence many successes.  One of the tools that were initiated by Dr. James Mulwana were the networking luncheons. They were a good opportunity to present industrialists issues to Government and also provide a networking opportunity to members. One UMA Luncheon to remember was held in May 1989 at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel and Mr. Eriya Kategaya was the Guest of Honor on behalf of Government. At that luncheon, appreciated UMA for bringing industrialists together as an organized group and hoped for all manufacturers to be persuaded to belong to this guild. He informed manufacturers of the establishment of the Bureau of Standards which was formed to solve their problem of standards and quality of products but called upon the Association to give Government a hand in this task of developing a code of conduct for members to adhere to as well as establish proper marketing and distribution channels for their products. Manufacturers quickly realized the importance of uniting as an association when it came to advocacy and UMA membership grew to over 200 by the end of the year 1989 and to 700 by the year 1991.  


Dr. James Mulwana struggled with the Government to ensure that the Association got more and more recognition.

Dr. James Mulwana’s Role in Negotiating for the Tax Waiver on Raw Materials. Because of his love for the Association, he engaged Government in so many negotiations that included infrastructure like roads, electricity, railway transport. At that time that infrastructre was so bad that it was impossible to manufacturer competitvely in Uganda. Today roads have been worked on but unfortunately the railway system is worse. One of the successes at the time was the duty waiver on raw materials. Year after year, Dr. James Mulwana and his team kept knocking on the doors of Government seeking a waiver on raw materials. It was not until 2001 after H. E. President Yoweri Museveni had made his budget speech that Dr. James Mulwana sought a meeting with him and convinced him of the need to have Zero Tax on raw materials. From that time, all local manufacturers enjoyed the benefit and made alot of savings as a result

Dr. James Mulwana’s Role in UMA Trade Fairs.
He single handedly convinced Government to stop the idea of using floats to companies and their products. Floats were very costly and an inefficient way of marketing products. They reached only a few people. He asserted that best practice all over the world was National Exhibitions. Every nation had show grounds in the City and although Uganda had one, it was in Jinja which was very far away.  During its short revival period, the Association organized two very successful trade fairs in the 1989 and 1990 during the season of the independence celebrations. These fairs were a great opportunity for Ugandans including Government officials to learn about the great industrial potential in our country, how much progress at that time and how far the country was yet to go.  At that time, UMA also established contact with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United States of America International Development as well as Canadian Manufacturers Association.  He was given the mandate by the then Minister of Tourism Trade and Industry i.e. Hon. Etyang to organize the first trade fair i.e. in 1989. The first show took place at Lugogo Indoor Stadium in Kololo and that was in January 1992.


Dr. James Mulwana’s Role in Acquisition of the UMA Show Grounds.

He later succeeded in getting a 22 acre piece of Land at Lugogo. This land was originally coronation grounds and were not in use. He did this through negotiations with former Minster of Local Government Mr. Jaberi Bidandi Ssali and the land was allocated to Uganda Manufacturers Association. There was no better choice for a Show Grounds. The land used to be water so logged and Dr. James Mulwana contracted a Chinese Company known as Sietco that previously built Namboole to put a half meter layer of murram over the entire grounds. After securing the grounds, there was a challenge of building the infrastructure to make it usable for trade exhibition purposes. Finances were not available at the moment but the Chairman of the Association, Dr. James Mulwana and his board, worked out a plan and divided the grounds into many plots that were allocated to the UMA members. Latter constructions at the grounds commenced but UMA itself lacked funds to put up anything. Dr. James Mulwana then offered to construct the Main Exhibition Hall with the view that UMA would pay him back when funds became available but this did not happen. He  completed it single handedly and it served as an impetus for construction of other buildings. Much of the infrastructure at the time was nowhere near ideal but the The Foundation Stone  for the Exhibition Hall was laid in 1992 30th July and this hall helped a lot  because it served as an impetus for construction of many other buildings with in the show grounds. Companies like Madhvani, Spear Group, Sembule set up structures after the main exhibition hall. Later companies like Mukwano, Crown Beverages, Aristoc and many others also started construction. Members worked as a team and what seemed as a very difficult task of building the show grounds was accomplished and the first trade fair at Lugogo UMA show grounds took place in January 1993 and later in October the same year. The October exhibition of 1993 coincided with a Komesa Regional Meeting. At that time, H. E. President Yoweri Museveni was the Chairman and he asked member states Heads of State to visit the trade exhibition. This gave the trade fair a good kick start. The objective was achieved. Since then, the Uganda International Trade Fairs have taken place annually and this year we have organized the 21st Uganda International Trade Fair.
Members pooled funds and the construction commenced but a time reached and funds were not sufficient to complete the building so the Association put the structure up for sale. Members seemed not to pick interest but Dr. James Mulwana (RIP) offered to buy it The place had just been graded, and most buildings that had been put up by members were either incomplete or make shift e.g. the small scale village. But those initial structures served the purpose! Masses came to attend the trade fairs and manufacturers got an opportunity to showcase their products.


Sector Statistics



UMA has over 1221 Members in all Categories
Industry Contribution To GDP21%


Electricity Consumption 66%

Uganda Manufacturers’ Association
P.O Box 6966, Lugogo Show Grounds
Tel: +256 414 221 034 /287615
Fax: +256 414 220 285

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