Forbes Africa magazine has named Amina Hersi Morghe, the proprietor of the Oasis mall as one of the wealthiest businesswomen in Uganda. Amina, 52, becomes the second businessperson in Uganda to make it to the magazine’s rich list after Sudhir Ruparellia.
Amina, is a Kenyan of Somali origin also becomes the first female entrepreneur from Uganda to make it to the magazine’s top wealthy individuals list.
Amina was listed alongside other four businesspeople from Somalia of foreign descent who have excelled in business both on foreign land and also on Somali soil despite the country’s longstanding war that has kept the environment hostile for doing any business there.
Forbes recognised Amina and four businesspeople from Somalia [Abdurashid Duale, the CEO of Dahabshiil, Adirizak Ido, Mohamed Abshir Abdi, Ismail Ahmed, the founder of ‘WorldRemit’ ] of foreign descent for their outstanding investments in Somalia and across the region and for standing out as individuals who have made it in business regardless of the country’s turmoil.
Who is Amina Hersi Morghe
Ms Amina is also the winner of the 2008 Woman Investor of the year Award. Though born in Kenya, she does not see herself as a foreigner. She has been living permanently in Uganda for the last 10 years.
Hersi adheres to the Muslim dress code, complete with a head scarf and speaks English – not perfect English – with a heavy Somali accent.
The 52-year-old was born in Bungoma in Western Kenya. Her parents moved to Bungoma from Nakuru in 1958 before moving to Nairobi.
Moving to Uganda
In 1998, she lost her two lovely daughters aged seven and eight years. The family felt that the trauma of the loss would have been difficult to overcome because of constant reminders from sympathisers who meant no harm. That’s how she ended up in Kampala.
In Kampala, Hersi set up a cement dealership company, Kingstone Enterprises Limited, first as an agent of Bamburi Cement in Kenya and later established relations with the nascent cement factories in Uganda. She also deals in other hardware materials.
While in Kampala, she teamed up with city tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia, who had embarked on building a business empire of his own.
She pitched camp in Ruparelia’s office at the then Crane Forex Bureau on Kampala Road. When Hersi later embarked on bigger projects, Sudhir’s [ defunct] Crane Bank became one of her financiers.
Hersi is the managing director of the Oasis Group of Companies, which owns Oasis Mall and Laburnam Courts in Uganda and is said to have interests in real estate in Kenya.
Her two multi-million real estate projects [Oasis Mall and Laburnam Courts] changed the landscape of Kampala’s Central Business District. Oasis Mall along Yusuf Lule road Laburnam Courts on Nakasero road is a high-end luxury and fully serviced accommodation facility consisting of over 120 three, two and one-bedroom apartments.
A typical day for Hersi begins at 6am in the morning and ends at 6pm. She says the day begins with paperwork and make all the crucial decisions and after a light breakfast she arrives at work between 7.30 and 8am.
After the death of her father, Ms Moghe and her sister were hurried into accounting school by their mother with the sole purpose of indicting them early into business.
She says her mother Ms Sarah Hersi Ali is her mentor and she also remembers the sound advice of her Uncle Mr Adam Hersi Ali, a Financial Secretary at treasury in Kenya’s Ministry of Finance.
Her mother, she says, laid the foundation for the family’s real estate empire from a modest restaurant and food store. Hersi built on that foundation to ally with powerful people in Uganda, and it didn’t take her long to get to the core of Ugandan business.
Ms Moghe rubbishes talk that her businesses are a front for well-connected local politicians emphasising that all her business partners are aware of her record. “People are free to talk and you can’t stop them,” she told Daily Monitor in 2014.
Contact with president Museveni
It is not clear how Hersi got in contact with Museveni and other powerful people in the government. But the President makes clear his admiration Hersi qualities, which he says is a far-cry from what most Ugandans exhibit.
“I have a problem with Africans. Africa is so rich but many of the Africans are not serious. That’s why I am always very happy when I see some Africans who wake up.” President Museveni said at the launch of Hersi The Laburnam Courts Apartments
Museveni said Hersi approached him asking for a then vacant piece of land just below All-Saints Cathedral in Nakasero to build apartments.
“If you saw this land, it was just a valley where those who go to church would park their cars and also come to relax; but see what she has done here.” Museveni said.
A unique businesswoman
Speaking at the launch of Laburnam Courts, Mr. Museveni said Hersi was able to build Laburnam Courts, in addition to the Oasis Mall, because she is different from most Ugandans.
“If you go to Kabalagala now,” Museveni said, “they (Ugandans) are all in bars, every time drinking. How much money are you squandering? Lack of discipline, lack of initiative and lack of imagination, that’s the problem Africans must fight.”
Apart from offering the land on which Hersi built the Laburnam Courts and the Oasis Mall, Museveni also ensured that she benefitted from other incentives, like importing building materials without paying taxes. Museveni said at the launch that he protected Hersi from officials of the Uganda Revenue Authority who were demanding taxes from her.
In 2016, Amina Hersi Moghe via her investment company, Horyal Investment Holding Company Limited began construction of Atiak Sugar Factory, in Atiak, Amuru District, Northern Uganda. The US$120 million project. The factory will be the first large scale industrial project in Northern Uganda; Over 6000 women are already directly and indirectly profiting from the factory even before its commencement.
Recently, government committed to pay off her debts to enable her complete the construction her factory in Amuru district. Amina Hersi, was saddled with a Ugx. 49 billion debt that accumulated from her financial dealings with the defunct Crane Bank.