When Ugandan businessman Hamis Kiggundu, started his first business years ago, he could not have imagined that he would ascend to become one of the most successful business moguls in Africa, let alone Uganda.
At just 37, Kiggundu, famously known as Ham in his home country, owns a number of buildings in the heart of Kampala city; including a shopping Centre he named, Ham Shopping Mall, Ham Towers, Ham Shopping Grounds, among others.
He has also built a replica of the White House in Kampala, which he says will act as a tourist attraction. “The White House is housing the headquarters for all my companies but equally stand as an illustration of possibilities for my fellow Ugandans and Africans at large, if they have it there, we too can have it here. Africans should not chase their dreams out there but rather put in an effort and struggle to implement their desires in Africa. I have always admired the white house as a young man and based on reason, why go to America as a tourist to visit the white house when I have the means to build a look alike here back home,” says Ham.
One would say, Ham doesn’t rest when it comes to real estate. He is never tied to one project, he is building 500 gated luxury homes on 200 acres under Ham Palm Villas and at the same time setting the Agro-Processing plants dubbed Ham Integrated Agro Processing Industries.
Ham owns a commercial property in the United Kingdom situated on 375 Moston Lane, Manchester M40 9NB trading as Ham International UK Ltd.
He is the owner of a logistics company trading as Ham International Express Logistics LLC based in Euless, Texas with a number of trucks transporting logistics throughout the United States.
Ham was born to Mr. Segawa Haruna and Mrs. Nakayiza Jalia on the 10th of February 1984 in a small village in Masaka named Kalungu. He went through Kabojja and Makerere University where he graduated with a degree in law. His father, Mr. Segawa was a textile trader and it was from him that he learnt how to do business.
“My father would invite me to work in his textile shop during school holidays,” narrates Ham.
During middle school, his parents gave him capital to start his own venture. “They gave me some reasonable capital to start a business. Reasonable in the sense that it was not too much for me to simply spend it on my personal needs then as a young man nor was it too small for me not to start which gave me the ability to foster my entrepreneurship. I started small and locally, trading in commodities and merchandise from first hand importers abroad and selling them at a profit,” he states.
Adding that, “With increased capital inflow, I progressed to a firsthand importer and started importing commodities from: China, Thailand, Hong Kong and Dubai. I could distribute them wholesale both in Ugandans and neighboring countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Congo and Sudan. I accumulated more capital and upgraded to real estate, mainly buying and selling land and properties at a profit before I incorporated Ham Enterprises (U) Ltd and progressed to constructing and owning my commercial properties.”
As if that’s not enough, he is also investing heavily in technology, under another of his companies, just like google; Hamz Link Ltd, a multimedia platform company based in Edmonton Canada. Through Hamz Link, he has been able to launch an online learning platform, Hamz Campus, a video streaming App, Hamz Wave, and a social media platform, Hamz Line, to name a few.
Ham says his investments are guided by the “direction of productivity and reasonable incomes within realistic available parameters governed by purely principles of demand and supply.”
“I am guided by the realistic factors of demand and supply and secondly, it is for a fact that business is all about risk taking with courage and determination to move into unfamiliar new economic zones all on a balance of probabilities.”
Like any other entrepreneur, Ham has encountered numerous challenges on the road to achieve his financial muscle and to transform society. But what makes him stand out is, perhaps, his approach to the challenges.
“I don’t dwell on the challenges. I always focus on substance rather than formation where the end justifies the means (The distance you have walked does not matter as long as you get to your destination). I never reflect on the past challenges but rather focus on the present and the future because challenges and mistakes are only a stepping stone forward as they give me the ability never to make the same mistakes again. Yes, I have made mistakes but to me mistakes have always been a blessing in disguise, we all unknowingly make mistakes but from their repercussions we learn never to repeat them again because then we know.”
Growing a business is hard, especially without financing. In Uganda, most business people run to banks for assistance in order to scale their businesses. Ham’s story is no different, but he says, banks in Uganda charge huge interest rates, and that hinders growth.
“When you think your bankers are your friends then you’re mistaken, those are your business partners, that’s why they foreclose immediately as soon as you make a default on your payments. Banks are a good source of startup and expansion capital but never for long term sustainable progress. One can only reasonably benefit from banks if they hold relatively equal or reasonable bargaining positions to negotiate fair interest rates and fair trading terms. However, in Uganda and most African countries interest rates stand at as high as 25%-30%. There are very narrow chances of small businesses ever making it big and very limited sustainability of businesses in the long run.”
On his part he says he has mastered the art of growing his operational capital internally without seeking financial assistance from the banks.
Ham is currently building a sports stadium named Nakivubo Stadium on behalf of the government of Uganda. The businessman says he embarked on the project as a corporate social responsibility for community development.
“I also want to set an example for other Africans that if I can pull off such a Huge project with private funding so can they. The only way to pull Africa out of poverty to prosperity is for us Africans to accept it as our responsibility and obligation. The stadium project equally makes business sense with incomes since it has commercial premises attached.”
Yet he has that project on his hands, Ham didn’t fail to help his country in the fight against COVID-19. He donated millions to help the government purchase over 150,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Money is only one of the tools of survival; it stands useless if it can’t save people’s lives. After all, no man is an island. I always help where and wherever I can since my individual personal survival is only limited to a very narrow scope of basic needs. I own and fully finance a charity organization operating as Ham Foundation Once one is blessed with success it’s only reasonable that they start their struggle towards collective society development rather than individual centered prosperity because success amidst a poor society only stands as a liability rather than an asset. A poor society can only pull one downwards never upwards. So it is best you pull everyone you can for collective welfare based on reason and reality.”
Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“I advise them to take social and self-responsibility, connect their vision to their personal values. They must have the ability to anticipate change and most importantly they must be courageous enough to abandon their past. In fact, they should get time and read my books; “Success and Failure based on Reason and Reality” and “Reason as the World Masterpiece,” with an open mind.
Ham says “All developments and discoveries, past, present and future to come; were, are and will always be a direct reflection of the reasoning capacity of the people of such a given time frame.” That’s why reason stands as the world masterpiece.