Ugandans today woke up to sad news of the passing of one of Uganda’s most prominent and renowned manufacturer, businessman and Philanthropist Amirali Karmali. Karmali passed away at his home in Kololo, Kampala on July 10 aged around 90.
Amirali Karmali was the founder of Mukwano Group of Companies, a company he started in 1986, according to a statement that was released by the company.
Amirali enherited a relatively medium-sized transport business and some real estate that was started by his father the late Alimohammad Karmali, an immigrant of Indian dissent who came to Uganda in 1904.
The original Karmali earned the ‘Mukwano’ reputation( which is Luganda for Friend of many) during the 1960s when he engaged in Coffee and Cotton buying around Bukandula in Mpigi district.
His son, now the late Amirali joined his father in growing the transport business that mostly concentrated in movement of produce from villages to Kampala.
During the infamous 1972 expulsion of Indians by the late President Idd Amin, it is rumoured that Amirali was hidden by good Samaritans, until the dust settled. During the politically tense period of early 1980s, Amirali continued to engage in merchandise trade, mostly in the sell of imported goods.
It was in 1986 that Amirali Kamarli ventured into real manufacturing starting with production of washing soap and edible cooking oil. It is from this point that the ‘Mukwano’ brand came to life in the form of Mukwano Bar Soap, Mukwano Cooking Oil and Plastics became a household name across the country as the company enjoyed almost monopoly status in the manufacturing of essential household items.
After firmly establishing his name among manufacturers in the early days of Museveni’s regime, Amirali took a major step forward by expanding into the production of detergents hence the birth of the ‘NOMI’ Mama and others powdered detergent brands that enjoyed considerable market presence for many years.
In 1995 Mzee Mukwano relinquished control of the Group to his son, Alykhan Karmali and became its chairman. He retired to fathers estate in Fort Portal to concentrate on the family’s tea production and export business. The Mukwano family owns square miles of land in Bundibugyo district which are covered by tea.
Ever since Alykhan Karmali took over the day-to-day running of the business, they have diversified their portfolio into several other businesses in the country. Besides manufacturing, they own a number of properties in Kampala including a more than five shopping malls. Among them is the magnificent Acacia Mall in Kamwokya.
They also ventured into flower growing and export, banking sector as major shareholders in Exim bank Ltd.
Although their net worth may be a subject of speculation in social gatherings and around dinner tables, what is indisputable is that the empire that the now late Amirali Kamarli stared only 34 years ago, has impacted each and every Ugandan and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, judging by the history of good management of the family business.
Even for those that may not use his products, the taxes paid by the company into the country’s coffers – estimated to be around UGX40 billion every year, have at least helped to build a road or educated people they work with or employ in organization.