Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|August 8, 2022|3 Minutes|In Editor's Desk

Editor’s Desk

A hell of a way to become an entrepreneur.

A sad little milestone passed over Africa in the first week of August  yet, with hindsight it was a milestone laden with thoughts and lessons for entrepreneurs.

In August 1972 Idi Amin – the former president of Uganda – told about 30,000 of his fellow countrymen and women they had three months to get out.

All of them had roots in the Indian subcontinent and most successful businesses in their adopted African home. In many ways, the catastrophe was one of the consequences of British colonial rule in Uganda that set the system that preferred the so-called Ugandan Asians, over other races , in business and education. Certainly, government figures from 1972 suggest Ugandan Asians were paying 90 per cent of the country’s tax.

It was days of misery and bewilderment for the so-called Ugandan Asians who had British passports and few places to go. It  was also a supreme test of the will to survive and the birth of a generation of successful entrepreneurs.

Imagine. You are dragged to the airport and stripped of almost everything you own. You are  flown to a refugee camp in a cold country you don’t know where no one knows you, you have no money you can’t get credit and not everyone wants you there. You have to push trollies, work in shops and slowly scrimp and save until you have a small amount of capital to get started.

It sounds like a nightmare, but that is what thousands of Ugandan Asians did and survived and prospered to tell the tale. Many have returned to Kampala in wealthy glory.

Billionaire Sudhir Ruparelia was one of them . He pushed trollies for pennies in Mac Fisheries (Only those born in the 1960s will remember that shop) and burned his hands deep frying  doughnuts for a living doughnuts . He returned to own a large part of the capital of the country that kicked him out.

“You will never see a poor Ugandan Asian,” he told Billionaire Tomorrow from his luxury home in Kampala.

Sure not. They worked in shops and pored over books and grafted in factories until a new generation of confident Uganda Asians rose.

“In many ways Amin did us a favour,” one whispered to me at a gathering in Kampala.

Proof that an ill wind can blow some good .