Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|September 14, 2022|5 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

Punching for profit.

The billionaires of Africa want to make money by risking their fortunes on a punch, as well as a punt. One of the youngest billionaires in Africa – Mo Dewji –has stepped into the fight game. Now Uganda’s chocolate king Stephen Sembuya is pouring money into the sweet science of boxing.

During the week, Stephen Sembuya pores over the conversion of cocoa into chocolate bars– at weekends he pushes sweets aside to concentrate on the sweet science.

To the back of his mind goes production lines, cocoa butter chocolate, and cosmetics – to the front of his mind comes sweat, jabs, left hooks, and the roar of the crowd.

Sembuya is the latest in a line of high-profile African entrepreneurs to make a foray into the fight game in Kampala.

“instead of watching Manchester United or Arsenal at weekends, I much prefer to watch boxing, and also you can invest in boxing and make a business out of it as well,” Sembuya tells Billionaire Tomorrow from Kampala in a land that produced boxers like welterweight John Mugabi – known as the Beast – who racked up 42 wins, 39 by knock out, in nearly 20 years in the ring.

Mugabi – born in Nsambya – held a WBC world title, boxed at Madison Square Gardens, in New York, and fought Marvin Hagler; considered to be one of the greatest fighters ever to step in the ring.

“Uganda is known for producing world champions,” says Sembuya.

“I have my own son in this. My son is eight years old and we are training him and we hope he will be a world champion one day.”

Jayden King Sembuya may be knee high to a grasshopper, but he is a brave battler with a   tasty jab and has long since won his first fight and purse in the ring .

Boxing is unpredictable and can often yield a poor return on investment. it is an emotive sport, not for the faint-hearted where money can be won and lost in the flick of a jab. Fair to say also, it is probably not as lucrative as the days when Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard ruled the roost.

So why are a number of Africa’s millionaire entrepreneurs putting their money into the ring?  Boxing writer Budd Schulberg wrote the ultimate boxing movie line for Marlon Brando , playing a washed-up fighter, in On the Waterfront: “I could have been a contender; I could have had class..”

Well, Schulberg once said that boxing was like writing in that you were all on your own and everyone could judge your efforts harshly. Maybe it is this lone, grim, battle against the odds that sees African entrepreneurs look sympathetically upon boxers as kindred spirits.

Sembuya runs the Zana Boxing Club in Kampala, home to more than 80 fighters and this year opened another – Twelve Sports Rounds. It is home to the Shadir Musa Bwogi the captain of the national boxing team known as the Bombers. He makes money from bouts largely through sponsorship.

So how do the risks of boxing stack up to the often-sticky chocolate business? Very risky, surely?

“I believe so,” says Sebmuya’ “ But I have already made some money out of boxing. It is my passion and I can make money out of it as well.”

“We have a strategy. We are pushing our boxers, many have won all there is to win in Africa, but now they need to fight outside where the big money is.”

You can be sure that Sembuya – who built his chocolate business from the ashes of his family fortune – will go into the boxing business swinging with a view to fighting his way to finding young talent for the ring.

On his Facebook page is a picture of a gloved young Jayden King Sembuya with a quote from Muhammed Ali.

“If they can make penicillin out of mouldy bread, then they can sure make something out of you.”

A quote from the maestro of world boxing that could have been written for the young fighters of Uganda.