Some 28 years ago, James K. Kalibbala set up his very first company, ECS, in Uganda. After a period of ups and downs he managed to make it grow into a successful business. A loan from the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) significantly contributed to this success. Let’s listen to his story.
"ECS stands for Electrical Controls and Switchgear. We supply switchgear and distribution transformers to the processing industry, utility companies and commercial buildings. Innovation, quality, flexibility and teamwork are our assets.
Success does not occur overnight. I followed an interesting track to achieve what I have today. First of all, I applied my training as an electrical engineer directly to my business. Through lots of hard work for several years, I managed to grow into a real entrepreneur. I was able to gradually expand my business by using the available resources in a very targeted and economical way. It was also important for me to recognize and stimulate the potential of my 45 employees. It took me 20 years of continuous improvement and innovation to make this company a success. The example of a number of members of the Uganda Manufacturers Association has certainly helped me in doing so.
I was able to gradually expand my business by using the available resources in a very targeted and economical way. It was also important for me to recognize and stimulate the potential of my 45 employees.
Hardly any incentives
Establishing a business is not easy, especially in Uganda. Gaining access to financing was my most significant challenge. Besides, it’s difficult to find well-trained technical staff here. In addition, the government provides hardly any incentives, which makes the purchase of land and machinery quite difficult. The unbalanced tax system certainly does not help either. Cheap and poor-quality products from China and the Far East constitute a threat to my business at the moment.
Problems are there to be overcome. After 28 years, I obtained attractive financing at affordable interest rates from the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries. This has greatly contributed to the success of ECS. We were also able to use it to finance training.
For young entrepreneurs, I recommend starting up a business that matches their education or experience, or getting involved in a family business. They should not take out a loan for their startup.
There are certainly chances of success, even in Uganda. But the government could indeed contribute to a more favorable business environment. In what way? I am thinking of financial assistance at low cost, offering land to entrepreneurs or tax benefits for young entrepreneurs. It is true, though, that the Ugandan government is already encouraging the formation of cooperatives and providing interest-free loans. Entrepreneurship is taught in most academic institutions, but it needs to be further entrenched."