Top business stories that made headlines in 2023

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni officiates the spudding (Commencement of Drilling) of Kingfisher Oilfield wells in Buhuka, Kyangwali, Kikuube District. PHOTO PPU

President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni officiates the spudding (Commencement of Drilling) of Kingfisher Oilfield wells in Buhuka, Kyangwali, Kikuube District. PHOTO PPU

The year 2023 has been action-packed in matters business. From the fallout at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) over their former Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba, to several cases of bank fraud, we bring you stories that made headlines throughout the year.

On January 3, 2023, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Board of Directors said it would start investigations against the Fund’s former Managing Director, Richard Byarugaba, on allegations of abuse of office. According to NSSF Board Chairman Peter Kimbowa, they were following President Museveni’s directive as raised by the Gender minister to investigate Byarugaba. “In due course, NSSF members and the public will be informed of the outcome of the due diligence exercise, and subsequent appointment of a managing director,” he said.

This came after Gender Minister Amongi, who had refused to reappoint Byarugaba to the position despite a recommendation by the NSSF Board,  said she had received dozens of petitions from individual workers and groups of workers who were concerned about Byarugaba’s management style and opposed his reappointment.

On January 7, 2023, Mathias Katamba confirmed that he was leaving dfcu Bank as the Chief Executive Officer after four years. Katamba dismissed claims that he had been fired by the dfcu Board, saying he was leaving the role for personal reasons, which he said he agreed with the Board. Katamba, who sent an email to all staff confirming his exit on Friday, also argued that he was not meant to “stay in the same work place for years.” Katamba replaced troubled’ Juma Kisaame in January 2, 2019. Before his appointment, Katamba served as Housing Finance Bank Managing Director, a position he served for 5 years.

On January 12, 2023, the Ugandan Cabinet approved the third licensing round for the exploration of oil blocks. Addressing journalists at the media centre in Kampala on Thursday, 12 January 2023, State Minister for ICT and National Guidance Godfrey Kabbyanga said the Cabinet in its January 9 sitting granted exploration licences for an initial two-year-old period to Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and DGR Energy Turaco Uganda Limited.

On January 12, 2023, the Government of Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Turkish company to construct the country’s standard gauge railway (SGR) project, effectively terminating the earlier contract signed with a Chinese firm.

Uganda had signed a contract with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to build the 273km SGR line from Malaba to Kampala at a cost of $2.2 billion. But the Chinese dithered on the project after China Exim Bank declined to fund it.

On January 11, 2023, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development released Shs6.369.829 trillion as government expenditure for the third quarter of the current financial year. The money, which catered for the period between January and March, represented 24.50 percent of the current financial year’s budget.

January 13, 2023: Business tycoon Alykhan Karmali dismissed reports that he was selling off his investments in Uganda and relocating to Kenya and Dubai due to over-taxation and bullying by corrupt regulators. Instead the businessman, who is also the Executive Director of Mukwano Industries Limited, said he was looking to further expand and consolidate his business empire. The exit rumours came after Karmali sold his Acacia Mall, one of Uganda’s most prominent and sought-after shopping malls in Kololo, to Lexington Properties Limited.

On January 16, 2023, a cross-section of Ugandans slammed Gender Minister Betty Amongi for trying to use the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) as a government support fund, with some worried that their savings were no longer safe given the alleged political interference in the running of the Fund. In a series of social media posts, several NSSF savers reacted with consternation to Amongi’s December 7, 2022 letter to the NSSF Board, justifying that Richard Byarugaba’s contract as the Fund’s Managing Director not be renewed owing to his alleged refusal to support her proposal to invest workers’ savings in government proposals. They also accused the minister of basing on “unfounded” allegations of corruption against Byarugaba to defer her reappointment.

Gender Minister Betty Amongi while appearing before Parliament’s Select Committee on NSSF.

One of the proposals in Amongi’s letter was the government’s strategic investment through the grain council as proposed by the coordinator of the operation wealth creation, Gen Salim Saleh.

Amongi in the letter accuses Byarugaba of dragging to decide on the matter.

January 19, 2023: Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) asked the public to volunteer more information regarding allegations of staff at Entebbe Airport mistreating travellers and asking for bribes. In a statement, UCAA said while such acts are “highly regrettable and unacceptable,” the shared videos do not give clear hints that can help in the investigations.

According to one of the videos seen by this website, Mawanda Henry says he was ordered to pay the airport officials 300,000 Uganda shillings or else miss his flight. Artiste Don MC Kapata said the officers made him miss his flight after refusing to give them $1,000 (UGX 3.6m) to clear his documents

On January 16, 2023: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was set to disburse a loan worth $240 million (about Shs880b) to Uganda after its Executive Board completed the combined second and third reviews under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF). The facility was part of the $1b (about 3.547 trillion) that the IMF extended to Uganda in 2021 under the Extended Credit Facility programme. The IMF Board said it was pleased that Uganda was implementing several structural reforms to promote economic growth.

On Friday 24, 2023, President Yoweri Museveni officially commissioned the start of oil drilling at the Kingfisher oil field that is expected to produce 40,000 barrels of oil per day at peak once production commences in 2025. The Kingfisher area is operated by Uganda’s oil joint venture partner CNOOC.

The oil rig at Kingfisher oil well.

On January 25, 2023, the licence to construct the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) was handed over to the contractor. The licence was handed over by the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Ruth Nankabirwa, to Martin Tiffen, EACOP Ltd Managing Director.

On January 31, 2023, Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL) opened a Shs39.9 billion production line that was to increase its production capacity to 30,000 330ml bottles per hour and 25,000 500ml bottles per hour in the country. According to UBL, the new line, which is manned by at least 65% women, will supplement a UGX 44.4 billion state-of-the-art bottling line that was launched in 2010 and doubled the production capacity of the beer bottling plant. The commissioning was presided over by the State Minister of Finance for General Duties, Mr Henry Musasizi.

On February 3, 2023, Equity Bank Uganda said it was investigating an incident where their customer lost Shs47m in alleged fraud. In a statement, Equity Bank said it was giving the incident due attention contrary to claims that it had been tossing around the complainant.

On February 13, 2023, Police said they had arrested nine people, including a banker, in connection with stealing $1.8 million (about Shs6.6b) from a client’s account at Stanbic Bank Uganda. According to Police spokesman Fred Enanga, the suspects had been arrested by the Force’s Special Investigations Division working with  in coordination with the Fraud Department at Stanbic Bank, Uganda. Enanga said the suspects in conspiracy with selected Stanbic Bank staff both at Garden City and Freedom City branches compromised the account of Nile Energy and effected transactions in Inter Account Transfers (IAT) and made withdraws using 3 accounts.

He listed the accounts as; Account Number 9030012835107 in the names of Dixon Kagurusi Ampumuza; Account Number 9030021572615 in the names of Petrom Limited and Account Number 9030018628871 in the names of Famane Investments Co. Ltd.

On February 22, 2023, a section of Ugandans accused the central government of being inconsiderate and insensitive to their plight following revelations that it plans to charge motorists Shs735,000 for digital number plates. According to the government, effective July 2023, the registration of new as well as replacement of all old government of Uganda number plates for vehicles and motorcycles would each cost Shs735,000 ($200). This was contained in a February 15 circular issued by Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and Secretary to the Treasury.

One of the digital number plates displayed at the launch. PHOTO/COURTESY OF WORKS MINISTRY

March 1, 2023: The Select Committee that investigated the alleged mismanagement of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) recommended that the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. Betty Amongi should resign with immediate effect. This was contained in the committee report presented by the Chairperson, Hon. Mwine Mpaka in a House chaired by Speaker, Anita Among on Wednesday, 01 March 2022. The committee recommended that Amongi resign in public interest on account of abuse of office, following her Shs6 billion request from the fund for alleged expansion of the fund.

February 28, 2023: The annual inflation for February 2023 dropped to 9.2% from 10.4% recorded in January 2023, a report by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) showed. According to the report, the reduction was prompted by reduction of prices of major food items such as maize flour, rice and matooke as well as a drop in fuel prices.

March 6, 2023: Kenya suspended imports of powdered milk, a development that is set to badly affect Uganda. In a notice dated March 6, the Kenya Dairy Board, KDB, said it was moving to protect local farmers from external products as output is expected to increase soon. “In anticipation of the long rains, the Government has stopped the importation of milk powders to cushion the industry from surplus production and low prices,” read a statement signed by Margaret Kibogy, the KDB Managing Director.

March 9, 2023: The Reserve Bank of Malawi awarded a licence to Centenary Group and the Catholic Church Archdiocese of Lilongwe to carry out banking operations in Malawi. The name of the new bank was Centenary Bank Limited, with Centenary Group holding majority shareholding and the Catholic Church Archdiocese of Lilongwe holding minority shareholding of the Bank’s shares.

Officials of Centenary Bank as well as members of the clergy from the Catholic Church in Malawi and Uganda at the launch of the bank’s operations in Malawi on Wednesday.

March 9, 2023: Ugandan innovator and entrepreneur Shamim Nabuuma Kaliisa was announced the winner of the Forbes Woman Africa Youth Icon Award. Nabuuma, 26, who is the founder and Executive Director of CHIL Artificial Intelligence Lab, a company that offers mobile cancer screening, was announced the winner at a function held in Pretoria, South Africa. The Forbes Woman Africa Awards are meant to recognise the achievements and resilience of women across Africa and the world.

On March 15, 2023: Cipla Limited, a multinational pharmaceutical company, revealed that it would sell a majority shareholding of 51.18% in its Ugandan subsidiary, Cipla Quality Chemicals. In a statement, Cipla said it would sell the stake to Africa Capitalworks, an investment management company incorporated in Mauritius. Mr Ajay Pal, the chief executive officer of Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Limited, however, said there would be no change in business.

March 27, 2023: Eskom Uganda officially handed over the operations of Nalubaale and Kiira hydropower plants to the Government of Uganda as the energy firm’s 20-year concessions come to an end on March 31, 2023. The power firm handed over the dams to officials from Uganda Electricity Generation Company Limited (UEGCL) and the Ministry of Energy at a function held in Jinja City.

March 30, 2023: The Government of Uganda upgraded the current paper-based e-passports to polycarbonate e-passports.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs Permanent Secretary Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu, said this upgrade aims to ensure enhanced security features, durability as well as conforming to the standard requirements as recommended by EAC and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

April 11, 2023: The government is set to pay Shs802.17 billion ($215 million) to acquire majority shares in UMEME, the country’s main electricity distribution company. This came at a time when UMEME’s 20-year contract was scheduled to end in 2025.

April 19: E-commerce platform Copia announced it was closing its operations in Uganda two years after launching in the country. In a statement, Copia said the closure was part of its plans to halt its Africa expansion plans over the global economic downturn occasioned by Russia-Ukraine war.

April 23, 2023: The Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Keith Muhakanizi, died. Muhakanizi died from a hospital in Milan, Italy, where he had beentaken for treatment. Muhakanizi previously served as Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for several years. He was instrumental in Macroeconomics policy and planning, financial sector growth and private sector growth in the country and served in various departments at the Ministry for years.

April 24, 2023: Ford Motor Company appointed Salvador Caetano as its new distributor-partner, selling and servicing Ford vehicles in Kenya and Uganda effective on July 1st, 2023. This followed the end of the prior contract with CMC Motors.

May 4, 2023: The Executive Directors of the World Bank selected Ajay Banga as President of the World Bank for a five-year term beginning June 2, 2023. In a statement, the World Bank said its Executive Directors followed the selection process agreed by shareholders in 2011 to choose Banga. Ajay Banga had most recently served as Vice Chairman at General Atlantic. Previously, he was President and CEO of Mastercard, a global organization with nearly 24,000 employees.  Under his leadership, MasterCard launched the Center for Inclusive Growth, which advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world.

May 12, 2023; Airtel Uganda launched an electronic SIM card (E-sim). Mr Manoj Murali, the Airtel Uganda Managing Director, said that with the Airtel eSIM, you can now use two numbers without needing two handsets.

May 16, 2023: The future of Akright Projects Limited filed for bankruptcy amid piling debts. According to the public notice filed in the print media, the notice for bankruptcy of Akright Projects Limited, which is owned by Anatoli Kamugisha, was filed with the High Court of Kampala on March 16, 2023.

June 8, 2023: Baker Magunda was appointed the new chairperson of the Board of Directors at Stanbic Uganda Holdings Ltd, the parent company of Stanbic Bank. Magunda replaced Japheth Katto who had chaired the board since 2018.

June 30, 2023: Parliament passed the Income Tax (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2023, paving the way for the introduction of Islamic Banking in Uganda. Islamic banking, also referred to as Islamic finance or Shariah-compliant finance, refers to financial activities that adhere to Shariah (Islamic law).

July 7, 2023: Anatoli Kirigwajjo, a Ugandan founder and developer of Yunga Tech was announced the joint winner of the highly coveted 2023 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. Kirigwajjo was announced winner alongside Edmund Wessels from South Africa during a function held at Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, Ghana.

July 8, 2023: Meta’s new Threads app, which is a direct rival of Twitter, attained 10 million followers in the first seven hours of its launch, the company’s owner, Mark Zuckerberg, said. Mr Zuckerberg said Threads app, which has many features like those of Twitter, is user friendly and “will ultimately be the key to its success”.

July 19, 2023: The Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Ms Betty Amongi, declined to renew the contract of Mr Richard Byarugaba as the Managing Director of National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Amongi said basing on the recommendations of the Inspector General of Government and Parliament, Byarugaba’s reputation has been damaged and hence cannot be reappointed to the position. However, the IGG report had concluded that while Byarugaba had been culpable for some of the management errors, he had been instrumental in the growth of the Fund this should not in anyway impede his reappointment.

But Minister Amongi in her letter to NSSF Managing Director Peter Kimbowa said the reports of the IGG and Parliament are not sufficient enough to determine Byarugaba’s reappointment.

July 31, 2023: President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni officially opened the Uganda Trade Hub known as Uganda Connect in Serbia’s capital of Belgrade. The hub is aimed at strengthening the bilateral relations between Uganda and Serbia and paving the way for the country’s goods and services in the Balkans region.

August 5, 2023; The Minister of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, Francis Mwebesa, sacked David Livingstone Ebiru from his position as Executive Director of Uganda National Bureau of Standards over corruption and mismanagement. In an August 5 letter, Mwebesa said he had no option but to terminate Ebiru’s contract after findings of the National Standards Council and the UNBS ED’s bribery admissions before Parliament’s Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).

Former UNBS Executive Director David Livingstone Ebiru appearing before Parliament’s COSASE on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

August 17, 2023: The Government of Uganda committed to improve services at Uganda Telecom Limited after rebranding it to Uganda Telecommunication Corporation Limited (UTCL). In an event that took place at UTCL offices in Kampala, the government committed to improved provision of voice, mobile and fixed internet services at the rebranded company.

August 18, 2023: The Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Betty Amongi, appointed Patrick Ayota as the Managing Director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) for five years effective August 18, 2023. In a statement, Dr. Peter Kimbowa, the NSSF Board Chairman, said the appointment followed their recommendation to the minister, by Sections 39 and 40 of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Act, as amended.

August 29, 2023: Airtel Uganda opened its public issue, offering up to 20% stake or 8 billion shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange. Airtel Uganda set the share price for its initial public offering (IPO) at UGX 100. Later on November 7, 2023, the bell was rang at the Uganda Securities Exchange, marking Airtel Uganda’s first trading day as a publicly listed company.

September 14, 2023: The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development launched the Energy Policy for Uganda which it says is a blueprint for ensuring that every Ugandan has access to clean, affordable, and uninterrupted energy by the year 2040. The Energy Policy, which was launched at the Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, aligns with the government’s commitment to regional and international obligations related to energy transition towards a zero-carbon economy. It encompasses strategies for new energy trends, including clean energy mini-grids (solar PV), industrial parks, smart grids, e-mobility, and energy-efficient and smart appliances.

October 3, 2023: The management of Capital Chicken Limited announced it had temporarily closed its operations after the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) froze their accounts.   In a statement, Capital Chicken said this was after Capital Markets Authority discredited their operations. This came after news started making rounds on social media about Capital Chicken closing and running away with people’s investments.

November 24, 2023: Former Cabinet Minister and MP Nyombi Thembo was appointed  the new Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). The Minister of Information, Communications Technology and National Guidance, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, announced Thembo’s appointment in a letter to UCC. He replaced Eng Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo who has served in the interim capacity for the last four years since the retirement of Godfrey Mutabazi in 2020.

December 7, 2023: Over 400 million dollars in green investment commitments were announced for Uganda at the climate change conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The green investment commitments, current and future, are for the next four years in the areas of renewable energy, water filtration and forestry.

December 11, 2023: The first shipment of 100km of pipes needed for the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) arrived at the port of Dar es Salaam, signalling the initiation of the main construction phase for this cross-border project. An event to welcome the pipes was held between EACOP’s shareholders at the storage yard operated by EACOP’s Tanzanian Logistics partner, SuperDoll.

December 7, 2023: President Museveni directed Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja to work with the Works and Transport ministry and grant Mr Metu Katabazi, a local businessman, exclusive rights to manage the Mass Transit Service for buses in the Kampala and the surrounding towns. Mr Katabazi runs METU Industries that manufactures and assembles buses at their plant in Kasese.

December 18, 2023: The Ministry of Public Service is seeking for Shs79.3b in its 2024/25 budget, to compensate the 2,200 staff that are set to be laid off by Government after the rationalisation and merging of several public agencies.

December 13, 2023: The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) said the National Population and Housing Census will for the first time be conducted digitally, a move aimed at greatly minimizing errors which have been related to paper based data entries in the previous exercises.

December 23, 2023: Eight individuals, including a driver, land broker, student, and clearing agent, were on Friday, 22 December 2023, remanded to Luzira prison for allegedly conspiring to steal over UGX 8 billion from Housing Finance Bank.

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