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PROFILE: Who is Rukshana Karmali, the heir to Mukwano’s business empire?

Ms Rukshana Karmali, the daughter and heir of deceased businessman Amarali Karmali. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – Ms Rukshana Karmali, the daughter of deceased businessman Amarali Karmali, better known as Mukwano, has been chosen to continue her father’s legacy at Mukwano Group of Companies.

The 57-year-old has been at the helm of the business as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) since 2007 sitting in her father’s command chair at the Rwenzori Commodities Ltd head offices on Plot 11 Old Port Bell road in Kampala.

Ms Rukshana, according to her son Mr Rahul Karmali, was born on July 20, 1962, in Nairobi, Kenya. She would spend her early years in Fortportal, Kabarole district where she managed to enroll at Aga Khan Primary School.

Innocent like other children then, the young Rukshana left the country in 1972 when the then President Idi Amin issued a decree to expel all Asians from Uganda.

Though her father, was hidden by some “good Samaritans” and never left Uganda, the children including Ms Rukshana left the country.

As a teenager, she lived briefly in Belgium, Zaire (Now Democratic Republic of Congo), United Kingdom and finally settled in Kenya.

While in Nairobi, she joined the Aga Khan Academy where she completed her secondary education. In the 1980’s she moved to Canada where she lived and worked for a shot while before securing admission into the University of Toronto in Ontorio.

On a date that the family has not been able to reveal to us, Ms Rukshana graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. It is not clear whether she studied economic with one eye on seeking employment or to settle in her father’s business empire.

After graduation, she started up own business in Canada running a cake shop. While in Canada she married a man (name withheld) a Canadian of Indian descent with whom they produced Rahul in 1997 and named him after her father, Karmali.

“After my birth, my Mum lived with my father for two more years before they divorced. It was a painful situation, she tells me. So, she stopped running her business and planned to return home to Uganda,” Mr Rahul recollects.

At the same time, Rukshana’s young brother, Mr Alykhan Karmali was also living in Canada but they would both return to Uganda to take part in the running of their ever-growing father’s business empire.

Together with her 2-year-old son, Rahul, she touched down at Entebbe International Aiport in October 1999.

“Mzee (Mukwano) gave her a home to settle and take care of me. She brought me up alone and I have done all my education in Uganda while working in this company” Mr Rahul says.

After settling down and putting the pain of her divorce behind her back, Ms Rukshana walked into Mukwano Group of Companies touching bas as Cashier at the Port Bell road based head offices.

Upon her success, Ms Rukshana was elevated to the role of Accountant and later on to a sales manager before ascending to the apex as the CEO in 2007.

“Since when Mzee (Mukwano) designated her as a CEO my mum has been the decision maker for the company and it has achieved a lot going forward,” the young man said.

Throughout the years of his retirement, the deceased has been kept abreast of the key achievements and challenges of empire. The CEO regularly travelled to Fortportal to give a business briefing to the legendary investor at her retirement home.

To some of the employees, the death of Mukwano has taken away a man they knew as a parent who gave a listening ear to everyone, but in the successor, their hopes rest in a person they prefer calling by name and not boss.

One woman who preferred to speak off record described Ms Rukshana as a “true copy of her father in the ways of running business and approaching employees”

They say, like her father, the successor loves the company so much which made her not to make a name in the social life in and around Kampala.

This is collaborated with the narration of Mr Rahul who says; “what you need to know about mum is she is an inclination of Mzee because everything about them is similar”.

During her time in the father’s business empire, she got married again, giving birth to five other children. But the family would rather not discuss details of that marriage since she is divorced again.

Employing over 10,000 people, the empire runs a number of companies namely Mukwano Enterprises Ltd which deals in Real Estate; AK Oils and Fats; AK Plastics; AK Detergents; Rwenzori Commodities the producers of Rwenzori tea; a forex bureau; and, Gulf Stream Investments Limited.

Such is a dream that every successful man or woman will always have at the back of their minds so that their businesses and investments do not end with their generations.

So was the late Mukwano when he groomed his children to keep the family and empire candle burning even after he transited to the next life. This he did by drawing his children into the management of the empire.

At the time of his death, Mukwano had handed all responsibilities to run the empire to his first child and daughter, Ms Rukshana Karmali.

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