Last week Finance Trust Bank celebrated its ascension to a fully-fledged commercial bank.
This was a story 30 years in the making and would serve as a fantastic role model for how people working together, diligently and adopting to the trends can build a viable enterprise.
The bank started in 1984 as an NGO to allow women save and access credit. It now has 230,000 depositors (not all women) with deposits of sh43b and 25,000 loan clients who owe the bank sh58b.
This is an inspiring story on two fronts.
The co-founders Professor Mary Okwakol, Mrs Ida Wanendeya, Justices Mary Maitum and Caroline Okello saw a need and constructed a vehicle to address that need at a time when opening businesses or endeavours of any kind was less than ideal. The Uganda of 1984 was a hellhole. While everybody was lamenting, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work, and when the good times rolled around they had the structure to take advantage.
And secondly that these ladies not related by blood cooperated with a common interest to alleviate the plight of women, shows that our companies need not start as family businesses, but partners who have a common vision can do just as well, if not better.
"A nation is only as viable as its private sector....
But the private sector starts and grows from the individual initiative of people starting businesses to often times meet their own personal needs and those of their families but also as a way to take advantage of a gap in the market. If a family or small business stays around long enough it finds, out of necessity, it has to grow beyond the satisfying individual needs.
If in 1984 you wold have told the founders of Finance Trust that three decades down the road their kaoperation would have an asset base of sh91b they wold have laughed you out of their office.
They say we overestimate what we can achieve in a year and underestimate what we can achieve in ten years.
"The major challenge of our economy is that there is not enough indigenous capital, local business of a credible enough size. Part of the reason is that our businesses have failed to transcend a generation, that our indigenous businesses when taken over by the children find it hard to replicate or surpass the success of their parents or founders. This failure means that our biggest indigenous businesses are few and small. To create size takes time as Trust Finance has shown...
It is important, even critical, that we have more indigenous businesses growing into national, even regional businesses.
The logic is simple.
The indigenous business spends more of its profits in the country than the foreign multi-nationals, which while the offer very useful services are operating from a very different mind-set.
The indigenous business owner is more likely to invest in the country, in other business, in social services, in real estate, which creates employment here and services too.
While the indigenous businessman will benefit from the bonuses and dividends that accrue from his company, he is more likely to get involved in social projects, which will hurt his bottom line in the near term but will have far reaching effects on the society in the long term. The manager at the multi-national will not jeopardise his bottom line for fear of a lower end-year bonus.
And finally the indigenous businessman is the bedrock on which national stability is built, whichever country you are talking about in the world. To the extent that you have a wanting indigenous business community is the extent to which your national stability is not very durable.
The ladies of Finance Trust have offered a good example of what we can do and that if we get down to it we can achieve a lot, instead of whining Tusabe Gavumenti Etuyambe!!!!