Last year the theme “Yiiya ssente, zuula akatale” opened you to a wealth of market opportunities. Today we are taking a turn to look at sustainability in that market especially on how to build wealth through a professional business enterprise, hence the theme “Enzirukanya ya Business Ekugaggawaza”. So, I would like to start with a question on why you are here? Is it because Doris Akol, the Commissioner General of URA is speaking? If that’s the reason, too bad…because if Doris wasn’t a Commissioner General then you wouldn’t be here! Is it because of these astute businessmen who are about to share with us the stories of their success? If yes, again too bad, because their story can’t be your story. I would like to believe that you are here because you have a personal goal and mission, to grow your business, to flourish. I would like to believe that you are here because you see an opportunity for information on how you are going to achieve that business goal you have been hatching for far too long.
As a Commissioner General I am happy to support this initiative because it breeds the businesses that shall pay taxes in the future. Women make up over 52% of Uganda’s private enterprise group and as a business woman, I am more than glad to socialize with fellow entrepreneurs who believe in taking their destiny in their own hands (UBOS, 2015).
You see, business is the one source of income where you determine your earnings. Your acumen, hard-work, connections and effort determine what you take home. I have a job at Uganda Revenue Authority, but am I going to hang onto that for the rest of my life? Or is it what I have been doing all my life? The answer to both questions is NO. At one point I shall leave URA and continue with my private business enterprises. And that’s what spurs my interest in the Yiiya Ssente platform. We all here have come to learn and share experiences on how we can thrive in our private enterprises. And that’s where I would like to greatly thank the Vision Group for 5 years running, organizing this platform to discuss and equip us with the much needed business knowledge. This is a great opportunity.
You know, an opportunity you aren’t aware of isn’t actually an opportunity. And even when you are aware of it, you must be ready and equipped to utilize it, if you are to get benefit from it. And actually if you look around us in this conference facility, there are opportunities starting from within the people you are seated next to. Here a farmer is seated next to a restaurant operator, a parent is seated next to a school owner or teacher, a mechanic is seated next to a boda-boda operator, a builder is seated to a potential customer! Now, my friends, tell me, don’t you really see a seller and buyer who have potential for business within us here? I don’t want us to come here, sit listen to speeches and after walk home. Leave with a connection for an opportunity.
But for the opportunity we see here to bear fruit, the seller must have the skill-set to deliver on the buyer’s expectations. Otherwise, how the buyer believe that the seller will build him/her a good house, make his/her kid learn, serve him/her a good meal in the restaurant e.t.c? The business must attract and retain customers to prosper your enterprise to the wealth this conference promises.
In my job I interact with both local and foreign businessmen. I was interacting with an Asian businessman who astounded me with one note, he said “Ugandans think the money they have is theirs, for us, we think it is for our kids to come”. So now my friends, I ask you, what do you plan to do with the first profit your business makes. You can choose to buy a car, build a home to stop renting, add it to your business capital amongst other options? What is the most sustainable of these options? To the him, the money in your pockets is not yours, invest it in your business for the future generation. But, the future generation must also be trained through the process of building this wealth so they do not plunder it but rather grow it further.
Make a decision that gives your business a stronger lifeline if you want to see that business in the years to come, and get more profits from it. Register the business at URSB to separate it from yourself, and instead be an employee of that business. You can access free consultation and support from institutions like UIRI, PSFU and USSIA on how to sustain and manage that business. There are district commercial officers that you can consult from on how to go through these requirements. Additionally, try institutions like UFZA that government has set up to encourage export oriented manufacturers. Visit them and consult, just get the information and make a decision. Consult URA officers on the tax benefits that are available for your business sector e.g. farming, export, food processing e.t.c. You must appreciate that you cannot grow a big business in hiding. For example, if you are a juice maker; you would need to register with URSB, protect your formula and trademark, a license from your municipality, UNBS license, URA registration among other things. This does not only protect your enterprise but also makes it easy for you to access financing in form of bank loans and also compete for the many government business opportunities like the supply goods and services to institutions like URA. We have many of these opportunities like decoration, food, printing, entertainment that we usually offer to formal businesses. Dealing with large corporations and government will always require you register your business and this has the benefit of introducing you to these big opportunities. When such opportunities open up we will be reliving today’s theme of “Enzirukanya ya Business Ekugaggawaza”
You could be having an inner voice telling you that dealing with government means paying the trading license and taxes by URA. But this I tell you fellow businessmen, it is in government’s best interests that your business thrives. Why? If your business collapses, then government cannot collect taxes or trading licenses which are its source of revenue.
So while you plan for costs such as: Marketing, Rent, Wages, Transport and all other costs in your business, do you ever plan for tax? I have told my friends that if you assess and project in the long-term life of a business, and you realize that the venture would not leave you a profit if you pay taxes, that is not a viable business!! (of course we must take it into account that the first years of a business may not return a profit at all). If Businesses need to start looking at tax as another cost of operation. My advice to business start-ups is always to consider tax in the equation. Take a look at most large corporations in the country, how many of them have a tax director on their board? Yet tax is a very important factor for any business which for international corporations determines where, when, how, and why operations should not be in country A but country B. We need to realize the importance of this.
This is one of the reasons why we teamed up with Vision Group. We don’t want our business start-ups to die out because of taxes. We know that if you plan well and consult, you can grow your business in a way that meets all regulatory requirements but at the same time make profits!
I have moved with a team from URA, visit them and tell them about the business venture you want to set up. Ask them if there are any tax benefits for your business, you will be surprised. Do you want to export? Do you know that you get tax refunds when you take goods to Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan or any other country? Do you know about the benefits for farming business (horticulture plant + greenhouses), farm works, instalment payments for taxes, carryforward losses, start-up costs, scientific research expenditure, training costs that are available for businesses?
Uganda has over 6.4 million mobile internet users (UCC, Sept 2015). For the entrepreneurs who are on social media, do you use your Facebook, Twitter accounts for business or just social purposes? Why don’t you turn those social connections into business opportunities? I know of URA staff who rear chicken at home and sell it to colleagues at office, this is a ready market of over 500 clients only in Kampala!! This side income can be a big relief on expenses like school fees and house construction project which may not be easily sustained on a salary. And even then, this is a good retirement plan.
Today we have a chance to hear from those who have managed to ask themselves some hard questions, and I am glad to have their story. But I want to close my remarks by encouraging you all, that even if you have a job, start a side business because it is the only way to train yourself on how to make money. The job is not your enterprise. Start your enterprise, do not be afraid to consult. If you are setting up a salon don’t ONLY read about the technical requirements for a salon, getting the capital, securing the market. You also need to ask yourself;
· What does the local authority expect from me?
· Do I have obligations to URA?
· Are there health prerequisites for a salon business?
If you ask yourself these questions from the start and endeavor to get answers for them, trust me “ojja kuddukanya bizinensi ekugaggawaza”