[Interview] Maria E. Auma, Founder, Blue Luxury Investments, Uganda
14-03-2023 14:48:30 | by: Andrea Ayemoba | hits: 10917 | Tags:

Maria E. Auma is Founder, Blue Luxury Investments, an investment management solutions firm based in Uganda. Her interview with Africa Business Communities:

Would you please introduce Blue Luxury Investments?

BLI is a privately-held firm established in Uganda with a regional presence in East Africa and growing interests in Southern and Western Africa. We offer a wide range of investment management solutions focused on economically viable projects throughout Africa. Our services are tailored around raising capital, managing funds, monitoring and evaluating projects, and securing stakeholder partnerships. In addition to financial services, we offer turnkey solutions to the real estate, tourism, as well as consumer distribution sector.

In which industries does BLI operate and who are your clients?

Our interests are diverse and we will support projects that primarily promote macro development regardless of the sector. Projects that create jobs are in line with the Millennium Development Goals of a country and that improve its foreign trade and domestic growth are always attractive. For agriculture we tend to favour those that have an element of value-addition, economic sustainability and environmental preservation.

Our clients come from both ends of supply and demand. We provide the link between the fund seekers and the private investors. Our client focus may change with the season. There will be an influx of project proposals that usually begin at the start of the year; when mid-year hits, we start receiving private interests to invest in sound projects.

Why did you start BLI?

I started BLI to fill the gap between businesses in Africa and finance. Getting access to large pools of capital is never easy. Most traditional institutions will opt for debt financing as opposed to equity. Initially, I was loaning money on a small scale to friends and acquaintances at an attractive interest and payback period. However, it dawned on me that in oorder to finance bigger businesses, I needed larger capital, willing investors and more alternatives to the type of capital being accessed. I also realized that a lot of private firms and individuals were seeking fund management offshore which was an already tedious process for any entrepreneur with a growth strategy. That is when I realized that I could harmonise my passion for economics with the need for finance. Handling diverse portfolios has taught me the importance of humility and respect.

What other companies/organizations have you founded?

Entrepreneurship has always been a part of who I am. In the past two years I have founded and co-founded a couple of companies; Amayinja Crafts (with Esther Haaisma, a business partner in the Netherlands), a social initiative that empowers women in communities by supporting them in the self-expression of art, crafts and fashion wear. I also co-founded iWESH, a consultancy firm that primarily focuses on developmental research and innovations within Africa. With the help of partners and key stakeholders, we plan to increase the impact of these two companies.

What can be done by entrepreneurs and government to stimulate the business environment in Uganda?

The Government of Uganda has contributed substantially towards an improved business environment. There have been a lot of trade reforms thanks to the establishment of the East African Community. But it is not just the government stimulating growth. Recently, the One Network Area initiative – a plan for East African telecom integration – was launched to reduce calling costs across East Africa. I also applaud the joint initiative of the East African governments working towards an improved regional block under the East African Community.

The challenge now lies with increasing the capacity of entrepreneurs in Uganda. Recently, the government imposed a ban on the mining industry against all unprocessed mineral export which caused a lot of disgruntlement from mining associations. However, if we intend to compete on the global front and see sustained development, we have to improve on the quality of our products.

Do you think women entrepreneurs typically have a harder time accessing loans through traditional bank channels?

In Uganda, access to finance from banks is slowly becoming less cumbersome. The only worry among the borrowers is the terms and conditions. Women and men alike have access to equal funding as long as they can prove their ability to carry the loan through to maturity. I guess it is really an issue of money management. I am not sure about other countries but in Uganda specifically, entrepreneurs tend to inherit bad loans, where they request for more than they can actually afford based on their ambitions rather than what their financial books state. I believe banking would be much easier, if we had financial discipline and culture of basic book keeping.

What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of BLI for the rest of 2015?

I would say that our goal now would be to write in more projects for the coming year (2016). We are also looking for partners across Africa (Maghreb and South of the Sahara). Currently our partners and clients are in East African, Southern Africa and Europe. We are also planning to explore more Public-Private Partnerships and dive more into renewable. We are interested in how powering Africa can transform not just the way people conduct business, but also everyday activities.

What expectations do you have the Ugandan economy in the second half of 2015?

Presidential elections are set for next year (2016), so we are expecting a lot of government spending, which is good for the economy. We just hope that some of the spending translates into sustainable projects. The sector that is likely to thrive the most is real estate for developmental reasons. Other sectors would be media and advertising, and the ICT sector. We are also hoping that the circulation of local currency in the market will in fact improve our performance in the forex charts since we recently suffered a heavy blow with the spike in US dollars. We are hoping though that the spending in the US in the wake of their elections does not contribute to another forex ripple.

Which African countries will perform best in 2015?

Kenya is primed among the top for a number of reasons. There is increased regional trade with a number of multinational headquarters recently moving from Jo’burgh to Nairobi. The 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit injected over one billion US dollars in capital to the youth and women alone. Activities like the railroad construction and oil discovery is dramatically boosting her economic performance.

Rwanda has demonstrated improved economic growth and improved business climate for companies with an active stock market. The government is pushing for a regional stock exchange throughout East Africa where companies can go public not in just one country but in the five East African countries.

In Uganda, Keith with his team at Capital Markets Authority are trying their best to improve the performance SMEs. Government bodies like Uganda Investment Authority are improving the investment climate and in the next five years, SMEs will have enough competitive leverage.





Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with CEOs and high-end professionals in Africa. Are you interested in an interview? Please send an e-mail to Andrea Ayemoba: andrea@africabusinesscommunities.com