It’s been long since I last put a word here. The challenge of writing for others. But I found this story so personal that I couldn’t trade it anywhere but here.
It was on Wednesday 5th August 2015, when together with my work colleague Robert Lwanga met this busy CEO on appointment on what turned out to be a very cold morning following a heavy downpour.
The wait wasn’t long before we’re ushered into the lounge upstairs where our host was already waiting.(Wekesa is one of those CEOs always at work by 7am). He welcomed us with his signature smile before we delved into the conversation.
Our conversation engaged a number of gear shifts as we talked about different things in this country. From leadership, business, innovation, poverty but among them all Wekesa’s life story.
Amos Wekesa is a humble man.
Dressed in a green Great Lakes Safaris branded T-shirt, blue jeans and brown boots, our host told of how time has had an effect in shaping and growing his company for the last eleven years.
From gate crashing wedding meetings to secure gigs to addressing UN conferences, Amos’ story has had such an impact to many but mainly to him.
“I joined tourism at a time when it was a foreigners’ business. I thought of a way of how I could break through and I realized all I needed was to invest,” he said playfully smiling in his chair. “I’d one option to achieve my goal; invest every little penny on me.”
Wekesa has made a lot of investment in property allover the country to the extent that he can do without his monthly UGX 15 million salary as CEO of Great Lakes Safaris.
“I learnt to distinguish my money from company money and I’ve always received a salary from the company from its inception.”
Today, Amos is not sorrysorry for his mistakes as Dickson Mushabe says in his book. He looks back to the past and counts it all joy for the job well done. He is a satisfied employer of 188 people in Uganda’s leading tour and travel company that now has branches in Rwanda and UK.
However, it’s very easy to walk past this man from Mbale without recognition. At his workplace, everyone calls him Amos. “I hate titles,” he brags off.
“Young men work hard,” was his caution endless times in our conversation. “By 19, my parents wanted me to marry but I refused. At 25, they gave up on me. They thought something was wrong. Today, I have a very lovely family and I pay my children’s fees without a bother.”
Wekesa says that delaying marriage till he was 30, gave him time to build his company. “I’d spend nights with the mechanic in the garage working on cars. I never wanted(to date) to disappoint my clients along the way,” he emphatically states.
My work shaped my dresscode. Till today, Amos is a casual person in his dresscode. For morethan twice he has been bounced from paying for property. “People in this country think only the guys in suits have money. When they see us in jeans, they rarely take us serious.” Such are the scoffs he makes of Ugandans and their attitude to work.
Today, Amos spends time with his wife with whom he shares everything in his life. He is grooming his twelve year old son to become the CEO of Great Lakes ten years from now. By then, his emphasis will be completing his five star hotel yet to begin.
It is a rare treat for such a busy person to give you five minutes of their time but luckily enough for us he gave us more than an hour. He hosted us to a heartwarming breakfast before we had a photo with him by Jordin, away from his customised porch studio.
I look forward to meeting and working with him more and more.