Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.
My brief today is to speak about “business as well as leadership matters as an inspiration to Diasporas.”
I therefore would like to talk about my childhood, upbringing and my career in business and politics.
I will also talk about principles and ideas which I have followed which might give the audience food for thought and perhaps inspire other budding entrepreneurs.
I will talk later on about the role of the Ugandan diaspora as we have with us today a number of persons who originate from Uganda and are living here in the United Kingdom.
I was born in Kenya and brought up in Uganda and although I have lived in the United Kingdom more years than the time I spent in Uganda, I do have a great deal of affection and love for Uganda.
I was brought up in a multi-racial community and my closest school friend was an African and we used to visit each other’s houses frequently. I learnt to speak several languages and also developed an understanding of different religions.
In view of my background I am very actively involved in interfaith dialogue and promote peace and harmony amongst various racial and religious groups.
My family was expelled from Uganda in 1972 and we came to this country penniless. General Amin took everything from us except our brain and we have worked very hard in this country.
I am today Chairman of four companies which include insurance organisations and property companies.
I started as a trainee with a major insurance company and obtained my professional qualifications at an early age. I was a visiting lecturer at universities and I have written frequently for professional magazines as well as insurance press.
I was the President of the Insurance Institute of Croydon and Regional Chairman of the British Insurance Brokers Association and in fact I was the first foreigner to hold these positions.
I have also held positions in other organisations and associations relating to insurance and financial services.
I have always believed that you need to become part of the establishment wherever you go and get involved in the professional or business organisation in our respective fields.
By doing so we can contribute to the advancement of our professional body and by achieving success one will indeed get recognised by our peers.
I always like to quote the saying of Francis Bacon who was in fact Lord Bacon. He was a philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer and author.
One of his most famous quotes is “I hold every man a debtor to his profession” and I would urge everyone to consider doing what I believe in and have undertaken.
Following the same principle as Francis Bacon I believe that every member of the diaspora is a debtor to their country of origin.
After I qualified I left the insurance company and started working for a broking organisation where I was appointed a manager and I ended up owning the company.
I made the company into a public limited company and elevated it to become Lloyd’s brokers.
The head office of the company is in Bromley and has offices in the City of London. The company under my guidance won or were highly commended on twelve major insurance awards in a period of three years which is a record and no other company has achieved this.
Over two years ago I sold this company and I have formed and am Chairman of four business organisations relating to insurances and properties.
People have often asked me how I have achieved success in business and I would like to share with you what I believe are the essential ingredients of a successful business leader?
In my view they can be summarised as follows:
Build a strong team
Look for new opportunities
Have a vision
Produce the right product which provides value for money and is appropriately priced
Have an active marketing strategy
Always place a great deal of importance on customer care and ensure that the service standards are always high.
To be successful in business you also need to look at trends and think of making products and services which can meet a need and fulfil a desire in the future and you also need to be ahead of competition.
We have a saying in our office: “We lead, others follow.”
In my business life I have developed products which were market leaders and others tried to copy what I had done. We were indeed ahead of the competition.
In 2005 I decided to enter politics and became a member of the Conservative Party. Within a period of less than 18 months I was appointed a Peer by the Party.
I was in fact the first Muslim to be elevated to the House of Lords by the Conservative Party.
When I joined the Party I saw there were a number of opportunities and started doing things which had not been done before.
I was noticed by the leaders of the Party and in fact the grant of the Peerage was a great surprise to me as I had not done any lobbying.
I have made the point that in whatever you do, you must be innovative and also look for opportunities whereby you can make a positive contribution.
I am very active in the House of Lords and speak on a variety of subjects. My favourite subjects are foreign affairs, Africa, international development, humanitarian issues, human rights, defence and the economy.
I have also travelled to different countries as a member of Parliamentary delegations and delivered keynote speeches at various international conferences and gatherings.
Those of you who have plans to stay here must consider joining a political party of your choice and get involved in politics at local and national level.
If any of you need any guidance in this regard then please do speak to me.
Early last year I was sent by the British Parliament to participate and speak at a Conference on War Crimes in Kampala where I shared the platform with the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
I was very pleased to visit Uganda and in fact when I landed in Entebbe I wanted to do what the late Pope used to do and that is to kiss the ground.
I found Kampala to be very buoyant with excellent hotels and restaurants.
My father was a very wealthy man in Uganda and he taught me that I should always follow three principles in life; 1 – Be the best in whatever you do, 2 – Be magnanimous and charitable, 3 – Always serve the community.
I have followed these principles which have guided my life. I have described to you my achievements in my political and business life.
With regard to the other two principles I have formed a charity named after my father and I am a patron of several organisations which serve the community.
Let me talk very briefly about my charity work. I have always believed that there is a great deal of satisfaction in doing charitable work as it gives happiness to both the donor and the recipient.
My charity supports good causes and undertakes work in the United Kingdom and overseas countries.
I now wish to talk about the role of the diaspora. The diaspora of any foreign country tend to do well in the United Kingdom and in the West but we must always remember where we have come from and keep affiliation with the motherland.
I think the diaspora can provide leadership and consider investing in Uganda because they have done well in this country and their contributions will help develop the mother country.
You have heard today about a number of projects and I hope that you will seriously consider getting involved whereby there will be benefit to yourself and Uganda.
We can also get involved by raising funds and items to send back home as donations and also getting involved with charities.
Finally I would like to repeat what I said earlier that every member of the diaspora is a debtor to the home country.
Winston Churchill described Uganda as the pearl of Africa and Uganda still maintains that luster, and I believe that the diaspora has a role to play to ensure that the shine is maintained.