- Celebrated Ugandan businessman and hospitality mogul, Dr. BulaimuMuwanga Kibirige, also known as BMK, passed away on the morning of September 10, 2021 at Nairobi Hospital after a long battle with prostate cancer first diagnosed in 2015.
- Born on October 2, 1953, BMK was a self-taught, self-made man who rose from a young boy who ditched school after elementary-primary seven to trade coffee alongside his late father and mentor the late Hajj Ali Kibirige to become one of the wealthiest and most iconic businessmen in the country and beyond.
- He was Chairman of BMK Group of companies and an award-winning entrepreneur with one of the most recognizable hotel chains and brands in the region including the 233-roomed 4-star Hotel Africana which is the preferred venue for meetings and workshops in Kampala city boasting of a convention center with a seating capacity of 3,500 delegates and BMK apartments.
The hospitality group also has investments in Moroto in Northeastern Uganda and Hotel Africana Lusaka Zambia.
BMK also invested in real estate, construction equipment, motorcycle distributorships, and foreign exchange bureaus in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Dubai, Rwanda, Japan, and Zambia.
BMK also founded the Boda Boda rides – a term that made its way to the Cambridge English dictionary meaning “a bicycle or motorcycle used as a taxi for carrying a passenger or goods.”
He also served on the Presidential Investors Round Table (PIRT), an exclusive forum for eminent business persons chaired by HE the President, that advises government on how to improve the investment climate in the country.
Other portfolios he had include former Board Member and Chairman of the Uganda Chapter of the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) and Chairman Uganda-American Sickle Cell Rescue Fund.
He was awarded a doctorate of Philosophy in Humanities at the United Graduate College and Seminary.
BMK’s story is best narrated in his book “My Story of Building A Fortune in Africa.”
Launched in March 2021 while he was ailing, it tells of how despite the hurdles in life, he managed to make it and build a fortune in Africa.
In 1982, during his would-be maiden business trip to Japan, businessman BMK stuffed a briefcase with US$52,000 and boarded a flight via Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, he was to change flights for the final leg of his trip.
While in the queue at the check-in counter in the airport, he rested his suitcase down as he waited for his time to get the boarding pass.
A thief grabbed the suitcase and ran as fast as he could. BMK sounded the alarm as loud as he could but that couldn’t stop the thief as he disappeared into the crowded airport.
All his money was gone. His passport, too, and he was unable to proceed to Japan. He was to be deported back to Uganda where he would have been sent to jail or even killed.
He had run away and started living in exile in Nairobi having been suspected of being engaged in subversive activities due to his wealth.
BMK tells the story of his life working with his family members, establishing businesses in many countries, and the happiest moments of his life – his plans for the BMK Group and what he thinks anybody interested in building a fortune in the next 40 years needs to do.
Eulogizing the lake BMK, Uganda’s President General Yoweri T.K. Museveni had this to say: “I commiserate with the family of Dr.Hajji Bulaimu Muwanga Kibirige (BMK), relatives, business associates, and well-wishers.
“Dr. Bulaimu will forever be remembered for his incredible contribution towards building a fortune in Uganda and Africa.”
“May his soul rest in eternal peace,” said the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Doreen Katusime.
“The passing on of Dr. Bulaimu Kibirige is a huge loss to the Tourism and hospitality industry.
“He was an exceptional leader and a person of quality and profound impact.
“As a giant of the industry, he was a great inspiration to many.
“BMK will always be revered and respected for his incredible achievements, and he leaves a legacy that will be difficult to match.”
Uganda Tourism Board Chairman Hon. Daudi Migereko said: “I have received sad news of the passing away of Haji Ibrahim Kibirige of BMK Group of companies and Hotel Africana.
“Kibirige has made an immense contribution to the hospitality, tourism, and private sector in Kampala, Uganda, and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
“His demise is a big loss to his family, THE tourism fraternity, Uganda, and Africa. We thank Allah for the contribution and foundation he has left behind. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
From Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA) where he served as past chairman, Twitter wall post reads: “Dr. BMK was the epitome of goodness, hard work, humility, and he did so much for the Hospitality sector; he will be missed, but his legacy lives on in UHOA and all BMK businesses.”
“Rest in peace my friend,” said Susan Muhwezi (Chairlady). “In the late 2000s when Uganda Tourism Board and tour operators were often frustrated with red tape to fund exhibitions like ITB Berlin and WTM London, BMK used his influence on the Presidential Investors Round Table (PIRT) to bypass government bureaucrats and secure funding for participation.”
BMK was a devout Muslim who had the title Hajj bestowed upon him, referring to a Muslim who has made the pilgrimage to the holy land of Mecca.
He is survived by 2 wives – Sophia and Hawa Muwanga – and 18 children.
“Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” – Indeed, to Allah we belong, and to Allah we shall return.