It is not every day that a prominent Ugandan business personality shares their life story as candidly as Cipla Quality Chemicals Industries chairman Emmanuel Katongole recently did.
However, last week, during the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne Australia meet, Katongole opened up about his journey to the top.
For the uninitiated, Katongole is the executive chairman of Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Ltd. He is also the chairman of Uganda National Oil Company and of course an estemmed member of the Rotary Club of Muyenga, Kampala.
Below is the moving speech of his rise in business that he shared with his Rotary family…
“Good morning my Rotary Family.
Over the years, Rotary has transformed millions of people around the world. I am one of them.
Thank you, President Jennifer Jones for giving me an opportunity to share my story.
I am a Ugandan born in 1962.
My parents were both illiterate village peasants. My Father worked as a labourer at a tea estate while my Mother worked as a domestic servant to Church missionaries. I was the last child after 3 girls.
Looking for an opportunity, My Father moved to Kampala city where he got a better job as a construction site potter.
In May 1966, he went to work and never returned. It is believed he was shot dead during the Uganda Military conflict under Idi Amin.
My Mother could not afford to keep the 4 of us in our tree shed and grass thatched school. In 1969, she removed my 3 sisters from school to concentrate on me.
I spent much of my childhood doing odd jobs including selling roasted corn by the roadside. My evenings and weekends were spent herding goats & guarding them against hyenas.
Meanwhile, my sisters were caught up in absolute poverty. The oldest got pregnant at age 15. She carried the pregnancy to term but there was no money to take her to the nearest birth attendant. She bled to death. My other two sisters later died of HIV/AIDS.
I lived a lonely life with my Mother in our grass thatched hut, but the long hours of work paid off when I excelled in my Primary school exams.
Unfortunately, we could not afford College education. We gave up until my first Rotary moment set in. I was picked by good Samaritans including a Rotary member who helped me to study and eventually graduated from Makerere University, one of Africa’s best Universities and home to our Rotary Peace Center.
Sadly, my Mother soon after died of cancer. I was scared and frightened that I would be the next and last in my family to die.
Luckily, I got a spouse who became the Rock of my love and Mother to our children. They inspired me to be part of the solution to the diseases that were killing millions of Ugandans. These were HIV/AIDS, malaria & cancer.
I co-founded a pharmaceutical company. We did not have enough money and therefore started the business within Uganda’s biggest slum.
My second Rotary moment came when a Rotarian connected me to an Indian pharmaceutical giant Cipla Ltd for partnership.
This business has grown and manufactures HIV/AIDS and malaria medicines. We employ over 600 professionals and supply our medicines to 20 African countries. About 2 million people in Africa are surviving because of our HIV/AIDS medicines.
In Uganda, we have reduced the number of people dying of Malaria from over 400 per day to less than 50 and our dream is to get it to zero. These earned me an induction into the 2013 World Entrepreneur of the year Hall of Fame.
Not sure how my past takes credit for joining Rotary, however, the help from Rotarians has enabled my journey. One writer said, “The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle, loss and have found their way out of the depth”. I am a proud byproduct of Rotary.
Through Rotary I am determined to pay backwards and forward. About to reach my second AKS and growing.
I helped build a Rotary Blood Bank that closed a 27% blood transfusion shortage in Uganda. I was key to setting up Makerere University Rotary Peace Centre and I am the Team Leader of the TRF Peace Major Gifts Initiative. Friends, all the above is what you receive when Rotary gives hope to hopeless situations like mine.
My history and Rotary inspire me do more for Humanity because I know what it means to live in extreme poverty and privilege; the difference is huge. It is our responsibility to bridge this gap. Rotary is the best vehicle to channel our humanitarian efforts and make a change.
As we leave Melbourne, let us all go out and inspire Humanity. Let us continue imagining Rotary and as we do so, we will create hope in the World.
History will favour us. The next generation will be proud of us and a better World will be there because of our actions.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless Rotary.”