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INTERVIEW: Tycoon Mohammed Hamid Reveals Why He Built A $300m Hotel

Mohammed Hamid, one of Uganda’s leading entrepreneurs, is the Chairman and founder of Aya Group, a $300 million (annual revenues) Ugandan conglomerate with interests in milling, food manufacturing, commodity trading, transportation and hospitality.

Aya Group recently launched Pearl Of Africa, a landmark hotel in Kampala which cost more than $300 million to build.

Hamid recently spoke to Forbes about the hotel and his next big project. Below are the excerpts of the interview:

What led you to start a hotel business in Uganda?

As a businessman, I have traveled extensively across the world and stayed in some of the finest 5-star hotels in the world. So, I spotted a gap in the hospitality industry in Uganda.

The truth is that there are a lot of 3 and 4-star hotels in Uganda masquerading as 5-star hotels.

There was no proper 5-star Hotel in Uganda. I was fed up with extremely expensive hotels in Uganda with lackluster service and outdated infrastructure.

Uganda deserves at least one 5-star hotel. So I got a couple of world-class architects, raised funding and started building.

It took us 11 years to complete this hotel and it cost a ridiculous amount of money, but it was completely worth it.

Pearl Of Africa Hotel

Tell me about the Pearl Of Africa.

The pearl of Africa Hotel is an iconic landmark hotel situated on one of Kampala’s top hills.

It is set to become Africa’s top leading five star hotel. Pearl of Africa features 296 rooms, 42 suites, two tennis courts, two squash courts, two basket ball courts, two bars, 6 swimming pools, 740-square meter ball room, 9 meeting rooms, 2 boardrooms, business hub, two indoor the first of its kind in Uganda, wellness center and world class Spa, breathtaking panoramic views, refined service and a rich cultural experience that awaits the guests from around the globe.

The rooms feature contemporary wooden furnishing, polished marble flooring, beautiful French artworks, splendid murals among others.

Each of the 296 rooms and 42 suites showcase a unique set of elegance and class with some of the rooms having large windows that overlook the entire city center.

Guests can enjoy their breakfast at the all day dining, traditional afternoon tea at the grand lobby lounge, a glass of champagne at the pool bar or a relaxing beer at the sports bar. Pearl of Africa hotel is a suitable locale for large international conferences, and intimate celebrations.

How much did the Hotel cost to build?

We’ve actually spent $320 million (about UShs1.16 trillion) in constructing this hotel.

Seriously?

Yes. The papers are there. The media has frequently said it cost us $150 million, but it was actually $300 million.

It took 11 years to construct this hotel. Why did it take that long?

We were not going to compromise on quality so we decided we were going to take out time.

There was really no rush for us.

The best of things take time. Of course, we had some challenges with some of our financiers and our other partners, but I am glad we have gotten to this point.

Hamid with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

What does the future hold for Pearl Of Africa?

We are starting work shortly on the events center and we are finalizing plans for the spa extension.

This is probably the largest investment Aya Group has made so far. What’s going to be your next big project?

Aya Group is getting set to establish a multi-billion dollar industrial park in Uganda which is going to be the largest and biggest industrial park in the whole of Africa.

 

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