24 February 2024

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CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, Mukasa on the new role, Uganda’s business environment 

Liquid Intelligent Technologies has been in Uganda for the last 25 years, according to CEO Michael Mukasa.
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Last Updated on: 18th December 2023, 03:25 pm

Kampala I Last week, the head of tndQuestions, Milton Emmy Akwam sat down with the Chief Executive Officer of Liquid Intelligent Technologies Uganda, Michael Mukasa.

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations, Michael on your recent appointment as the CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies Uganda. Could you briefly tell us about your career and how you feel about this role?

I’ve been working in the telecoms and the internet for the last 15+ years. I was in Rock Telecom where most recently I was the Chief Commercial Officer, before that, I was also the Chief Finance Officer there. I also worked in different countries including the USA and Rwanda and I think that after getting experience in different areas of business I felt like the next logical offer would be to be the CEO. 

By the time you were around 18 years old, had you thought of becoming a CEO one day?

No, not really… I think it was not something I had focused on as an end calling in my career. I think when I was young I had a lot of different ideas and I tried different things. Like I said, I worked in finance and technology, I also worked in media. So, as a result of working in different areas, I started to specialize and more concentrated in telecoms, and it was when I felt like I had accumulated the kind of experience that would make me fit for a CEO Job.

I still recall your first interview after the appointment, you said, “Leading Liquid Intelligent Technologies Uganda team is a ‘privilege’.” What have you learned from them in the short period you have been at the helm?

I think there is a lot that I will talk about. Liquid is a very different company from where I came from. Liquid Intelligent Technologies…is actually a technology company, so we offer different technology solutions to companies, to individuals ranging from hardware, software, cyber-security and other solutions on top of connectivity. So, I think what I am learning in the new role is that telecoms are just one component towards giving a total solution to the customers.

What is the composition of your team?

We have a very good team here. I would say we are fairly gender-balanced in terms of both male and female staff members. Even in the senior leadership team, we are gender-balanced between men and women. So, that is very important and we also have a very young team in general and I think that reflects the society we work in because Uganda is generally a very young country and so our workforce represents that youth and vitality.

Besides being ranked 116th by the Global Innovation Index 2022 among innovative countries in the World, Ugandan youth are becoming innovative every day and this is a good stride. What contribution does your company have to support such innovators and innovations?

Yeah, I think it’s a journey that we want to walk together with Ugandans and the youth and specifically having a very young population and having a very entrepreneurial population creates demands for the kind of solutions that we are giving. Among others, I mentioned Cloud services and software, also connectivity. The other thing very important about Liquid is it is an African company; we are rooted in Africa, founded by Africans, employing Africans and are part of the society. So, we are actually trying to participate in the growth of Africa. One of our company missions is “not to leave anybody behind”. I think it is very important we live up to our mission and vision of not leaving Africans behind. 

Liquid

Innovations come with risks and are very costly in the end. What advice do you have for innovators across the continent and why must they look out for Liquid?

I think there are many innovations that come out. I think we can facilitate in different ways. Recently, we participated in Cyber security Exhibition Week at the National Innovation Centre, Nakawa and we met many young students who had developed their own solutions and we have mentored some of them. I have been in touch with some of them in addition to participating with them on that day and my main message to the youth is not to give up because I think the innovative process has a high rate of  (I wouldn’t call it failure) somebody trying something and having to adjust. 

Most companies don’t release the profit products on day one. Apple Computer started in 1976 but their iPhone came out in 2004. So, to cross the journey of innovation is a very long one that you need to stick to. 

Liquid Intelligent Technologies is a business of Cassava Technologies. Talk us through this and how it works. 

Cassava Technologies is our Holding Company and it’s also based in many countries; 25 countries around Africa and another region of the World like the Middle East. Cassava Technologies has different business arms ranging from things like reusable power solutions focusing on ecology, they also have cloud business which clouds business mainly in solutions in the cloud; Cassava owns a Fintech company (which is one of our sister companies) and Liquid which has been one of the anchor companies – is maybe more mature in terms of our industry but we are also trying to continuously innovate, of course using solutions of our partner companies.  

What are some of the challenges the company has faced in Uganda before you came in and what key successes are there to share?

Yeah, I think Uganda is on a journey of development as a country and Liquid has been part of that…. Liquid has been in Uganda for over 25 years. That being said, I think partnership is the key thing that I would like to talk about. There has to be a Public Private Partnership. As a private company, we have a profit motive but we also have to align ourselves with the bigger goals of digital transformation in Uganda, and we have to engage with stakeholders such as the regulator – UCC, such as the National IT Authority (NITA-U) and other stakeholders in terms of aligning our mission with theirs. 

Also read: Michael Mukasa appointed CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies Uganda 

I think we also have valuable inputs to give them, given that we have a lot of experience in different operating conditions in different countries that can be valuable to them.

The second thing I will talk about is: the main thing that makes business sustainable in Africa is a “solid economy”. By solid I mean an economy which is predictable, a fair economy, and I think that one of the things that is attractive about the Ugandan economy is – it’s facilitating businesses, through making business attractive – in terms of being stable, our inflation is stable, exchange rate is stable and I think that is what makes doing business here very nice.

A number of companies and businesses do say it’s becoming “risky” to do business here, also because of high taxes. Would you share the same view?

The tax situation in Uganda has already been something that can be a challenge. However, as Liquid, from the beginning, our very focus is on compliance and what I would call “dialogue”. Most of the tax issues can be resolved through a dialogue and proper planning of your business. I know the tax problem is relatively high, also because of the young country; the productive sector is not that many so the government looks around, and keeps looking for new areas to tax which may not be coming up that fast. 

But that being said, we are committed towards one: being tax compliant, being fully compliant with the laws and regulations of the country.

We see paying taxes as part of our duties so I wouldn’t consider it as a reason not to do business. 

At the moment is your clientele base satisfactory and are you looking for more people to work with? 

Like I said, the country is growing and we are also growing along with the country. The main thing I would like to talk about is digital transformation and what digital transformation means. Initially, digital transformation meant, maybe, going from a typewriter to a computer – back a long time ago. Of course, later on, the computers got connected by the internet…transformation in the way we communicate and we have also seen the media largely shift online. 

So, what would have been maybe over an air signal via satellite is now delivered via the internet. And I think digital transformation is going even further than that in terms of the way businesses do business, the reach: there are many international companies that operate in Uganda without a single person here. These cloud-based companies like Google, WhatsApp and Facebook don’t actually have offices in Uganda but they do business.

As Africans, we should challenge ourselves on how can we leverage the same advantages to make our businesses transform from what we are doing currently, and how can we gain new markets for our products and services online. I think Liquid as an enabler, have provided the platforms and technologies that can enable even a company like yours which is an online media to gain more market and more competitive advantage. 

After you have left Liquid, what do you want to be known for?

[….Michael breaks with laughter]: Yeah, I just started so….. [Interviewer: laughs too, and says: this is something we are just predicting, maybe in 10, 15 or 20 years] to which Michael replied: 

Maybe if I can spend some years here I would like to maybe look back and feel I made a contribution in terms of my time spent here, and my actions, and my outcomes. I would like to hope that I would have helped other people in the company to take up bigger responsibilities. I would like to feel like I contributed in my own way to the growth and stability of this company.

Talk us through the mentorship within Liquid

We have a lot of programs for our employees both in terms of training and coaching. As Liquid Group, we have quite a wide range of online courses which we have made freely available to staff. So, one of the big benefits of being here is you can get access to tens of thousands of online programs and many of the people have developed themselves that way. 

In addition, I think we are very committed to our company values, mission and vision. We communicate it to our staff and try to make it part of our daily actions.

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