The success story of responsible investment pioneer Emmanuel Obwori began 20 years ago in a Ugandan computer hall

Emmanuel Obwori, Investments Manager for FCA Investments
Emmanuel Obwori, Investments Manager for FCA Investments. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

Ugandan Emmanuel Obwori, 40, has founded and run five different businesses during his lifetime, all of which have been successful. Now he has a job that no one in Finland had done before January 2019.

In the autumn of 2018, when Finn Church Aid became the first humanitarian organisation in Finland to found its own investment company, FCA Investments, taking the position of investment manager was a natural decision for Emmanuel Obwori.

Obwori has always had a knack for business.

Born and raised in Ugandan capital of Kampala, Obwori first became an entrepreneur at age 16 while on summer holiday from school.

”Back then, my father worked for Sony, and one day he brought home a computer. At the time, computers were still very rare in Uganda. At first, I used it to play games, but then it occurred to me that I could teach other people how to use it as well. I started giving computer lessons on my parents’ balcony for a small charge.”

Obwori used the money he made from the computer lessons to buy baking supplies and started baking sesame cakes.

”The neighbourhood children coming home from school were always looking for something to snack on. I made quite a lot of money selling the cakes. My parents ended up being angry with me because I focused more on my business ventures than I did on schoolwork,” Obwori laughs.

Later, Obwori became an assistant in a computer hall near his university. When the elderly man who owned the hall wanted to retire, Obwori persuaded him to sell the hall to him on credit, with Obwori paying him back once the business would become profitable.

”I soon noticed that children and young people were mainly interested in computer games, so my younger brother and I turned the hall into a gaming arcade. It was one of the first gaming arcades in Kampala and is currently the biggest in the city. My younger brother still runs it.”

Obwori sees a great deal of unexplored potential in combining traditional development cooperation and sustainable investment.

”Most people think of this as a zero-sum game; you either work for a non-governmental organisation or for the private sector. In fact, the two complement each other. Non-governmental organisations are good at providing emergency aid: delivering food, shelter and drinking water as well as offering education and immediate income support. But if we leave it there, the recipients of aid will depend on our support for the rest of their life.”

Finn Church Aid’s investment company invests in small and medium enterprises in developing countries in order to offer people work and an income even after aid organisations have left the country. As an investment manager, Obwori’s job is to seek out and assess potential enterprises.

”We choose the entrepreneurs and businesses that already have the biggest positive impact on their communities. We invest in these businesses to help them grow and employ more people. This way, these businesses lift the community out of poverty for good.”

Text: Elina Kostiainen
Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho