Meet the Team: Ernest Kakwano, WFB Board of Advisors
Ernest Kakwano firmly believes that the future of business, and our world, will belong to those with new ideas. It’s why, he says, he is proud to be part of the World Food Bank team.
“New ideas must be implemented quickly in order to realize profit and serve humanity while they are still relevant. New products, systems, and scientific knowledge are coming on stream so fast that businesses need reliable connectivity in order to keep themselves relevant and profitable,” he said. “The World Food Bank achieves this and is well-positioned to be an emerging business that will survive the coming global economic challenges.”
Ernest is no stranger to global economic challenges, and he brings a storied career in international finance and exports to the World Food Bank team. Rising from humble beginnings, Ernest studied Economics at University College in Nairobi and then began his career with finance posts in the mining and car export industries. Following his great success growing a Mercedes and Nissan dealership in Uganda, Ernest was contracted by the Government of Uganda in 1974 to manage all of the country’s motor trade, including everything from buses and motorcycles to spare parts and tires.
In 1981, a war broke out in Uganda, and Ernest and his family were forced into exile in Nairobi, Kenya, where they set up business dealing in Japanese cars. While living there, Ernest and his wife Alice contributed greatly to the war effort in Uganda, on the side of NRA to reinstate the current democratic parliamentary system of government.
In 1986, when the war ended and the Ugandan government was reinstated, Ernest and his family returned home. His wife and he were named War Heroes, and Ernest was contracted by the new government to work alongside other economists at the World Bank and the IMF to study and advise the government on ways to revive the economy. Ernest’s role specifically was to head up the country’s main export earner, the Uganda Coffee and Marketing Board. His charge was to turn the board around, dissolve the state’s monopoly on the coffee trade, and hand the coffee value chain over to the private sector.
He did that successfully, and, upon completing his contracts with the government, Ernest teamed up with his son, Edgar, to start a commodities export company. Through that endeavor, Ernest quickly discovered that the East Africa industry had a major supply chain issue, as drought conditions meant local farmers were not able to keep up with demand for grains. In attempting to solve this challenge and find new suppliers, Ernest discovered the World Food Bank and our CEO Richard Lackey.
“We discussed East Africa’s Agricultural potential in relation to the immediate future challenges of rapid population increase and the effects of climate change and agreed to find away of cooperating with the farmers in the region and the Governments of each country to jointly address the challenges and find a solution to improve the whole value chain concerning food security safety and quality.”
Ernest says this positive momentum could not come at a better time, as both climate change and population growth have been at the crux of the region’s food insecurity. “In 1969, the population of Uganda was 9 million. In 2016, it was 41.5 million. By 2050, it’s expected to be 100 million,” he said. “We have needed, and will continue to need, to very rapidly increase the productivity of our food systems and apply modern farming methods. And I believe Uganda’s agricultural system is becoming a model for other countries.”
“Uganda is producing 3.5 million tons of maize every year, but of this only 550,000 tons is export-grade. The rest is postharvest loss,” he said. “Fungi and aflatoxin are contributing to this, as well as the fact that there are no standards for seed or fertilizer or irrigation. All of this makes our export product very challenged. But now we have brought the solution through the World Food Bank. We realized that if we could create a win win situation by empowering the farmer to increase his productivity and profitability and permanently lift themselves out of poverty. We would also enable governments to overcome problems of food insecurity by buying up all the farmers crops processing and storing with extended shelf life. We forecast that Government would also increase its export earnings from the sale of processed foods. These interventions have been received positively by economic planners and political leaders.
To learn more about Ernest, please visit our staff page.