Investment Clubs: The Ugandan Rats Story.

How well have you positioned yourself for a great financial future? Hang on a second… Are you confident that your current investment efforts will yield a much better return? May be you have strategically positioned yourself for that huge ‘insider deal’ at your work place and before you know it your name will have flooded on the local print media. Hope not because this is your wake up call!

It’s just hilarious to hear them call themselves ‘The Rats’. I guess you abhor these small creatures like I do unless you come from Tororo where am told they can eat them to convey their anger. My perception of them though, as I write this, has changed.  Certainly there is a brilliant reason why a team of seventeen Ugandan ‘moguls to be’ prefers to be called ‘The Rats’. Together they boast as one of the few modern investment clubs our mother country has ever had, The Rats Network Savings and Investment Group(RNIG). We may be making some unforgivable assumptions here, what is an investment club?  Jesse Ibanda, the chairman, RNIG confidently defines such a club as ‘a group of friends or co – workers who typically meet regularly to, create a pool of money and discuss investment ideas so they collectively make decisions on investments, members usually take turns reporting and researching on possible investments.’

How they started 
Amazingly enough, the Rats Network Savings and Investment Group idea came to life when two groups of like minded school leavers of Makerere College School and Gombe Secondary school met at Makerere University Business School for their university education. At the university these two diverse groups found themselves playing the Cashflow Quadrant Board Game (invented by the Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki) at Akamai Global. After occasionally getting stuck in the ‘Rat Race’ they gradually realized that solo/lone investments had limits of progress. In the game, a successful player ‘jumps out’ of the ‘Rat Race’ into the ‘Fast Track’ where he or she joins the world of financial freedom. They therefore thought it wise to jump out of their ‘Rat Race’ strategically by organizing themselves into an investment club and tap into the strength of numbers. 

In January 2008, RNIG effectively started as a savings and investments club and on 14thSeptember 2009, RNIG’s holding company Melrah Investments Ltd was incorporated with each member owning equal shares. This was a major stride as it implies that each Rat’s liability to the club’s debts is limited to his or her worth of shares. Andrew Muhimbise, the group’s Assistant General Manager, recommends that organization in such a club is quite critical. The Rats are therefore organized into three investment units; Capital ventures, Securities and Credit as well as Property and Real Estate.

The ‘Rats’ at work
A Rat saves Ugsh. 50, 000 a month. What would be their combined 5 - year saving based on a membership of 20? Ugsh.60 Million I guess. How many of us the youth can save that on an average income given the high standard of living in Uganda today? Currently, their monthly inflows are averaging Ugsh.650, 000 a month. With their strategic intent being to rival the renowned NSSF in portfolio holdings, they saw their annual collections in 2008 amount to Ugsh. 3,650,000. In 2009, this shot up by 27.2% and in 2010 annual inflows amounted to Ugsh. 16,270,000. The Rats attribute this consistency to accountability and trust among the members. 

Over the past two years, the Rats have managed to invest at the Uganda Securities Exchange, Equities division with their stock picks being; Stanbic, DFCU, Uganda Clays, NIC and New Vision. The above have been generating some worthwhile dividends for the club. On their list too is a short term investment with Golden Bees Ltd, a honey processing and packaging private company. Beside that, the group is currently in the process of acquiring a 20 acre parcel of Land in Mukono District, 42 km from Kampala where they plan to engage in group farming. Borrowing a leaf from the Bugisu Co – operative Union, the Rats major mentors, they believe group farming will give them a competitive edge.

Your choice…   
The Rats slogan is ‘better together’. True to their slogan they are on a journey to achieving their ultimate vision of financial freedom collectively. All the Rats have attested to the fact that there is strength in numbers. You have two choices; either form a club or join an existing one. You are likely to benefit from a cushion against risk if you are the kind that is terrified to invest. Moreover, it will be a chance for you to guide your own personal investing, the club has done so why not parallel your investments as well?

On the other hand, your membership will come with a number of challenges. The Rats recommend that if you are to form an investment club, at least avoid personal disagreements which most likely sprout out of romantic relationships gone sour. Hence bar members from admitting their girl/boyfriends but only for committed spouses or partners. The Rats also point out that you should endeavor to look out for individuals from different career backgrounds. What will happen if you admit only lawyers to your group? Every one will want to give an opinion all through. You will lack executors!  

Do you think you have much of a choice? I vehemently don’t. If you think you do, then read about The TransCentury Group in Kenya. The good news is that if you decide to form an investment club today, the Rats will be more than willing to mentor your club.  

For more information about the Rats, please email them at rnigrp@gmail.com or contact the chairman, on +256 712 807 627 or the Assistant General Manager on +256 702 431 064

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