Twelve years ago, imagining that rugby and cricket would be major sports in Uganda was like chasing a mirage. The two sports had few followers until Aggrey Kagonyera joined MTN, one of the leading mobile service providers in Uganda, in 2001.
Aggrey benefitted from a scholarship from the Australian Government and completed a Master in Business Information Technology (IT) at the University of Royal Melbourne’s Institute of Technology in 1999. Before returning to his home country of Uganda after graduation, he had had exposure to the operations of the corporate world in Australia, such as Hannan Superannuation (Pty) Ltd and the Australian Superannuation Group. He also learned a lot from the experience of living in Australia and the books he studied at university.
His love for sports and marketing saw him get immersed in many sporting activities that came his way. “Whenever I had spare money, I would go for sports activity all over Australia and I enjoyed every bit of it. I then realised that I did not have to work directly with IT, my field by training,” explains Aggrey.
His current work at MTN is far from IT, which he studied. As MTN’s Senior Manager, Sponsorship and Events, he introduced sponsorship of cricket and rugby. Through his sponsorship efforts, these two sports have gained root in Uganda and seen the popularity and profile of rugby, in particular, increase rapidly. “Rugby was never a sport worth talking about in Uganda. Today, MTN’s rugby team is the most successful in Uganda,” says Aggrey.
His company has also been sponsoring MTN Schools Cricket Development. Through his efforts at MTN, over 10,000 youths have benefitted from sports sponsorship. Supporting different sports to facilitate and encourage youth development through sport on a national level, while targeting different market segments, is one thing that resonates with the MTN brand, and Aggrey, who makes decisions on what to sponsor, knows that too well. “I saw opportunities in sports and here I am supporting sports because it develops discipline and sharpens the youth,” he says.
Through Aggrey’s efforts, he has brought fame and recognition of sports as a profession in Uganda. His advice to those who may get an opportunity to study in Australia is not to blind themselves with academics only. “There are hundreds of opportunities in Australia; absorb and experience as much as you can,” he says, adding that, his stay and Australian degree opened up opportunities for him because he had a free spirit and an open mind. “I now do events for a living and that was incubated in Australia,” adds Aggrey.
“Australia formed a strong basis for my career. It moulded me, and any time I have an opportunity to give back, I do not hesitate. I do it willingly,” says Aggrey, the current Chair of the Australian Alumni Association in Uganda (A3-U). In this capacity, he leads a strong Alumni network, whose aims include scholarship promotion and support to new applicants interested in studying in Australia.