Africa

Making money by breeding dogs in Uganda

  • 6 December 2011
  • From the section Africa

A man's best friend can also become his breadwinner, Uganda's Alex Nkwanga reasoned a long time ago.

He loved dogs from childhood but the first time he bought a four-legged tail-wagging friend, he found it terribly expensive.

He later realised that the price of a well-bred dog reflects the huge amount of money that goes into bringing it up.

But he has still managed to build up a successful dog-breeding business - selling both pets and guard dogs.

The most expensive animal that his company - Savannah Giant Dogs Breeders and Trainers - sells, the Caucasian mountain dog, goes for around $800 (£510).

But it is a breed that had to be imported from Russia and which requires a lot of care.

"On a well grown up Caucasian mountain dog, we spend about $4 a day. It has to eat a kilo of meat," Mr Nkwanga told the BBC's series African Dream.

That puts his dogs' standard of living well above that of the average Ugandan person.

According to the UN, 52% of the country's population lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day.

Fierce

The company, which Mr Nkwanga founded in 2000 and employs eight people, is situated on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda's capital.

It started with one dog and now has more than 300, broken down into 14 breeds, including St Bernards, great danes, bull mastiffs, English mastiffs, South African boerboels, Labradors and German shepherds.

A Labrador puppy sells for about $400 and a German shepherd - "everyone's favourite," according to the entrepreneur - for around $200.

Another breed that is doing quite well is the South African boerboel.

"It's a good business but it's yet to be a better business," Mr Nkwanga says.

"As we go on, the world is changing. Many people are developing their interest and their love for these pets. Others are doing it because of security," he adds.

As a result, not all his dogs are the friendly tail-wagging type. Some of them, including the boerboel, can be quite fierce-looking. They are trained to guard residences, patrol and detect drugs or bombs.

According to Ugandan online newspapers, Mr Nkwanga has even donated some of them to the national police.

Life-long passion

The entrepreneur, who has a master's degree from Manchester University in the United Kingdom, first pursued a career as a market trader.

But he is very happy to have managed to turn his life-long passion for dogs into a business that generates thousands of dollars, even if he only sells 10 to 15 animals a month.

His clientele was originally limited to Uganda, including the expat community, but it has now expanded internationally.

Mr Nkwanga warns those who may want to start a business like his that they need to have both personal commitment and resources.

"You must be able to look after your dog so well if you are to find a market for it," he says.

"It's an expensive venture but it's worthwhile, especially when you love to do what you're doing."

African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Network Africa programme every Monday morning.

Every week, one successful business man or woman will explain how they started off and what others could learn from them.

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