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How these newsmakers and their organisations helped shape 2016

By Macharia Kamau | Published Sun, January 1st 2017 at 00:00, Updated December 31st 2016 at 22:46 GMT +3

Dr Patrick Njoroge — Governor CBK

October 2016, Patrick Njoroge was named the African Central Bank Governor of the year. The judges noted that he had played a critical role in increasing supervision in the banking industry, which had resulted in re-establishing order in the industry.

This was probably one of the highs for the governor, who has since his first day in office been handling one crisis after another.

Dr Njoroge took up office as CBK Governor in July 2015 and in August had to put Dubai Bank into receivership. This was followed up by Imperial Bank and in April this year, Chase Bank. This painted the new governor in a bad light, especially considering that no bank failed during the era of Prof Njuguna Ndung’u.

While there are still arguments as to who between the old and new Governor should take the blame for the banks that have gone into receivership, it is the tact with which Njoroge has handled the three banks throughout 2016 that gets him the accolade.

Banking industry players say Njoroge has been big on ensuring conformity, including having a keen eye on the health of the individual banks. He also put a freeze on licensing new commercial banks.

Sammy Makove —former chief executive, Insurance Regulatory Authority

The year saw a change of guard at IRA, with the retirement of Mr Sammy Makove, a man that has been synonymous with the insurance industry. While he has served two four-year terms as CEO of IRA, Makove’s career spanned close to three decades in the industry, specifically in the regulatory bodies that existed within the Finance Ministry.

He had faced resistance when his term was renewed in 2010, with industry players arguing that there was need for change, noting that Makove had nothing new to offer due to the many years in regulating the industry.

His stay at the helm of the regulator was marked by a mixed bag, with a number of insurance companies going under during his watch, insurance penetration remaining low but also saw banks allowed to distribute insurance products in a bid to grow coverage. He proceeded on terminal leave pending expiry of his contract in November 2016. The IRA board appointed Godfrey Kiptum as the chief executive in an acting capacity.

Michael Joseph —Chairman Kenya Airways Board

All eyes will be on former Safaricom chief executive to turnaround the fortunes of national carrier Kenya Airways. Joseph was in September nominated to join the airline’s board of directors and in November appointed to chair the board, replacing Dennis Awori who resigned in October. While still new at the airline, Joseph has had to accept a resignation from his chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze, who will stay on until the airline finds a new CEO in the course of the first quarter of 2017.

The airline and indeed the country are looking at the man who steered Safaricom from being department of Telkom Kenya to being the most profitable company in the region to do the same with KQ.

The airline reported a Sh26.2 billion net loss for the year to March, 2016, which was a worse position than the Sh25.7 billion loss the previous year.

Mbuvi Ngunze —outgoing Chief Executive, Kenya Airways

Towards end of October 2016, Mr Ngunze tendered his resignation as chief executive of Kenya Airways. He resigned after a turbulent two-year stint at the helm of the airline.

He is expected to stay a few months as the airline shops for a new CEO and help with transition. Like the former chair Dennis Awori, Ngunze resigned following continued push by the pilots through their lobby the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), for his removal. KALPA has in the past accused the chair and CEO of mismanagement that they said had resulted in numerous hitches and flight delays. Amb Awori and Ngunze are not the only senior officials to leave KQ following pressure from the pilots. Others include former human resource director Alban Mwendar.

Ngunze joined the airline in 2011 as the chief operating officer and took over from Titus Naikuni as the CEO in December 2014. He inherited a company that was in deep financial ruin, as just six months after he took over, he announced the biggest loss in the airline’s history.

The five year stint at the national carrier and in particular the two years he had been the CEO might be seen to be a stain on his otherwise remarkable career. Mbuvi was before KQ a high flyer in the corporate world, where he worked with multinationals including French cement maker Lafarge and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

Michael Macharia —Chief Executive Seven Seas Technologies

Toyota Tsusho in November announced it had acquired a 9.5 per cent stake in Seven Seas Technologies (SST), a Kenyan IT firm started by entrepreneur Michael Macharia in 1999.

Toyota Tsusho said it had invested Sh300 million ($3 million) that would enable SST enhance the quality, cost and accessibility of health services in contribution to Kenya’s development. The deal put the value of SST at over Sh3.2 billion. The firm recently partnered with GE Healthcare through the Kenya Ministry of Health’s Managed Equipment Services (MES) project for the installation and upgrading of medical infrastructure in 98 hospitals distributed in the 47 counties in Kenya

Atul Shah —Chief Executive, Nakumatt Holdings

It has been a challenging year for retail chain Nakumatt Supermarkets, which in October acknowledged it was experiencing cash flow challenges. This had resulted in suppliers going for lengthy periods without being paid and in turn Nakumatt had difficulties keeping its stores well stocked.

The retailer, majority owned by the Shah family, acknowledged that 2016 was a challenging year for business, some of which had been unforeseen.

The firm in October said it was instituting some measures to ensure it overcomes the challenges including meeting its financial obligations. These included restructuring its debts and a probability of bringing onboard an investor that would buy a 25 per cent stake in the firm.

Despite the challenges, Shah said the retailer would continue on its expansion plans in Kenya and the region. Nakumatt has more than 60 outlets across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Kamal Budhabatti —founder and chief executive, Craft Silicon

Craft Silicon partnered with Safaricom to launch Little, a taxi hailing app that has taken on Uber – the Silicon Valley based taxi service – head on in the Kenyan market. Soon after the launch, the service even triggered a pricing war to the delight of taxi users. It has also deepened the hate that traditional taxi drivers have for the technology fronted services, initially directed at Uber.

Little charges users Sh30 per kilometre, which is lower than Uber’s Sh35 and also says there are no fluctuations in pricing during a commute, unlike other services where the charges vary depending on factors such as traffic jams.

Craft Silicon is in plans to launch Little in Uganda and Nigeria.

Suzie Wokabi— founder, Suzie Beauty

Suzie Wokabi, the founder of Suzie Beauty sold her cosmetics brand to Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) listed Flame Tree group for Sh45 million. Wokabi founded the firm in 2009, growing to be one of the leading makers of beauty products in the country with over 30 products in the market. Under the sale agreement with Flame Tree, Wokabi was taken on board and will also earn royalties from sale of Suzie Beauty’s Products.

Peter Burugu— founder Bia Tosha Distributors Ltd

In a classic case of David versus Goliath, Mr Burugu took on East African Breweries Limited (EABL) when the firm threatened not to renew a contract with the businessman to exclusively distribute its products in 22 routes in Nairobi and its environs.

Some of the routes Bia Tosha was fighting to retain include Kawangware, Dagoretti, Ngong Road, Athi River, Soth B, Nairobi West, Kenyatta Area and Langata.

While Burugu is not exactly a man of modest means, EABL is also not a pushover, considering its muscle locally and the backing of its parent company Diageo.

A former employee of EABL, Burugu has been exclusively distributing EABL’s products in these routes through his firm Bia Tosha for more than a decade. However, EABL sought to share out lucrative routes that Bia Tosha run to other distributors. The issue went to court and on June 29, High Court’s Justice Joseph Onguto ruled that Bia Tosha retains exclusivity to these routes.

However, EABL appealed and on August 11, the Court of Appeal set aside the ruling, allowing EABL to appoint other distributors.

But Burugu moved back to court disputing the interpretation of the judgement by EABL and accused the beer maker of terminating his contract with the intention of ‘crippling his business’. He wants the court to find EABL in contempt and is seeking a Sh30 million fine as well as the firm’s managing director and his sales director committed to civil jail for six months.

Naushad Merali— major shareholder in Sameer Africa

Sameer Africa closed its Yana Tyres manufacturing plant in Kenya and instead said it would be importing tyres for resale. The firm, majority owned by businessman Naushad Merali cited competition from cheap imports and a lacklustre approach by the Government to deal with dumping of low quality tyres that were giving its products unfair competition.

Flora Mutahi chairperson Kenya Association of Manufacturers

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) board appointed Flora Mutahi the chairperson, becoming the first woman to chair the lobby since inception in 1959.

Mutahi is a manufacturer in Kenya, being founder and chief executive of Melvin Marsh International, which is the manufacturer of Melvins Tea. The firm also has salt and rice products under the Melvins brand.

She took over from ARM Cement chief executive Pradeep Paunrana who was the chair for a period of two years.

Ronald Karauri —chief executive Sportpesa

Sports betting gained further popularity in the country in 2016. It appealed to more people but also received harsh criticism.

Among the betting companies, SportPesa was probably at the top. The firm is steered by Ronald Karauri, a former pilot who also served as the secretary general of Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA).

Other than the jaw dropping amounts that it has given to the winners of the bets, the biggest announcement that the firm made in 2016 is that it would spend a total of about Sh1.2 billion over the next three years to sponsor the English Premier League team Hull City.

Locally the firm has splashed a pretty penny in sponsorship deals with Football Kenya Federation, Kenyan Premier League now SportPesa Premier League as well as individual teams including Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards. Other than football, the firm also sponsors other sports. The firm also announced a deal with Southampton that will among other things help grow Kenya’s football.

Julius Kipng’etich —chief executive, Uchumi

The man was tasked with turning around the fortunes of the NSE listed retailer, which is currently going through a phase experienced a decade ago. Jonathan Ciano is credited for bringing Uchumi from the blink after it was put under receivership in 2006 over a Sh2.2 billion debt. He is also demonised for reversing the job he had done and was in 2016 barred from sitting on the board of any listed firm as a punishment by the Capital Markets Authority. Ciano was also fined Sh5 million and is expected to refund some Sh13.5 million in irregular earnings he got from the chain.

Kipng’etich was appointed chief executive towards end of 2015 and he has had one and a half of mixed bag in his efforts to turnaround Uchumi. He found the outlets had little on their shelves as suppliers protested non-payment for goods delivered to the stores, the suppliers had also filed a suit to wind down the retailer and also the Ugandan and Tanzanian subsidiaries were taking too much but giving to little.

He has since managed to talk to some of the suppliers to resume stocking the outlets and managed to convince them to withdraw the winding up case. He has also shut down the Uganda and Tanzania stores and managed to get the Government, which has a substantial stake, to bail out the company.

He, however, still has miles to go, considering the shelves are relatively empty and suppliers are yet to gain the confidence. Shoppers are also still wary of going into the stores and finding that they cannot do their shopping in one store.

And to demonstrate the uphill struggle that Kipng’etich faced and continues to face, he is yet to release the financial statement for the year to June 2016 owing to lack of records from Tanzania and Uganda. He has sought an extension from CMA twice and was iniatially granted approved to release the results by December 31 but this has been extended to January 31, 2017.

Pradeep Paunrana chief executive Athi River MINING (ARM) Cement

Towards end of 2016, Paurana concluded the sale of 40 per cent stake in ARM Cement to CDC Group. The transaction was valued at Sh14.1 billion and it is one of the biggest deals in the country during the year.

It was an emotional moment for Paurana, who kept second guessing himself and wondering whether he was making the right move, selling the firm that his father had built from scratch and grown to a giant that has faired pretty well in the fight for market share in the region with multinationals such as Lafarge of France.

At some point, such thoughts made him nearly shed a tear in public. Athi River Mining was founded by HJ Paunrana in 1974.

James Mworia—chief executive Centum Investments

Centum investments is known for being generous to its employees. In its bid to recognise the efforts by employees to grow returns to shareholders, the firm in 2016 awarded its employees Sh550 million through its performance bonus scheme, which translated to Sh6.1 million for about 90 of its employees. In the previous year, the firm paid Sh1 billion in bonus.

The bonus payout, in addition to the monthly salary, saw Mworia emerge as the best paid chief executive earning Sh201.1 million during the year to March 2016, according to the company’s financial statements.

Charles Keter —CS Ministry of Energy and Petroleum

The Energy Cabinet Secretary had an eventful 2016. An unfortunate but dramatic and memorable event was a late March 2016 visit to Tanzania’s Port of Tanga, where the CS and his two Principal Secretaries – Andrew Kamau (Petroleum) and Joseph Njoroge (Energy) – and other Kenyan officials were denied access to the Port and their travel documents confiscated by Tanzanian authorities.

The Energy Ministry officials were on a tour together with their Ugandan counterparts to asses viability of moving crude oil from Uganda through Tanzania, having had a similar tour to Lamu. It also followed a meeting between Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni on the same. Tanzania did not take the bilateral meeting between the presidents kindly and Keter had to bear the blunt of their anger, blocking him from the port while letting the Ugandans in.

Earlier in March, Uganda, which has in the past been seen as Kenya’s bosom buddy, pulled a fast one on Kenya in 2016. It announced that it would develop a crude oil pipeline with Tanzania, that would transport oil from Western Uganda through Tanzania to Tanga Port for export. This was a shocker for Kenya that has been in lengthy discussions and planning of how the two countries would develop a pipeline from Uganda’s oil field through Turkana to Lamu Port for export.

Vexed by the move, Kenya said it would develop its own pipeline from Turkana and is already in an advanced planning stage with Tullow Oil to sign a Joint Development Agreement and start feasibility studies.