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A dash of pink in Kenya's electricity generation

By Macharia Kamau | Dec 5th 2017 | 5 min read
By Macharia Kamau | December 5th 2017
Rebecca Miano CEO KenGen. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

From her corner office at Stima Plaza’s 10th floor, KenGen Chief Executive Officer Rebecca Miano has an elevated view of Limuru Road to where it intersects with the Thika Superhighway.

The front row view of traffic patterns on this busy road is perhaps a drab view for a chief executive of a blue chip company, but one that is a reminder of the heavy responsibility that comes with the office.

It would be a great letdown and even chaotic should commuters find no power at their destinations - whether work, home or even their favourite entertainment spot.

And while the power generation and supply chain is dependent on different players, her role is among the most critical in that chain, in that KenGen generated three-quarters of the power consumed in the country last year.

One can conclude that the country’s power generation now rests on the shoulders of Ms Miano.

Because of the need to ensure Kenya has adequate and cheap power to meet growing demand for electricity is among her key priorities while in office, she confides that she would be to deliver planned 721 megawatts of power by 2020 on time and budget.

The new generation capacity, all from renewable energy sources, will cost Sh200 billion of investment to realise.

Company Secretary

Ms Miano was confirmed as KenGen’s chief executive on October 30, where she had been acting since late August this year after her predecessor Eng Albert Mugo retired.

She was the company secretary, a position she held since 2008 and describes herself as a product of KenGen. While it might sound cliché, she finds herself in a male-dominated world of energy. In fact, she is the only lady in her management team that is made of 10 managers.

In the energy industry, she is the only woman leading a firm that is the engine of the economy. National Oil Corporation Chief Executive MaryJane Mwangi is another living example.

Miano said it has not been easy rising to the top of the organisation and industry.

While she does not chastise her male colleagues in the industry and at KenGen as ones that try and push down female colleagues, she says women have been held back because of the beliefs and not because they do not have the capacity.

“I don’t think breaking glass (ceiling) can be easy, can it be? I do not think it is easy but it is actually breaking the myths… there have been very many myths about what women can do or cannot do,” she said in an interview.

“These are myths that women are not interested, they do not have the confidence and they do not have the capability. I would call it a moment of breaking those myths to show that those things that are required – the capability, qualifications, respect, confidence and cooperation – are not based on gender.”

But just a myth and I am a living example that they go beyond gender so long as you have them and willing to use them to serve the company and the country and the country is receptive. So long as you have these things gender becomes secondary.”

She notes that the industry has been receptive to her appointment to the new position - a show that the sector is ready for more women to take top slots in the key organisations. “I have received a lot of cooperation, amazing and overwhelming cooperation, both internally and externally,” she said.

“It is not overwhelming and I look forward to many more ladies taking up similar assignments. Ladies shy away, they have what it takes, but they shy away,” she observed, adding:

“I hope taking the job will encourage more ladies to see that it is possible and that they will go forth and take up these posts. I am an example that when you apply and you have the qualifications you can get the job.”

Female employees

Miano has been the patron of the Pink Energy, an internal initiative at KenGen, which gives female employees within the firm a platform to raise issues that are unique to them and would probably fall between cracks.

“It is a forum to encourage female employees to unleash their potential by addressing unique issues that may otherwise not be addressed in an otherwise highly technical male-dominated organisation. The proposals are looked at for approval by the executive committee and board level,” said Miano.

“Earlier, KenGen had 90 per cent male employees and with Pink Energy, more ladies are coming on board.”

Top of her agenda is increasing the firm’s installed power generation capacity to over 2,300MW, from the current 1 630MW, through the implementation of planned projects with a combined capacity of 720MW.

Other priority agenda include improving service delivery at the firm. She takes the reins of the firm at a time when there is increased competition, with the recent past having seen more power producers come on board and starting to feed the grid.

More firms are also waiting in line for licensing to put up generation plants, which could eat into the company’s share of the market.

“One key thing that I want to do is the delivery of projects that we have promised to shareholders and other stakeholders on time and budget. This way we will have enough power to spur development in the country,” she said.

“I would also like to create a vibrant company in terms of delivery of service. I would like to up our game and take our service offering a notch higher.”

Among her first major assignments after she was confirmed chief executive was facing shareholders during the firm’s annual general meeting two weeks ago.

At the Annual General Meeting, Miano, together with the chairman of the board Joshua Choge and other directors, received an earful from the shareholders about a two-year dividend drought.

The company’s profit after tax grew 34 per cent to Sh9.1 billion in the year ended June 2017, a major reason why the shareholders were a pained lot when they did not get a dividend.

Net profit

The firm has a policy of paying half of its net profits as dividend but said it withheld the money to plough it back into planned power projects

“The return to shareholders is something that I am keen on and would like to put a lot of efforts on. We had a good conversation during the AGM and the expectations are high in terms of return, governance and branding the company. That is what I would like to deliver together with the team,” she said.

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