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High inflation, Ukraine war top key challenges companies faced in 2022

 Inflation, growth of food sales, growth of market basket or consumer price index concept. [Getty Images]

Corporate heads have expressed optimism about the upcoming new year following a challenging period for most businesses.

The Russia-Ukraine war and the high inflation rate are some of the setbacks that firms faced in 2022.

While the year may have been fairer compared to 2020 and 2021, the effects of Covid-19 that disrupted supply chains were still negatively impacting some businesses.

Even so, from the company heads that The Standard spoke to, a lot of strides were made, which still makes 2022 a good year for some of them.

These include the re-entry of Mozilla into the African market, Safaricom venturing into the Ethiopian market and launching 5G, Kakuzi Plc exporting avocados to China and East African Breweries celebrating 100 years.

EABL Chief Executive Jane Karuku described 2022 as a momentous year owing to the company’s centenary.

“We also took time to reflect on the unique connection we have had with our stakeholders over the years,” she said. 

The celebrations sought to recognise the brewer’s extensive value chain, from farmers who grow the barley and sorghum, transporters, distributors and retailers to direct and indirect employees as well as consumers.

This year saw Mozilla Corporation re-enter the African market through Kenya via its Africa Mradi initiative.

Alice Munyua, Senior Director, Africa Innovation Mradi Mozilla Corporation, said the entry into Africa through Kenya is part of the firm’s internet democratisation efforts.

“Through our Africa Mradi programme, we are targeting the next billion of internet users who are likely to come from this continent,” she told The Standard. Safaricom is another firm that started operations in a new market this year under the leadership of Chief Executive Peter Ndegwa.

Ndegwa said 2022 was challenging for many businesses due to the volatile, uncertain economic and financial environment.

This is as a result of the political calendar, the Russia-Ukraine war, persistently high inflation and drought.

The hardships elevated pressure on consumer spending, creating a tough operating environment for many businesses.

“However, Safaricom demonstrated resilience and agility for sustainable, inclusive growth through regulatory guidelines such as Mobile Termination Rate (MTR) and other taxation measures affected our performance. Overall, we delivered a solid set of results,” Ndegwa said.

“Our growth agenda was more pronounced this year with the commercial launch of Safaricom Telecommunications Ethiopia, a subsidiary of Safaricom PLC.”

He said: “Additionally, it’s our hope that upon acquiring an M-Pesa licence, we will be instrumental in facilitating economic freedom as well as entrenching financial inclusion for the people of Ethiopia while also leveraging mobile money for growth opportunities.”

Agricultural firm Kakuzi also conquered new markets in 2022, which Managing Director Chris Flowers described as historic.

“This was the year we first exported quality Hass avocado fruits to the lucrative Chinese market. Kenyan avocados were the first African avocados to enter China,” said Flowers. 

“It is also the year Kakuzi stepped up efforts to expand its avocado export markets beyond Europe and China to Malaysia.”

In the banking sector, 2022 was a relatively good year for Diamond Trust Bank, headed by Group Chief Executive Nasim Devji.

“The year 2022 has been relatively good as it saw us accelerate the rollout of our new customer-centric growth strategy,” she said.

“This strategy places the customer at the heart of all our decision-making and will see us expand our market presence.”

EABL Group CEO Jane Karuku

Going into 2023, we look forward to continuing to set the pace in supporting innovation and good governance practices.

It is our innovation and resilience that enabled us to overcome some of the world’s biggest disruptions like the Covid-19 disruption: creating new formats, building our e-commerce capability and driving last-mile distribution at scale.

A focus on sustainability will also take centre stage as we seek to address climate change challenges by the use of fewer fossil fuels, planting and growing trees, enabling society to consume alcohol responsibly, transitioning to a circular economy and sharing prosperity.

Diamond Trust Bank Group CEO Nasim Devji

Our branch expansion programme started in 2022 and will continue through 2023 adding 40 more branches to the network.

Looking ahead, we are optimistic about Kenya’s economic resilience and prospects.

We are therefore making strides to be closer to our customers and support them to attain their personal and business goals.

At our core, we want our customers to know that they can bank with us, and bank on us, to be there at all times.

Kakuzi Managing Director Chris Flowers

Our 2023 focus is to explore and diversify our export beyond Europe and China and introduce several value-added products. We have an excellent range of quality locally-grown fresh avocados, and the world needs to discover and enjoy more of our fruit.

We have also started a range of value addition to our products that target the local market. We are now producing quality macadamia nuts and different meat products, and we are looking at expanding these to make sure we have a more significant presence in the local markets.

Safaricom CEO Peter Ndegwa

We are on a steady growth trajectory and anticipate continued growth by supporting our customers and more so living to our purpose of transforming lives.  I believe our continuous pursuit of sustainable solutions for our customers and our business transformation strategy has repositioned the business for value creation and strategic growth in the coming year, 2023. As we continue with our journey to transform into a technology-focused organisation in 2025, we bank on innovation to be more responsive to customers, colleagues, and community needs.

Mradi Mozilla Corporation Senior Director Alice Munyua

Mradi’s approach is to build with, not for, and in 2023. Our main focus will be to catalyze co-creation with and for communities in the African region to help solve local problems to generate product development, build community, build capacity, and produce a meaningful impact on the African internet and tech ecosystem through our products - Firefox, Pocket, Common Voice, Lean Data Practices, and Hubs.

We will also invest in new product ideas through our Mozilla Venture in line with the government’s agenda of empowering the youth through micro, small and medium enterprises. We expect to work with various partners including government agencies to actualize this dream. 

KCB Group CEO Paul Russo

In 2022, KCB established itself as the bank of the future as it consolidated its operations across the East African region.

The twin acquisitions of Banque Populaire du Rwanda (BPR) and Trust Merchant Bank (TMB) in DRC presented the bank with an opportunity to scale its regional operations in East and Central Africa.

A focus on cost management, enhanced digital capabilities and customer obsession will continue to offer the bank a springboard for further growth across all its business lines amidst currency depreciation and high inflation in most of the countries it operates.

Creating strategic business linkages between the different East African nations will feature prominently and will be supported by closer cooperation with regulatory bodies to create stable macroeconomic policies.

In turn, the bank will spearhead the adoption of climate financing practices, digitalisation and innovation, green banking, and the advancement of the people’s agenda.

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