How corporate CEOs can play big role in securing country's future


Safaricom Investment Co-operative outgoing CEO Sarah Wahogo, Nairobi County Chief Officer of Co-operatives Godfrey Akumali, Safaricom Investment Co-operative Chairperson Judy Runo and Vice Chairperson Tom Macakiage confer during the Society’s 15th Annual General Meeting where shareholders approved Sh142.4 million rebate payout. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

At least seven out of 10 working Kenyans are engaged in the private sector. Seemingly unappreciated by many, this data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics underscores the critical role the private sector plays in securing livelihoods for Kenyans.

In this regard, the CEOs who steer the medium-sized and large companies in Kenya, hold in their hands, the jobs of millions and they are, therefore, our unsung heroes. That is why I was keen to study the recently released PWC Kenya 2024 CEO Survey of March 2024, and highlight some of its findings.

I was glad to discover the cautious optimism of Kenyan business leaders despite the global and local economic challenges. They are not just blindly optimistic. They have drawn reassurance from the Kenyan market, which continues to shore up the private sector through a resilient purchasing power. In other words, it is us, the Kenyan people keeping businesses alive and in so doing creating millions of jobs.

This shows the resilience and adaptability that have long characterized our nation’s private sector.

Further, the survey also underscores areas where immediate action is needed to ensure sustainable economic growth. Indeed, there is always room for improvement.

Firstly, the wider East African market remains untapped. Nearly nine out of 10 CEOs surveyed are keen on seizing East Africa’s economic opportunities. They realize that the people of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia can inject further growth into their businesses. How true!

It reminded me of my previous meetings with Burundi’s Vice President and how those encounters opened my eyes to cross-border economic opportunities in this region. The Survey has underlined the need for such a regional mindset. By leveraging the collective strengths of the East African Community, we can drive innovation, improve competitiveness, enhance regional trade and create jobs for millions. Even if yours is a small business, explore the East African region as your marketplace, as fertile ground to grow your business.

Secondly, the Survey spotlighted innovation as the heart of growth. In this regard, if you are a business owner, you need to arm yourself with a fresh pair of eyes! Do things differently. Break new ground. Such an innovative approach has caused 60 per cent of Kenyan CEOs to smile all the way to the bank.

They attribute a significant portion of their sales to new products and services. This is a clear call for businesses to invest in research and development, embrace technology, and foster a culture of creativity. The ability to adapt and innovate will not only drive revenue growth but also ensure long-term viability in an ever-changing market.

The survey also highlights significant threats, with inflation and macroeconomic volatility being top concerns for Kenyan CEOs. Inflation can drive up costs for businesses, resulting in higher prices for consumers and lower profits. Small and big businesses alike are feeling this pinch. To overcome these hurdles, businesses need smart money management, finding new ways to make money, and pushing for stable economic policies. They should also actively cut costs and find ways to work better.

Excitingly, artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the emerging ways that businesses can work better. Many Kenyan CEOs (78 per cent) believe new AI technology will save them time, but they’re also worried about cyberattacks. To stay safe, businesses need strong cybersecurity and a culture where everyone takes digital responsibility seriously. I suggest that Eliud Owalo, our cherished Cabinet Secretary for Information, Communications, and the Digital Economy provides consistent leadership in entrenching this culture.

Correspondingly, there was music to my ears because Climate change remains a critical issue for Kenya’s economy, with most CEOs actively implementing climate actions. This is a call to action for businesses to prioritize sustainability, invest in renewable energy, and develop eco-friendly products and services

I, therefore, suggest that CEOs should always ask themselves this question – is my business depleting the environment or replenishing it? That is the gospel according to PWC.

Think green, Act green!