All eyes on new Shelter Afrique boss amid exits

Thierno-Habib Hann, the incoming managing director Shelter Afrique. [File, Standard]

Swanky. Google defines this word as stylishly luxurious and expensive. It even gives an example in a short phrase: “Directors with swanky company cars.”

This is the word used to describe the party bidding farewell to Shelter Afrique Managing Director Alassane Ba.

The farewell cocktail party held in Nairobi was graced by government representatives, diplomatic corps, captains of industry and top corporate executives.

Mr Ba was leaving the company after a five-year term that ended in June 2014. Since then, there is no mention of swanky or its synonyms when a managing director leaves office at Shelter Afrique.

They have been leaving the Pan-African housing financier in silence, tiptoeing to the exit door, their files tightly tucked under their armpits. There have been no colourful statements from either the board decorating their tenure with sweet words like dynamic or charismatic as was the case with Mr Ba.

Just a few words to show a change of guard. Barely a full page. Yet the statement on Mr Ba’s exit was three pages long. Additionally, none of the managing directors since 2014 has clocked five years in office. And now Shelter Afrique, owned by 44 African countries among them Kenya, the African Development Bank (AfDB), African Reinsurance Corporation (Africa-Re) and the African Solidarity Fund (FSA) has a new managing director - Thierno-Habib Hann Hann.

Company statement

Mr Hann takes over from Andrew Chimphondah whose exit early this year - or parting ways as the company statement reads - was as unceremonious as that of his predecessors albeit the explanation issued.

“The organisation, however, is in the middle of a reorganisation and restructuring to optimise service delivery and during this transition, it will be stewarded by Kingsley Muwowo, the chief finance officer as acting managing director pending the recruitment, on a competitive basis, a substantive managing director,” reads the statement from the financier.

At the just held 41st Annual General Meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe themed Climate Change and the Built Environment, in reference to the Glasgow Conference of Parties (COP26), Shelter Afrique shareholders approved the appointment of Mr Hann as the company’s new managing director.

A statement on his appointment says Mr Hann has extensive international experience in housing finance, capital markets and structured finance, set-up and management of investment funds with banking and multilateral institutions.

He is winding up his contract as the Asia-Pacific Lead for housing finance and capital markets at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), based in Bangkok.

“The process was very competitive,” said Shelter Afrique chair Ephraim Bichetero, adding that he (Hann) was selected on merit and competence.“He is expected to strengthen governance, be an embodiment of our values and drive the investment strategy of the Company focused on delivering large-scale affordable housing,” Mr Bichetero added.

The exit of Mr Chimphondah was regardless of his efforts to bring the company back to profitability as the housing company bounced back from the red, posting an operating profit of Sh120.6 million ($1.04 million) in 2021. The firm 2020 recorded an operating loss of Sh67.3 million ($580,000). This is noted in the statement addressing the decision to part ways between Shelter Afrique and Mr Chimphondah.

“Chimphondah also presided over a return to profit and was instrumental in raising substantial capital subscriptions from member countries,” reads the statement dated February 18, 2022.

How and for how long Mr Hann will fair in the hot seat at the Upperhill, Nairobi-based office, is a question only the future has the answer to.

Chimphondah managed three-and-half years in the office. Femi Adewole, whom Chimphondah succeeded was in the office for about a year.

He reportedly resigned in July 2018. Adewole had succeeded James Muregwa who resigned in February 2017.