Making an assessment of who should be the CEO of the year in Rwanda is not an easy task. The survey itself though it is not based on real measurable parameters can be dismissed as baseless.
However while making this survey we relied heavily on on-line tools. We used a number of different e-mail lists including those of government agencies and Rwandans in the Diaspora to feed us with nominations.
We also made use of Facebook and Twitter and above all we heavily depended on the opinions of a variety of business players including officials from - as diverse as the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and the Rwanda Private Sector Federation (PSF).
One of our independent sources suggested we categorise the nominations, something we objected to for various reasons. Others asked us not to be biased into using the net portfolio of the corporate bodies they work for as a yard stick.
For example it would appear quite obvious that Sven Piederiet the new BRALIRWA boss and Khalled Mikawi, the new MTN Rwanda CEO would emerge top simply because the brewery and the telecom company belong to the echelon of big tax payers in the country.
This is the same impression one would get of the CEO of Banque de Kigali (BK) with the argument that the bank cushioned the liquidity problem, to beat other financial institutions to attracting the most net income in the first semester of 2009.
We were also confronted by the fact that the titles of top bosses really differ. For example in some work places the top managers could probably be referred to as Managing Directors and to be fair enough to the older system of reference we considered nominations of Director Generals as well.
That is how Henry Gaperi’s nomination for steering operations at Cassie Social, cropped up. For this reason we got quite a number of other interesting nominations including Mary Mbaine of Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and Taib Taib, of Pembe Flour Mills. One of our biggest concerns was how much influence the nominees could have had on the businesses they managed and how the trends probably affected the society.
Our conclusion therefore represents a consensus of the general view presented by many of our respondents. A majority were quite very sure Alex Kamara of Tigo Rwanda was top.
They attributed this for the fact that he successfully led a team that made sure the third national telecom operator goes on-line within the stipulated time of November 2009.
Others said Joe Ricthie formerly of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) deserved to be top. Maurice K. Toroitich of Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) according to our findings made an impression and is among those that definitely had notable business runs in the year 2009.
Breaking into a new telecom market can be a career-defining moment for both the company and the manager. Despite the spills of the global financial crisis that affected all sectors, including capital investments for most telecom companies, Alex Kamara spear- headed a team of new professional recruits to start Millicom International’s operations in Rwanda within the scheduled time of November 2009 as per license agreements.
The company launched commercial operations covering over 10 districts, with 9 of them mounted with Tigo sites, targeting national coverage by 2011.
It is also the first company to commercial, launch with an extended generation of technology and currently run 3.5G among others.
The company was also the first to introduce the lowest denomination scratch card so customers can top up from as little as Rwf300.
According to Kamara, the Tigo team in Rwanda is the result of a collective effort.
”The local management team was assembled with the help of regional management. This local management team was mostly in place (in Kigali) early as we needed to hit the ground running. In turn, the local management team worked together to carefully select the best people we could find to become part of the new Tigo family.”
Tigo’s entry is certainly set to change the face of the telecom market in Rwanda. It has already brought in a fresh feel of advertising campaigns that clearly represent an energetic, vibrant and vivid brand.
“We aim to keep this at the core of everything we do. From that starting point we brainstorm with our creative team to develop concepts that we believe represent the brand accurately to the public. Accuracy is important as this introduction sets the tone for future communication,” Kamara says.
Before coming to Rwanda, Kamara who was born in Africa and left for boarding school in the United Kingdom served as Tigo’s Chief Operations Officer in Ghana. With Rwanda’s penetration rate as low as, one handset per eight Rwandans, Kamara’s belief is that there is room for a more proactive approach to the market.
“Some work has to be done to attain the levels of service, penetration and affordability enjoyed by neighboring countries.
Tigo intends to be at the forefront of this change and evolution in Rwanda,” he said.
And why does he always have a smile on his face? “I wasn’t aware of that!. I have had some challenging periods and I am sure that there was no smiling then. On the whole I work on keeping a balanced perspective.
Besides when things are difficult, an opportunity to smile and relax can be a brief but welcome break from the current challenge.
Born: Freetown, Sierra Leone
Bsc University of Manchester, UK
Msc University California Los Angeles USA
MBA London Business School, UK
Discipline and hard work
former CEO, RDB
Despite the fact that he is long gone Joe Ritchie, a commodities and options trader, will be most remembered as the first CEO to set foot at Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Ritchie’s performance at the agency is hard to measure since he found a highly professional team of deputy CEOs. However some improvements can be attributed to his leadership.
While at RDB, the agency improved regulations surrounding setting up and running businesses in Rwanda.
Many changes on that front include reducing the number of days, forms and costs associated with starting a business; establishing commercial courts which are specially designed to handle business disputes, and so on.
These reforms earned Rwanda the number one spot for business sector reforms in the World Bank’s annual ‘Doing Business’ ranking; the first sub-Saharan country ever to receive that honor.
Social Security Fund of Rwanda
Henry Gaperi has been at the helm of SSFR for over five years. Where as we should be less concerned about his achievements over the years the bespectacled manager has a lot to add on his resume for what was achieved in the year 2009, including the movement of SSFR to its multi-billion permanent home in Kacyiru.
According to Renee K Blasky, an investment adviser at SSFR the total value of SSFR’s portfolio now stands at Rwf 142.07 billion (by the end of October 2009). Considering that in 2003 assets were approximately Rwf74 billion doubling in six years, Gaperi deserves a pat on the back.
Statistics also indicate that by the end of last year alone the fund had created 2,123 jobs through direct investment and 245 jobs through indirect investment.
By the first semester of 2009 out of the planned Rwf258 million from net returns on investments, over 97.7 percent was already realised. As a means of wisely investing pensioners’ money, SSFR makes direct investments especially in the real estate industry which is the backbone of the Rwandan economy.
”If you look at the real estate industry we are the leaders and so we sustain this industry. If you look at the contribution towards GDP in the construction sector you find that it has been well over 15 percent consistently over the past six years.
You will also find that CSR is contributing over 50 percent of that in the construction sector,” Gaperi said recently.
”The trick is about earning the right climate and having the right policy and having the right management to run the fund,” he added.
Edward Yin A-Link Technologies
The story of A-Link is quite a sad one but still very interesting to tell. This company was the first to locally assemble phones in the region. However after suffering the spills of the global economic recession and stiff competition from relatively affordable handsets manufactured by Huawei and ZTE (marketed by MTN, Rwandatel and now Tigo), there was a registration of dip in sales.
From selling 1,000 phones a month to 4 phones a day, the company closed shop and ventured into another business, this time assembling TVs and radios.
In 2009 this business didn’t go as expected and again the company called it quits but never gave up its investment plans venturing into, hospitality industry.
From phones to TVs and radios A-Link now operates A-Link Chinese Club a restaurant in Rugando, Kimihurura. Kudos to Edward Yin, for keeping the A-Link brand burning, despite challenges.
1. Alex Kamara,
2. Joe Ritchie,
Former CEO RDB
3. Maurice K. Toroitich
Kenya Commercial Bank
4. Henry Gaperi
National Social Security Fund
5. Khalled Mikawi and Themba Khumalo
6. Sam Nkusi
Altech Stream Rwanda
7. Taib Taib
Pembe Flour Mills
8. Anthony Butera
Rwanda Tea Authority OCIR The
9. Janet Nkubana and Joy Ndungutse
10. Gerald Zirimwabagabo
Rwanda Revenue Authority
12. Frank Tindyebwa
AAR Health Services
13. Roger Munyampenda
14. Robert Mathu
Capital Markets Advisory Council (CMAC)
15. Edward Yin
16. Sanjeev Anand,
Commercial Bank of Rwanda
17. John Kayihura
Rock Global Consulting
18. Raj Rajendran
19. Eric Kabera
Rwanda Film Festival