BUILDING AFRICA FROM KENYA

Dr. James Mwangi, Equity Group Managing Director and CEO.
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By George Marenya

It is very often that people mistake planning for organization. No wonder the world is full of unfinished buildings. Our drawers sag under the weight of documents which never saw light of day.

This is all what is different with the Equity approach. The latest initiative by Equity Group is the Africa Recovery and Resilience plan.

Synergy

It is aimed to unlock African development and manufacturing capacity that has been lying dormant since independence.

In a recent investor briefing, Equity Group recognizes that it cannot single handedly deliver the development of Africa. It has therefore chosen to partner with like-minded collaborators to synergize the combined capabilities and competencies of public- private partnerships. This will help mobilize the required strength to help actualize the plan.

In this you would imagine Equity borrowed a leaf from the best in the field of strategy. In their groundbreaking book Optimizing Strategy for Results, professor Timothy Waema and others have this to say: “Strategy often fails or underperforms because we don’t recognize how aligning the diversities of peoples talents, skills and passion plays a key role in achieving superior results throughout the strategy continuum.”

They say, this results in assignments being misaligned, resulting in confusion, mediocrity and frustration. Equity Group is bringing together governments, International Financial Institutions, development partners, Regional Bodies, United Nations agencies not to forget the ecosystem that brings together countries under the Commonwealth.

Stimulus package

The financial outlay available for the regional recovery stimulus package is the equivalent of 2% of the combined GDP of the six countries in which Equity Group operates.

“A total of Ksh 678 billion (USD 6 billion) will be available to 5 million MSMEs and 25 million individual borrowers for the next 5 years,” Dr James Mwangi, the Group CEO says.

The goal is to create 50 million jobs. Half of these will be direct jobs with the other half coming through as “the ecosystems of business become more cohesive, connected and ultimately synergize and grow.”

Women and youth

Women and youth occupy a central role in this initiative. They are expected to be the primary drivers in terms of creating and expanding opportunities in the real economy.

Under the Young Africa Works Initiative in collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, the plan intends to build capacity in young people through financial literacy, entrepreneurship and digital skills enhancement.

To ensure that no one will be left behind, lending to young people will be complemented with credit guarantee facilities to mitigate default through the Bank’s credit risk pricing model.

Risk based credit pricing has enabled the Bank to adopt a transparent, all-inclusive interest rate. Currently the Central Bank rate is in the range of 13% to 18.5% for the lowest and highest risk categories respectively.

Equity calls their recovery plan regional but in their brief, they said they have enabled a collaboration between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo around the area of mining. This means that Equity’s strategic intention to foster socio-economic growth of Africa has begun in earnest.

As Dr. James Mwangi recently told us what has always been lacking in African development is a clear plan and coordinating force to put these beautiful plans and policies into practice.

In management science the ability to assign people tasks and give them a time frame for achieving the same is key to success. This is what organization is all about. Focus and continuity is also needed. It is about staying on message and following through.

Trade mission

For instance, out of a recent Trade Mission from Kenya to the Democratic Republic of Congo, deals totaling 2 billion dollars were signed and there is a clear programme among the players as to how these will be made a reality.

The regional Development Plan through recovery and resilience initiatives focuses on five thematic areas:

  • Primary sectors of Food and Agriculture, and extractive sectors
  • Manufacturing and logistics
  • Trade and Investments
  • Micro Small and Medium enterprises
  • Social Impact and Environmental Investments

COVID-19 came as a wake up to all of us to try as much as possible to develop local capacities and not to overly rely on external supply chains. When movement is curtailed and almost everybody starts looking inward it helps a lot to have a well-developed manufacturing sector with sufficient supplies of raw material to boot.

This initiative targets agricultural transformation, enhancement of value chains, financing of mechanization and credible inputs. Our rapidly urbanizing population is a huge market for processed food and their requirement for housing is music in the ears for those in construction and housing development.

Opportunities

Equity Group is no stranger to the development of local manufacturing capacity. Dr. Mwangi tells us that “we learned and developed a lot of knowledge while setting up PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) production and manufacturing in Kenya during the early years of COVID 19 pandemic.” Equity donated Ksh 1.7 billion (17 million USD) jointly with its partners to protect doctors and medical staff of 116 national referral, country and faith-based hospitals for the last two years.

By establishing and strengthening local production of PPEs, Kenya became self-sufficient in PPE and a leading African exporter of PPEs. It is many years since Dr. James Mwangi walked into Equity Building Society and got horrified by what he saw. In his own words spoken to me more than 15 years ago, he saw a boat with no direction. What is more, it was leaking, taking in water. Very soon, it would be at the bottom of the sea.

Kenyan dream

He saw people so disempowered. He figured out that if you only empowered these people; Equity would be the biggest bank in Africa. His dream came to pass.

Equity is pretty big by customer count, market capitalization and assets. This greatness, this transformation of African industry, services and infrastructure is all but a bonus now.

Equity is the most important thing to have ever happened to Kenya. The sight of the Equity logo when travelling out of Kenya gives a sense of pride that is immutable and unique.

If Coca-Cola is the epitome of the American dream. Equity is the quintessential Kenyan dream. What is beautiful about it is that it is a summary of systems, people and culture at its best.

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