East Africa’s 10 most powerful business bosses

May 24, 2015

The men and women at the helm of the East Africa’s largest organizations have the capacity to make decisions that affect an incredible number of people from customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers among many others. Such behemoths can also get the government of the day to pay attention. Here’s Contador Harrison shortlist of what East Africa’s most powerful CEOs.Unfortunately, no single woman made the cut in my list neither did I consider political background or politically connected wealthy individuals.

Bob Collymore – CEO, Safaricom, a Kenyan based telecom that currently generates more revenue and profits than any other entity in East Africa.Under Collymore’s stewardship, Safaricom recently launched its hybrid set top box that enables subscribers to access free to air TV channels as well as 3 and 4G internet connectivity.His biggest success to date is M-Pesa, a product at the forefront of deepening financial inclusion in Kenya and across the region.

James Mwangi – An accomplished International banker with strong accounting background, Mwangi won Ernst and Young prestigious award EY World Entrepreneur of the year 2012. Currently he is Equity Bank Group CEO, the largest commercial bank in Africa by customer numbers and assets worth over $4 billion.What makes him among the top ten is his unwavering support under the bank’s Equity Group Foundation to offer scholarships for secondary education to poor pupils who excel in national exams, an initiative supported by MasterCard Foundation among other organizations.

Reginald Mengi – Executive Chairman of IPP Media Group, Mengi is well known for his philanthropy.A respected media mogul, Mengi is Tanzanian answer to Australian-American Rupert Murdoch as IPP is said to be one of the largest media conglomerates in whole of Africa with over 11 newspapers with my favorite being The Guardian, radio and television stations like the Tanzania’s market leader ITV. Those of us who’ve been lucky to visit Tanzania will agree with me that in the scorching heat of Dar Es Salaam, Kilimanjaro brand of bottled water is undoubtedly the most popular and biggest selling in the country.

Chris Kirubi – A fabulously wealthy Kenyan businessman,Kirubi currently is the chairman of Centum Investment, one of the region’s best performing investments company.Those who’ve been to Nairobi will agree with me Capital FM is the region’s most innovative radio station which Kirubi fully owns.He is also a shareholder in UAP Insurance, Harco Tiger Industries Limited among others.Like Reginald Mengi, he has attracted your blogger with his business acumen and philanthropy work.

Patrick Bitature – Chairman of the Simba Group of Companies, a leading East African conglomerate. Bitature is also the chairman of the board of directors of the largest electric energy distributor in Uganda Umeme.Apparently he has business interests spanning energy sector, mining, telecoms, real estate, travel and leisure. He recently sold Dembe FM, one of the most radio stations in Uganda to Nation Media Group.

Dr Charles Kimei – MD CRDB Bank formerly known as Cooperative Rural Development Bank, is the leading and most closely watched commercial bank in United Republic of Tanzania.CRDB Bank is the largest bank in the country in terms of total assets and customer base and a network of over 60 branches country wide.I have personally had the chance to interact with Kimei and is one of the razor sharp business bosses in the region I’ve ever met.

Joshua Oigara – CEO KCB banking Group.At 39, he is arguably the best youngest CEO in East Africa.Kenya Commercial Bank has assets of over $2.7 billion and a branch network of over 177 branches across the East African region.KCB is undoubtedly one of the region’s biggest brands.

Charles Ireland – Group Managing Director and CEO, East African Breweries Limited an alcoholic company majority owned by Diageo, a British multinational alcoholic beverages company.Serengeti Breweries Limited, the second largest brewer in Tanzania, Kenya Breweries Limited, Kenya’s largest brewer, Uganda Breweries Limited, the second largest brewer in Uganda are some of the operations under his watchful eyes.

Atul Shah – Managing Director, Nakumatt Holdings Ltd which owns Nakumatt Supermarkets that operate across East African region which is largely credited with transforming the formal retail sector in the region. In a region where jobs are scarce, Nakumatt boasts of over 7,000 employees, making it arguably East Africa’s leading formal employer in the private sector thanks to its presence in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Mbuvi Ngunze – He took over as head of Kenya Airways Managing Director and chief executive following the retirement of long serving CEO Titus Naikuni.Those of us who’ve traveled across Sub Saharan Africa will agree with me that Kenya Airways and its main competitor Ethiopian Airline are the top dogs in Africa airspace.Ngunze entered the list of those I consider powerful business executives in the region because he’s expected to move the Kenyan carrier from its financial woes with liabilities of over $800m as of mid 2014.Kenya Airways heavily influences airline market in terms of ticket prices due to its near monopoly across East African airspace.

Contador Harrison