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The Race We Run

Guest Columns

The Race We Run

I often recall the words of John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania after he won the marathon at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. At the time, Akhwari was the long shot whose bandaged legs gave spectators the impression that his chances were slim – at best.

Increasingly, Kenya’s regulatory environment fosters innovation and incubates progressive ideas. The political will exhibited by the country’s top leadership to hoist the country to Middle Income Country status by 2030, is defined by a zealous commitment to encouraging private sector driven partnerships, bolstering investment, and generally creating an environment that supports economic growth that uplifts all.

For this, the World Bank has given Kenya a positive rating and the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) upgraded Nairobi’s status as a United Nations (UN) hub to “Category B”, meaning living and business conditions of the country have improved tremendously.

The much-quoted Kenya mobile banking success story, which is a subject of Ivy League university studies, is an example of how sound macroeconomic environments provide the foundation for free enterprise to revolutionise industries.

An MIT study, The Risk Sharing Benefits of Mobile Money, which was published in January this year, found that nearly 60 per cent of Kenyan households use their mobile phones to pay for everything, from downpayments for major transactions to school fees, groceries and utility bills.

These findings are a positive challenge to us who serve an increasingly mobile and very diverse and widespread customer base.

They offer immense avenues of intervention and stir us to become more creative so as to reach more customers with increasingly relevant products.

Kenya is not alone. More than 20 countries in Africa have successfully turned around their economic systems by increasing their productivity and efficiency; privatizing public enterprises; addressing inefficiencies in their tax systems; and implementing capital market restructuring and constitutional reform.

In addition, more foreign companies as well as foreign governments have maintained a steady pace of engagement, increasing their presence throughout the continent.

These developments have stimulated the much-needed business innovation and growth that each country has earned.

While these changes are encouraging, we do recognise there is some work yet to be done to ensure the trend becomes the status quo for the long term.

Like J.S. Akhwari, we are a hardy and versatile people. The financial services sector in Kenya is equally as resilient.

At Barclays, we have operated in Kenya for  95 years and have earned the confidence and brand loyalty of customers with every step. And every success we have achieved by reinventing ourselves with our customers in mind.

We banks do not take our role for granted. If anything, we see our work as the race we will continue to run side by side with our customers – for the sustainable growth of our countries.

An alumnus of Harvard Business School, Adan Mohamed is the managing director of Barclays East and West Africa. He was nominated as East Africa’s Business Leader of the Future at the prestigious PWC/Nation Media Group Most Admired Company of the Year annual survey. He has also received the Elder of Burning Spear (EBS) award for his contribution to the development of Kenya. He currently serves as the Chairman of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and is a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

 

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