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WOMAN TO WOMAN: I view my life from a legacy mindset

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By ANJELINE OKECH

A mother of two. Born in Nairobi, raised in Nakuru. First born in a family of five. In terms of perspective I am curious, entrepreneurial, and like to live on the sunny side of life.

Tell us about your family and educational background.

I have two amazing children, Jason (12) and Jasmine (9) who light up my world and give a lot of meaning to my everyday life. They are my greatest life companions and keep me young.

I went to primary school in Nakuru and later did my secondary school in Mary Mount Secondary School. I graduated with honours from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Technology and I am now pursuing an Executive MBA among other courses I am taking.

I don’t particularly enjoy the scholarly life, though it does help to expand and broaden your horizons, but I definitely enjoy the school of life. This is where I have learnt most of the lessons that have carried and sustained me through life.

Were you always driven to succeed as is now apparent in your career?

When I reflect back on the dreams my parents had for me, and the goals I set for myself, I never imagined that my journey would lead me here. But as it has been said, we live our lives forwards but understand it backwards.

My father (a retired engineer) has always been my inspiration, he taught me how to have a strong work ethic and discipline. My mother (she worked in a bank as a secretary) taught me how to pray and learn to depend on Him who created me, to see me through what I could not achieve in my own strength.

My parents always wanted me to be the best I could be. They had the same wishes for my other siblings, and they made many sacrifices for us. Their best gift to us was to give us a good education with the knowledge that with that, we could go out and become the best versions of ourselves.

So that’s all I have done, if really there is to be a formula. I have just given my best to every space I have found myself in. Living the best version of me in the various expressions of my life, learning to forgive myself when I don’t, and just living one day at a time.

How would you describe the kind of person you are?

Easy going, driven, enjoy a good challenge and live life from a legacy mindset. “What will change because Sylvia was here?” I like to ask the people I have the privilege to mentor to write out their eulogies. Living life with that mindset helps you to define your life choices and boundaries … and amazingly, liberates you.

I love interacting with people, but I am also quite private. I enjoy a good laugh so I try to surround myself with people who bring positive energy. I like to hang out with young people, they are not as constrained in their mindsets and teach me a lot about the possibilities that exist.

What does your role as Chief Customer Officer entail?

The customer is at the heart of everything we do, and my role is to focus on our meeting our customers’ articulated and unarticulated needs, and discover how we can surpass their expectations.

This is a journey that we are on, one that we always don’t get right, but our commitment remains unwavering. My responsibilities include market share, revenue and profitability growth, customer excellence, brand and brand experience management, sales and sales operations, commercial planning and pricing.

How long have you worked at Safaricom and what roles have you held previously?

I have been working in Safaricom for the last 12 years. I joined the organisation in 2006 as a Prepay Product Manager with the primary responsibility of growing our customer base through engaging and relevant marketing campaigns.

I then moved to run our Retail Business as Head of Retail where I spearheaded the conversion of Safaricom Customer Care Shops into independent retail business units and grew our retail footprint.

In 2009, I was appointed as the Head of Sales, Safaricom Business, where during my tenure, Safaricom Business grew tenfold in fixed data in a span of two years.

I became the General Manager for Enterprise Business in 2011, reporting directly into the CEO, with the key responsibility of growing our B2B business and expanding our customer footprint and product portfolio.

In 2015, I was appointed Director of Consumer Business which is a commercial leadership role before taking up my current role last year.

How do you manage with some of the controversial news about you?

Controversial? I am not sure which ones those are, not that I would pay much attention to them anyway. Life is made up of moments and choices. Not all of them matter, or have any lasting impact. So you have to learn to live deliberately, travel light, know who you are and not allow naysayers to define your identity. Living in that space, that is true freedom.

What advice can you give to women in managerial positions and those hoping to climb the corporate ladder?

Seek progress, not perfection. For in seeking perfection, happiness becomes an elusive goal. As women we beat ourselves up too much, it is not necessary. Surround yourself with a strong support ecosystem that will enable you to manage your tasks at home and bring the best of you to work.

As Patricia Murugami of Strathmore taught us, build your own personal board of directors who will keep you accountable in all your different roles, and help you become a better you.

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What do you enjoy most about working for Safaricom?

I read a book the other day where the author said that we spend too much time at work for it not to have a deeper meaning, and I agree. I am in a position that enables me to build and implement strategies that touch people’s lives and make a difference.

Safaricom is a great brand that is Kenyan built and Kenyan owned, and one that reflects the hopes and aspirations of many of us Kenyans.

Our customers expect much from us, and it is a great privilege to birth and bring to life their expectations. We also live in changing times, and it is exciting to see how we will evolve with our customers as their lifestyles transform in the digital world we live in today.

Plus, the added incentive of having great colleagues at work and a great work culture, makes this journey even more fulfilling.

With your busy schedule, do you find time to be with your children — to cook or enjoy an activity together?

I try! There is never a perfect work-life balance, so I have learnt to integrate. If you find purpose in your work and your work fulfils your purpose, then it all works out in the long term. I have also learnt the power of boundaries, and carving time out for the non-negotiables. Still work in progress, but getting better daily!

Legacy. Impact. Purposeful living.

Who are the three women (dead or alive) you admire most?

I admire many women, we all have our own battle scars that tell our stories, shape us and inspire others to keep moving. But the three women I admire most: My daughter, for her confidence and passion, and pure zest for life. My sisters, for their resilience and never giving up on the possibilities that we could be as a family. My mother, who taught me that life’s battles are won on your knees.

What is the must have item in your handbag?

If you were to start all over again, what would you change?

Absolutely Nothing. I am grateful for the broken road that led me here. This is what has made me what I am today.

What is your dream vacation destination?

Ha ha. Bahamas! There is a story to it, but not one I will tell you today!

How do you spend your time outside work?

I enjoy spending time with my children, being at home, travelling, and reading. I took a deejay class once, though I am terrible at it … I wish I wasn’t!

What are you currently reading?

Hit Refresh by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

How to turn down a billion dollars, the Snapchat story by Billy Gallagher

What achievements are you most proud of?

I am proud to be a mum of two amazing children and it is inspiring to watch them grow. If that’s the only thing I did right in life, I would be at peace.

Professionally, I am very proud of the fact that I made it into the C-Suite at age 34, and in the same year I was appointed by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, 2015.

I was also named as one of the Top 40 under 40 women in Kenya for 3 years in a row.

I am also proud to be serving in two boards that transform lives; one that supports Kenyan businesses scale up and another that impacts communities living in slums, seeking to provide better life outcomes for them.

I also sponsor the Women in Business initiative that seeks to promote the number of women doing business with Safaricom as part of driving the achievement of SDG Goal 10 of Reducing Inequality, and the numbers are growing. Progress for women is progress for all.

How would you sum up life?

Small daily improvements are the key to staggering long-term results. I am a work in progress, very conscious of the fact that I am running a race with a finish line. I am purposeful about making an impact in the lives of people around me, and I hope that in this life, I will be able to birth and bring to life that which I was created for, while enjoying the journey that life places me on.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

We live in a disruptive world, and this disruption is positive if it allows for greater consumer choice but negative if it results in exploitation of the vulnerable. In 5 years I hope to be leading and participating in efforts that drive a more equitable world. As a friend of mine would say, “Leadership is the Cause; Everything else is Effect.”

Not many. Go on the road less travelled. Be the best version of me. Live for the audience of one. Everything else will fall into place.



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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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