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Meet the Boss: Jay Ireland, president / CEO, General Electric Africa

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‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series, where we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.

Jay Ireland

Jay Ireland, president and CEO for Africa, General Electric

1. What was your first job?

I was a janitor, cleaning offices when I was 15.

2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?

Jack Welch. He provided the leadership for GE. I got to work for him directly for a period of time, and it was an informative period of understanding how a big corporation can really drive change.

3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?

None. I feel that you always balance a risk/reward, and as long as you are within the right balance of that you should be okay.

4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?

You need to approach business as learning. So I guess I’m always learning …

5. What are the best things about Kenya?

Safaris, the people, and I think the optimism.

6. And the worst?

Infrastructure. Frustrations with getting things done.

7. Your future career plans?

Grow GE in Africa and then see what happens.

8. How do you relax?

I play golf. I read. Hang around with my family. Travel.

9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?

Grab every opportunity that you can. Don’t get put off by obstacles, just go through them.

10. How can Africa realise its full potential?

I think it is a combination of government investment [and] private investment. There has to be stability. There has to be more transparency around how things get done in the governments and a real focus on elevating the ease of doing business across the continent.

Jay Ireland is based in Nairobi, Kenya.


  • Hein van der Walt

    Dear Mr Jay Ireland

    Congratulations with your appointment by President Obama.

    We wish to sent you an email regarding Trans-Africa development which we do in partnership with the JHB Metro and industrialists in Lagos.

    Pse sent me your email address.

    Hein van der Walt

  • Olu Olutola

    Well Said. No 6 and 10 is something African Governments needs to work hard on. Infrastructure deficit challenge facing African countries does not allow for real growth .Honest Private and Government Investors would need to help with the infrastructural decay before any meaningful growth can take place

  • Anuj

    I totally agree with number 10. There must be more transparency!